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Practice Makes Perfect

An award winning technology helps welders improve their muscle memory to achieve a perfect weld.Â

The guideWELD LIVE system is an in-helmet training tool for live welding that gives instant feedback on work angle, travel angle, and speed while the user is performing live welds.

Sometimes an old adage isn’t necessarily true. Take the well-known saw: practice makes perfect. While that may be true in some cases, the concept has one fundamental flaw. If the person practicing has bad technique, they will likely result in continual bad results. Golfers with a hitch in their swing may end up spraying the ball and finding more traps than fairways. Welders who continually take a bad angle, operate at an inappropriate speed, or have other flaws make bad weld joints.

Perfect practice, on the other hand, can make for perfect welds, at least that is the mantra at Realityworks Inc., an Eau Claire, Wis.-based educational training company that has developed an award winning, 21st Century training system for welders.

Jamey McIntosh, product marketing manager, at Realityworks said that “If I’m doing an improper weld because my technique is wrong, I’m probably going to continue to do it that way because all I’m doing is practicing the same bad habits over and over again.

A WELDER IN EVERY BOOTH 

The company’s answer to this problem is the guideWELD LIVE real welding guidance system, one of the company’s welding training products, that gives students instant feedback on core welding techniques during live, arc-on welding. During a 30-hour curriculum, the system focuses on work angle, travel angle, and speed in an effort to correct welding habits that are typically found in these core issues, before the users forms a bad habit. Much like a consistent ball striker, a welder who develops fundamentally correct muscle memories will like make consistent welds.

As seen in this video, the system uses a heads-up display (HUD) inside an auto-darkening welding helmet. The helmet has been specially designed so that the displays can be seen in a student’s peripheral vision.

GuideWELD LIVE, which works with any MIG welding machine, is designed for MIG training. The system is for use in practice mode with the arc off, or while actually welding. It is an assisted-aid, designed to put a welding instructor in every welding booth, said McIntosh.

The guideWELD system is made up of three parts. A welding helmet features a display that provides weld procedure specifications (WPS) selection, and guides the user on various techniques. A speed sensor tracks the welding arc to provide the corrective guidance on speed. When practicing, the display shows the correct rate of speed for the selected WPS.

Inside the auto-darkening helmet’s HUD, the various techniques are tracked individually. The work angle is displayed in the upper left and provides the user corrective guidance in the direction necessary to weld within the parameters of the WPS. In the upper right, corrective guidance is displayed for proper travel angle. In the lower left, the rate of speed is tracked and compared to the specified speed in the WPS.

The HUDs are especially appealing to younger students, said McIntosh, who may be more used to this type of technology, said McIntosh. Some older users may struggle with the simultaneous displays and the action outside of the helmet. “One of the things that happens is, especially with an older welder, they’ve been welding for a long time all a sudden now there’s some lights inside of the helmet, and they never had that before,” said McIntosh. “To help them, we use a step-by-step process. We do not throw everything at them at first. At first, the student is going to focus on one process, such as work angle. Then you add another guide, travel angle, and then you add another guide, speed. You work your way up, kind of like scaffolding where you build one upon the other, until you get to a more experienced level.”

 

Whether undertaking the virtual reality or the live booth training, the goal is to equip all participants with the muscle memory allowing perfect welds.

AWARD-WINNING TECHNOLOGY

The guideWELD LIVE recently won the bronze award in the industrial solutions section of the 2015 Edison Awards that honors “Thomas Edison’s legacy of challenging conventional thinking,” according to the awards committee. More than 3,000 senior business executives and academics from across the nation judge Edison Award nominees. The gold-medal winner was DAQRI Smart Helmet that connects worker to their environment. Silver-award winner was On Demand Packaging iQ Fusion 2 by Packsize International. For more information, visit The Edison Awards Website.

What is especially unique about this company is that its welding product is about 180 degrees from most of the other simulation-related products that the company offers, such as the infant-simulator product that teaches childcare with a hightech baby. The company began in 1993 when co-founders Rick and Mary Jurmain watched a TV show in which teens used eggs and flour sacks to simulate caring for an infant. To provide a more realistic lesson—down to the baby crying at night–Rick, a former NASA engineer, created a high-tech Baby originally marketed under the name Baby Think It Over. Since then, other simulation technology products have been developed for use in career and technical education, family and consumer sciences, health occupations, business education, social services, public health, the military and, now, welding instruction.

“We serve education, and more specifically, we serve career and technical education,” said McIntosh. “Some of our education products are things like the infant simulator, which is Real-Care Baby that allows you to have the parenting and child development experience in that world. From that point, we started to look at other skills for which the simulation technology could be used.

“As a company, we saw welding as a place where there’s a shortage of skilled workers in the welding world, and where we could use simulation to help fill some of that need and close the skills gap,” he added.

The guideWELD LIVE system includes an auto-darkening welding helmet with in-helmet guidance display, speed and angle sensor, and a standards- based curriculum.

REALITYWORKS’ VIRTUAL WELDING BEGINNING

The first welding product was the guideWELD VR welding simulator, which is a virtual reality welding simulator that enables students to rapidly refine basic welding skills, learn proper welding technique, and explore welding as a career path. It teaches GMAW/MIG welding and SMAW/stick welding in a classroom or mobile learning environment.

“It’s a welding simulator that actually sits right on your desk,” said McIntosh. “It has a USB connector piece that hooks right into your computer.

The software that goes along with it allows the user to pick various types of metal such as aluminum, stainless steel, or mild steel. You can pick different types of joints such as tee, lap and butt joints, and choose three different metal thicknesses. The program is customizable. For instance, the instructor can change the thicknesses based on educational choices.

Every movement made in the physical world is reproduced on the screen. When the user picks up the MIG gun or stick electrode holder, the user sees the gun lifted in the virtual world. “When you strike an arc, it strikes its arc, and on the screen you start to see sparks, see a puddle created, and then you actually do your weld, and are graded on weld quality,” said McIntosh. Similarly, using a stick, the physical gun retracts or moves in to burn the metal.”

Other Realityworks products in the industrial solutions portion of its business include the RealCareer Weld Defects Kit that teaches welding students how to identify and correct common weld defects, and the RealCareer Bend Tester that utilizes an 8-ton hydraulic, manual-guided bend test fixture that allows educators to conduct destructive weld testing in a classroom or welding lab.

The company is working on numerous new products upgrades such as expanding welding methods available for the guideWeld LIVE product, adding data capturing and statistical capabilities, and more. No word on whether they will be developing products to help golf swings.

Realitywork Inc.