Years back, in a distant, almost forgotten past, Heimo Sandtner and Andreas Behmel of the Research and Design Lab attended one of the first Seminars on Numerical Analysis of Weldability, a small conference series I already mentioned in the last blog “International Seminar on Numerical Analysis of Weldability 2018”. They just started developing a virtual welding training system, something that later should be known as Fronius Virtual Welding. So Heimo and Andreas stood a little bit apart from the established group of welding folks and wondered what they just got themselves into. The group spoke about computational simulations of welding processes based on physical models. One participant of the seminar loudly proclaimed that his company was only a couple of years away of simulating welding seams in under a couple of hours. The other guys of the group nodded consensual and looked awestruck. This participant seemed pleased and suddenly addressed Heimo and Andreas and asked: “So what are you guys up to?” The two looked into each eyes. “We want to do the same as you”, Heimo said. “But we want to do it in realtime!” The participant was petrified for a moment, but then he laughed himself to tears. “Here”, he said and gave them his business card. “Call me if you can do it!” Then he walked away laughing.

Some years later, the vision from back then, realtime welding simulations based on physical models pretty much came true. A couple of things have changed: Heimo Sandtner became vice-rector of the FH Campus Wien and Andreas Behmel took over his managerial functions. But the vision remained the same. Now at the same event this incident happened, the research project Metal JOINing got presented, something pretty close to this kind of technology.

We, as the Research and Design Lab, developed in the past years the Fronius Virtual Welding console which is state-of-the-art technology in welding education and is mainly meant to teach the manual skills needed for proper welding. In combination with computational numerical welding process simulation such systems can also be used to investigate the influence of different welding parameters on close-to-reality welding results. The scope of the Metal JOINing project with our consortium partners RWTH Aachen, Fronius and Audi and under executive Almedin Becirovic was to combine a virtual welding training system with welding process simulation algorithms that are optimised for realtime calculations and thereby enable a trainee to visualise and learn the influence of different welding parameters in a fast and cost-efficient way.
But numerical welding process simulation has a trade-off between calculation time and result accuracy. The calculation of half a second of welding with high physical accuracy can easily take several weeks, even on high-performance computing systems. So the Welding and Joining Institute of RWTH Aachen has been carrying out research on arc welding processes to formulate physical models that, after being implemented into software (SimWeld – Welding Process Simulation Software), allow to calculate weld seam geometry, heat input and distribution within a few minutes on a standard personal computer.

A prototype, mainly developed by Jochen Martin, which demonstrates a first integration of SimWeld’s current numerical simulation algorithms into the Fronius Virtual Welding training system has been showcased at this years Seminar on Numerical Analysis of Weldability. This enables a user to investigate and develop an understanding of the influence of different welding parameters, as for example welding speed or torch angles, on close-to-reality welding results. So that participant from back then can now look forward to receive a call.

Text: Jöller Ajun Simorg
Photography: Andreas Behmel