7 winning moments from FABTECH

October 10, 2008
By: Dan Davis

The giant North American metal fabricating event known as FABTECH® International & AWS Welding Show introducing
METALFORM with special guests the National Association of Manufacturers and the Blue Man Group wrapped up its first
foray to Las Vegas Oct. 6-8. Attendees skipped the gambling and shows for a bit to take in the exhibits in the
South Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

(Actually, it probably was the best place to be earlier this week in light of the stock market soap opera that
unfolded in front of the nation on the 24-hour cable channels. It"s Vegas after all—no clocks, no sleep, and no news.)

I plopped down a $20 bet on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars game Oct. 5 when I rolled into town. I
took the under at 38.5 points—which means both teams have to score less than that total to win the bet—and promptly witnessed 21 points scored in the first half. The bet didn"t turn into a winner, but it did turn me into a quitter. From then out, I spent cash only on beers, cabs, and McDonald"s chicken biscuits.

That left me in a much happier mood to take in all that the trade event formerly known simply as FABTECH has to offer. Here"s a lucky seven for you straight from Vegas:

  • Dr. Chris Kuehl, managing director, Armada Corporate Intelligence and staff economist for the Fabricators &
    Manufacturers Association (FMA), told a gathering of exhibitors at the FMA Communications Industry Forecast Breakfast that the U.S. probably will see a terrible third quarter and a flat fourth quarter in terms of economic
    growth—putting GDP growth for 2008 at an anemic 1.5 percent. However, the economy should snap out of the doldrums by the second or third quarter of 2009. Also, for those wondering which leading indicators they should be
    watching to gauge the effectiveness of the government"s economic bailout, Kuehl suggested keeping an eye on the
    London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which governs the rate at which banks loan each other money. If it"s
    heading down, that"s good. Additionally, if banks begin wildly merging and acquiring, that"s a sign of renewed
    confidence in the economy, Kuehl added.

  • Hypertherm introduced the HyPerformance Plasma HPR400XD, which has a 400-amp cutting capability. The company demonstrated the plasma system at the show, and the equipment"s PowerPierce technology ripped right through 2-inch mild steel, leaving a pierce puddle of only about 1.5 in. in diameter. Doug Shuda, the company"s marketing program manager for mechanized products, said the technology can deliver similar results when piercing stainless steel up to 0.75 in. Other cool elements of the system are a faster cutting speed, 30 percent faster than the HPR260, and the ability to mark and cut with the same consumables.

  • We don"t give a lot of love to hardfacing in our publications or online, but here"s a noteworthy product
    introduction from this year"s FABTECH. Rankin Automation unveiled a single-axis, automated
    hardfacing machine
    with a manual vibratory carbide feeder. The standard system includes a wire feeder; 600-amp, air-cooled GMAW torch; a sine wave oscillator; manual 6-in. vertical and horizontal adjusters; a speed travel
    carriage capable of moving from 2 IPM to 45 IPM; and a 10-ft. beam assembly that provides more than 8 ft. of travel
    space. Richard Ferry, the company"s CEO, said the automated aspect will be attractive to welding shops because welders with good hardfacing skills are even more difficult to find. We"re really going to make a difference in areas such as energy and mining, Ferry said.

  • A new GMAW gun coupler doesn"t sound like much, but it can mean a world of difference for welders stuck doing jobs for which a special torch extension is as vital as the skill needed to complete the joint. Bernard Welding Equipment introduced a neck coupler that is able to connect two or more of its Q-Gun or S-Gun necks. Now a welder doesn"t have to order a custom neck from the factory to complete a job. The coupler can be installed in about three minutes. After hearing how one welder was able to assemble an S-shaped neck to get around a steel tube and still maintain eye contact with a joint in a maintenance weld application, you learn that simple innovations can mean the biggest difference out in the field.

  • OK. Having read about my experiences at welding school this year, you know of my ability to stick a stick electrode. What a mess. There might be hope for me yet. zRID Pty. Ltd. showed its Voltage Elimination Remote Isolation Device, which is controlled by a wireless trigger that can be attached to any AC/DC arc machine. The arcs aren"t activated until the trigger is pressed on the electrode holder, and deactivation is instantaneous when the weld is complete. It"s truly a deadman switch and a stuck stick eliminator. The elimination of control cables, mechanical switches, and amphenal plugs and sockets sounds pretty interesting as well.

  • Lincoln Electric showcased the SimWelder in a separate booth, away from
    the traffic of its main booth. This gave welders and would-be welders alike the opportunity to try their skills
    in the virtual world. Special goggles create the virtual world, and the goggle wearer provides the skills to make a
    weld, which is tracked electronically for speed, deposition, and work angle. For the show, users had the chance to re-create a structural weld taking place near the top of a football stadium. I jokingly reminded the booth dwellers of the need to tie off the welder properly and then had to eat my own words as I saw the tie-off rigging near the virtual welding station.

  • SmartTCP had a program for attendees that could be called Stump the Robot. A fabricator was recruited from an audience and was asked to create a fabrication by placing five metal workpieces on a flat sheet of steel. The index table, where the sheet rested, held the metal pieces in place magnetically, creating a totally unique fabrication for the welding robot to address. Once the fabricator told the Motoman robot where to place the metal parts, he submitted the product placement information to the weld teaching software that created the welding paths and instructions for the Kuka robot. The fabricator then saved the file and executed the welding program, all of which took about 10 minutes. To think that such automated welding instructions can be created so easily puts a new perspective on the skilled-welder shortage.

Hopefully, the news and developments shared at the show will make a positive impact in the marketplace. Here"s
hoping what happened in Vegas doesn"t stay in Vegas.

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8281