Visible Welding’s video cameras and software are the results of pioneering research into the challenges of capturing the details of arc welding. Since developing the first black & white camera in 2010, our research activities have expanded to color cameras, advanced software & algorithms and their application to solve specific customer problems.
Visible Welding has been actively working with a number of research partners including Bollinger Shipyards, Fronius USA, General Dynamics, Miller Electric and the US Navy. We have been selected as the weld-camera developer for two projects under the Navy’s National Shipbuilding Research Program (NSRP). These two projects, Weld By Camera and Video-Assisted Welder Training .
A New Take on Video for Welder Training
We were quite excited when the Navy suggested we try using cameras to speed up welder training. Cameras have long been used to help athletes perfect their form and since welding also requires very high dexterity and good form, we thought, “What a great idea – that should work.”
We’re all aware of the welder shortage and how it is getting worse with the baby boomers retiring. This problem is especially acute in shipbuilding where welders are needed everywhere and robots are impractical.
Under the Navy’s NSRP program, we collaborated with shipyards, academia and industrial partners to test this idea and determine what should be in a station. It had to be effective, but also economical. Another important goal was that it be welcomed and used by real-world instructors. It had to be used, not forgotten like so many simulators in closets.
Over 3 years, we tested lots of future-looking features, keeping those that worked and jettisoning those that didn’t. With several major versions and literally hundreds of small modifications, we zeroed in on a core that was simple and effective.
The mission for the system was two-fold. Demo and Tutoring.
To accomplish this, the final system had 5 elements:
- Our color zoom weld camera to get close-up views of the arc and puddle. We put this on a flexible arm so you can point it anywhere on the welding table.
- A big-screen TV for demo
- Software that automates demos and video tutoring so the weld instructor can concentrate on instructing, not running the machine.
- The software runs on a Microsoft Surface Pro, mounted on a flexible arm. This gives easy touch-screen operation and built-in disk space to record demo and student videos.
Weld by Camera
One of the biggest challenges faced by welders is needing to weld in a location where there is no direct line-of-sight to the material that needs to be welded. This situation is frequently in the context of a repair to an existing weld that has failed. The traditional approach to this problem is to use a mirror to “blind weld”. Now, with cameras like our Zoom camera and WeldWatch software used in conjunction with high resolution goggles – it is possible to replace the “weld-by-mirror” with “weld-by camera”.
The US Navy encounters these types of blind welding situations in their vessels and the number of experienced welders who are able to weld-by-mirror is limited. Visible Welding was contracted to develop a weld-by-camera system to test the effectiveness of this technology-enabled approach. The system proved to be very effective. Support for these capabilities has been integrated into the WeldWatch system and the high resolution googles are available as an accessory.