Pushing The Limits

A new automated solution takes TIG welding to new heights, enhancing both speed and precision

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Novarc Technologies Inc.’s Spool Welding Robot (SWR) – the world’s first collaborative welding robot – has been providing pipe fabrication shops with a welding automation solution that transforms the way customers can bid on jobs. Since its introduction in 2017, the SWR has helped solve the welding labor shortage: Working with the SWR, junior welders can perform welds previously only senior welders could handle, increasing productivity, weld quality and consistency as a result.

Now, fabrication shops and contract manufacturers will soon experience another productivity boost. The introduction of SWR-TIPTIG will give operators using gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) or tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding the ability to obtain the highest quality welds at speeds two to three times faster than manual TIG welding, while maintaining the highest standards of weld integrity and the precision of the SWR.

With the smallest footprint in the industry, the SWR-TIPTIG is a cobot designed specifically for pipe, pressure vessel and roll welding applications that demand the GTAW or TIG process.

The TIPTIG process

The TIG process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode that delivers the current to the welding arc through the TIG torch. When filler metal is used, it is manually fed into the weld puddle by the welder. When it is not used, it is called autogenous welding. An inert gas, typically 100 percent argon, protects and cools the tungsten and weld puddle through the torch over the tungsten.

The new SWR-TIPTIG system from Novarc Technologies is a mechanized TIG welding system that creates the highest quality welds at much faster speeds than manual TIG welding.

Fabrication shops typically use TIG welding when they need superior arc and weld puddle control. The process allows the operator to create clean welds when appearances are important. Because the heat input is often controlled by pressing on a foot pedal, similar to driving a car, TIG welding allows the operator to heat up or cool down the weld puddle, resulting in precise control.

TIG welding is used in situations where operators are working with thin material, exotic metals, and where high quality and testing requirements are required. In the past, the root pass on critical pipe required TIG welding – often referred to as “defect-free welding” – because of the high quality of the weld required. The root pass on pipe is the foundation of the subsequent passes (and is often where defects/failures are found on SMAW and GMAW welds).

The TIPTIG arc welding process is a unique hot wire TIG application known for the oscillating drive roll system to deliver the wire. The machine delivers 40 to 80 amps to the incoming filler metal and the oscillating drive rolls give the appearance of the “stacked dime” look.

The feeder oscillation is caused by the vibration agitating the weld pool. A secondary influence on the TIPTIG weld is the hot wire current, which preheats the weld wire, improving the wire receptivity into the TIG weld. The agitation of the TIPTIG weld and the added weld energy creates unique TIG weld dynamics that slow down the weld solidification. Longer TIG weld fluidity allows more TIPTIG weld wire to be fed into the weld pool.

Genesis of the technology

Once customers got a taste of the original SWR, Novarc began to receive more requests to enable it for TIG welding. After all, Novarc had been adding more customers that were welding higher amounts of stainless steels, duplex, super duplex and Inconel, among others. TIPTIG is a worldwide leader in TIG welding, and Novarc is a worldwide leader in pipe welding. The marriage made sense.

In terms of the advantages the technology delivers, Novarc pushes the limits of TIG welding to new heights using the advanced TIPTIG system, enhancing both speed and precision far beyond conventional standards. The SWR-TIPTIG not only significantly boosts productivity, but also distinctly places welding operations above the competition in a demanding market.

Novarc’s SWR-TIPTIG system is the first of its kind. It’s a mechanized TIG welding system that allows the operator to make the highest quality welds with integrity and precision at much faster speeds than manual TIG. Because of the ease of use of the SWR system, SWR TIPTIG reduces the skill level required for welding, making it accessible to a wider range of operators, allowing previously non-TIG welders able to make TIG-quality welds.

Introduced in 2017, the Spool Welding Robot (SWR) from Novarc Technologies is the first collaborative welding robot of its kind.

Since its introduction, Novarc’s SWR has dramatically reduced human exposure to all welding hazards, positioning the operator several meters away from the welding arc and noxious welding fumes such as manganese and hexavalent chromium. Radiant heat and muscle fatigue are minimized, as well. Conventional manual welders work closer to the arc where fumes will likely enter their breathing zones. Novarc’s welding technology allows the operators to work remotely from the arc, and with the use of proper ventilation, the risk of exposure to dangerous fumes can be eliminated.

In the field

Understandably, a number of industries will benefit from SWR-TIPTIG. The short list includes aerospace, food and beverage, mining and minerals, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, power generation, shipbuilding, chemical processing, water treatment and desalination. These industries, among others, will realize both speed and precision benefits far beyond conventional standards. All of these industries also have common struggles in today’s fabrication world, as they are currently suffering from a lack of skilled labor and the limited productivity of manual labor. The opportunity to increase productivity without sacrificing weld quality is a huge driver across the board, which is why so many of these industries are interested in Novarc’s cobot solutions.

Those that stand to gain a significant competitive advantage in a demanding market from Novarc’s SWR TIPTIG process include fabricators already utilizing TIG welding (with Lincoln’s Power Wave R450 Advanced Process Module as their power sources) to weld a majority of their current production and those working with common materials such as stainless steel, duplex stainless, super duplex, Inconel, Monel and P91.

Oil and gas is often the first industry listed as a beneficiary of automated pipe welding, however, industries such as aerospace, food and beverage, mining and shipbuilding will also benefit.

With enhanced speed and precision with SWR-TIPTIG, and a 2.6 times increase in weld deposition rates, fabricators can increase productivity, weld quality and consistency, with the ability to potentially recover their capital investment within six to 18 months. Other Novarc SWR-TIPTIG benefits include:

  • Higher deposition rates: Up to 4 lbs./hour, a 2.6 times increase, far surpassing conventional TIG systems.
  • Up to 300 percent increase in travel speeds: Projects completed faster with increased travel speeds.
  • Highest quality welds: Industry standards met and surpassed for weld quality.
  • Minimal spatter: Cleaner work environment with reduced post-weld cleanup.
  • Patented TIPTIG feeding system: Innovative design for impeccable weld quality.

For those doing TIG welding that are unsure whether SWR-TIPTIG is the right fit, the good news is that one of its best features is that it can integrate almost flawlessly with the production flow and existing manufacturing processes of customers. The SWR is designed with a very small footprint, but a very long reach, enabling it to be a fit in almost all pipe shops, no matter the layout or other space requirements.

It’s also designed to be minimally intrusive to the production flow and to work with positioners (existing, familiar equipment that customers have worked with before). Novarc provides its own positioners, but in terms of existing processes, Novarc follows the same roll welding processes as many of its customers.

Novarc also has a very accommodating set of requirements for the fit-up process and provides training for fitters. This is another way to ensure a smooth integration of the SWR-TIPTIG into manufacturing processes. Most importantly, it allows for a much faster ROI than other types of equipment and technology introduced in the past.

Novarc Technologies Inc.

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