The Future of Welding

Welding is not a new industry. In its crudest form, welding has been around since the Bronze Age, and gas welding and cutting developed in the late 1800s. As we have seen across sectors, technology has changed the face of many industries — including welding. 

Thanks to the innovations made by individuals and companies over the past several decades, the future of welding is bright. New welding technology means welding is more relevant and crucial in various business spaces, from construction to aeronautics.

Welding’s History

Welding of various forms has been essential throughout the ages. Archeologists have found metal weapons and utensils dating back thousands of years, and iron smelting was one of the earliest common welding techniques. 

In the late 1800s, Sir Humphry Davy used a battery with carbon electrodes to produce an arc, and once the electric generator was invented, arc lighting took off. These innovations led to the development of gas welding and cutting. In 1881, Auguste de Meritens was awarded a French patent for the first welding process.

As electricity became more commonplace, welding equipment and techniques could evolve. This was important at the onset of World War I when welding became a necessity for producing military weapons and equipment. After the war, the necessity shifted from war to industry, and welding grew to resemble the craft we know today.

What’s Next for the Welding Industry?

Welding is still a high-demand occupation — the industry’s market size is expected to grow to over $34 billion by 2030. Today’s market is flooded with construction work, advances in manufacturing and infrastructure projects. At the same time, an aging workforce has led to a shortage of skilled welders in the United States, creating even more job demand.

Additionally, new technologies are leading to an increase in welding opportunities. Innovative technology allows welding to be more precise, efficient and consistent so that welders can produce quality workpieces that industrial companies can rely on.

Current and Future Innovations in Welding 

Technology and industry continue to grow rapidly, and it is exciting to think about the technology we have now and what this means for the future of welding. Some current and future innovations in welding include:

  • Laser welding: Laser welding uses high-energy light beams to precisely weld parts. It is primarily used for medical devices and aerospace applications. 
  • Plasma welding: Plasma welding is an advanced technique that uses plasma gas to create greater energy density than tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding.
  • Electron beam welding: This precise and advanced method uses focused beams of electrons to create strong, precise welds. Electron beam welding is ideal for various applications, including defense and nuclear industries.
  • Internet of Things: Incorporating IoT devices into welding practices will unlock data that will make welds more precise and efficient. It will allow operators to monitor and analyze processes in real time so that micro adjustments can be made to a weld as necessary.
  • Augmented reality (AR) welding helmets: AR welding helmets can protect welders’ vision and provide greater clarity and focus. As they advance, these helmets could be integrated with IoT technology that provides welders with vital real-time data. AR is also being used to train new welders as a supplemental part of their education.
  • Robotics: Robotic collaborative welding robots (cobots) will continue to play a significant role in advancing welding. As equipment and software collectively become more sophisticated, robots can weld a greater variety of intricate workpieces.

Learn More About COBOTs

The Impact of Automation and Robotics on the Welding Industry

There is concern that technology will make careers like welding obsolete. Robotics have revolutionized manufacturing and other industrial processes by automating many tasks.

Thankfully, in industries using robotic welding, the technology is primarily meant as a collaborative effort — not an attempt to replace skilled human welders. Robotic welding comes with its own set of pros and cons:

  • Safer environment: Welding can be dangerous. Welders must always follow safety precautions to prevent hazards, including exposure to toxic fumes, electric shock, burns, eye damage and crushed extremities. Collaborating with robotic welders can minimize human exposure to these risks.
  • Efficient and precise welds: Robotic welders can produce precise and consistent welds. 
  • Sustainability: Since robotic welders are automated, there is less material waste due to human error.
  • High costs: Robotic welding technology comes at a high initial cost. Maintaining robotic welding equipment is also expensive. 
  • Technical challenges: All technology is prone to malfunctions. Technical issues could mean hours or days of downtime if companies were ever fully reliant on robotic welders.
  • Inflexibility: Robotic welders can only do what they are programmed to do. Any variation in the weld would require reconfiguring the machine, which can cause technical issues and downtime.

Complementing Technology With Skilled Labor

In a world where technology makes the most extraordinary things possible, it may be surprising to discover that robotic welders fall short of the capabilities humans bring to the industry. Cobots are meant to complement human welders. They cannot solve complex problems and lack the dexterity required for intricate welding projects.

Some tasks that are hard or impossible for robotic welders to do include:

  • TIG welding: TIG welding, or gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), is a technique that requires experience and skill to master. In TIG welding, you add the filler metal to the weld pool independently from the arc. This coordination is part of what makes TIG welding more challenging for less experienced welders and impractical for robots.
  • Weld preparation: Human discernment cannot be replaced when choosing the best materials and processes for each project. A human professional also prepares base metals far better than robots can.
  • Small batch projects: Automating welding may be more efficient for large-scale projects, but it would take far more time to program and reprogram a robot for different small batch welds. In those cases, human welders are best.
  • Intricate welds: Automated 3D welding and other complex geometries are extremely difficult. It’s more cost-effective and efficient for human professionals to take on these welds.

Additionally, even if robots become more intuitive and dexterous, human input is still required to program the robots and inspect the quality of automated welds.

Enjoy Innovative Welding Supplies and Resources From Meritus Gas Partners

The future of the welding industry incorporates new welding technology that makes the workplace safer, more innovative and more efficient. Using robots for mundane tasks frees up human professionals to focus on the intricate and creative aspects of welding, including problem-solving and delicate welds.

At Meritus Gas Partners, our partners are reputable distributors who provide premium gas and welding supplies, services and resources, including automated cutting and welding supplies. Each of our partner businesses offers innovative solutions that streamline your welding projects. You can count on our partners for reliable services and quality welding equipment.

Feel free to visit any of our branches for your welding needs or contact us today to learn how you can stay informed about welding industry advancements.

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