In this article, our Technology Director, Teemu Tolonen guides you through the newest welding technologies and opens his thoughts regarding the future of welding. What does the future of welding look like and what can you expect from the industry?
Digitalization, green transition, and an increasing lack of skilled workforce challenge the typical manufacturing methods and organizations’ competitive advantage. Furthermore, manufacturers have faced a rapidly emerging trend, the shift from mass production to mass customization. Green transition includes, for example, bigger wind towers and wind tower foundation structures that can be built far out to the sea. Enabling technologies, such as welding automation solutions, are needed to build these huge giants. Digital connectivity and software innovations will in the future enable, for instance, digital shipbuilding and data imports directly from one system to another without a human encounter.
Newest welding technology
The biggest challenges the manufacturing industry is facing now include challenges coping with wide product variation and production quality, a production that is expensive and time-consuming, and the lack of skilled welders. New welding technology can bring significant savings in costs and the new generation of robotic welding machinery will enable companies to take their manufacturing to the next level.
The characteristic of new welding technology is that real-time weldment data can be captured when the welding processes are automated. For example, at Pemamek, intelligent production is integrated into all PEMA solutions. This enables full digital control over the automation, with one operator controlling numerous functions and data monitoring, diagnostics, and tracking. One example is the intelligent welding positioners that are connected by Wi-Fi to mobile phones, tablets, and laptops for programming, diagnostics, and maintenance schedules.
An example of future welding solutions is the PEMA Skytrack – a compact and agile robot welding solution for any workshop with and without previous robotic welding experience. Thanks to the easy-to-operate approach the solution is fast to implement in production.
Taking a step further comes the FMS, a flexible manufacturing system, which is the core of efficient and versatile in-house production. FMS facilitates making a smooth shift from manual processes to automated production. The buffer of the FMS de-couples the robotic welding stations from the manual welding station. This means that the stations can work independently without waiting for the others to finish their work which minimizes waiting times and increases arc-on times.
The future of welding
Industry 4.0 has already introduced us to applications where manufacturing systems are as standard connected to the web either through the local servers and databanks or more and more through cloud-based applications. Manufacturing systems can receive different kinds of data inputs, like 3D design data, react according to that, and after or during the manufacturing process send different kinds of data outputs to other systems.
Pemamek is constantly investing in product development. For example, to support digital shipbuilding Pemamek is developing new software tools like “Product Data Handler” (PDH) for shipyards. In the future, 3D models can be imported, and the assembly data can be divided and mapped with some machine-specific add-on requirements for each machine and later on for product traceability. With help of the PDH software, PEMA Panel lines will be digitally connected, and the manufacturing data can be directly imported from shipyard software to the PEMA Panel line managing system.
Trends affecting the future of welding technology and manufacturing include a lack of workforce and lack of people understanding the welding process, the need to localize manufacturing due to disruptions in international logistics chains, and a trend towards small series flexible manufacturing. Companies who are willing to adopt modern technology and see change as an opportunity will win the competition over a talented workforce and orders. One of the most beneficial ways to respond to future challenges is intelligent robotic welding solutions. Modern automation technology enforces safety, efficiency, and flexibility.
Will welding become automated?
In the future, welding technology will become even easier to use. Due to the lack of workforce and lack of people understanding the welding process easy programming tools, remote programming, and remote control will become more common. The collaboration between humans and smart systems will increase and enhance productivity. Digital twins and connectivity to real processes will be further used and taken advantage of.
Some may ask, will welding become automated? While there will always be manual welding and we will always need welding engineers and experts who know the process inside out, welding can already be said to be automated. In the future, robotic welding and welding technology will be the colleagues of welders and welding engineers who on their half will supervise the processes and use their knowledge to program and develop the welding processes.