ESAB Innovation Aims to Make Shipyard Welding More Efficient, Accurate
Jeff Chittim, ESAB’s North American Senior Product Manager for Heavy Industrial Products, discusses how WeldCloud online applications and the ESAB Heavy Industrial Product Line are a powerful tandem to help shipyards improve weld quality and efficiency.
While automation has gone a long way in making shipyards more efficient, today shipbuilding remains a hands-on endeavor, with a dearth of ‘welders and fitters’ being a common lament.
Technology companies such as ESAB, a global supplier of welding and cutting solutions across industries, aim to help in supplying solutions that not only make it easier to train new employees to deliver quality welds, but supply the welding and cutting machine intelligence and insight monitor real-time performance.
“One of the biggest drivers for the welding equipment industry currently is advancing technologies,” said Jeff Chittim, North American Senior Product Manager for Heavy Industrial Products, ESAB, noting that there are two sides to the advancing technology discussion. “We see the need for advancing technologies to improve the operations for the welding, the operator themselves, as we know that the industry is in dire need of more skilled trades workers. We see a need for improving technologies while simplifying the use of those technologies, so it's not weeks or months of training that they need to be able to operate it.”
On the flip side is documentation of the weld process to confirm the efficiency of the job and the quality of the finished product. This is where ESAB melds the heavy metal tooling with “Industry 4.0”, using IoT and data to monitor, measure, report and ultimately, improve performance.
Welcome to WeldCloud
“WeldCloud is an online application for weld data management. And when we talk about weld data, there's the arc on times for the operators, the welding parameters, so monitoring your amps and volts. There's also the wire deposition rates, wire consumed per part,” said Chittim.
The WeldCloud suite is designed to enables users to improve overall operational efficiency by monitoring, capturing, tracking and analyzing data to make intelligent decisions based on accurate information. WeldCloud-enabled machines feature an embedded communication module that digitally connects the machine to WeldCloud via WiFi.
ESAB offers three WeldCloud solutions:
- WeldCloud Productivity: Designed for operation and production managers, tracking information generated by the welding process: arc-on time, number of weld sessions, wire use, deposition rate and many other metrics.
- WeldCloud Fleet: A service or maintenance manager’s new digital assistant designed to manage a fleet of welding equipment across one or multiple locations, with event and service logs, as well as real-time alerts. WeldCloud Fleet also reminds them of maintenance and calibration schedules.
- WeldCloud Notes: Designed for Quality Control Managers as it aims to improve welding documentation by digitizing and automating manual processes.
“Overall, with the real-time data readout, you can access this data right from the welding machine,” said Chittim. “But you can also access the data from your laptop, your tablet or your cell phone applications. You can get a feel of where certain operators are at; you can get a feel if your automated piece of equipment is operating properly.”
“If you see one of the operators is running at a very high input, maybe he's having some wire feed issues,” said Chittim. The monitoring intel works the same on automated pieces of equipment, and if an anomaly is found “you can get in touch with the plant manager and say ‘Torch number two has a very high amperage. Let's go check out the wire conduits. Maybe it's having a little bit of trouble feeding wire and the amperages are a little out of whack.”
WeldCloud uses the Microsoft Azure cloud computing platform to help ensure it is reliable and secure. Designed for ease of use, WeldCloud does not require a sophisticated IT department and is scalable.
While WeldCloud helps to monitor both human and automated equipment to ensure proper functionality and efficiency, it’s a powerful business tool. “Everything is recorded, so you can access the data,” said Chittim. “So, heaven forbid something down the road, there's a part failure. You have the data in your hands and you can go back and say “I know that weld on panel line number two, torch five, at that time, that specific weld, was welded with the right amps, the right wire feed speed, the right voltages, the right travel speeds.”
Inside the ESAB Heavy Industrial Product (HIP) Line
“The ESAB heavy industrial product (HIP) line is broken into two sectors,” said Chittim. “We have the Warrior product line and the Aristo.”
ESAB launched its complete line of heavy industrial systems featuring the new Warrior 750i ARCAIR CC/CV power source, the new Aristo 500ix pulsing power source and new Robust Feed Pulse and Robust Feed U6 wire feeders. These four products join the previously launched Robust Feed Pro wire feeder and the existing Warrior 400i and 500i power sources.
With a 750-amp output at 100% duty cycle and an 820-amp output at 60% duty cycle, Warrior 750i ARCAIR offers the power needed to enable greater productivity with the larger diameter electrodes used in such applications as flux cored welding, hard facing, cladding, mechanized applications and arc gouging with carbons up to 0.5-in. diameter.
ARCAIR, an ESAB brand, invented the carbon arc gouging process, which is widely used to back-gouge welds as part of making a full-penetration weld, remove weld defects and remove worn or torn metal in shipyard, offshore fabrication and other heavy fabrication activities. The Warrior 750i ARCAIR also offers Stick and TIG welding output.
“And then we have our pulse capable machines, the Aristos. That's where we get a little bit more into the advanced technologies, creating specific wave forms, having pulse on pulse capabilities for specific, very strategic welding applications, very critical applications, whether it's stainless steel or aluminum,” said Chittim.
With the HIP line, ESAB has its synergic line, which are very specific to different applications. “We could have synergic line that's specific to a flux four welding type of wire, generally used in shipyards, specifically for out-of-positions of vertical pull-ups or downs, if you're putting some panels together,” said Chittim. “There's very specific, fine-tuned parameters for flux four wires, but we also have them for aluminums and also mild steel wires, stainless steel wires, allowing the equipment to be fine-tuned specifically for the application.”
“That was the synergic lines, the specific technology in the equipment. But when we talk about the equipment itself, we have the CC/CV multi process line, which is robust equipment,” said Chittim. “It has heavy duty cycles; it can withstand the environment. Partnering with that we have the robust feed line of equipment,” which is flexible to use across different types of welding. “The robust feeder is bench top capable, so you can put it right on top of your welding machine,” and it has handles and wheel kits to make it portable. “You can even drag it by your welding gun if you had to,” said Chittim, noting that robust feeder, and the entire ESAB product line, is well-adapted to the shipyard environment. “It’s portable, robust and reliable.”
Keep it Simple … and High Quality
While robust is the ante to get into the shipyard environment, increasingly systems that are designed to make the weld process simpler and more productive – particularly in the face of a lack of skilled trades workers entering the workforce – are mandatory, too. “One of the great features of the heavy industrial product line is we have simplified, user-friendly interfaces for the CC/CV multi process machines,” said Chittim. “Once you get into our higher technologies, the pulse wave forms, pulse on pulse wave forms, we simplify it by giving it a limited amount of adjustability for the operators. When you narrow that window of the adjustability, it's quick and easy to learn how to operate these machines.”
“We give you the meat and potatoes of the welding parameters, so when you're making those adjustments, you see the feedback in your arc right away,” said Chittim. “Whether they're new to the industry or they're changing from being a stick welder to a MIG welder, you're able to see the feedback in the arc right away.”
The HIP product line is designed to be extremely user friendly.
“We have the advanced technologies, but we take that human interface and simplified it as much as possible so that you can have those high technologies improve your welding quality, improve your productivity, but also keep it user friendly,” said Chittim.
While simplification of the weld process is increasingly an important factor, in the end, for ships that sail at sea and depend heavily on the solidity of their hull and equipment to complete their mission safely and efficiently, it all starts with the quality of the weld in the shipyard.
“One of the great features of the heavy industrial product line at ESAB is the ability to save your welding parameters,” said Chittim. “Every customer, every end user has welding procedure specifications. Now you can go to the welding machine and you can save those specific parameters inside the welding machine. So, for example, if you have let's say 350 inches per minute wire feed speed, but you have a plus or minus of five, 10%, depending on the specification allowable, you can save those percentage changes inside the welding machine. And so now, you know those welding parameters are always going to be followed.”
Closing the circle on the integration of heavy tooling and digitalization, Chittim concludes: “Also, you have the WeldCloud so that you're monitoring and making sure that those parameters are being followed. So extremely a high due diligence on your welding quality, your productivity, and your repeatability that way.”
- Watch the full interview with Jeff Chittim on Maritime Reporter TV: