The weld-by-camera welding project uses camera technology to solve an old problem – welding when line-of-sight is blocked. This is a common problem in repairs where existing walls, pipes, etc. block the welder from a view of the weld.
Today, welders use mirrors to see the seam as they weld. Awkward at best, it is a difficult skill that takes a long time to learn. Further, the area may be so cluttered that even a mirror, or two can’t help.
In this project, Visible Welding was tasked to create a new solution using a weld-camera to provide a clear view, enabling even completely blind welds. The system uses a specially designed compact weld-camera with built-in 10x zoom. This gives a clear close-up, no matter where the camera is located.
The video from this new camera sent through low-latency image processing for minimal delay – this is important for weld-by-camera operation. To complete the system it drives a pair high-resolution video goggles.
The resulting system provided clear images which let the welders make completely blind seams after only an hour of practice. Watch this video to see what the welder saw in his goggles while welding.
The system has a number of features to support weld-by-camera.
Built-in Zoom: The built in 10x optical zoom allows a close-up view, a big advantage over the long view through the mirror bounce path. With the zoom, it is arguably better than the direct view through a helmet.
Automatic Arc-following Pan: Of course, a zoomed-in image limits how far a welder can weld before moving the camera so the system includes a special digital pan which automatically follows arc, effectively doubling the range.
Undo Mirror-Image: Another issue, especially for novice mirror-welders, is the fact that the image is reversed (i.e. mirror image). The system includes an optional electronic mirror-flip to restore normal perspective.
Hi-def video under-the-hood: It is not enough to create a great image on the computer screen because a welder must wear protective gear and face-mask. To allow a view “under-the-hood,” we drive high definition video goggles which fit under the standard protective helmet.
Handy remote control: Lastly, to allow the welder to adjust the camera zoom and focus with the computer a safe distance away, we offer an optional remote-control pendant with a 15-foot cable.
- The camera and goggles delivered images better than any before.
- Some welders took to it like ducks to water (generally young), some found it awkward (generally more experienced).
- It was judged superior to a mirror and worthy of the extra hardware for high-value welds that must be done right the first time.
- Setup took a bit of practice due to lack of depth perception using the single camera; once the weld started, it went smoothly
- For setup, the goggles should be integrated into the helmet with a quick flip-up and down mechanism. Collaboration with a helmet maker is suggested
- For shipyards, safety requirements will require some modifications to the goggles (e.g. side shields).
- Stereo cameras can add depth-perception improving hand placement
- With tele-robotics, remote weld-by-camera can be supported