Welding training is going hi-tech, with a new virtual reality training
system that promises to improve welding training, reduce the time
required to reach certification and provide the kind of feedback that is
simply impossible with real world training. With no real welding tools
involved, it will also make basic education much safer.
Lincoln Electric in the US has developed the VR-based system and corresponding curriculum in collaboration with Iowa State University. The system has since been adopted by educational institutions, the military and a number of large companies. Namibia firm Kraatz Marine is the latest to pay more than £200,000 for a welding simulator, which allows it to train new welders and make sure its more experienced operators are absolutely at the top of their game, with constant training and re-education.
General Manager of the industrial section at Kraatz, Detlev Roesemann, said: "Welding simulators are not a replacement for real welding but it accelerates the learning curve of the student as it provides constant feedback with regard to their performance based on specific parameters such as arc length, travel speed, travel angle, work angle and straightness, among other variables."
Welders can be tested on the system with a set of specific criteria, which will help in the recruitment process and ongoing training can include complicated and specific requirements in terms of materials and conditions.
The new equipment also allows Kraatz to give back to the community and its first initiative is to provide six students with the chance to learn to weld and to provide them with a potential career. Kraatz partnered with the NGO, Young Africa, to help youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds find a vocation.
The Virtual Reality training equipment is still in its early stages, but it has the potential to help launch the next generation of welders. Educational institutions that might not have the space to devote to full machine shops could adopt this type of VR training. While students eventually have to move in to real world experience, the basics of welding could even be taught in schools, as the element of danger is totally removed and the equipment can be set up in minutes.