Rides, games and attractions – everything found in the typical theme park is very visible and must beckon to the park guest with excitement and fun. Because of this high visibility, colorful and aesthetically pleasing components are essential. Oceaneering Technologies is a firm that designs, engineers and manufacturers the animated figures found in theme parks -- this includes the animals and cartoon characters that are part of rides or special attractions. The company has recently turned to pulsed MIG welding to provide higher quality welds on these figures. To do this, Oceaneering has installed Power Wave® 455 power sources from The Lincoln Electric Company. What makes the Power Wave unique is its ability to produce welds with very little spatter. Because of this, Oceaneering is able to virtually eliminate the grinding time usually required and go right to the painting of these colorful figures.
"Appearance is critical and is what our customers are demanding," says Larry Snyder, Manufacturing Manager at Oceaneering Technologies. "We require accurate, uniform welds in our shop and not having to remove spatter before painting puts us ahead of the game. The new power sources and the high quality welds they produce have improved our final product and customer satisfaction, which is one contributing factor to help Oceaneering win additional theme park contracts."
Although more than half of this Upper Marlboro, Maryland company's current business is in the assembly and manufacture of animated figures, Oceaneering Technologies is involved in other ventures as well. The company's products range from large structures all the way down to a small pump that can fit in the palm of a hand.
According to Snyder, what sets Oceaneering apart is its ability to provide customers with flexibility as the company can handle virtually any aspect of a job including design, engineering, manufacturing, assembly, testing and even installation at the customer's site. In addition, 30-year-old Oceaneering prides itself on its close working relationships with customers and has on more than one occasion had a customer on its shop floor designing a product hand-in-hand with its own engineers and technicians.
So how did Oceaneering make the switch from conventional to pulsed MIG welding on its animated figures? According to Snyder, some of his weld operators were loaned out to another plant and came back raving about the quality of pulsed MIG and how well it performed on heavy material. It was then that Snyder decided to test the viability of using pulsed MIG in his own shop.
"Our philosophy is to always update our equipment so that we have the latest equipment on the market and are getting the job done in the most productive manner," claims Snyder. "I began to seek out various manufacturers to see what they had in the realm of pulsing power sources. In addition, I sent two of my shop foreman to a new technology seminar at Lincoln Electric on the recommendation of John Heine at Airgas. From these inquiries, we chose two power sources that we deemed the best and ran them side-by-side on our floor."
"We put Lincoln's Power Wave 455 head-to-head with a competitive product and it basically sold itself. My operators liked the performance better and it was easier to operate, but the real key was its elimination of spatter to produce a better looking weld."
Oceaneering immediately purchased three power sources in early 1999 and since have added three more. This was the first time that the company had ever purchased a Lincoln product.
Welding at Oceaneering
Oceaneering takes the team approach to welding its animated figures. Company fabricators work in teams of two or three to complete the assembly of the finished product. This usually includes welding, stress relieving, machining, painting, assembly and final testing. One animated figure, which is anywhere from 14,000 to 15,000 lbs. after hydraulic and pneumatics are added, can take up to three months to complete.
The materials used to weld at Oceaneering are mild steel, high strength carbon steel and stainless that can range from ¼ to 2 inches in thickness. Average tensile strength of the metal is 60,000 psi. Downhand welding is the most common technique with joint configurations such as butt, fillet and corner. To weld the animated figures, Oceaneering uses Lincoln's SuperArc® L-56™ MIG wire with a diameter of .045".
"What's amazing to me is what an easy transition it was going from our conventional MIG welding method to pulsed MIG and with new power sources on top of that," comments Snyder. "In the past when we've changed procedures, we got complaints from our operators. In this case, there were no complaints. The only thing we needed was a short training program on the shop floor with our Lincoln representative, Sarah Warnes, and we were ready to weld."
Snyder also touts the warpage control provided by the Power Wave 455. "Our welding operators are happier because the reduced heat input with these units means that we can control warpage." Although the Power Waves and the pulsed MIG welding do produce higher deposition rates than Oceaneering's previous conventional MIG welders, Snyder is quick to point out that each of the animated figures is a work unto itself – many are prototypes that will only be made once, not produced in mass quantity so the speed of the process is not something that interests Oceaneering as much as the quality.
Lincoln's Power Wave 455 gives users complete control over all components of the welding system -- including a fully removable control box and wire feeder and one common control cable. The removable control box allows users to select their best set-up option -- at the work piece, the power source, the wire feeder or in a remote location. Oceaneering uses the bench model at the wire feeder. The control box can be tailored by choosing from among several optional control panels that can be installed to expand the capabilities of the power source and wire feeder.
The heart of the system is the digitally controlled inverter power source. The patented power source is capable of complex, high-speed waveform control that results in positive arc starting, reduced spatter, reduced fumes, and exceptionally smooth arc welding performance. The system's fully digital communications system is able to synchronize the power source and wire feeder, even if the components are separated. In addition, the synergic capability of the unit compensates for operator variation such as stickout, travel speed and position by internally varying the voltage to maintain a uniform are length.
The unit provides 570 Amps at 60 percent duty cycle maximum rated output and 450 Amps at 100 percent duty cycle. Although Oceaneering uses the machines specifically for pulsed MIG welding, the units are also capable of GMAW (short arc and spray), FCAW, and stick procedures.
Oceaneering also utilizes Lincoln's Power Feed™ 10 wire feeder which features 4-drive rolls in a heavy duty drive system and the one-piece split wire guide system. This guide ensures perfect alignment and support throughout the wire feeder and allows for easy wire loading. The wirefeeder is "tool-less" meaning no tools are required for drive roll and split wire guide changeovers.
To complete the system, Oceaneering uses Lincoln's Magnum 450 water-cooled gun which keeps the gun cooler at higher amperages and allows for extended welding time.
"We are very satisfied with our Power Waves and have experienced no problems," says Snyder. "These units perform well in extended service – especially in our facility which runs two shifts a day and requires the Power Waves to operate 16 to 18 hours per day."
According to Snyder, the service that Oceaneering has received from Lincoln Electric is exceptional. Sarah Warnes is on-site the same day if there are any questions or concerns. The company is also pleased with the responsiveness of distributor Airgas, and representative John Heine, who helped locate the pulsed MIG system and currently supplies all the company's ongoing consumable needs.
Currently, almost all the welding is prototype work and in the future, Snyder hopes to expand into small batch jobs such as vehicle components.
The next time you're at a theme park, take a close look at the animated figures -- Oceaneering may have created them!
Originally written 07/09/00