Future Welding

Addressing the welder shortage with new training technology that includes augmented reality

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Given the high numbers of experienced welders retiring and the low numbers of people choosing a welding career, the demand for new welders has reached a fever pitch. Recruiting new welders is, of course, essential for companies that want to remain competitive and increase their business.

In an effort to fill that demand, welding training and education methods are evolving to speed up the process. Welding is obviously a hands-on skill, so the best type of training involves actual welding. But this is challenging for a number of reasons, namely safety and costs. Incorporating new technologies into the training process to attract a new generation of welders is an important part of the solution.

Miller’s AugmentedArc system reinforces proper technique and quickens skill development by delivering real-time feedback to help correct errors prior to actual live welding.

Fortunately, Welding equipment manufacturers offer solutions that can help train welders faster and make it easier for welders to be successful once they are on the job. These solutions can also help welding instructors do a proper job of training.

“Because of the current lack of welders, it’s important to educate and train them as fast as possible while improving their skills,” says Jeremy Bruesewitz, training solutions product manager, Miller Electric Mfg. LLC. “With limited welding instructors, teachers are challenged with the instructor-to-student ratio and ensuring each student is getting the time needed to learn essential welding techniques. With our training solutions, we’re able to help mitigate that a little bit by allowing the students a bit more autonomy.”

Miller’s training solutions designed to recruit and build a strong welding workforce include the MobileArc and AugmentedArc augmented reality (AR) training systems and the LiveArc welding performance management system. These welding training solutions enhance the learning experience and reduce the learning curve of students.

A real view

AR provides a realistic welding simulation that closely resembles live arc welding by blending real-world and computer-generated images. Students see these images on a screen and react to them.

MobileArc is an affordable AR training system designed to introduce and engage welding through a hands-on AR experience. Students of all ages can get a feel for welding with this introductory system. The simple user interface allows students to work independently and receive real-time feedback to correct errors, which helps increase welding instructor efficiency. With its portable, lightweight design, MobileArc is particularly helpful for welder recruitment events.

The LiveArc welding system allows monitoring and feedback of welder technique to occur while live welding is happening.

AugmentedArc is a more advanced AR training system that simulates multiple welding processes, including MIG, TIG and stick welding. It is aimed at secondary schools and high schools.

“We see a lot of industries using it, so it’s not just in the education market,” Bruesewitz says. “Companies are utilizing it to enhance the skills of current welders and help a welder learn a new welding process. AugmentedArc allows the welder to run through a program for a while before performing live welding in the facility. AugmentedArc is for MIG, TIG and stick welding so it has a larger scale for training welders.”

Whether in a shop or school, AugmentedArc saves time and money on training because there are no actual coupons, wire or gas consumed. However, to the user it looks and sounds like actual welding, complete with metal workpieces, arcs and beads.

The system also reinforces proper technique and quickens skill development by delivering real-time feedback to help correct errors prior to actual live welding.

“It speeds up the learning process because of that real-time feedback,” Bruesewitz says. “When utilizing the torch, the inside of the helmet actually shows you what you’re doing right or wrong and it helps you adjust it while you’re welding. We’re hitting the main points of a good welder so we’re trying to create that muscle memory before you go into live welding.”

A Miller study shows the effects of using a blended training model that encompasses AR and live welding together. On average, instructors save up to 60 percent on materials and see a reduction of up to 65 percent in training time by using a combination of traditional welding training and AugmentedArc.

“The study shows that it’s not just the cost of material, but also the time savings of the instructors with the students,” Bruesewitz says. “I’m hearing that a lot of instructors will put the students on AugmentedArc and then after maybe a month or two they’ll move them to live welding. But if they are struggling, they will then move them back down to the AugmentedArc to focus on the muscle memory.”

Bruesewitz also points out the AR experience is pretty unique.

“Compared to virtual reality, augmented reality creates a more realistic view,” he says. “When you put the welding helmet on, you’re still in the same environment. You can see the people and the torch and you can see and feel everything right in front of you. With VR, you really can’t tell where you are. The AR gives you a better welding experience, especially if you put it in a weld booth.”

Lastly, the LiveArc welding performance management system allows monitoring and feedback of welder technique to occur while live welding is happening. Intuitive and easy to use with minimal supervision, LiveArc gets welders welding faster to quickly help build skills and help instructors deliver more effective and efficient lessons.

MobileArc is an affordable augmented reality training system that offers a hands-on augmented reality experience.

“Live arc for MIG welding has the ability to do a simulated weld as well as a live weld so you get to practice a few times and then you can actually strike an arc,” Bruesewitz says. “You can hook it up to a welder. The feedback is right on the torch so it allows you to adjust as you’re welding. It has a monitor and a weld table and then cameras watch how you’re welding and give you that instant feedback.”

This type of system also gives instructors the flexibility to input parameters for several welding joint configurations, which means students can be measured on how they perform a weld to specific welding procedures. Assignments can be quickly configured and customized with target values and limits for technique parameters. Data is captured so each individual student’s performance can be stored and reviewed at any time.

Teaching aids

As for the cost of these systems, “the payback of the unit covers the cost in the long term,” Bruesewitz says. “There are also grants available for these kinds of training for schools. We can help them with writing the grants. It can be a complicated process and we have individuals at Miller that are able to help with that.”

Another resource for welding instructors is Miller’s OpenBook. This is a software application or Web-based technology used to plan, implement and assess learning processes. It provides instructors with an easy tool to assign and deliver welding content, create quizzes, download welding labs, monitor student participation, and assess and report student progress and performance. The curriculum includes MIG, TIG and stick welding exercises.

Bruesewitz is a fan OpenBook. “It’s absolutely free and basically has everything an instructor would need to teach welding,” he says. “Anytime I’m with an instructor, I tell them to please sign up for it. Even if they’re not going to utilize it for their whole curriculum there might be something in there from which they could benefit.”

OpenBook helps instructors keep up with the latest welding technology and techniques, which can be difficult when schedules are tight.

“These instructors are so busy spending their time teaching the students, they don’t always have the time to look at what’s new,” Bruesewitz says. “We decided that we would come up with something to help them do that. Miller has had really good success from listening to instructors on what they want. We want to listen to what they have to say and then try to make it easier for them. We really appreciate the value that they give us – it helps us create better products.”

Learn how Miller OpenBook provides welding instructors with helpful tools.

In addition to OpenBook, Miller offers many other resources on its welding education and training web page. These include everything from quizzes and posters to information on scholarships and grants to classroom upgrades and welding educator news.

Overall, an AR learning experience reduces consumable costs and training time and allows students to learn and practice various welding techniques safely, accurately and efficiently. These types of training solutions are a great way to generate interest in welding from a new generation who grew up using smart technology.

Miller Electric Mfg. LLC

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