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b i g r o l e b y P a t T o e n s m e i e r c o m p u t e r s a n d r o b o t s p l a y a

Welding is becom- ing very high-tech. One reason is that the use of specialty met- als in more products requires extremely precise welding capabilities. Another is that companies are looking for ways to increase the productivity and quality of welding. The best way to meet these needs is with automated systems. As the industry adds automation and other technologies, students interested in welding will have the opportunity to learn advanced processes that improve their skills and expand job prospects. the IMAge Most PeoPle hAve of welding is someone in heavy gloves and a mask using an arc torch to join two pieces of metal. But this image, like welding technology, is changing. It won’t be long before new welders enter the field trained to work with computers, la- sers and robots rather than gloves, masks and torches. Experts point to three technologies with a big future: Hybrid/laser Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW); friction-stir An Edison Welding Institute engineer explains the operation of a gas metal arc welding robot equipped with a laser sensor for accuracy. Welding is becoming very hi-tech. welding; and robotics. Each requires students to not only learn welding, but also learn how to set up, program and operate high-tech equipment. “These are automated technologies that require a high level of training,” says Patricio Mendez, director of the Cana- dian Center for Welding and Joining at the University of Alberta. “These technologies are shifting welding from being entirely a manual skill to one that requires insight and expertise to run sophisticated equipment.” Hybrid/laser GMAW welds thick pieces of metal rapidly and with greater control than manual weld- ing. These systems use high-power lasers that one expert says are about the size of computer servers. The laser makes a thin cut up to ½-inch deep, liquefy- ing metal as it moves. The GMAW then deposits filler metal (usually wire) in the groove and melts it with a secondary heat source to create the weld. Process benefits include reduced weld distortion, greater retention of base- metal properties and speed. Friction-stir welding does not melt metal. It generates frictional heat through a rotating tool bit that pen- etrates, distorts and softens two pieces of metal that are clamped together on a special machine. The pieces almost im- mediately fuse together when clamping pressure is applied. Friction-stir welds are called autogenous, which means they

don’t use filler metal. One advantage of this is no cracking or deformation as the weld solidifies. The weld also has excel- lent strength, and fatigue-resistance.

Robotic welding has been used for years by automakers and others. Robots, usually weld flat surfaces laid out in front of them, which limits their use. Work is underway on software and sensors that will permit robots to weld metal shapes placed at all angles. Mendez and his students for example, are trying to improve computer control of robots to broaden the capabilities of welding automation.

“We are trying to invent the machine of tomorrow,” Mendez says of the work. “Welding is incredibly exciting because it combines a bit of everything. Welding offers many possibilities and allows lots of room for creative thinking.”

Johnson Space Center’s Robonaut (foreground) performing a mock weld.

16 | Careers in Welding

photo left courtesy of edison Welding, phioto right courtesy of nasa

courtesy of lincoln electric

resource guide

Dozens of professional organizations, government Websites and trade unions exist to help you learn more about careers in welding. Here is a sampling of resources to get you started.

professionAl And industry orGAnizAtions

Association for iron and steel technology (724) 814-3000 www.aist.org

American ceramic society (866) 721-3322 www.ceramics.org

edison welding institute (614) 688-5000 www.ewi.org

American national standards institute (202) 293-8020 www.ansi.org

fabricators & manufacturers Association (815) 399-8775 www.fmanet.org

American society for civil engineers (800) 548-2723 www.asce.org

Gas and welding distributors Association (215) 564-3484 www.gawda.org

American society for nondestructive testing (614) 274-6003 www.asnt.org

institute of electrical and electronics engineers (800) 678-4333 www.ieee.org

American society for Quality (800) 248-1946 www.asq.org

minerals, metals & materials society (800) 759-4867 www.tms.org

American society of mechanical engineers (800) 843-2763 www.asme.org

national Association of manufacturers (202) 637-3000 www.nam.org

American society of safety engineers (847) 699-2929 www.asse.org

American water works Association (303) 794-7711 www.awwa.org

American welding society (800) 443-9353 www.aws.org www.careersinwelding.com www.jobsinwelding.com

Asm international (440) 338-5151 www.asminternational.org

national center for welding education & training (weld-ed) (866) 529-9353 www.weld-ed.org www.educatorsinwelding. com

national council for Advanced manufacturing (202) 367-1178 www.nacfam.org

plumbing, Heating and cooling contractors Assn. (703) 237-8100 www. phccweb.org)

society of Automotive engineers (724) 776-4841 www.sae.org

society of manufacturing engineers (313) 271-1500 www.sme.org

society of naval Architects and marine engineers (201) 798-4800 www.sname.org

society of petroleum engineers (800) 456-6863 www.spe.org

Government AGenCies

u.s. department of labor employment & training Administration

(877) 872-5627 www.doleta.gov www.careervoyages.gov

mAnufACturinG unions

Afl-cio www.aflcio.org

Afl-cio working for America institute

(202) 508-3717 www.workingforamerica.org

international Association of bridge, structural, ornamental and reinforcing ironworkers

(202) 383-4800 www.ironworkers.org

international Association of machinists & Aerospace workers

(301) 967-4500 www.iamaw.org

international brotherhood of electrical workers

(202) 833-7000 www.ibew.org

international brotherhood of teamsters

(202) 624-6800 www.teamster.org

international union of operating engineers

(202) 429-9100 www.iuoe.org

national joint Apprentice- ship training committee www.njatc.org

sheet metal workersinternational Association

(202) 783-5880 www.smwia.org

united Auto workers

(313) 926-5000 www.uaw.org


nOTe: Websites are constantly changing, so you should always check by doing a Web search.

Careers in Welding | 17

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