Companies are always looking for ways to become more competitive, productive and profitable. Accurately bidding on jobs, having the right equipment and skilled welding operators, and completing projects on deadline are all imperative to reaching those goals. Safety on the jobsite is also absolutely critical — it is important that companies take steps to minimize hazards that could lead to employee injury.
There are opportunities in the welding operation to implement efficiencies and ensure greater safety, including the use of remote control technology — which in today’s marketplace has evolved to provide significant benefits to that end.
Technology that provides complete remote control of the welding power source at the weld joint, like Miller® ArcReach® technology, provides significant benefits for productivity, operator safety and weld quality. When welding operators no longer have to walk back to the power source to make parameter adjustments, it can save hours each day and reduce safety risks like slips, trips and falls. It also eliminates the need to settle for less-than-optimal welding parameters, resulting in better welds and less rework.
This technology is beneficial for industries where a welding operator is not welding next to the power source. These include large jobsites found in industries such as construction and shipbuilding, where welding can take place hundreds of feet in the air or far away from the power sources.
Available remote technology
There are two main types of remote control welding technologies available in the marketplace, but they are not all equal.
- Remote control or RC feeders require weld cables, as well as an additional control cord, which offers full wire feed speed and voltage control at the weld joint.
- The most advanced option available for MIG welding includes a voltage sensing or VS feeder with complete remote control technology — offering wire feed speed, voltage control and process control via the existing weld cables — no additional cord required. For TIG and stick welding, amperage, arc control and process control are available via a remote. The control cord is not required. (Note, the remainder of this article will focus on this type of remote control technology.)
Eliminating the control cord — which can contain in excess of 14 wires wrapped in a bundle — reduces cable management by 33 percent, while giving the welding operator complete control at the weld joint and reducing the need to purchase or maintain expensive cords. These reduced costs can add up on jobsites that have dozens or even hundreds of welding machines. In addition, reducing unplanned downtime for the repair and maintenance of older corded options can also eliminate unnecessary costs.
Another benefit: There are no line-of-sight limitations, as the weld cables provide the remote control capability as opposed to radio waves, which can be disrupted by obstructions or distance. As long as the cables are proper sized for the job, they will have the ability to communicate to the power source.
ArcReach technology provides remote control capabilities without the need for a control cable. In addition, enhanced ArcReach technology available on the XMT® 350 FieldPro™ power sources from Miller makes it even easier for welding operators to adjust parameters at the weld joint so they can do their best work.
One new technology available in enhanced ArcReach offerings is Cable Length Compensation, or CLC™. This technology ensures that the voltage welding operators sets is the voltage they get at the feeder or remote — even hundreds of feet away from the power source. This allows greater accuracy and easier control of weld quality for the operator. It also saves time the operator would spend walking back and forth to the power source to dial in the voltage to meet welding specifications.
In addition, the Adjust While Welding (AWW™) technology allows for parameter changes and precise adjustments at the wire feeder or remote while the arc is on — so operators can make adjustments during welding to compensate for heat buildup, changes in weld position or variations in part fit-up. This not only saves time, it also contributes to improved weld quality, since each stop and start of the arc introduces the potential for discontinuities or quality issues that often require time-consuming grinding between passes.
The new CLC and AWW technologies are available by pairing enhanced ArcReach accessories with the new XMT 350 FieldPro offerings from Miller. The XMT 350 FieldPro lineup includes a polarity reversing model that joins the larger ArcReach portfolio in late 2017.
The ArcReach family of products provides maximum fleet compatibility and greater flexibility, allowing companies to fully utilize their existing accessories and power sources until they are ready to replace or upgrade. If an existing fleet includes standard feeders, they can be paired with XMT 350 FieldPro welders. However, the benefits of ArcReach technology will not be available. If an existing fleet includes older ArcReach SuitCase® feeders or ArcReach remotes, they can be paired with XMT 350 FieldPro welders and will continue to deliver their existing ArcReach benefits. To enjoy the latest ArcReach benefits, pair XMT 350 FieldPro welders with new ArcReach SuitCase feeders, new ArcReach Smart Feeders or new ArcReach remotes.
ArcReach accessories are also compatible with a wide variety of Miller engine-driven welder/generators — including machines in the Big Blue® and Trailblazer® lineup — so companies can expand use of the technology with their existing fleet. Miller is the only welding equipment manufacturer to offer this type of remote-control technology without a control cable in an engine-driven power source.
Productivity and quality gains
The ability to control welding parameters at the weld joint offers significant productivity and quality benefits. It reduces the time a welding operator spends walking to the power source to adjust welding parameters. Eliminating that downtime helps improve productivity by allowing more arc-on time. Further, control over the welding parameters makes certain that the welding operator has the most productive weld settings for the weld joint, allowing for the completion of more work in less time.
Likewise, this technology helps prevent weld defects, such as poor penetration or other issues that could require costly and time-consuming rework. Once the welding operator strikes an arc, he or she can see the exact voltage and amperage for the process.
The voltage provides the welding operator with the means to control the weld puddle size and shape, which varies depending on whether welding occurs in a flat, vertical or overhead position. Without this control, the welding operator may tend to manipulate the welding process via wire stickout (for MIG welding), travel speed or angle of the gun or torch. Similarly, a welding operator may try to burn a stick electrode faster or slower by
increasing or decreasing the arc length and travel speed. Ultimately, these adjustments may prevent a welding operator from creating quality welds and it could reduce the speed at which he or she completes it, negatively affecting productivity.
Remote control technologies offer safety benefits for the welding operator in several ways. Reducing unnecessary trips to and from a power source to make adjustments not only reduces exposure to hazards on a jobsite, but it also helps reduce welding operator fatigue that can result from navigating large jobsites. Eliminating the need for the control cord also reduces jobsite clutter, which helps improve welding operator safety by minimizing trips, slips and falls. This is a real benefit, considering OSHA cites falls as being responsible for 349 out of 874 total construction site deaths (39.9%) in 2014.
Additional benefits: Reduced maintenance and costs
Remote control technology that does not require the extra control cord can reduce time-consuming and costly repairs or replacements, including addressing broken connectors or splicing crushed cables. The more machines a company has, the more savings it will see in this regard since there are fewer control cords to purchase or repair.
Using remote control technology that does not require a control cord also saves the time and hassle of having to roll and unroll the extra cords at the beginning and end of each day or shift. That can be significant when it comes to moving from one weld joint to another or to a different area of the project. This reduction in downtime can result in productivity and labor savings for a company. Again, more time can be spent producing quality welds, meeting contract deadlines and potentially, avoiding penalties for overdue work.
Numerous advantages to consider
When it comes to operating a safe, efficient and profitable welding operation, it’s important to look at all aspects that contribute to success. Remote control welding technology that operates without a control cord provides numerous benefits that can help a company increase productivity, improve quality, and reduce operating and maintenance costs, while also providing the benefits of greater welding operator safety.
Fleet management benefits (sidebar)
Remote control welding technology can provide significant financial benefits to a company with a large welding fleet by reducing operating and maintenance costs, and providing gains in weld quality and productivity. The larger the company and the more welding machines they have, the greater savings they can see. Simply put, more welding operators welding yields greater results, and it helps the company to become competitive by completing jobs on time and on budget.
This technology is also beneficial for fleet management, since some remote control capabilities available on the market can be gradually added into a fleet, rather than requiring the company to replace all of the welding machines at once — equipment with and without remote control technology are compatible with each other so the new technology can be integrated without issue. This gradual replacement allows companies to make the investment over time, as capital is available.
In addition, many remote control technologies on the market are available in multiprocess welding machines, providing the versatility of MIG, stick or TIG welding to meet various jobsite needs. In many cases, stick and TIG are the most common jobsite processes and there are remotes available now that offer easy amperage adjustment and arc control, along with precision settings and the benefit of remote override. Such functionalities and the multiprocess capability can help companies maximize equipment investments and meet the varied welding needs required by different applications.