As material and fabrication technologies evolve, manufacturers are pushing the limits of the structures used in automotive, construction, offshore, energy production, and many other industries. All of these industries use welding in their day-to-day production tasks, and, because welds are used to join two or more metal surfaces, these connections may encounter loads and fatigue during product lifetime. There is always a chance these products may fail, if not created to proper specification.
If product failure is possible, shouldn't we consider how we can reduce or even rid completely the chances of in-process mistakes?
Today, automated weld quality assurance is typically a compact 3D sensor used to improve quality, guide automation, and reduce production costs for automated welding robot applications. This is a process-oriented system that focuses more on preventing quality issues rather than overall process issues. It’s all about process optimization, using data to be proactive rather than reactive, so as to reduce the reject rate.
This real-time, in-line manufacturing process gives us the information quicker and faster, without having to wait. Sensors, software and computers have evolved to be able to process high resolution weld seam laser scanned surface maps/files and dimensional measurement tools to verify dimensions of welds when they happen. The question is - Are we meeting the specifications and your customers standard? Yes or no, and what is the quantifiable result?
Quality information like this is a now fundamental at advanced manufacturing companies. Most of the software used today is user friendly than in the past, and easy to use; which makes analyzing, making process adjustments before bad parts are made, and uncovering potential issues to reduce scrap rates all part of the improvement process.
For ABICOR BINZEL, our quality assurance system is the SmartRay 3D Weld Inspection System. This technology uses a laser to shine over a welded part, then captures that whole seam to do a dimensional measurement. The information provided from the sensors includes reliable weld inspection dimensions and weld defects for rework purposes. Automating the weld inspection process increases production speed and creates reliability, through consistency of using the sensor. Ultimately, the information gathered through the SmartRay System will work in establishing baselines for whether or not you’re meeting the rigid weld quality assurance needs. Once you familiarize yourself with the system and have a better understanding of how it can help you, the gap between met and not-met will begin to diminish.
One crucial aspect to consider of this technology is the idea of having traceability – it’s core to everything we do in this industry. Traceability can mean a few things, but mostly it’s about having a trail to track for all weld data. Opening a case for each part throughout its life-span, they can identify, account for, and find all the manufacturing data for that part. Most weld quality assurance systems come equipped with data base collection software for all weld data and parts. The liability this brings is essential. Being able to have a searchable database will protect not only the customer from any unforeseen issues, but you as accountability.
Another advantage to using this system technology is the future benefit of having advanced technology available to your facility. Incorporating this sooner than later will allow time for your facility to learn and understand not only how systems like this work, but how they are designed to benefit you. Welding systems continue getting smarter, as does the equipment used with these systems. As this snowball continues to grow, our access to more data will only get larger, which will lead to factories becoming more and more efficient.
Any time there is technology that can be used in a hands-off, no-contact way, it’s impressive. What makes automated weld quality assurance systems even more impressive is how fast they are able to provide data to the real workers surrounding the piece being welded. We like to refer to technology of this caliber intelligent automation. A 3d scanner, whose job is to scan freshly welded parts to determine whether or not it meets standards, while simultaneously creating documentation in the form of data in real-time is unbelievable. It’s things like this that are changing the manufacturing world as a whole. The more intelligent technology that evolves and is understood by experts in the field today, the better welding shops will develop in terms of higher productivity and efficiency.
With advanced manufacturing relying heavily on data analysis, automated weld quality assurance will rely on immediate feedback at all times. Mainly using sensors, software algorithms, flexible part flow, and connected lines. In the end, it’s the communication between these welding tools, digitally connected to one another creating and sharing information, that results in useful information that allows for troubleshooting, establishing root cause, making corrective actions, and absolutely crucial for productivity.