The Challenge to Acceptance and Certification of New Welding Methods

The Challenge to Acceptance and Certification of New Welding Methods

We live in a remarkable time of constantly emerging technological advancements.  There are many challenges to the acceptance and certification of mechanized welding methods that can vary widely between specific industries. Acceptance can be a subjective factor as in the case of the cliché “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Many of the most experienced, skilled welders may not require or appreciate the operational advantages that automated welding systems offer. Another consideration is that a large number of professional welders may not be aware of the underlying practical and economical influences driving these new technologies.

Acceptance of new mechanized welding methods can be affected by long-established codes, certifications, and prevailing methods that have been used successfully for a long time. Sometimes individual welders would prefer to utilize a welding process that has been widely adopted by other industries, but the process has not found favor or has been fully adopted in their industry.

A classic example of this is the resistance of utilizing the GMAW-S process in some segments of the petroleum industry, a situation compounded by a lack of corresponding certifications.

Many years ago when the wire feed process was in its infancy it was limited to short-arc (GMAW-S) using solid wire in a constant voltage (CV) mode. This process was starting to gain acceptance to the point that it was just starting to be used in refineries. Apparently, some workplace accidents occurred in which people were hurt and investigations placed the blame on this process of welding. That was all it took to negatively influence many individuals responsible for specifying welding procedures in that segment of the petroleum industry. GMAW-S was subsequently banned from most refineries.

What could have been the causes of these welding incidents? Most likely they were attributable to basic operator error and the failure or inability to perform proper NDT in those days. Many flaws went undetected and catastrophic failures did occur. For the most part, the only type of inspection in the earlier days of welding was “visual”. Even earlier attempts at radio-graphical testing did not detect all lack-of-fusion.

Strangely, this series of events went less noticed by other branches of the petroleum industry. Others continued studying, using and enhancing the GMAW-S process until it worked so well that it became in later years the primary method for countless welds in the oil field, including cross-country pipelines.

Needless to say, the selection of the best process for an application can seriously enhance the success and the speed with which a project can be performed. The old “tried and true” processes that have limited us in the past; do not provide the level of productivity that can be safely achieved by using today’s advanced process control, combined with modern mechanized welding equipment.

You can chalk it up to difficulty teaching people “new tricks” or the tendency for some ideas to just take longer to adopt than others. A reluctance to change due to long established familiar processes notwithstanding, changes in welding technology will eventually occur, driven by the demand for cost-effective, safe, and repeatable field proven welding results.  

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