Virtual Reality is Revolutionizing Welding Education

Written by: James Wilkey
Written by: James Wilkey

Virtual reality (VR) is now a practical reality. In fact, the technology is going through a renaissance, with smart phone companies, video game developers, and even movie studios looking into ways to use virtual simulations. Although VR technology has been around for years, advancements in sound, video, and input technology have moved the tool well beyond the clunky, expensive, and extremely-limited VR that fizzled in past decades. Currently, VR technology is also making its way into the welding classroom, and it’s proving to be a vital tool for the modern welder.

More practice without the added costs.
Good welding takes practice. To master a welding technique, each student requires hours of practical experience. That means most students are using filler metal, gas, and other consumables that increase training costs. This, in turn, restricts the time that welding programs on limited budgets can allow their students to practice. With virtual welding, schools can allow their students to practice freely without worrying about material costs. The benefits of extra practice transcends the classroom. In fact, evidence shows that welders who supplement their real-world education with VR technology are better prepared for entry-level jobs than those who only trained in real-world settings. This is all due to the extra practice welders receive with virtual welding.

The AWS Careers in Welding Trailer is fitted with five virtual reality welding simulators. The mobile unit also features exhibits, videos, and interactive components that highlight the opportunities available in the welding industry.
The AWS Careers in Welding Trailer is fitted with five virtual reality welding simulators. The mobile unit also features exhibits, videos, and interactive components that highlight the opportunities available in the welding industry.

Get more feedback without compromising fun.
Virtual welding provides detailed feedback, making it an effective substitute for those moments when real-world welding is not a possibility. In fact, most virtual welding software calculate a score for the user based on bead accuracy, probe angle, and speed. A separate monitor provides this data in real-time, while also displaying what the student sees in his or her VR headset. This information allows instructors and students to catch subtle errors in technique.

The scoring system can also be used to gamify the classroom. Gamification refers to the act of turning a difficult task into a game in order to encourage a particular behavior. The monitor used in virtual welding adds a video game element to welding practice, which helps promote friendly competition between students. It also encourages individuals to compete against themselves in an effort to beat their previous scores. Gamifying welding education also reminds teachers that learning can be both practical and fun. In fact, teachers can use individual practice sessions as a valuable group learning tool.

More effective than traditional classroom approaches.
While it is still vital that students practice in real-world settings, VR machines supplement the classroom in ways that surpass more traditional approaches, such as lecturing, watching videos, written work, and in-class demonstrations. Having the student simulate the physical movements of welding helps ensure that they understand the basics of how to weld before they ever touch an actual torch. Additionally, virtual welding software allows students to simulate a variety of welds and processes with a simple click of a button. And all of this is performed on the same machine. Other approaches for supplementing a curriculum do not come close to mimicking the effectiveness, versatility, and flexibility offered by VR.

Employers are already using it, and not just for training.
Many companies, including the military, already use virtual welding as a cost-effective way to provide efficient internal training. However, the technology is also being used to weed out job applicants who may not have the skills set required for the job. Many employers ask entry-level welders to demonstrate their abilities on virtual welding machines during the interview process. Therefore, knowledge of how to use a virtual welding machine is, in and of itself, becoming a skill that can give job-seekers a leg-up in feeling comfortable and prepared for a pre-job evaluation. This means that getting your dream job may hinge upon your VR welding performance.

Teachers can use it anywhere.
The many possibilities offered by virtual welding simulations add up to significant savings without compromising the quality of training. However, the versatility of VR welding machines isn’t just limited to its software. The machines are also portable and easy to set up in most learning environments –whether it’s a workshop, classroom, or lecture hall. If you can hold a class there, you can use a VR welder!

Have you used virtual reality in your classroom? Have you encountered it in the workplace? Share your thoughts and experiences with VR welding in the comments below!

AWS Learning: For more information about welding education, certification, and new ways to expand your welding career, as well as the latest welding news, check out our other blogs, podcasts, virtual conferences, online courses, and digital tools designed to help you grow and succeed.

2 thoughts on “Virtual Reality is Revolutionizing Welding Education”

  1. Though I fully agree that the ability to bring some hands on motor skills training to the classroom is of great value, the technology is still way overpriced! With the low cost of sensors and the rapid development of technology, its amazing that the prices for this equipment is still so high. A very accurate orientation sensor can be bought for $35.00. A micromotor to pull a fake “electrode” can be had for $12.00, a proximity sensor could be attached for $20.00 and a microcontroller to handle the code is <$20.00. Sure you give up the 3D "environment" but during a lecture, a device this simple could be used to just build the manual dexterity. A washer pushed across the table with a GTAW torch can do wonders for those who have never used the process before.

    The development costs I know exceed the hardware costs however with prices as high as 50K per unit since release, it makes you wonder how much it really cost . Are some industries just riding the "WOW" factor and eating up grant money that could be used elsewhere? Using "STEM" as a basis for justifying they grants seems a bit of a stretch!

    I have read some articles saying that costs were reduced by an amount of $6.00 per hour. Based upon normal deposition rates in a training environment, the fact that a new piece of metal does NOT have to be fitup for each bead, and that production factors are in the 20-35 % range, I have a hard time seeing that much of a change. I recently used a VRtex 360 at a demo. The hood did not even allow for diopter correction for near vision. Was told it was an "option"…Really for 50K!

    Technology has opened up some great things in regards to education and training but the "business" of education seems to be the driving factor in regards to what is being done. Things that can be learned in HS that could lead to a job are now "preparatory" skills for continuing your education in community college. Are we in the business of selling education or educating?

    I contacted Nintendo years ago about the technology for the WII being used for training. Not enough $$ in it for them.

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