Poor welds are costly, so choose a course that gets the important details right
What to look for
There's no question that automatic orbital welding creates better, more consistent welds than doing the job manually. But that's only if someone is properly trained on the equipment. Someone still has to set the controls properly, prepare the tube ends, control the purge and shielding gasses, and set all the components in place. There's a strong case to be made that using an orbital welder requires more training than doing everything by hand. That means it's important to pick the right training program.
Here are a few things to look for.
As a rule of thumb, the more training the better. Even so, make sure you get the amount of training that matches your need, whether it's an introduction to the basics or a multiple-day course that gets deep into the details.
Look for courses where all program instructors are either Certified Weld Inspectors, Certified Weld Educators, or both. Also ask about how many years of experience they have in orbital welding instruction.
Orbital welding, also called gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW, has several major components that affect the weld: arc current level, arc gap, travel speed, shielding gas, and the shape of the tungsten electrode tip. A student should go home with a thorough understanding of each element. The best training programs cover power supplies in depth, as an accurate weld depends on a steady output current, regardless of the load conditions.
Also make sure the class gives enough attention to shielding gases and the importance of purging. Shielding gases protect the electrode and the molten weld metal from atmospheric contamination. The most common shielding gasses are helium and argon in a mixture. Training should get into the preferred ratio of the gasses, and how a change in the mixture affects the weld.
Only through quality training taught by certified instructors can operators of orbital welding equipment gain the complex skills needed to meet the strict acceptance criteria in today’s welding environment.
Good orbital welding training addresses the main material families: carbon and alloy steels, nickel alloys, refractory metals (molybdenum, tantalum, etc.), reactive metals (titanium, zirconium, etc.), and stainless steels. After completing the class, the student should be able to inspect incoming materials and material certifications, and know how to assess the documentation.
Instructions may look straightforward and clean in print, but what happens when you actually try to put them into practice? That should happen in the class, with the instructor nearby to rely on. The real world rarely presents perfect welding situations, so it's important to try out newly learned skills under the watchful eye of an expert.
There's a lot to learn about orbital welding. People shouldn't be expected to carry it all in their heads, especially if they've just learned it. The course should send trainees home with written materials to reinforce what was taught in the classroom.
Author and trainer
This article is a summary of the white paper, WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN ORBITAL WELDING TRAINING PROGRAMS written by Ernest Benway, senior training specialist for orbital welding for Swagelok Company. He will be the lead trainer at the Swagelok Orbital Welding Training Course, August 21-25, 2017 at Swagelok Northern California's Fremont training center.
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