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Tube & Pipe

Self-starter

By Gretchen Salois

Above: Fledgling welders capable of running Novarc’s cobot include first-year welding students. The SWR has a small footprint as well, saving shop floor space.

February 2019 - The metal fabrication workforce is retiring faster than companies can hire replacements so shops are instead turning to technology to see them through labor shortages. According to a recent report by Tooling U-SME, “the overwhelming majority of manufacturers say they will face significant challenges developing a skilled workforce in the next three years.”

Automating the pipe welding process allows job shops to usher in fledgling talent using equipment capable of skills otherwise acquired through operators with decades of practice.

“Our customers come to us because they can’t find qualified welders—but we can see how a general welder can meet requirements without years of experience,” says Soroush Karimzadeh, CEO of Novarc Technologies.

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Novarc's Spool Welding Robot can work alongside operators as a collaborative robot, with no fencing or light curtains required.

Manufacturers and fabricators that were rather slow footed in making decisions to combat the skilled labor gap now find themselves either in a panic or in a realm of uncertainty. “Customers are coming to us because after months of searching, they need an alternative to an experienced welder or they need to repurpose their experienced welders to [tackle] more complicated tasks,” Karimzadeh says. “During those customer conversations, I’ve never had anyone lay off any welders after installing our Spool Welding Robot (SWR). Veteran welders are in high demand so an easy-to-use machine allows them to hire a welder with less experience while using the veteran welder to perform more complicated tasks.”

Fledgling welders capable of running Novarc’s cobot include first-year welding students. “Any junior welder can work our equipment. Anyone who uses a smartphone can work this cobot welder,” Karimzadeh claims.

One of Novarc’s recent customers hired an 18-year-old, first-year welding student to run their SWR. The junior welder says he prefers welding with the SWR because “it takes the hard work out of welding” so he’s not exhausted from the repetitive and precise nature of the work.

“That should give you an idea of how easy it is to run,” Karimzadeh adds, noting other customers have compared using the SWR to playing a video game using a joystick.

Press and go

Setup time is minimal. The SWR can be used for high-mix, low-volume production, with full penetration root to cap pipe welds—and is ideal for small spaces. The cobot has a three-axis robotic arm.

The welding joint is placed by the cobot that has a radial reach of 15 ft. Setup takes, at most, two minutes.

“After you bring the machine arm to the joint, the operator selects the procedures from a preprogrammed library based on pipe size and thickness,” explains Karimzadeh. “If working on a 10-in.-radius weld, the machine automatically knows all the parameters needed and the operator can review and make changes if needed.

“The operator presses a button and the height and switch flips as the machine recognizes the joint. Once the operator hits the start button, the weld begins,” he explains.

Welders “should know what a good or bad weld looks like,” but Novarc is in the process of developing a vision product to take the subjectivity out of the qualifying step as well.

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Setup time is minimal so the SWR can be used for high-mix, low-volume production.

Over time, Karimzadeh says the machine is becoming more autonomous, freeing up the operator to run another pipe operation or complete a different task. “The operator doesn’t have to be there while the arc is welding and that is a huge plus for our customers’ bottom line,” he says.

In addition, the company continues to develop proprietary software “to mimic welders using vision systems and automating more parts of the process.”

The SWR cobot does not need safety fencing, has a small footprint and comes with its own air filtration/ventilation system. Novarc is also focused on its cobot’s accuracy. “We specifically built into its design the right degrees of freedom and places where point laser and visual system are able to track and provide accuracy,” Karimzadeh says. “We’re in the process of bringing root pass full autonomy accuracy within 0.1mm —that’s much more accurate than humans but we know we still have room to further close that gap.”

Artificial intelligence

The NovEye component of the cobot integrates artificial intelligence and machine vision with adaptive control, producing high-quality full penetration 1G root pass welds, according to Novarc.

NovEye increases the SWR’s autonomy because the machine is able to learn how to track the root pass with high accuracy, measure the root gap as well as automatically detect tacks (stitches). Customers can also integrate Miller Auto Continuum power sources with the SWR.

“Our customers like that our machine works with equipment they also use for manual welding,” he says.

While welding is the main application at the moment, Karimzadeh says the future holds unknown opportunities.

“We get inquiries about using our cobot for other applications—tasks on the shop floor unrelated to welding,” he says. “There is an attractive future of possibilities before us.” FFJ

Sources

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Company Profiles

AIR FILTRATION

HYDRAULIC PRESSES

NESTING SOFTWARE

SERVICE CENTERS

Camfil APC - Equipment Beckwood Press Co. Metamation Inc. Admiral Steel
Camfil APC - Replacement Filters Triform

PLASMA TECHNOLOGY

Alliance Steel
Donaldson Company Inc.

LASER TECHNOLOGY

Messer Cutting Systems Inc.

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AMADA AMERICA, INC.

PLATE

Enmark Systems Inc.
MetalForming Inc. Mazak Optonics Corp. Peddinghaus Lantek Systems Inc.
RAS Systems LLC MC Machinery Systems Inc.

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SigmaTEK Systems LLC

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Murata Machinery, USA, Inc. Davi Inc. Striker Systems
Steelmax Tools LLC TRUMPF Inc.

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Mate Precision Tooling AIDA-America Corp.
Bradbury Group MTS Sensors Rolleri USA

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Burghardt + Schmidt Group

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Alliance Steel
Butech Bliss Fehr Warehouse Solutions Inc. AMADA AMERICA, INC.

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Red Bud Industries UFP Industrial Automec Inc. BLM Group
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MC Machinery Systems Inc. Prudential Stainless & Alloys

CONVEYOR SYSTEMS

Advanced Gauging Technologies SafanDarley

WATERJET

Mayfran International

METAL FABRICATION MACHINERY

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Barton International

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Cincinnati Inc. Hougen Manufacturing Flow International Corporation
ATI Industrial Automation LVD Strippit

SAWING

Jet Edge Waterjet Systems
Lissmac Corp. Scotchman Industries Inc. Behringer Saws Inc.

WELDING

Osborn Trilogy Machinery Inc. DoALL Sawing American Weldquip
SuperMax Tools

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HE&M Saw Strong Hand Tools
Timesavers FAGOR Arrasate USA Inc. Savage Saws T. J. Snow Company

 

MetalForming Inc.

 

 

 

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Titan Tool Supply Inc.

 

 


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