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ARC Specialties selects Universal Robots for new AI-based pipe-welding system

ARC Specialties says it has solved the challenge of creating repeatable full penetration pipe welds by combining artificial intelligence, advanced sensors, and the UR5 collaborative robot from Universal Robots. (See video below.)

The “unique” Artificial Intelligence Pipe Welding System debuts at ARC Specialties’ booth 705 at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, May 6-9.

The toughest welds to make are full penetration, single sided, V butt, pipe welds.

Historically, ARC Specialties, a Houston-based developer of welding solutions, declined these jobs because joint fit-up was never repeatable.

Dan Allford, president of ARC Specialties, says: “Only human welders with a ‘golden arm’ able to compensate for variation in root openings, weld center lines, and groove volumes could handle this challenge.

“With the industry facing labor shortages, we decided to develop an intelligent machine with complete knowledge of pipe welding, with full motion and welding control.”

The Artificial Intelligence Pipe Welding System, or AIPW, incorporates the 6-axis UR5 collaborative robot arm from Universal Robots to carry out the challenging welds.

Allford says: “The UR5 now becomes our ‘golden arm’.

“The UR5 is small enough to be portable yet still allows full freedom of motion for both the laser scanner and welding torch.

“Being collaborative the robot is able to safely work in close proximity to humans.”

Stuart Shepherd, regional sales director of Universal Robots’ Americas division, says: “This implementation underscores our collaborative robots’ ability to handle heavy-duty processing tasks that demand both high precision and real-time adaptability.

“We’re excited to share this solution with the oil and gas industry.”

The AIPW pre-scans the root opening – gap – using a 2D laser, then uses the data to generate the robot path and welding parameters.

Gap variations are compensated for with changes in oscillation, torch position, travel speed and welding conditions.

The UR5 positions the torch over a tack weld to start the arc to ensure 100 percent root weld acceptance. Fill and cap pass programs are optimized to fill the groove using user-selectable weave or stringer bead welding techniques.

The AIPW uses the Miller Auto Continuum welding power supply to weld the root with Regulated Metal Deposition, then switches to pulsed spray for the fill and cap passes.

This combination of gas metal arc welding techniques maximizes welding productivity while producing X-Ray quality, full penetration pipe welds.

The AIPW follows two other successful welding solutions featuring Universal Robots developed by ARC Specialties: the MIG welding SnapWeld and the plasma cutting SnapCut.

SnapWeld just became the first product ever to win New Equipment Digest’s Innovation Award two years in a row.