From advancements in automation and robotics to the increasing use of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the future of welding promises to be both cutting-edge and highly efficient.
With these changes, welders and technicians will be equipped with an array of powerful tools and techniques that will enable them to work smarter, faster, and with greater precision than ever before.
Photo by @orionautomationsystems
Welding Trends to Watch for in 2023 and Beyond
The technological improvement brought significant changes in metal joining processes. As a result, future welding technology trends are slowly moving from traditional metals, techniques, and manual welding to advanced arc welding, automated welding, and the latest metals and alloys. In addition, welding training and welding safety have also been brought to the next level to promote a safe welding environment and actual hands-on experience.
Regarding advanced arc welding processes, we are seeing increased use of friction welding, laser beam welding, hybrid welding, magnetic arc welding, explosive welding, ultrasonic, and electron beam welding. In addition, welder training is more focused on augmented or virtual reality and tailored experience, while emission reductions promote safety. Most importantly, many companies are dealing with a lack of skilled welders by implementing robotic welding and collaboration robots.
Collaboration Robot Welding
Photo by @republictestinglabs
So, let's talk further about the mentioned trends.
Advanced Welding Processes
MIG, TIG, and Stick welding are still one of the favorites in many industries, but we are already seeing increased use of advanced metals.
Advanced metals such as titanium aluminide intermetallics, nickel aluminide intermetallic alloys, iron aluminide intermetallic alloys, oxide dispersion strengthened (ods) alloys, metal matrix composites (mmcs), nickel-based superalloys, Al-alloys including Al-Li alloys, Mg-alloys, super martensitic stainless steel, call for advanced arc welding performance and processes.
The aerospace industry is where these alloys are primarily utilized. Although welding is not as widely used in this industry as in other sectors, it has experienced a steady increase in usage over the past ten years due to the developments in welding methods. When welding advanced materials, welders need to deal with precise heat input, less spatter, better arc control, and weld quality.
Advanced welding processes, such as magnetic, ultrasonic, explosive, friction, hybrid, or laser welding, are employed to deal with issues and provide the best results.
Magnetic Arc Welding Process
Magnetic arc welding is a highly effective welding technique that utilizes a powerful magnetic field produced by a magnetic coil near the weld zone to control and direct the welding arc. The field deflects and guides the arc along a predetermined path. The heat produced by the arc fuses the additional filler wire and base metal, creating a strong weld.
This method is advantageous when welding thick plates and operating in narrow spaces. The magnetic field stabilizes the arc and prevents it from deviating, which results in precise and accurate welds. Additionally, this is a versatile welding technique that can join a wide range of materials.
Magnetic Arc Welding Process（MIAB Welding)
Explosive welding is a solid-state welding process that uses explosive energy to create a strong bond between two metals. In this process, the two metals to be welded are placed in close contact with each other. Then, a small explosive charge is detonated, which creates a shockwave that propels one metal onto the other with tremendous force.
This welding method is usually used due to its ability to weld dissimilar metals, such as copper to aluminum, which is challenging to weld using traditional methods. It also produces a uniform and high-quality bond that does not have the same level of distortion or residual stresses as other welding processes.
Ultrasonic arc welding is a solid-state welding process that uses ultrasonic vibrations to create frictional heat and weld two metals together. In this process, the two metals to be welded are placed in contact with each other, and an ultrasonic horn is used to vibrate one of the metals against the other at a high frequency.
Welders usually chose this advanced method due to its ability to produce high-quality, precise welds without the need for filler metals or flux. It can also be used to weld dissimilar metals with different melting points.
Friction Stir Welding
Friction welding is a highly effective welding process that utilizes mechanical friction to generate heat between two metals. By applying pressure and rotating the metals at high speeds, friction is generated, causing them to soften and fuse, creating a strong bond.
This technique is beneficial for welding dissimilar metals, such as aluminum and steel, which traditional methods find challenging or impossible to weld. Many industries prefer friction welding since it can create a precise and clean weld with no porosity, defects, or distortion.
Friction Stir Welded Aluminum
Electron Beam Welding
Electron beam welding (EBW) is a high-energy welding process that uses a beam of high-velocity electrons to melt and join metals. A beam of electrons is generated by an electron gun and focused onto the weld joint by electromagnetic lenses.
The high-energy electrons penetrate deeply into the metal, causing it to melt and fuse as the beam moves along the weld joint. The process is typically performed in a vacuum to prevent the beam from interacting with the surrounding air.
Hardening a steel pipe using electron beam welding machine as the graduation project.
Photo by @engineer_for_hepI
Laser beam welding (LBW) is a powerful and versatile welding process that uses a focused beam of light to melt and join metals. In this process, a high-powered laser generates a concentrated beam of light that is directed onto the weld joint.
The highly focused beam provides precise control over the weld penetration and heat input, resulting in a clean and consistent weld bead. Depending on the application, the process can be performed with or without filler material.
Laser welding in Sheet Metal Production.
Hybrid welding combines two or more welding techniques, such as laser welding and GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) or MIG welding, to combine benefits and limit drawbacks from both processes. Different welding techniques work together to create a more precise and stable welding process.
For example, laser welding can provide heat control and melt the metal, while GTAW or GMAW provide additional filler material and control the weld pool. As a result, hybrid welding can be used to weld a wider range of materials and thicknesses, as well as produce high-quality welds with minimal distortion and porosity.
Schematic View of Hybrid Laser-GMAW System
Automation In the Welding Industry
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0) is the trend towards automation and data exchange in manufacturing industry technologies and processes, including cyber-physical systems (CPS), IoT, the industrial internet of things, cloud computing cognitive computing, and artificial intelligence.
Industry 4.0 also impacts the welding industry, from the increased use of automation and robotics to data analytics that improves future welds. AI and new welding technologies are also enabling new possibilities in industries that utilize the latest and most delicate metals that require the highest level of control during welding. As the industry continues to evolve, we expect to see further advancements in welding that will enhance safety, improve quality, and increase productivity.
Compared with manual welding, automated welding processes can minimize the chance of errors and inconsistent welds, increasing speed, precision and quality.
Over the years, robotic welding has been utilized in various industries to increase productivity by automating production and ensuring consistent quality. Traditionally, robotic welders required significant investments in equipment and personnel training. However, they have evolved, so today, they offer a unique set of advantages, such as:
- Production automation
- Overall cost reduction (high initial cost, but they pay off as they increase productivity)
- Consistency and repeatability lead to increased quality and accurate welds
- Personnel are not exposed to hazardous fumes or radiation
- Deals with high demand for a skilled workforce by utilizing operators, not welders
- Increased flexibility (versus hard automation)
- Efficiency improvements (useful in mass production)
- Reduce repetitive strain injuries
Industries For Robotic Welding
Besides robots, the manufacturing process utilizes cobots. A welding cobot, or collaborative welding robot, is designed to assist human welders in the welding process. It is equipped with sensors and programming that allow it to work alongside human welders without the need for safety barriers or cages.
The welding cobot can perform various welding tasks, and it is programmed to work collaboratively with human welders, assisting them with the more repetitive or physically demanding aspects of welding. One of the main advantages of welding cobots is their ability to improve the safety and ergonomics of the welding process. For example, advanced welding equipment and sensors make the cobot aware of welders and operators nearby, so it stops to prevent collision and hurting the operator. Meanwhile, robotic welding machines are pre-programmed, so they can severely hurt you if you get in their way.
Welding drones are crewless aerial vehicles (UAVs) equipped with cameras, sensors, and robotic arms to perform welding tasks and inspections. Drones are instrumental in hard-to-reach or hazardous locations, such as high-rise buildings, bridges, or offshore oil platforms, which present the riskiest environment for any welder.
The drones are remotely operated by a human operator who can monitor the welding process and make adjustments as necessary. In addition, they can access and weld in hard-to-reach locations, which can save time and money by eliminating the need for scaffolding or other access equipment.
Additionally, welding drones can perform welding tasks in hazardous locations, reducing the risk of injury or death to human welders. This makes welding drones particularly useful in industries such as oil and gas, where welding tasks are often performed in dangerous or remote locations.
Tailored Welder Training
Tailored welding training is a customized program designed (or tailored) to meet the specific needs of a particular organization or individual welder. This training fits the unique requirements of the welding industry, and it can help you improve your skills and knowledge, increase your efficiency and productivity, and ultimately improve the quality of your work.
What makes tailored welding training a trend to watch and implement is the ability to be delivered through various methods, including classroom training, hands-on training, and online training. The training program can also be delivered on-site or off-site, depending on the organization's or individual welder's specific needs.
Past few years and as a part of tailored training and as new and future welder trends, we are seeing increased use of virtual/augmented reality training purposes for welders.
Photo by @weldcertcenter
Virtual/Augmented Reality Welder Training
Virtual (VR) or augmented reality (AR) welder training uses state-of-the-art technology to simulate real-world welding scenarios. This technology allows welders to practice and develop their skills in a safe, controlled environment with expert guidance and real-like results when welding thick metals and sheet pieces.
In VR welder training, the welder wears a virtual reality headset that simulates real-world welding scenarios. The headset provides a 360-degree view of the environment and allows the welder to practice welding. AR welder training, on the other hand, involves overlaying digital information onto the real-world environment. In this type of training, the welder uses a mobile device or a wearable device such as smart glasses to access digital overlays that provide instructions, guidance, and feedback during the welding process.
VR and AR training can provide instant feedback and guidance, allowing you to improve your skills and identify areas that need further development. This can help organizations reduce welding defects, rework, and downtime, improving quality and increasing productivity.
Augmented Reality Welding Training
Clean And Safe Welding Environment
The latest improvements in welding technology and the latest American Welding Society guidelines and OSHA standards have brought significant advancements in welder safety and environmental sustainability. These improvements are achieved by a set of measures and advances in welding processes, materials, and equipment, as well as increased awareness of welders and companies.
The development of more efficient and effective welding processes significantly improved welding procedures. For example, newer welding applications and methods, such as laser and electron beam welding, use less heat and produce fewer fumes than traditional welding processes. This creates a safer welding environment with limited emissions of harmful particles and toxic gases.
Automated Laser Welding
Modern welding machines, including the YesWelder MIG205DS-B, are designed to be more energy-efficient, but they also include safety features that reduce the risk of accidents and injuries. For example, many machines now feature automatic shut-off systems that prevent overheating and reduce the risk of fire or explosion.
New filler metal, such as low-hydrogen electrodes, produce fewer fumes and smoke than traditional electrodes, reducing the risk of respiratory problems for welders. Additionally, there has been a greater focus on training and education to promote safe and sustainable welding practices.
Reducing The Emission
The welding process can contribute to GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions through the use of energy-intensive equipment and the production of waste materials, including welding fumes and gases. GHG emissions contribute to climate change, which has profound environmental, economic, and social impacts.
Many countries have set targets for reducing their emissions, and the welding industry will need to adapt to meet these targets. We are seeing goals of a 43% reduction (on 2005 levels) by 2030 and a final goal of net zero emissions by 2050. In cooperation with the government, many businesses transfer from carbon-intensive to carbon-free industries, including welding.
Current climate policies will reduce emissions, but not quickly enough to reach international targets.
Technology advances and measures that help reduce the emission include:
- Installing LED or sensor lighting
- Waste reduction programs
- Recycling, upcycling, and repurposing programs
- Digital transformation
- Water use reduction programs
- Installing solar panels
- Implementing a net zero carbon plan
- Power factor correction
By adapting to the measures, new-generation companies are increasing their sustainability and productivity, with improved quality of welder environment and conditions.
Over the years, welding technology has evolved significantly, and the future of welding is bright, with continued advancements in technology and practices aimed at improving safety, quality, and sustainability.
New welding technologies, such as automation, robotics, and the use of data and analytics, have made the welding industry safer and more productive. Additionally, new welding technologies, such as hybrid welding, additive manufacturing, or other methods, are opening up new possibilities in welding applications and joining advanced materials.