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Thursday, 14 January 2010
Although there are many welding jobs which are best handled manually,and many more that can be done manually if necessary (as, for example, if a welding operation is too small to have an automatic welding machine,or if repairs must be carried out far from one of these devices),there are also many welds that can be handled quite adequately by an automated welding process.Some,such as pipe welding in the case of large pipes in many industrial applications (such as oil drilling platforms and chemical factories,to name only two examples),must be handled by an automatic welding machine such as an orbital welder, because of the precision that needed to avoid springing a potentially hazardous leak.
There are two different situations where an automatic welding machine is typically used. Semi-automatic welding uses a pre-programmed automatic welding machine, but the parts are actually loaded onto the welding bench (or its equivalent) by an operator, who arranges them and then switches on the welding machine until the weld has been completed. The operator then removes the finished workpiece and repeats the process as many times as necessary.
Fully automatic welding removes the human element except as an overall observer to make sure the machines are running properly. In these set-ups, the parts and finished workpieces are moved by other machines, such as conveyer belts, and the welding operation is often continuous over a large number of individual pieces. This is a truly industrial use of the automatic welding machine, and is found mostly in very large operations such as car factories.
Automatic welding machines have both their advantages and disadvantages, and as is the case with so many things, a gain in one place is compensated for by a loss in another. Automatic welding machines are much faster than skillful human welders can ever hope to be, and produce decent workmanship despite their greater speed. An automatic welder is roughly eight times faster than a manual welder. These welders do not pause or tire, although they may eventually become overheated and need to be shut down for a time. Since a lot of welding scrap is generated by welder fatigue when a human is wielding the electrode, there will be less wastage over the course of a long work day when automatic welding systems are the main ‘workers.’
Automatic welding machines also provide a high quality weld, since they are totally uniform in their application of the electric arc or other welding tool. The machines are always on the job, unless they happen to break down, and once they have been purchased, they do not need to be paid.
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Conversely, human welders still retain a few advantages over automatic welding machines. The cost of setting up even a modest array of automatic welders can be in area of a quarter million U.S. dollars, so the initial outlay on a human welder is much smaller. Automatic welders also take an extremely long time to set up, so the urgency of the welding job also needs to be weighed in the balance.
Manual welding is extremely flexible, while automatic welding machines carry out the task in a repetitive manner and must be completely reconfigured if a different weld needs to be made. Also, if maintenance is not handled properly, the machines may break down and cause a disastrous pause in production. Automatic welding machines are fast, efficient, and highly useful, but they are not a complete solution to every situation and this must be borne in mind by their potential users.
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