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Whatever Next… Virtual Welding!

At a state high school in Washington in the US, a new piece of technology has been causing quite a stir in the computer-integrated machining lab.

Toward the back of the lab on a table, amongst the other large and loud machines, lies a helmet, a computer screen and a plastic wand which is connected to a cable that leads to a cart in the corner.

You wou;d walk straight past it if you didn’t know what it was…

This $35,000 Lincoln Electric virtual welding machine is designed to help welding beginners to learn the techniques and practices of welding! The Longview School District purchased this incredible development in technology in an effort to provide students with more knowledge, experience and skill – so that they perhaps will consider a career in welding.

“We just purchased it, so moving forward it’s probably an opportunity to let kids develop skills maybe before they start using the welder,” said Career and Technical Education director Jill Diehl. “It would be like an initial training.”

The system uses a welding mask integrated with virtual reality goggles. Through the goggles, a user can see a variety of virtual environments including a skyscraper, desert base, warehouse and more. The scene is then lined up with the material to be welded.

Whilst a student is welding, the monitor displays the virtual environment, inside the helmet. An instructor can watch as the student uses the rod and ‘welds’ along the seam of the joint. Upon completion, the programme runs a report on the student’s performance. Immediately available are images of the student’s finished virtual weld, along with statistics on position, arc length, work angle, travel angle and travel speed.

The program can also list potential reasons for why the weld was imperfect, including melt through, excess splatter, porosity and more.

“The scores they get when they perfect their skills on the virtual welder correlate really well to industry standard certification tests,” Diehl said. “That helps them know they’re getting the right skill level that they need.”

The system has the potential to save costs on materials, as well as reducing the feedback time for each student’s work.

Do you think your local school would implement such an idea? Let us know!

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