In addition to the decent and civilized philistines most of us are, there is also a small subculture of people indulging in a strange obsession. An obsession so deviant and obscure, most people can’t even imagine. I’m talking of course of welding enthusiasts. For the longest time, they have lived on the margins of society. But now in our modern times, after years of oppression, there actually exists a whole institute at the University of Technology Graz for these people, called IMAT (Institute of Materials Science, Joining and Forming). The former head of the institute, Prof. HH. Cerjak, even proposed that every child in kindergarten should learn to weld rather than just play around. After this proposal got rejected he arranged instead a whole conference for welding nerds. So once a year, under the wise guidance of Christof Sommitsch the IMAT institute calls out to its supporters around the world to join them in the south of Styria to discuss welding issues. This group of individuals naturally shies away from too much attention, so it’s no wonder this meeting with the nice sounding name International Seminar on Numerical Analysis of Weldability took place at a secluded location like the Seggau castle near Leibnitz. It invites the world’s best of a really small group of people whose foremost interest in life is to analyse, calculate and simulate melting metal. The crème de la crème of technical mathematicians, computer scientists and other highly specialized occupational fields meets there. And yeah, we were there too!

And now, I’ll leave jokes aside for a moment and explain what this seminar is all about by plagiarizing the official seminar description: Since the first of these events in 1991, this welding-seminar series has developed to be a world leading conference in the growing field of the development of methods for predicting the microstructure and properties of welds. It is both of practical importance and academic interest and it supports the philosophy of computer modelling, which helps to optimise welding processes and consumables as well as the service behaviour of welded components.

So at this point you’re probably wondering what we were doing there?
Well, for one thing, we from the SimTeam, a subdivision of the Research and Design Lab, which is specialized in virtual training simulations, were involved in a research project the results of which were presented there. (More about this in a future blogpost.) And for another thing we hosted together with our partner Fronius a virtual welding contest at this seminar. Attendees could join us at our booth and have a try at our Welducation Basic app. We ran the app in a special competition mode and presented the results in real time on a video wall. The participants had to take a quiz and then got challenged with a virtual multi-pass weld. At the end of the seminar the best three attendees finally got prices. And the people went crazy about this contest! More than one third of the seminar participants tried our app and some of them even made more than 30 attempts to break the record. We looked into the data and found out that they even downloaded the app and practiced at night to have an advantage the next day.

The competition was exciting until the end. It was a tough duel between Princess Sheherazade and Kaiser Franz Josef. (The names have been changed to ensure the privacy of the participants.) But in the end Princess Sheherazade kept the lead.

This hosted event was so successful that several companies have approached Fronius and want to hold similar contests in the future. Something we of course look gladly forward to. If you’re curious about trying this app yourself and maybe train a bit, you find the links here in this blog post: New applications for Fronius International GmbH.

Text: Jöller Ajun Simorg
Photography: Andreas Behmel