We won’t call it the Twilight Zone, but welding is definitely entering another dimension. High-tech is slowly transforming an industry that has been blazing since the Bronze Age. Fitter welders are mastering new welding technology from iPads and plan/blueprint reading to sophisticated computer programs like AutoCAD. Even laser welding and robotics are all the rage. So here’s a digital update on welding technology, including iPads, plan reading and AutoCAD.
At leading fabrication companies like LeJeune Steel Company (LSC), iPads are a staple for the fitter welder teams. iPads are touch screen mini-computer like tablets. They’re capable of doing everything from taking pictures to displaying intricate drawings, emails, articles and video. If you can do it on the computer, you can do it on an iPad. That’s popular with welders, because it allows an in-depth look at project specifications, instant communications and real-time updates or changes.
The devices cut down on the number of errors, provide clarity, and speed production, according to LeJeune project manager, Rick Torborg. He’s leading hundreds of LeJeune employees working on state-of-the-art US Bank Stadium for the Minnesota Vikings, and his teams use iPads. “This is a rather fast-paced project and we’re continuously working with a 3D model with the design team to try and figure out and make sure everything works together, as we build in all areas of the stadium.”
Welders with a Plan
Construction designs are becoming increasingly complex. It is now critical for fitter workers to have a detailed roadmap in order to visualize what they’re working on. This is why plan/blueprint reading is a desired new skill. It’s not just about knowing which end of the plan is right-side-up, either. Now fitter welders need to know symbols, angles, and materials, and be able to visualize the finished product. In addition, they should know exactly what type of document they’re looking at — a plan, an elevation or a section:
- Plan – This is the view when looking downward on the project and uses the horizontal plane cut at 30” above the floor.
- Elevation – this is the view looking sideway at the project using the directions, north, south, east and west.
- Section – this is a dissected view of the project or one of the pieces. It must be created in the minds-eye and should show how something will be built.
Architects and designers are using an increasing number of computer programs to craft their projects. AutoCAD is one of them. This is a computer-aided drafting software program used for creating blueprints for buildings and bridges, among other things. It allows them to create 3D objects such as walls, doors and windows, while also defining them and providing depth.
Welding technology is impressive. Laser cutting and welding permits more precision. Ultrasonic, robotic and explosive welding is performed using computerized programs. The field of space welding, similar to what’s happening on the International Space Station, is also in full swing.
As an industry leader, LeJeune Steel is embracing the new technologies. “That’s one things that we’re pushing the envelope on in the industry,” says project manager, Todd Flicek, noting that the company is upgrading its tech-equipment. “One of our goals for this year it to come up with a 3D shop drawing so we can see the parts and pieces on the iPad and give the guys a better idea of the dimensions of what they’re trying to build.”
For more than 70 years, LeJeune Steel has been an industry leader in steel fabrication. Since 1944, we have grown to become one of the largest structural steel fabricators in the Midwest, with more than 40,000 tons of steel fabricated annually by our shops in Minnesota and Wisconsin.