The line between quality and quick-to-fail welds often depends on the ability of the weld inspector. While welding engineers work to develop processes that deliver consistent and quality welds, and AWS creates standards to ensure that these practices are consistent nationwide, it is the inspector who ultimately decides whether these standards are actually met. Yet for all the technological progress the welding industry has made in recent years, only some of that change has impacted the way inspectors do their jobs.
Unaided visual weld examination remains the industry standard for most inspections. An experienced set of eyes is more than sufficient to check for cleanliness, spot discontinuity in the base metal, and ensure that joints are fitted properly. Similarly, postweld destructive and nondestructive inspection methods continue to be useful means of identifying welding flaws. While these inspection methods remain as necessary as they’ve ever been when it comes to examining the weld before and after it is made, they are not as helpful during the welding process. And yet the importance of monitoring welds during welding has only increased as welding processes and materials have become more sophisticated.
Fortunately, current advancements in camera and imaging technology are changing how and when inspections are done. (And that when may make all the difference!). Today, modern compact camera technology and specialty software are offering inspectors an unprecedented ability to view welding up-close, personal, and most importantly, live. Previously, the ability to capture an analytically useful image of a weld was limited by the obscuring intensity of the bright and potentially harmful UV light produced by the arc. In fact, seeing the arc at all usually requires welding glass shields or helmets. But now, small and powerful digital cameras, coupled with advanced image software, can be used to monitor the weld’s development. By taking multiple exposures, computers compile images of the arc into a single composite image that approximates roughly how the arc would look if it could be seen unaided.
There are many benefits to using digital cameras for inspecting welds. First, inspectors can view these images while welding is in-progress. This helps inspectors identify problems with welds and welder technique early on. Catching these problems right away can lead to faster corrections, as well as a reduced risk of losing an entire batch of welds because a flaw went unnoticed in the initial stages of production. Second, inspectors can record footage of the arc and weld pool for a more detailed post-weld analysis. Recordings of live welds also make invaluable teaching tools, as instructors can show easy-to-follow footage of proper and improper arc formation or correct electrode placement. Combined with nondestructive examination methods, inspectors are also less dependent on destroying a selection of completed welds to test for quality.
Becoming a CWI has always been one of the more alluring career pathways the welding industry has to offer, and like the rest of the industry, technology continues to reshape the future of weld inspection in important and exciting new ways. To learn more about these new inspection tools, check out the full article “Keeping Inspection Technology in Pace with Weld-Industry Advancements” by Will Habermann in the November 2015 issue of the Welding Journal, free with your AWS membership.
AWS Learning: For more information about welding education, certification, and new ways to expand your welding career, check out our other blogs, podcasts, virtual conferences, online courses, and digital tools designed to help you grow and succeed.