Accessing the Advantages of Remote Control Welding Technology
May 6, 2015
Efficiency, safety and profitability are important to any company, but especially to a welding operation. In addition to general best practices and welding operator training, there are equipment advancements that can help meet quality and production goals, while also helping keep welding operators safer on the job. Remote control welding technology is one of those advancements.
Remote control welding technology allows welding operators to set welding parameters at the joint without the need to carry, route, troubleshoot and maintain expensive control cables — all while delivering consistent welding performance.
Gaining optimal welding parameters
For any application, following proper welding parameters is critical to achieving high weld quality and productivity, as is employing proper and consistent techniques. On some jobsites, however, that goal can sometimes be compromised by the expanse of the location.
Welds in some fabrication, construction and shipbuilding environments are often made at extended distances from the welding power supply. Because of this distance, portable wire feeders that do not require a control cable are often used but up until recently these feeders did not provide voltage control. As a result, welding operators often select a single set of welding parameters that are a “best fit” to accomplish all of the joint orientations to be welded. This best fit eliminates the need to travel back to the power source repeatedly to change weld settings.
At first glance this approach seems viable. The single set of welding parameters enables the welding operator to stay where the welding is done, reducing the need to access controls in inconvenient locations. In reality, a company may be sacrificing quality and productivity by settling for less-than-optimal settings.
For example, it’s possible that the welding operator may have selected a lower output setting for out-of-position welds and is using that same setting for welding in the flat/horizontal position. Because it is actually possible to operate at higher output settings and travel speeds for flat/horizontal applications, the net result is the welding operator is losing time by welding with less productive weld settings. That can lead to costly rework, too, since too cold of a weld setting, for instance, can lead to poor fusion and/or porosity, especially when welding over pre-construction primer.
Remote control technology enables the welding operator to set welding parameters at the arc without a control cord and without using wireless controls that require batteries or line-of-sight for operation. This technology uses the existing weld cables themselves to communicate with the power supply, which helps the operator obtain the best welding parameters for the desired joint orientation — right at the weld joint. These optimized settings, when coupled with good techniques such as proper travel speed, help produce high-quality, properly sized welds at a faster rate.
Having the proper weld settings can also reduce the cost per foot for the welds. In some cases, reducing these costs can add up to thousands of dollars annually per welding operator, delivered back to the bottom line.
Achieving quality, productivity and cost savings through remote control technology
Providing welding operators with a convenient means to obtain the right weld settings and the skills to watch for problems is critical to reduce rejects, rework and scrap. Proper training is key. It’s also important to look for ways to minimize downtime, including reducing maintenance activities, in order to gain greater productivity and reduce costs.
Fabrication welding environments often use long weld cables that can easily be worn and cut when pulled over sharp surfaces. Worn cables with damaged insulation can lead to a bad weld. The result is downtime to repair both the cable and finished component, and potentially, issues with weld quality. Control cables, when utilized, are often routed with or taped to weld cables, and are exposed to the same hazards, resulting in even more problems for the welding operator. Damaged control cables can result in significant downtime and costly repairs.
Newer remote welding technologies don’t remove these environmental hazards, since welding operators still have to weld at a distance from the power source, but it removes the additional cables to minimize maintenance. By eliminating control cables, companies can remove costs not only for purchasing them, but also repairing and replacing them. And they can eliminate downtime to troubleshoot issues associated with damaged cables, in addition to reducing trips back to the power source to make adjustments.
Power sources that employ remote control technology rely on voltage sensing wire feeders. These feeders display the actual arc voltage and current measured at the arc and enable the welding operator to compare the real-time reading to weld setting presets. Welding operators can continually monitor parameters to ensure that the appropriate power is being delivered to the arc. This capability helps welding operators take out the guesswork when it comes to adhering to the prescribed weld procedures, resulting in more consistent weld quality. It also helps to reduce rejects, rework and scrap, further improving weld quality and increasing productivity. Plus, making fewer trips to the power source to make voltage adjustments means there is more time available for arc-on time.
Improving safety on the jobsite
The degree of difficulty, fatigue, frustration and/or potential hazards associated with welding are very real challenges in many welding environments. The work can be tiring, especially on vast job sites that require a lot of travel between the power source and the weld joint. Creating a safe workplace is just as important as creating an efficient one.
Remote control technology supplies the benefit of a control cable electronically, without the need for the physical control cable. It operates by using the existing secondary weld cables for communication, and in doing so, adds control to welding system components that were previously available only at the power supply — there is no longer a need to walk back to the machine for adjustment, which can greatly reduce a welding operator’s exposure to trip hazards and ladder use, increasing safety and reducing fatigue at the end of the day.
When it comes to operating a safe, efficient and profitable welding operation, it’s important to look at all aspects that contribute to that success. From establishing the best welding parameters to reducing operator fatigue by minimizing unnecessary jobsite movement, it is possible to gain greater quality and productivity. Welding operators who are empowered to make the best welds with equipment offering remote control technologies can contribute positively to the overall welding operation, while also gaining the benefits of greater safety.