New, Efficient Design has Decreased Energy Costs by One-Third
In an effort to provide the best training possible, Plumbers and Pipefitters Local Union #562 Training Center in St. Louis, Missouri, recently updated its welding equipment to introduce its members to the latest technology. The Center's previous 1950's welding machines were not representative of the inverter-type welding power sources being used on most job sites today and these large 200- to 300-pound units proved cumbersome to maneuver around the facility. For these reasons, representatives at the Training Center decided to search out new welding units.
Two machines from different manufacturers were brought in for a side-by-side comparison. After getting input from instructors and students who used both units, the Center's Director of Training, Steve Lawler, chose the Invertec® V350-PRO from The Lincoln Electric Company. "Originally we were looking to do 50/50 - half of one brand of machine and half of the other, since this is more representative of what would be seen in the field. But after our people had welded with both, they preferred the Lincoln unit. It was quieter, produced a better arc and had an LED readout, which the welders really liked. In addition, our previous welding units, which lasted us 50 years, were Lincoln Idealarcs® so we decided to completely outfit our 38-welding station center with new Lincoln units."
Service was another reason Lawler chose Lincoln machines. Local Lincoln representative Jeremy Nawyn had conduced basic Stick seminars for UA (United Association) students in the past, covering AWS classifications, their uses in the field, how to identify good and bad welds and how to make corrections. So once the UA began shopping for machines, Lincoln was first on their mind. In addition, Nawyn was readily available to show the attributes of the Invertec V350-PRO, units to both daytime and evening instructors, whereas the competitive unit's salesperson was no where to be found.
As compared to the previous welding units, the Invertec is more compact - weighing only 80 pounds - and is easier to establish an arc and weld, making it the perfect unit for beginning welders in the United Association apprenticeship program. Since installing the Invertec V350-PRO machines, the Plumbers and Pipefitters Training Center has experienced one other benefit - the machine's efficient design has cut energy costs by one-third.
The Training Center is a full-service instruction facility for its members, offering programs in welding and other types of pipe joining methods. According to Welding Instructor Mark Collom, programs are tailored for each student. "Since most of our instruction is hands-on, we work at each person's own pace," notes Collom. "Some students pick up techniques quicker than others, so with 38 welding stations, we can let our students progress at their own pace without holding up anyone else."
Not only is the instruction personalized, but the different types of training and certifications that can be received at the facility are also highly tailored. With certifications required on each different type of pipe, wall thickness and diameters, there are hundreds of different Stick and TIG certifications from the United Association and National Certified Pipewelding Bureau that members can receive. Most of the welding performed at the center is Stick, but TIG welding comes into play when there are issues of cleanliness and when working with specialty metals.
Journeymen must continually update their skills to be employable, since each job has specific welding specs, such as Section 9 of the A.S.M.E. Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code that must be followed. Union dues cover the costs of both training and certifications.
UA members weld in a number of different environments including nuclear, hospital, chemical, food processing, water plants, HVAC, and fuel and natural gas pipelines. According to Collom, with Anheuser Busch being a major employer located in St. Louis, many of the local welders are employed in its brewing plants working on ammonia refrigerant piping. With such a diverse range of projects, members must also be prepared to weld on a host of metals, ranging from carbon steels to exotic alloys.
In a given year, 700 to 800 students pass through the doors of the Plumbers & Pipefitters Local Training Center, which is the hub for member training throughout the eastern half of Missouri. Eight instructors handle all the students' needs.
The Move to New Machines
According to Collom, many students are apprehensive when they first see the new Invertec V350-PRO machines with all the latest 'bells and whistles', but once they start welding, instructors hear nothing but favorable comments. The unit's Hot Start feature provides for easier arc starting when stick welding, greatly reducing starting porosity, which frequently results in welder qualification failure. Touch Start™ TIG permits the TIG arc to be established without high frequency starting techniques.
To ease fears, Collom worked with local Lincoln Electric representative Jeremy Nawyn to produce a video demonstrating how to use the machine, highlighting its attributes and providing general metallurgy information. "Every member who comes into our facility watches the video before going in the back to weld. This helps those who may never have welded with an inverter feel more comfortable." Local Lincoln distributor CeeKay Supply, Inc. performed the installation of the new units.
The Invertec V350-PRO is the most powerful inverter in its class and offers multi-process capabilities. Consumables used at the school include AWS E6010, E7018, E8018 and E9018 stick electrodes and TIG filler metal from Lincoln Electric. Shielding gases vary depending on the type of process and materials used.
"By switching to the Invertec V350-PRO units, our students are now having an easier time adjusting to what is in the field," said Lawler. "These units are well-built and are great for the construction site."
Moving to MIG
Although not currently offered, UA Training Center representatives hope to offer MIG training and certifications in the near future. "Currently, our local mechanical contractors are not calling for MIG welding on pipe jobs," said Collom, "but I expect we will be headed in this direction."
When the Center is ready, the staff and students will be able to use the multi-process Invertec V350-PROs for MIG as well. "I would definitely recommend this machine," noted Lawler. "They have been great assets for us. We now are offering the most up-to-date technology for our students, enabling them to get out in the field and hit the ground running."