Welding human

Are robots, or humans, the future of welding?


“No human blacksmith can deal with parts the size of aircraft landing gear or have the reproducibility and stamina to make the parts needed for our economy….The idea of robotic blacksmithing is to extend the blacksmith’s art with new digital capabilities. ”  So writes Glenn S. Daehn, Fontana Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, of The Ohio State University, in his article for The Conversation, “‘Robotic blacksmithing’: A technology that could revive US manufacturing.” 

“By automating the process of shaping a part, but using the basic approach of a blacksmith,’ he continues,”a machine can treat larger parts and be more efficient and reproducible than a human ever could.”

Working with materials of inconsistent shape, temperature and condition, in the precise and demanding ways required, will mandate continued and substantial research and development. before the technology will be able to create the transformation Daehn envisions.  Still, he believes the rewards will be great:

History shows that when diverse groups come together to form a new industry, the birthplace of that innovation (turning the idea into businesses) reaps the long-term benefits. Detroit with automobiles and Silicon Valley with computers are obvious examples but there’s also glass manufacturing in Toledo, polymer engineering in Akron and medical device engineering in Minneapolis…The next wave of innovation will likely be located where skills are deep due from staffing and improving current factories. Robotic blacksmithing provides an opportunity for the United States to be the leader if it wants to. The core in keeping this virtuous cycle going in any location is in developing the factories, or the machines that build the machines.

Read more at the link, above.

In other welding news, two “human” stories were covered this month.

Meet ninth-grader Oliver Falardeau – or as writer Charles Honey put it in his article for School News Network, “meet the future”! Oliver loves welding, fabricating, and small motor repair, “making him a Go-To guy for people needing stuff fixed.”  So talented that the school created an independent study program just for him, Oliver accomplishments go beyond the typical:

Oliver was approached by Mitten Motion LLC, which organizes family-friendly car events, to create ramps for its Summer Showcase at the DeltaPlex in Grand Rapids last August. He took to the job with zeal, designing and fabricating a steel ramp capable of launching prerunner trucks and drift cars. Measuring about 14 feet long, 12 feet wide and 4 ½ feet high, the ramp was built in two pieces and hauled to the DeltaPlex, where Oliver and helpers strapped it together and bolted it to the parking lot.

“That was a tough one. That was the biggest job I’ve ever done, in a very short time frame,” he says. “When they found out a 14-year-old built (the ramp), that turned out pretty cool. That’s one of the things I’m proudest of.”

For more delightful examples, read the full article at https://www.schoolnewsnetwork.org/2019/12/20/he-loves-welding-building-new-things-fixing-older-things/

And we also enjoyed reading about Dave Pumford, lead welding supervisor and inspector at Bandit Industries in Remus. Pumford was featured in Michigan’s Midland Daily News, in recognition of a master welding class he offered to welding students at Mid Michigan College.

“I’m always excited to visit campus and connect with students who are eager to learn how their education will translate to real-world work and a sustainable income in the future,” Pumford shared. “If the battery boxes completed meet quality control standards, Bandit will use them in retail ready equipment.”

The students Pumford taught were equally enthusiastic.  Mid Michigan College, known as “Mid,” offers a welding degree program with industry-recognized certification and job path opportunities:

Local employers scout Mid’s students, and welding jobs are available in the mid-Michigan region and across the State, with a projected 10% increase in jobs by 2022. The field also promotes career growth through on-the-job advanced learning, and offers competitive starting salaries. Our certificate focuses on the specific skills welders need to succeed, and you can earn this Certificate in just 1-1½ years.

Whatever the future of welding may be, it seems clear that well-trained, talented humans will remain a significant part of the mix.

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