38 The FABRICATOR JANUARY 2016
fiber laser, connected to a material handling tower,
sent parts to two robotic bending systems, with staging bins set up for multiple parts and kit-based part
flow. The fiber laser on display was capable of cutting both thin and thick material and featured nozzle
change automation and in-process monitoring.
This and other booth presentations focused not on
how fast a certain machine is, but how a technology
can fit seamlessly into the entire process chain—a
chain that includes welding.
In robotic welding, offline programming and
simulation technologies were on display again
this year, as well as new methods of programming.
Tucked away in the corner of ABB Robotics’ (www.
abb.com/robotics) booth was a small robot cell with
monitoring attached. It didn’t look particularly special, except for what the operator was doing. The individual kept tracing his finger along a metal joint in
a fixtured workpiece underneath the robot welding
gun. On the monitor, the path on which the finger
followed was highlighted in a bright orange and red
hue, similar to an infrared screen capture.
This basic exercise demonstrated a new robot
teaching process Microsoft and ABB are developing.
A monitor captures the finger movement, and software translates the 3-D image into code for the robotic welding arm to follow. An ABB spokesperson
said the prototype was not ready for commercialization, but was proven enough to demonstrate at a
show full of fabricators and welders.
Major welding players touted the importance of
process monitoring, and part of that includes connected welding power sources that can communicate data—including welding arc-on time and amps
and voltage levels—to a fabricator’s server as well as
off-site (that is, “cloud-based”) data centers.
Monitoring and improved welding technique go
hand-in-hand, and this fact was on display at Re-
alityworks ( www.realityworks.com), an Eau Claire,
welding procedure specifications (WPSs) connects
directly with an in-helmet system that gives welders
real-time instruction, with visual cues in the helmet
itself telling the welder to change the gun angle or
travel speed, for instance.
According to Jamey McIntosh, product manager,
the system has been sold mainly to schools. However, several companies have expressed interest in
adopting the technology in the fab shop.
Information Wins the Race
“Training is a huge obstacle right now, because
we’ve grown so much recently. Within the past five
to six years, we’ve increased our business about 40
So said attendee John Karp, manufacturing en-
gineer at Vista Outdoor. That growth would be im-
pressive for any company in manufacturing, but it’s
A company’s growing pains can be overcome in
part by technology, which the FABTECH show floor
demonstrated with gusto. But the pain also has to
be overcome from a business process standpoint. In
a conference presentation about sustaining process
improvement, Paul Vragel, president of 4aBetterBusi-
ness Inc., described several stages most best-in-class
companies go through to sustain improvement ef-
forts. The first is the “just do it” phase. Once people do
the task enough, they move on to the second phase,
when the process becomes somewhat repeatable.
The next few phases involve process-driven
approaches, with staff buy-in, clear documentation, and a common understanding of what that
documentation means. Eventually the company
It was standing-room only at the keynote session featuring NASCAR legend Rusty Wallace.
The body of this Shelby Cobra, parked outside the Grand Ballroom in McCormick Place, was printed using Cincinnati Incorporated’s BAAM, or big area additive manufacturing, technology.
A small metal part, “printed” by a laser melting process that uses metal powders, was made at 3rd Dimension, an Indianapolis firm that exhibited in the show’s
additive manufacturing area, near the main concourse.