Adopting new welding technologies and processes that will improve productivity and assist with cost reduction is critical for the local welding and fabrication industry, to be globally competitive in terms of price offering, service and product delivery.
Afrox manufacturing industries business manager Johann Pieterse notes that an increase in innovative technologies is needed “to encourage a progressive industry” – which South African companies are should consider.

New technologies, such as Afrox’s multi process pipe-welding solution, the PipeWorx FieldPro 350, are purpose-built for advanced pipe welding. The PipeWorx Fieldpro was first launched locally in March last year and is specifically developed for use in field operations.  The solution does not require a separate control cable because it sends communication signals through the welding cables, eliminating potential damage to interconnection cables during fabrication. This creates a robust solution and enables the welder to move up to 50m away from the power source and, if necessary, reach equipment that requires welding.

PipeWorx offers two advanced gas metal arc welding (GMAW) control options to operate the system. The regulated metal deposition (RMD) welding is an electronically controlled modified dip-transfer mode output solution for root-pass welds and the ProPulse is an open-arc pulsed solution for fill and capping passes.

RMD welding is an advanced short-circuit GMAW process that produces accurately controlled metal transfer, making it easier for the welder to control the power and the weld pool.

The ProPulse, however, offers high speed and deposition rates. Its focused arc cone, short arc lengths and low heat input result in a fast-freezing puddle and good weld-pool controllability. RMD and ProPulse can be used to achieve high-quality welds on pipes from a single gas and wire.

“This means less inventory and ease of use. For root runs, the process is four times less expensive than tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding for each kilogram deposited. By adopting the system, high quality and productivity can be achieved,” he says.

Meanwhile, Afrox has developed welding-procedure specifications for carbon steel pipes of various sizes as part of its commitment to improving welding standards in South Africa.

“We are establishing qualifying procedures for more exotic steels used in the industry,” says Pieterse, who believes this development will prove to be a game changer in terms of welding quality, productivity and skills.

He notes that pipe welding with high-quality requirements is conventionally done using TIG welding for the weld root and the hot pass, where the joint is then filled using stick welding, or manual metal arc welding.

Pieterse further points out that these processes require high levels of skill to achieve quality, flaw-free welds. Nevertheless, through this pipe-welding process, TIG-quality welding can be achieved using the advantages of the gas metal arc welding (GMAW) process.

“This effectively also removes the need for high-level skills for pipe welding while improving productivity,” adds Peters.

Pieterse, meanwhile, emphasises the magnitude of the piping industry in South Africa, noting the increasing capacity from the power generation sector and concentrated solar-power farms, as well as the petrochemicals industry.

“The Pipeworx solution will change pipe welding in South Africa, as this technology saves significant overhead and labour costs while accelerating delivery times,” Pieterse adds.

However, he acknowledges the expectation that the solution will be fully adopted in the power generation and petrochemicals sectors only in a few years’ time, owing to a lack of technical skills, including a lack of knowledge about the relevant technologies.

Nevertheless, he highlights that Afrox has the capability and capacity to provide the required skills training for using the equipment

“Afrox acknowledges the skills hurdle, including the shortage of welding engineers. However, as an industry and as a company, it is tackling the industry needs across various areas,” he concludes.