Welding in the aerospace industry
When Robert Trudelle enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school, he didn’t know it would set the course for a lifetime career in the aerospace industry — or that it would lead to his love of welding and teaching.
In the Air Force, Trudelle served as a structural repair technician working on B-52 and KC-135 aircraft, which gave him the experience to secure a position as a mechanic at a major commercial airline in the Atlanta area after completing his four-year enlistment. There, his supervisor requested that he attend a local technical college to learn welding to add to his skill set.
“Soon after I graduated, the college asked me if I wanted to teach their night program,” says Trudelle. “That was when I really found out how much I liked teaching people. I thought I was going to do it for a couple of years, and 15 years later, I was still doing it.”
In addition to his years teaching at the college, Trudelle was also a welding instructor at the airline, where he recently retired with 30 years of service. In his spare time, Trudelle opened his own welding business to provide training to individuals and companies. He also became a Certified Welding Educator (CWE) and Certified Welding Inspector (CWI).
“I had a chance to do a lot of training of diverse people, between the technical college and the airline,” says Trudelle. “It gave me a really broad welding experience, between all the welding processes and different people who were working in different industries.”
It also gave Trudelle an appreciation of having the right equipment to not only get the job done, but to also help ease welder training. That’s why he’s relied on equipment from Miller Electric Mfg. LLC during his career and continues to use it at Pro-Weld Services, LLC — his growing, full-time business now that he’s retired from the airline.
Putting experience with Miller to work
Pro-Weld Services is based in Williamson, Georgia, just south of Atlanta. There, Trudelle provides welding training and consulting services primarily to those in or entering the aerospace industry, as well as to general fabricators. He also offers specific individual training based on application.
His background has set him up for success with this endeavor, with a waiting list for his specialized aerospace training and services to prove it. In recent years, training sessions at the Pro-Weld facility have focused primarily on that industry and TIG (GTAW) welding, with the consulting and training he provides at customer facilities having a broader scope to include aluminum MIG (GMAW) welding and flux-cored (FCAW) fabrication.
“The aerospace folks are typically individuals looking to get hired in that industry. They’ve either gone to a local technical college or they don’t feel ready to yet,” says Trudelle. “I saw a need for focusing on one-on-one training.”
Trudelle’s facility has four welding booths featuring Dynasty TIG welders from Miller, including the Dynasty 210, 280 and 400 — equipment he knows will provide the quality needed for critical aerospace applications.
“In my experience with training welders, the Miller equipment plays a big, important role. I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Miller,” says Trudelle.
“The reliability of the Dynasty machines has been great for me. I haven't had any issues with them.”
Simplifying welder training
Like other industries, aerospace manufacturers and commercial airlines are facing a shortage of skilled welders. That makes it important to have equipment that is easy to use and facilitates training new welders.
Trudelle explains that aerospace welding varies from customer to customer, whether it's an airline or a manufacturer. In repair situations, for example, welders need to have solid skills when working with thin applications. They also need to be able to control the heat input when welding and correctly set machine parameters.
The Dynasty machines Trudelle has at Pro-Weld Services have similar interfaces across all of the models to ease set up. That includes a Pro-Set™ feature, intended to eliminate the guesswork when setting weld parameters. This technology offers the speed, convenience and confidence of preset controls. Operators select the feature and adjust it until Pro-Set appears on the display; it provides balance, frequency, pulse and DIG parameters.
Trudelle adds that Dynasty machines have easy-to-navigate menus and similar functionalities. Display graphics and quick reference guide give operators an understanding of why they're changing a parameter and what it's doing.
“They're pretty consistent from one machine to the other, so it makes it easier to train the student when you're moving them from booth to booth,” says Trudelle. “That helps keep the user from getting confused and going the wrong way when making parameter adjustments.”
Trainees at Pro-Weld Services appreciate the interface similarities, along with other features on specific Dynasty models that help simplify their training.
For example, the Dynasty 400 and 280 (with an expansion card) have independent amplitude/amperage control that allows EP and EN amperages to be set independently. This helps welders precisely control heat input to the work and electrode. It also provides:
- Better penetration
- More capability on thicker materials
- Less tungsten degradation
- Improved post-weld appearance
The independent control is especially good for working on larger aluminum or magnesium projects, since it allows the welder to use higher heat input without sacrificing cleaning.
“The feedback I get from the trainees on this equipment is that they really like it. It's consistent,” says Trudelle. “It makes sense when you're trying to teach them what a parameter does and they're looking at the encoder or the functions on the machine control. They feel good when they lay down a good weld.”
Having accurate and consistent welding equipment increases the chances for welder qualification success in an already difficult and extensive testing environment and process. Many times, welders who have experience on advanced welding equipment, like the Dynasty series, have less trouble during the training and qualification process, according to Trudelle.
“Aerospace candidates or welders need to have the basic training to succeed,” says Trudelle. “Companies invest quite a bit of additional money, materials and time training these individuals once they are hired, so the more they bring to the table when they arrive, the better companies can get them through the process, and start to grow them even more.”