Perfect Welding

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Perfect Welding

Virtual spaces, real advantages VR in welder training

Simulated realities are mostly promoted by the gaming industry, but other sectors also make use of the opportunities offered by virtual imaging. Architects, engineers, plant construction, and automotive engineering firms are all able to save on expensive models and prototypes. Pilots, railroad engineers, and many others also train in virtual spaces. So why not also incorporate virtual reality (VR) into welder training?

There are many advantages. As in a flight simulator, virtual welding provides a totally safe framework for first attempts, as well as for perfecting difficult tasks. Away from great heat, welding spatter, or a liquid weld pool, realistic welding torches and 3D glasses with their high-quality graphics offer a realistic representation in which the craft can be learned from the ground up.

But the Virtual Welding simulator provides more than just the opportunity to weld in a virtual environment: Fronius has developed a comprehensive and well-thought-out training approach, which includes imparting theoretical knowledge of the SMAW, TIG, and MIG/MAG processes. Customers make their own decisions about whether to use ready-made documentation from Fronius, or to upload their own documents. A knowledge test assesses how well the theoretical content has been learned. A ranking list motivates students to gage their performance in relation to others, and encourages a positive dynamic in the group.

 

A holistic training approach to theory and practice

The practical welding tasks in the Fronius Virtual Welding lesson plan are based on the welder training offered by the International Institute of Welding. This means that they correspond to the international standard for training welders. But here too, it is possible to include tasks that you yourself have defined. To master the manual skills required, the trainee practices first with a virtual teacher, also referred to as the Ghost. Step by step, the Ghost specifies exactly the right welding speed, distance, and angle of the welding torch to the workpiece and – as dictated by the welding process – the filler metal to be used. Trainees therefore receive direct feedback from the Ghost, and can immediately adjust all the influencing factors accordingly. The degree of difficulty of the task gradually increases.

Unlike the training sequence, practicing in simulation mode is not supported by the Ghost. The prospective welder independently defines all the parameters and welds the workpiece in the virtual reality environment – without any assistance in terms of manual dexterity. The weld seam produced is then assessed. With Virtual Welding, the welding operations are also recorded, and can be subsequently played back and analyzed together with the real trainer.

This combination of theory and practice allows the trainee to use the welding simulator to independently complete many of the training phases. In this way, trainees master the basic knowledge and the essential manual skills before working with a real welding system. This relieves the burden on the trainer enormously.

The Fohnsdorf Training Center ...

SZF for short, in Styria, is one of the most modern and innovative facilities for professional training in Austria. The extensive range of courses on offer at SZF is structured to meet the requirements of the economy and of industry. There are three sectors – CAD & Metal Technology, IT & Electronic Engineering, and Office & Tourism. Taking “People come to us to get the right business qualifications!” as their motto, they go into the needs of the labor market service and of the economy in more detail. The SZF has been using Virtual Welding in its welder training courses since 2012.

Lower costs, greater efficiency

In the Austrian Training Center at Fohnsdorf, or SZF for short, 30% of practical welder training is already carried out with Virtual Welding. This has made it possible to increase by 23% the time actually spent welding during training at SZF. More than three times as many seams can be produced virtually than by spending the same amount of time in the welding cabin. The main reason for this is that with virtual welding, there is no time-intensive preparation of test sheets, nor the need for reworking and cleaning the weld seams. This leaves more time for mastering and practicing the required manual skills.

But it is not only the practice time that increases: “First of all, we see the use of Virtual Welding as an important contribution to improving training quality. The Ghost gives every student individual support and direct visual feedback – something that a real trainer simply cannot achieve,” says a convinced Hannes Krempl, trainer in welding technology/transport at SZF.

As well as improving the quality of the training, the welding simulator also increases the cost efficiency: by saving on consumables such as gas, wire, and metal sheets, the whole operation becomes far more cost effective. “The targeted use of Virtual Welding saves us in total around 230 euros in the cost of materials per student – despite the increased arc time,” calculates Krempl. Including virtual training guarantees that the welder training will be enormously effective, and use fewer resources.

 

Welding know-how with hands-on experience

As a manufacturer of welding equipment and experts when it comes to the arc, Fronius provides a training system that not only takes a holistic approach to training, but also offers a particularly realistic simulation. Every welding task integrated into the Virtual Welding system is based on genuine welding operations.

The welding experience is supported by the latest VR technology. With 1,440 x 1,440 pixels per eye, the 3D glasses Fronius uses offer exceptional resolution and sharpness, as well as a wide field of vision. The colorfast, three-dimensional representation takes the user directly into the virtual arena and ensures a unique experience. The glasses also weigh very little and with soft and adjustable straps, are extremely comfortable to wear. 

The 3D glasses are not the only example of state-of-the-art consumer electronics: the welding simulator has a touchscreen for ease of use, and twenty languages are also available. By including Virtual Welding in the holistic Welducation concept, Fronius is helping to make welder training more modern and appealing. In addition to the welding simulator, Welducation also includes the fun Welducation Basic app, theory documents, posters, and learning videos, specifically designed to address a younger target group. This demonstrates our desire to secure qualified specialists for the future as well.

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