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Adaptive Welding Key to Power Generation

Michael Bell
By Michael Bell Director of Sales, Pemamek North America

While water and fire tube boiler power plants may be considered archaic, they now power much of North America and will for some time, even as newer, cleaner, greener tech transitions into the mainstream and becomes practical.

As a welding automation provider, we have a unique viewpoint. We see the old, the current and the what’s-to-come in energy. Our systems are at work in legacy plants, in pressure vessels and in nozzle welding. We also see the new, such as onshore wind tower welding. We actively consult with various public and private bodies about the next wind-gen applications for offshore towers and sea-bed foundations. Both the old and the new need welding.

Adaptive Welding Means Strength

What’s attractive about adaptive welding in making or repairing large, bulky, heavy tubular parts is that it creates the strongest mechanical and molecular bonds possible in inconsistent groove geometry. Achieving these strong welds is best done with a high-level robot welding station configured for these types of parts.

Flexibility is also important. The key to an adaptive weld system running optimally is a multi-featured software control program with offline and scan programming functions. In operation, a scan robot uses laser seam searching to define the grooves’ actual geometry in real time and position. The scan result is imported into the software where it automatically generates a 3D image. A welding pattern is easily created using this data set. The collected data from the scan is visualized in the software for the operator, who can then apply the selected pattern to the weld groove or create a new pattern that meets the mechanical properties needed.

The ability to analyze the bevel angle gives the operator the option to adapt the welding parameters to achieve an even filling of a welding groove automatically rather than manually. A control system serves as an operator interface for all the welding equipment, seamlessly linking welding parameters, automation and workpiece handling equipment. The scan program and the control system provide for more accurate multilayer welding, leveraging laser-scanned groove geometry that sees all parts and ensures they are filled.

Once a workpiece is measured and the data analyzed, each welding pass is located layer by layer to the welding groove. The system automatically measures the groove volume and determines the number of passes needed in each section of the weld. For thicker walls, such as those found in pressure vessels, the number of filling passes increases, controlled within the software.

Opening New Markets, New Jobs

Using adaptive robotic welding, the most complex of joints have been successfully welded with complete joint penetration (CJP) welds, despite their size. With the industry for offshore wind towers and sea-bed foundations being finalized off the shores of Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Long Island, there is opportunity for these advanced welding systems. The industry will create jobs and ramp-up U.S. steel production.

A properly configured robotic cell, outfitted with scanning software and a robot controller, provides manufacturers the ability to weld thick-walled components using strategies that automatically adapt to the complex geometries often found in large-scale environments. These include heavy-duty equipment and structures, such as those required for power generation.

It’s no longer necessary to weld smaller pieces to make a big piece, or to dedicate valuable manpower to one welding task at a time. That same operator can tackle multiple jobs just like these in a fraction of the time, increasing productivity while decreasing wasteful scrap costs.

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