Energy Conservation in Welding

By S.Sankaran 1.0 Introduction

Welding Technology has undergone significant developments during the past hundred odd years. If we analyse these developments, we can observe that in the early days the main objective of the development effort was to come up with a process or technique that can produce a weld meeting the demands for performance for the wide range of materials in use. Later the emphasis shifted to enhance the productivity and reliability of the welds. (Example: automation, computer control of process etc.) But of late, like in all other industrial operations, the main driving force behind new developments is the environmental issues related to the welding operations. Among the various environmental issues, atmospheric pollution is the one causing major concern. One of the main cause for atmospheric pollution is energy production by burning coal, oil or gas. Hydal and Nuclear power generation also have their own environmental and safety issues. So conservation of energy in welding and related operations is now getting greater attention. Since statistical data related to Indian industries is not readily available, I am quoting data from USA. In heavy engineering and construction activities the share of energy used in welding and related activities is around 20% of total energy consumed by them. (See Table 1) The Table-2 gives for a particular year, the total cost of welding related activities and the share of energy cost. If we can get similar figures for Indian industry, the share of energy cost may be considerably higher, as our labour rate is very low and energy rate is higher than USA. The American Welding Society along with the US Government has brought out a document titled “Vision for Welding Industry”. One among the many strategic goals (or Performance Targets) identified in that document is to “Reduce Energy use in welding by 50% by the year 2020”. Whereas, in India with prevailing energy shortage seriously affecting industrial production in many states, Indian industries need to take this up as one of their prime objectives. Focusing all our attention on energy conservation in welding and related activities is more than justified in Indian context. Table 1 - Welding related energy cost as percentage of total energy costs


Table 2 - Summary of welding related expenditure for major industrial sectors


Unnecessary/Excess weld

When we embark on a mission to save energy in welding, the best place to start is the design itself. Eliminating an unwanted weld joint is saving 100% energy that would otherwise be spent on that weld. A boiler has thousands of tube joints in the economiser, superheater and reheater circuits. A boiler producer was ordering tubes in standard lengths as the buyer claimed he can get competitive price and delivery for standard length of tubes. But a critical analysis proved that if the tubes are ordered in specific lengths required, hundreds of welds could be eliminated and that would more than offset marginal increase in procurement cost for tubes. A critical review of design and material planning can eliminate unnecessary welds and save energy. Almost in every fabrication shop or construction site in India, we can come across excess welding, and poor visual appearance of welds leading to grinding off the weld. It has become a work culture to make a weld with uneven weld size or non uniform weld bead profile and then leave it to an unskilled operator to grind them away. Grinding off excess weld metal is a non-value added activity and is a wasteful activity to cover up the inefficiency of the welding operation. We will very rarely come across a weld that is ground to improve the appearance in the equipments from Japanese or Korean fabricator. The Japanese welder considers it as an insult if the weld produced by him had to be ground to pass the visual appearance criteria. We in India need to train our welders and create awareness in them to produce visually acceptable welds without grinding. The pride of workmanship should be cultivated among our welders. Improving the accuracy of parts preparation and good fit-up of the assembly for welding, welding machines and accessories in good working condition, and good quality welding consumable will also be necessary to improve weld appearance, and the welding supervisor and shop manager should be made to appreciate its importance.


Picture 1 - Weld finished with full grinding

Picture 2 - As welded with no grinding


Energy Efficiency of Welding Processes

Generally the criteria for selection of welding process is the capability of the process to produce better quality of welds to maximise the performance of welds in service or higher productivity to bring down the cost and cycle time for making the welds. But, the energy efficiency of the process as the criteria for process selection is now receiving greater attention. There were many attempts to evaluate the relative energy efficiency of welding processes. Most of these consider only the energy necessary to produce the weld. They do not reflect the total energy requirements of a welding process accurately. So to compare the energy efficiency of each process, it is necessary to consider energy consumption in total. A recent report published by TWI takes into consideration both primary energy and secondary energy related to the process Primary Energy It is the energy required for the heating the material to produce a satisfactory weld It is the energy required for services and auxiliary equipment like:       Pre-heat / Post-heat Electrode Baking / Holding Wire feed units, Motorised slides, Fume extractors Job handling devices - Manipulators, Gantry, Robot Weld preparation – Machining, Grinding Weld finishing – Deslagging, Grinding

Secondary Energy

The Table-3 brings out MIG/MAG and Resistance Welding as energy efficient processes for sheet metal fabrication and Friction Stir Welding as an energy efficient, environmentally friendly welding process for welding higher thickness.


Table 3 - Comparison of the total energy consumption of welding processes. (For 250mm length weld) Material 1 mm thick Process
Primary Energy KJ Secondary Energy KJ Total Energy KJ

Material 12 mm thick
Primary Energy KJ Secondary Energy KJ Total Energy KJ

Material 50 mm thick
Primary Energy KJ Secondary Energy KJ Total Energy KJ


57 32 94 112 35

105 52 40 454 11

162 84 130 566 46

1420 1280 1450 120 120 1100

1278 277 864 4268 5283 347

2698 1557 2314 4388 5403 1447

17640 16200 1000 3680

13035 9870 7958 1495

30675 26070 8958 5175

In submerged - arc welding by replacing the single filler wire by two smaller diameter wires sharing the same current, the increase in current density in the wires can produce about 20% increase in deposition rate, with corresponding energy saving. In MIG welding, use of smaller diameter wires operating at the same welding current, can result increase in deposition rate and corresponding energy saving. In resistance welding, recent advances in high-frequency inverter technology allow for very precise control over weld energy. Modern resistance welding equipments have built-in weld monitors, to address the demand for high- precision weld energy control. The ability to select, control, and monitor weld energy output has a direct impact on quality, reliability, and power savings. 4.0 4.1 Welding Power Sources Energy Saving Device

In SMAW welding, usual arcing time achieved in a shift of 8 hrs is about 2.5 to 3 hrs. This means idling time running of welding machines is around 5 to 5.5 hrs. The machines draw current during idle time also. Old motor generator can draw over 1KW during idle running while rectifiers can draw 300-400W and inverters draw as low as 50W. By using energy saving kit, this idle power consumption can be brought down significantly. When machine is not arcing, this energy saving device will cut off the power supply after a preset time. Such energy saving device are fitted as part of the modern power sources, but they are also available as attachment to older power sources.


4.2 Power source energy efficiency It is important to consider the power factor of welding machine. Power factor is defined as the ratio of real power to apparent power. In a purely resistive circuit, voltage and current waveforms are in phase, and the power factor is almost equal to 1. In circuits with inductors and capacitors, the current and voltage waveforms are out of phase and not all of the power is available to do useful work. Power charged will be for the apparent power, and not on the real power utilized. Constant potential gas metal arc welding power sources typically have a PF of about 0.9, compared to constant current gas tungsten arc welding with a PF of about 0.6. Most manufacturers offer power factor correction equipment for welding equipment that simply attaches to the incoming leads of the power supply. Modern inverters offer power factors upto 0.95. Inverters typically have efficiency of around 85-95%, compared to rectifier types at about 75% and generators at around 55%. For the same output welding current inverter utilise about 25 – 50% less primary current than a rectifier or generator. Table-4 shows the energy consumption per year for various types of SMAW power sources at 30% arcing time and it brings out the energy saving potential of Inverters. Table 4 - Energy consumption per year for SMAW welding power sources

Energy Consumption (KWH/year)

14000 12000 10000 8000 6000 4000 2000 0 0 50 100 150 200 250 300

Generator Transformer Inverter

Welding Current - A


Welding Consumables

It is a common requirement that welding electrodes be stored in temperature and humidity controlled stores. All high class fabricators maintain a hot room for storage of welding consumables. The hot room is equipped with de-humidifier to control the temperature and humidity. Power consumption for maintaining the hot room is quite significant. Further the electrodes are baked in an oven at temperature range 150 oC to 400 oC depending on the type of electrode and then they are held in holding ovens at 100 oC till they are issued to the welder in portable holding ovens. By changing over to procurement of low hydrogen electrodes in vacuum-sealed packets, the need for hot room storage can be reduced and baking and holding ovens use can be considerably brought down. The power rating of baking oven is about 4 to 5 KW and the holding oven is 2 KW. Considering that the baking oven is used for one baking cycle per day and the holding oven is operated for 24 hrs the energy saved would be around 50KWH per day which can more than offset the extra price to be paid for procuring the electrodes in vacuum sealed pack.



Pre-heating, Post-Heating & PWHT:

Fabrication of thick wall pressure vessels made of low alloyed steels demand high preheats to be maintained throughout the welding operations followed by post heating before the weld joint can be cooled to room temperature. The preheating and post heating are often done by using expensive LPG. Where piped CNG is available it would work out 10-15% cheaper than using LPG. Further saving in gas consumption can be achieved by adopting the following methods.    Burner efficiency improvement. Providing Insulation / hoods to retain heat at the joint Infrared sensor to monitor preheat temperature and PID control to regulate fuel consumption. Burner efficiency improvement to save gas


Picture 3 - Low velocity candle type burner (Rs. 75/Hr)

Picture 4 - Spot burner (Rs. 90/Hr )


Providing Insulation / hoods to retain heat at the joint

Picture 5 - Hood to retain heat at the joint

Picture 6 - -Dished End and Nozzle covered with Insulation

Picture 7 - Forged nozzle Preheating



Infrared sensor to monitor preheat temperature and PID control

The control of preheat temperature can be monitored by an infrared sensor device ahead of the point of welding. The PID controller regulates the gas supply to the burners depending on the temperature. A temperature recorder on the PID controller record the preheat temperature and is available as a quality record. This can also be used to control post-heating.

Picture 8 - PID controller

Picture 9 - Infra red sensor

Picture 10 - Infra red sensor measure preheat temperature

Post weld Heat treatment

Maximum use of energy is in furnaces for PWHT. Refractory lined furnaces waste considerable energy to heat the mass of refractory. By changing over to ceramic fibre lined furnace huge saving in energy can be achieved. Further savings are possible by better arrangement of burners and efficient burner operation to achieve optimum airfuel ratio. 8.0 Conclusion

It can be seen from above that by carefully focusing our attention to various areas of energy use in welding and related operations it is feasible to achieve considerable savings in energy. More than the cost saving, the impact of such energy saving will be reduction in atmospheric pollution and environmental protection.

Acknowledgement I thank L&T Powai for the pictures used in this article


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