SEEING IS BELIEVING: THE FUTURE OF WELDER TRAINING
Does your shop face a lack of skilled welders? This innovative live-arc welding trainer is ideal for training, retraining and skills evaluation because it digitally records motions and objectively scores live welding techniques.
Welders are among the most critical employees to American industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, our nation’s aging infrastructure will demand the expertise of more than 55,000 welders to add and rebuild bridges, highways, and buildings over the next decade. That’s on top of the rapid growth in the U.S.-based oil and gas and defense industries and the rebound in durable goods manufacturing that has already intensified the need for more welders.
Technical schools and community colleges are ramping up welding education programs to meet demand and stay competitive, but as the need for these skills increases, so does the number of course instructors required to teach these skills.
This is nothing new to manufacturers that saw this looming shortage of welders coming several years ago and brought the issue to the attention of EWI (Columbus, OH). The member-based organization (formerly the Edison Welding Institute) decided to explore ways in which technology could be applied to this problem.
“Manufacturers were telling us that the lack of skilled welders was a major business challenge,” says Bill Forquer, the chief executive officer of RealWeld Systems, Inc. (Columbus, OH). “Ultimately, the issue made its way onto the EWI research agenda.”
Forquer explains that for nearly a decade most of the proposed technology solutions to improve training centered around video game-type virtual reality that used digital-based environments to simulate real welding tasks through a visual experience viewed on a computer screen or some other sort of special display.
Then, a few years ago, researchers and engineers realized that these video game-type welding simulations were not providing the experiential learning that trainees actually needed to become great welders. That’s when RealWeld Trainer™ technology came to life.
Using patent-pending technology developed by EWI, the RealWeld Trainer is a welding training tool that digitally records motions and objectively measures and scores critical welding technique while a trainee performs real arc-on welds. The machine also allows users to practice arc-off welds with full feedback from the system, allowing for a complete “two-in-one” training solution.
For Erik Haberkern, the director of hard goods product management at Praxair Distribution, Inc. (Danbury, CT), the system’s convergence of technology with real-world processes represents a major step forward for the industry. “Welding metal is an art and a science,” he explains. “If you don’t get the science right, the piece falls apart. If you don’t get the art right, the piece falls apart. This system bridges the gap between the art and science of welding. No other system does that.”
Haberkern says trainees immediately realize the difference between “playing a video game” and learning how to perform a weld in real time with a live arc. He also points out that the system is purpose-built to improve the consistency of instruction while also providing organizations with a critical human resource management tool.
On this point, Forquer notes that giving employers a way to pass-fail trainees in an objective and unbiased way is one of this system’s most compelling benefits. “Rather than have a fixed twelve-week course,” he says, “employers can reliably and confidently fast-track people who are naturally gifted . . . or are quick learners . . . or who already have the skills and simply need to adapt to the individual processes of that manufacturer. This type of system inserts objective, reliable pass-fail data that back up the decisions about your workforce.”
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