Inevitable Transformations – With welders hard to find, the inevitability of robotic pipe welding becomes apparent

By September 9, 2022Media

Published By: Fab Shop Magazine, September Edition Pg. 32

 

For welders in Alberta, Canada, the work is plentiful, and the salary is high. That’s because – like most everywhere else – there’s a shortage of experienced individuals to do the job. In more remote areas, the problem is compounded. It’s hard to recruit any type of worker to a far-flung location, even when the money’s good.

Onsite3D, a virtual engineering and construction firm, knows the situation all too well. The company is based in Calgary with repair and maintenance projects spread across the country, including locations in the wilds of northwest Alberta. Regularly, Onsite3D is tasked with bringing older industrial facilities up to code, and often these projects are situated off the beaten path. These facilities fall under the categories of oil and gas, power and utility, mining and forestry, as well as civil and
infrastructure.

The work is wide ranging – from engineering and construction of the actual facilities to welding and manufacturing the new components that these locations will need. Wade Eno, CEO of RoboFab, a division of Onsite3D that launched in 2019, equates these projects to taking an old run-down, rusted-out station wagon and doing whatever it takes to make it operational and able to pass inspection. “We study these facilities from an asset management perspective, looking at the individual components to understand their lifecycle,” he says. “As an example, think about moving commodities that are highly corrosive through an industrial piping system. The lifecycle of this type of system is determined by the material grades that were used, the engineering involved and how they were manufactured. Unfortunately,
there was a time when these systems weren’t built with longevity in mind.” To identify the corroded, hazardous piping systems in these facilities – while also disrupting the traditional approach of field engineering and construction – Onsite3D uses burgeoning technologies like laser scanning and virtual reality.

To further combat the challenge of finding quality staff for on-site work, the company launched RoboFab, Onsite3D’s offshoot division headed up by Eno, that relies on two Spool Welding Robots (SWRs) from Novarc Technologies Inc. Instead of searching high and low for welders to do the work in these remote areas, piping systems can now be robotically manufactured at RoboFab’s

Not only is less staff required, but the results are also often more precise. “Onsite3D uses Lidar to scan an industrial facility to create a full 3-D model of the site in virtual reality with millimeter accuracy,” Eno explains. “Using CAD software, we can build out construction jobs and simulate the tasks so that we can de-risk them from a cost and scheduling standpoint.”

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