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A question that has been on our minds from the very beginning is: Why doesn’t traditional automation weld pipe effectively?

The manufacturing and fabrication industry has seen a huge push for automation in the past decade—specifically traditional automation and collaborative robots. If anyone went to FABTECH or any fabrication expos over the past few years, there are many robotic welding systems! So why does the pipe welding industry struggle to find a solution?

Pipe welding is a crucial process in various industries, from construction and energy to water supply and chemical manufacturing. However, achieving high-quality welds on pipes presents unique challenges, and traditional automation systems often fall short. In this post we will take a closer look at why traditional automation struggles with pipe welding and what can be done to overcome these hurdles.

Traditional automation struggles to weld pipes effectively due to several inherent challenges:

Complex Geometries and Variability

Pipe Shapes: Pipes can have intricate shapes, including curves, bends, and varying diameters. Traditional automation systems often struggle to navigate these complexities accurately. Unlike flat surfaces or straight lines, the contours of pipes require sophisticated control and adaptability, which basic automation systems lack.

Joint Types: The types of joints involved in pipe welding, such as butt joints, socket joints, and lap joints, and filet joints add another layer of complexity. Each joint type and its orientation necessitate specific welding techniques. Traditional automation systems do not easily adapt to these variations, leading to inconsistent weld quality.

Alignment and Positioning

Precise Alignment: Achieving precise alignment of pipes is crucial for creating strong, reliable welds. Traditional automation systems often lack the fine control necessary for accurate positioning. Misalignment can result in weak welds that may fail under stress.

Fit-Up Issues: Variations in pipe manufacturing can lead to fit-up issues, where the pipes do not match up perfectly. Traditional automation systems typically lack the flexibility to make real-time adjustments needed to accommodate these discrepancies.

Heat Input Management

Heat Control: Welding pipes demands careful management of heat to prevent issues like warping, burn-through, or insufficient penetration. Traditional automation systems may not have the advanced control mechanisms required to manage heat distribution effectively. Improper heat control can compromise the integrity of the weld. With proper systems in place to monitor heat input, we can do our best to improve quality.

Access and Reach

Accessibility & Flexibility: Pipes are often a variety of shapes and sizes, from 1 inch to multiple feet in diameter, and from less than 2 ft to over 40 ft spools, this variability maxes out the reach of traditional automation solutions. In these solutions we also see the integration of maximum two positioners. This limits the amount of production that can flow through a shop.

Quality Monitoring

Real-Time Monitoring: Ensuring weld quality in real-time requires advanced sensors and feedback mechanisms. Traditional automation systems may not be equipped with the necessary technology to monitor and adjust welding parameters on-the-fly. Without real-time monitoring, it’s challenging to maintain consistent weld quality.

Quality Recording: Identifying and storing welding data and parameters is becoming more and more important as the industry advances and quality expectations soar. Being able to identify defects during the welding process and after a product is out the door is essential for quality control. Traditional systems often lack the ability to address defects as they occur, resulting in flawed welds that require costly rework or repairs.

Adaptability

Material Variability: Pipes can be made from various materials, each requiring different welding techniques and parameters. Traditional automation systems may not easily adapt to these material differences, leading to suboptimal welds.

Environmental Factors: Welding conditions, such as temperature, humidity, and contaminants, can significantly impact the welding process. Traditional automation systems may not be robust enough to adapt to changing environmental factors, resulting in inconsistent weld quality.

Moving Forward with Advanced Automation

To overcome these challenges, advanced automation systems like Novarc’s Spool Welding Robot are being developed. This system incorporates technologies like machine vision and learning, advanced sensors, and real-time feedback loops. These innovations offer improved precision, adaptability, and quality control in pipe welding. By leveraging these advanced technologies, industries can achieve higher-quality welds, reduce rework and repairs, and enhance overall productivity.

Pipe welding will always present challenges due to the inherent complexities of the task. However, with the continued advancement of the Novarc Spool Welding Robot, the industry is well on its way to overcoming these obstacles and achieving greater efficiencies and quality in welding processes. See below how Novarc addresses the challenges listed above.

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