From car bodywork to railway bridges, from industrial production plants to oil and gas pipelines: wherever welding is carried out, manufacturers and users expect flawless and demonstrable quality. Ultimately, stable and flawless weld seams are crucial for the manufactured products to function properly and safely. For most companies, ongoing quality assurance with the help of special monitoring and checking systems is therefore of central importance.
Quality criteria are clearly defined
In some branches of industry, quality assurance is controlled by standards and regulations, including steel, power plant and pipeline construction. In other sectors however, such as the automotive industry, this responsibility actually lies with the manufacturer. In both cases, specific features of the finished product must meet a certain standard, from which the product’s quality is derived. In the case of welded joints, these include the seam surface geometry, pores and inclusions, surface tears, strength, leak-tightness, penetration and hardening characteristics.
All these criteria can be monitored using a product test; however, these are costly and time-consuming, particularly for large quantities. In theory, all features of each individual part ultimately need to be checked using various procedures. Furthermore, some criteria such as penetration or strength can only be determined using destructive testing procedures, meaning it will no longer be possible to use the tested part afterwards. A viable compromise is to carry out sample testing. However, this would not completely exclude quality defects.
Production monitoring improves quality assurance
For this reason, it is advisable to not only monitor the product’s quality but also the production process. Operators can use various parameters to clearly identify whether production is running correctly or if there are any faults. For welding systems, these include voltage, current, wire speed and welding speed, for example. If all observed values are within defined tolerances, the manufacturer can assume that the production process is error-free and, therefore, also that the product quality is flawless.
Data management bring transparency to welding technology
The mass collection, storage and processing of data—also referred to as Big Data—offers huge potential in this area. Modern welding systems collect high-resolution process-relevant information on an ongoing basis and pass it on in digitized form. With the help of a data management system, users can observe these parameters and thereby configure a production monitoring system that is ideally tailored to the specific application. Users have the flexibility to set which criteria are to be checked and how narrow the tolerances are.
It is also easy to intervene in the production process, whether manually or automatically, in order to identify and remedy faults. This means that production monitoring can replace costly product testing in many cases. For particularly exacting standards, both processes can also be combined, offering customers and manufacturers the greatest possible safety for their quality management.
You will find further information on data management and quality assurance in our free white paper “Big Data in Welding Technology”.