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Automation of GTAW

A large quantity of pipe to flange joints has to be fabricated for a piping cont
ract. The pipe outer diameter is 245 mm with a wall thickness of 5.8 mm. The pip
e material is 316L stainless steel. The flange has a thickness of 25 mm; an oute
r diameter of 335 mm and is forged from 0.25% carbon steel.
Discuss the welding procedures that you would employ in the welding of these joi
nts.
Describe in detail, with reference to joint configuration, welding process, cons
umables and equipment, the steps that you would implement to mechanise (automate
) the fabrication process to ensure consistent weld quality. State all assumptio
ns made and motivate your decisions.
ADVANCED WELDING PROCESSES
PIPE: 316 L STAINLESS STEEL PIPE 5.8mm THICK
FLANGE: CARBON STEEL
In the welding of the above mentioned items, I would employ the following:
1 CARBON STEEL (P 1) TO STAINLESS STEEL (P 8) WPS/PQR
2 APPLICABLE WELDER QUALIFICATIONS
3 PREFERABLY A GTAW PROCESS
4 A QUALITY PLAN
1 WELDING PROCEDURE SPECIFICATION
A welding procedure specification (WPS) that addresses all the necessary essenti
al variables regarding the welding of these items should be set up so as to prov
e the contractorâ s competency in the successful execution of the job. The WPS should
be drawn up from a procedure qualification record (PQR). The welders should als
o be qualified to the WPS and be issued with a welder qualification record (WQR)
or welder performance qualification (WPQ). These terms are usually used interch
angeably. These documents are mostly drawn up using the variables outlined in a
code of construction such as ASME IX. Because the welding will be automated to
speed up fabrication and welding time, the WPS/PQR should be set up accordingly.
The WPS should in essence address the differences between manual and automatic
welding paying particular attention to the TECHNIQUE (QW-410), the ELECTRICAL CH
ARACTERISTICS (QW-409) and the JOINT DESIGN (QW-402), all of which could signifi
cantly change from a manual process. The choice of filler material would most pr
obably be a 309 L bare wire, which is mostly used for joining dissimilar metals.
The 309 L has a slightly higher % Cr at about 23-25% than 316 L, thus having a
slightly better corrosion resistance at high temperatures, although 316 L is per
fectly acceptable, itâ s just what I would choose in this instance.
The choice of a groove weld may be the better one mostly for the longevity of th
e WPS since according to ASME IX; groove welds range of qualification covers fil
let welds as well (QW-451). The joint design applicable for welding these flange
s to this pipe would probably be a fillet weld (assuming these are slip-on flang
es).

2 WELDER PERFORMANCE QUALIFICATION


Obviously the welding operator should be suitably qualified to operate the autom
ation of the process. This has to be carried out according to the WPS. This incl
udes the setting or programming of travel speed, amperages, gas etc. All of whic
h has to be set up with data from the WPS. The operatorâ s ability to control the aut
omated process should be suitably tested.
3 CHOICE OF WELDING PROCESS
My choice regarding the GTAW process is mainly due to the lower heat input and t
he overall cleanliness of the final weld bead. The GTAW process is relatively fr
ee from weld spatter which will become a problem on the inside of the pipe to fl
ange arrangement (spatter could fall onto the machined faces of the flange).
There are various types of automated GTAW welding machines available. The most c
ommon are the ORBITAL machines available from specialist suppliers.

GTAW TORCH HEAD WITH WIRE FEEDER

The automated orbital head can rotate to any angle required for access to the we
ld joint. Although it can be fixed to a chain or track around the pipe, it is ty
pically fixed to a flat position while the pipe can rotate to facilitate the wel
ding of the joint. One could use multiple heads and feeders to do multiple passe
s of weld metal depending on the thicknesses required.
Mostly, companies choose mechanisation over manual welding due to high productiv
ity rates and the â humanâ factor in that there are no industrial relations with machine
y. Therefore the initial setup costs soon start to become economical as the proc
ess implementation eases out.
Also, due to the 5.8mm thickness of pipe, huge deposition rates such as those pu
t down by SAW (Submerged Arc Welding) are not really necessary. GTAW can lay dow
n decent passes at a low heat input which is advisable for the joining of stainl
ess to carbon steels. Another factor would be the speed of the wire. This impact
s on the heat input and the amperage, depending on the machine used. Another imp
ortant factor in automation/mechanisation is the duty cycle. Given a duty cycle
of around 70%, this should increase productivity to around 300%, which is very s
ignificant when costing a job. Being that these items are mainly pipe to flange,
one can assume that there will few, if any, site welds to be made. This is impo
rtant because it may be very difficult to use this process in the field.
The systems are on the market today generally have the following components:
- A weld head which carries and manipulates the torch.
- A power source which provides weld head control and programming, as well as cu
rrent output.
- A remote pendant for system control at a distance from the power source.
- A water recirculation to provide torch and possibly weld head cooling.

4 QUALITY CONTROL PLAN


A Quality Control Plan (QCP) should be submitted and approved for the control of
each step in the fabrication of these items. This becomes even more important d
ue to the fact that there is stainless steel involved and there needs to be appr
opriate protection from contamination. While the pipes will ultimately be attach
ed to carbon steel, there should be steps taken to minimise the contamination of
the rest of the pipe as well. QCPâ s lay out the fabrication and welding processes i
n a logical fashion as well as setting various intervention points for the invol
vement of quality personnel and inspections. A typical QCP for the job at hand w
ould entail some of the ff:
1 APPROVAL OF DOCUMENTATION (Review and Approval of drawings, welding
documentation, quality forms and systems etc.)
2 PREPARATION AND HANDLING OF MATERIAL (This includes steps taken to handl
e stainless steel, separation of material and consumables, stores procedur
es, certifications and compilation of data)
3 FABRICATION (Fit-Up Checks, Tacking and checking of dimensions by Qualit
y Personnel)
4 WELDING (Setup of variables and programming of equipment, welding, monit
oring of welding, cleaning of final weld)
5 INSPECTIONS (Continual inspections of fabrication and welding, Hold Poin
ts for client and third party inspection involvement, Surveillance, Review and
Witness of entire process)
From a Quality perspective, accurate detailing and execution of a Quality Plan c
an save a company time and money and ensure the best quality possible. It will a
lso document every step of the quality cycle and can be used for similar jobs in
the future.