Ultra-Tech Aerospace: Letting the Sparks Fly

How a Kansas-based aerospace company launched a welding department to better serve customers – By Katie Pacheco for AWS Welding Journal

Ultra-Tech Aerospace (UTA) didn’t always conduct its own in-house welding. A provider of manufacturing and distribution services to the commercial and defense aerospace industries, the Kansas-based company opened its doors in 1983 and originally catered to two businesses.

“I think they were successful being a niche supplier for two primary customers, and doing a very good job for those customers,” said Joseph Kane, UTA’s director of operations.

The family-owned business was purchased in 2013 by IBT Industrial Solutions, Merriam, Kans., but continued to operate as a separate division of IBT Aerospace. In 2015, the two corporate bodies joined forces under the name Ultra-Tech Aerospace. The merger has allowed UTA to expand its offerings and do more with greater efficiency and quality.

“Our parent company is modernizing processes and bringing in some more capital so we can upgrade, improve equipment, and continue to be a good supporter for our customers going forward,” explained Kane. “They also introduced a lot of new customers, so we became diversified to more than just the two primary customers we had in the old days.”

Today, the AS9100-certified company has 48 employees and serves more than 20 customers, the majority of which are associated with the aerospace industry. Aerospace military contracts for ground support equipment are UTA’s bread and butter. Some of its services include custom machine shop capabilities (e.g., milling, honing, grinding, assembly, etc.) as well as distribution of precision bearings and fittings for aerospace applications. According to Kane, what makes UTA stand out from other suppliers is its emphasis on engineering solutions and dedicated program management.

Ultra-Tech Aerospace, Kansas City, Kans., has built a 500-sq-ft welding department to conduct its own in-house welding instead of outsourcing jobs. The new endeavor is slated to improve lead times and reduce costs.

The company also separates itself from the crowd through its willingness to pursue different ventures. Most recently, after outsourcing its welding projects for decades, UTA decided to go out on a limb and try something new by adding in-house welding to its repertoire of services.

“There’s a certain skills set that we have in this building that’s hard to find, on the machine side. Ultra-Tech, even when it was a mom and pop shop, has always done a good job of retaining that skills set and making sure we have the best machinists in town. Now we’re trying to take our culture, our business model, and apply it to a new process, which is welding,” said Kane.

By creating a welding department, and getting it accredited, the company hopes to better serve the aerospace businesses that take advantage of its welding services.

“A great deal of the products we’re making for our customers are outsourced to various approved welders. By launching this welding department, by having that capability added to our tool belt, we’ll be able to support those customers better because we can do all of it in-house and not send it out for someone else to do,” said Kane.

Although the endeavor has not come without obstacles, UTA is now letting sparks fly in-house at its fully operational aerospace welding department.

Breaking New Ground: Inside UTA’s Welding Department

Ultra-Tech Aerospace began the process of launching a welding department from scratch about a year ago. Although its location has changed several times, the 500-sq-ft welding space is now located inside UTA’s warehouse (see lead photo). It houses two watercooled Miller Dynasty® 280 gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) machines and three Millermatic® 350P gas metal arc welding (GMAW) machines.

Fig. 1 — Ultra-Tech Aerospace’s welding department is set up with two fixture tables as well as several GTAW and GMAW machines.
Fig. 2 — Ultra-Tech Aerospace utilizes its rotating table (in blue) for handrail and large-frame builds.

It also contains two Förster 1108 fixture tables with copper-aluminum alloy tabletop bars (Fig. 1) as well as one Förster 4400 custom three-phase electric rotating table (Fig. 2).

“The capability these tables have is amazing,” said Liana Payne, UTA’s welding process supervisor. “I have been talking about adapting the rotating table to hold the same tabletop bars as the flat tables. The rotating table is primarily for handrail and larger-frame builds.”

The department is also looking into purchasing fume extraction and filtration devices, plus a Miller Dynasty® 800 GTAW machine.

This includes setting up the space to comply with the stringent standards required in the aerospace industry. For example, Payne keeps everything color coded and separated according to metal type and grouping, such as the tungsten holder, abrasives container, and filler metal container. This helps eliminate metal cross contamination, which can impact the finished product’s performance.

The welding shop also has a designated cleaning space for small metal parts, as well as a fire container for used cleaning rags. Payne asserts that the cleaning and prepping requirements for aerospace applications are stricter than those found throughout the welding industry. When she receives the parts from UTA’s machining shop, she makes sure to properly clean all base metals prior to welding using denatured alcohol, or Weld-O preweld cleaner when working with aluminum parts.

Fig. 3 — This 4130 normalized chromium-molybdenum aero adapter for the military was built by UTA in-house using pulsed GTAW at 1.5 pulses per second.

Another vital part of the new welding department is Payne herself, the company’s only welder. She has 20 years of experience in the welding industry, and has spent some time as a welding inspector under the tutelage of an American Welding Society Senior Certified Welding Inspector. In the year she has been with UTA, Payne has played an integral role, along with Kane, in helping the welding department get up and running.

After prepping the base materials, Payne then welds according to the welding procedure specification. Although UTA’s welding department sees a variety of metals, its most commonly welded metal is aluminum, and its most-utilized process is GTAW.

Fig. 4 — Pictured is a 6061-T6 aluminum steering bar that Ultra-Tech Aerospace GTA welded in-house for a military application.
Fig. 5 — This 17-4PH® stainless steel forklift pocket for carrying spreader bars was built in-house by UTA with the GTAW process.
Fig. 6 — Made of 0.051-in. 6061-T6 aluminum tube, this support arm was GTA welded for military use.

Some of the components welded inhouse include chromium-molybdenum aero adaptors, which are utilized for military applications — (Fig. 3). Before Payne took over the department, about 200 aero adaptors were shipped for outside welding. Since then, she has welded approximately ten aero adaptors, each consisting of three individual parts. The department has also welded aluminum steering bars for a military application (Fig. 4), stainless steel forklift pockets for lifting a spreader bar setup (Fig. 5), and aluminum support arms for military use (Fig. 6).

Approximately 20 welding contracts have been completed in-house since the inception of UTA’s aerospace welding department one year ago.

“We’re not doing a lot of welding, but we’re working toward that…The only materials we are working with right now are aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel, so we’re not pushing a lot of volume through here yet,” said Kane. “The way our customers work, each of them has to come by and approve our process before we can start working for them, so the launch of the program is a slow and tedious process, but we’re moving along.”

The Next Stage: Nadcap Accreditation

Even though the welding department is operational and taking on projects, UTA is still outsourcing 30 to 35 welding jobs per year, but this will change once it passes its National Aerospace and Defense Contractors Accreditation Program (Nadcap) audit, which is scheduled for Dec. 9.

In the meantime, UTA is still able to perform welding for some companies because it is conditionally approved for Nadcap Class B ground support.

“We are currently welding in-house when we are authorized to do so. We have customers who allow us to do welding for them, and we have customers waiting for us to get Nadcap approved first,” explained Kane.

The company recently conducted an internal audit to prepare for its Nadcap audit and discovered a few areas that need to be improved. Having never been through a Nadcap audit before, the rigorous process has been a learning experience for the team. However, they are proud of both the progress they have made and the highend welds that are being produced.

“We have the standards and we understand the expectations, but getting through an audit and making sure you’re meeting Nadcap expectations is challenging if you’ve never done it before,” said Kane. “We’re a little unsure of ourselves in certifying this process, but there’s no doubt about the work we’re putting out the door. The welds are extremely high quality and the machine shop is making good parts.”

After the December audit, UTA will have 30 days to implement any recommended changes, so the department is expected to be Nadcap accredited in January 2020.

Looking back at the long accreditation process, Kane wishes they didsome things differently to facilitate and expedite the process. His recommendation to others pursuing accreditation is to work with an experienced person or third-party consultant.

“My advice would be to find someone who has done this before. Liana and I have been figuring things out as we go along. Working with someone who’s been through the Nadcap process and understands the expectations would have been quicker and easier,” he said.

However, Payne is hopeful UTA’s experience will serve as a roadmap for other companies that want to become Nadcap accredited.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous benefit for the aerospace community as we continue to build this and demonstrate how you take a company with no welding experience and get them Nadcap certified,” she said.

The hard work put into the welding department will be especially beneficial for UTA and is expected to herald many positive changes. For instance, it’s slated to help the company save money by reducing the amount of welding projects it outsources. It may also allow UTA to expand its offerings and churn out high-quality projects at a faster rate.

“This will make our relationship with customers stronger because we’ll be more of a one-stop shop. By welding in house, our lead times will drop as much as a month on any major project because we won’t have to ship it out and get into somebody else’s schedule,” explained Kane. “By being able to support our customer with shorter lead times and reduced costs, I have no doubt that it will bolster the company by bringing in quite a bit more work.”

To handle the increased work volume, Kane plans to hire a new welder sometime next year. He also predicts other departments within the company may need to hire as many as five new employees in the future to manage the additional workload.

Tackling Aerospace Hurdles

As UTA’s welding department continues to expand with increased demand, it has come upon several obstacles unique to the aerospace industry.

For instance, according to Payne, UTA may have to invest in an expensive welding machine for thick aluminum applications to avoid having to purchase helium, which is currently a high-cost shielding gas due to its shortage.

“Unfortunately, helium gas is extremely difficult to get ahold of and virtually impossible for a new company in our position that’s not on a contract with a gas provider, so that’s proven to be very challenging,” explained Payne. “I can’t get it, and it is so valuable in high-end welding. It is very challenging working around that.”

Another hurdle the company will likely encounter deals with the lack of skilled welders. This workforce shortage is particularly felt in the aerospace industry where welds are held to a higher standard. When the time comes to hire another welder for the new welding department, Payne predicts it may prove difficult to find someone with the appropriate knowledge and skills.

“Finding ‘the right’ people is a huge challenge for all high-end welding,” she affirmed.

Flying into the Future

Like the famous science-fiction writer Douglas Adams said, “Flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.” Although UTA has experienced challenges on its yearlong journey toward launching a Nadcap-accredited aerospace welding department, the company is producing high-quality welds and is slated to reduce costs, improve lead times, and increase revenue once the department takes full flight after its Nadcap audit. Additional expansions are expected in the future as the welding department continues to grow to meet the new demands.

“It’s always going to be improving and getting better,” affirmed Kane.

To learn more about Ultra-Tech Aerospace, visit utaero.com

This article and images are property of Ultra-Tech and AWS Magazine

Forster America’s Award-Winning Products for Welding

Forster 3D Welding Systems has a long, successfully history that includes a number of prestigious awards for their innovative, world-class products.

Forster America caters for a wide range of industries, from aviation, and automotive and transportation industries, to construction-orientated industries that manufacture frames, doors, and windows, as well as railings, fences, and gates.

The company specializes in 3D equipment, particularly modular welding tables and an ingenious 3D clamping system, as well as a state-of-the-art lift, turn, and tilt welding tables and a range of technologically advanced frame welding fixtures, jigs, and welding tools.

Awards Achieved by Forster 3D Welding Systems

Top achievements of the company in terms of awards include:

  • VR Förderpreis Handwerk, a promotional award made annually by the Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken Cooperative Financial Group
  • The Bavarian State Prize in 1997 (gold medal)
  • The Bavarian State Prize in 2002 (gold medal)
  • The Bavarian Federal Prize in 2011

The prestigious Bavarian State Prizes are awarded by the Bavarian State Government’s Ministry of Economic Affairs in Germany for highly creative and technologically advanced performance in “craft trades.”

Historically, craft trades were professions that required specific knowledge and skills to undertake and achieve. Recipients nowadays are leading companies that have achieved innovative cutting-edge solutions.

The awards are presented at the annual International Industry and Craft Fair in Munich (IHM) in recognition of outstandingly innovative achievements in various categories including trade, industry, commerce, and services. Generally, recognition is an acknowledgment that the companies that receive the awards are very likely to have long-term economic success.

This is certainly true for Forster America.

The Federal Prize

The most recent award received by Forster 3D Welding Systems was the Federal Prize awarded in 2011 for the company’s railing welding gauge designed for double-sided welding with a bar division.

The award, which includes a cash prize of 5,000 euros was first presented in 1989.

The Bavarian State Prize

Forster 3D Welding Systems was first awarded the Bavarian State Prize Gold Medal in 1997 for the “Forster Welding Table as a construction kit and clamping system for T-slot system.”

Forster’s innovative 3D modular welding tables feature a hugely versatile T-slot tabletop that allows welders to work with the equally innovative 3D clamping system.

The T-slots on the table surface can be adjusted so that components can be used to prepare for under undertake precision welding. The clamping system incorporates a wide range of elements including angles and supports, clamping arms and columns, as well as stops.

Forster won the Bavarian State Prize Gold Medal a second time in 2002. This time it was awarded for the innovative ErgoFix Manipulator, which is an ergonomic rotating, lifting, and tilting welding fixture.

Essentially a very sophisticated welding table, the ErgoFix can be rotated 360 degrees, tilted to 45 degrees, and it is infinitely adjustable in terms of height. Apart from the fact that it enables welders to access every part of the workpiece being welded, it ensures that users maintain an ergonomic posture while they work. Not only is this the best option for good health, but it also encourages optimal welding results.

The VR Prize

This prize is awarded by Volksbanken Raiffeisenbanken Cooperative Financial Group to companies that “do an excellent job as an employer to strengthen their region.” The award is in the form of a loan that is intended to promote the business.

It was also awarded for the “Forster Welding Table as a construction kit and clamping system for T-slot system.”

Forster America’s Award-Winning Products Are Available for Your Welding Business

If you want to improve the equipment in your welding workshop, Forster America’s 3D modular welding tables, 3D clamping system, and ErgoFix Manipulator are a good place to start.

Call us today if you want more information.

Advantages of Forster’s T-Slot System

If you’re searching for the very best welding tables available in the US, you’ll need to consider the materials used to build them, the finish of the table, as well as design elements.

Generic advantages that indicate superior quality include:

  • Good surface hardness
  • Anti-corrosiveness
  • Spatter resistance
  • Overall durability
  • Substantial load capability

In addition to these essential qualities, versatility and an ability to accommodate fixtures and accessories are vital. The ideal will provide a precise method of creating an assembly together with the best stops and clamping fixtures.

Forster America’s Welding Tables

Forster America manufactures highly flexible 3D welding tables that can accommodate the company’s ingenious 3D clamping system elements and other accessories.

Forster’s welding tables are tough, anti-corrosive, and exceptionally durable with good surface hardness. Made from gray cast iron or an aluminum-copper alloy, they can support loads of up to 1.5 tons and 1 ton respectively.

Gray cast iron is an excellent material for welding surfaces because it is highly resistant to spatter, minimizing cleanup time. As the cast iron ages, it becomes even more resistant. The high thermal conductivity of the aluminum-copper alloy also ensures a surface that resists spatter. Additionally, while surface hardness is low, the tensile strength of the metal is high and it doesn’t result in ferritic scratches in stainless steel welding – which is where the alloy tables are so useful.

Forster America’s T-Slot System

Forster America’s 3D welding tables feature a T-slot system that allows welders to open up portions of the surface to accommodate parts of a 3D work piece, clamps, and other pieces of equipment. The rails themselves are positioned 100 mm apart. They are also modular and interchangeable, which enables welders to work with critical accuracy.

Traditional welding tables are flat and solid, and they don’t open up in any way. Some feature surfaces with regular chamfered holes that form a grid pattern, sometimes with regular slots between the plates. While these are invaluable for fixing clamps and other equipment accessories, they have limited adjustability. Forster’s T-slot system, on the other hand, is highly versatile and adaptable. It also minimizes downtime, because the system negates the need for constant measuring, re-measuring, correcting, aligning and re-aligning, even the need to mechanically rework components because of mistakes. It simply makes the welding process a lot easier.

The T-slot system is undoubtedly the best solution when welding containers and casings because the metal being welded can be freely positioned right through the table. What this means is that it is possible to access each and every inch of the work piece without using as many clamping elements as would be required with other grid-type welding table systems.

Forster America welding equipment also includes a range of cutting-edge lift tables, vertical turntables, and horizontal rotary tables, all of which can be used with the T-slot system to create custom solutions for even the most challenging welding jobs.

If you want to know more about Forster America’s superior T-slot system, including pricing, contact us now.

 

Top Features of Forster Frame Welding Tables

Forster America manufactures the very best frame welding tables that minimize downtime by providing a versatile system that can be adjusted quickly and accurately.

The company’s frame welding tables are manufactured in a range of sizes that are maximized for different uses. For instance:

  • The lightest table available for frame welding has a maximum frame size of 2.5 m x 3 m and will take a maximum load of 100 kg.
  • The largest, heaviest table has a maximum frame size of 3 m x 4 m and will take double the load of the lightest table.
  • A 3 m x 4 m frame size that is ideal for overleaf welding of large pieces. While it also accepts a maximum load of 200 kg it provides a pivot that will enable the frame to turn up to 225 degrees. It also incorporates two movable racks that are parallel to one another.

While the larger tables feature electric motorized drives, the lighter one doesn’t. Similarly, while the larger tables have highly defined clamping corners that are acutely adjustable, the smaller table relies on a roll-guided profile-guidance system. Only the two bigger frame welding tables are suitable for robotic use.

The leading features of Forster frame welding tables enable welders to adjust the length and width of the frames to be welded. Because of the ergonomic design, they can be moved in various ways, it is possible to weld the workpiece on all sides without the welder having to bend or stretch into uncomfortable positions.

How Forster Frame Welding Tables Work

In a nutshell, Forster frame welding tables can be quickly adjusted and moved to the exact position required for any welding job. The corners can be clamped in different ways, and other elements can be shifted in relation to a fixed axis. Rails are positioned at right-angles to one another and they can be moved using a double-gear motorized drive that can be adjusted accurately using digital counters.

Movable carriages that carry (or move) other parts into the required position are permanently set on the rails and connected via a belt drive. This ensures total accuracy as the rails are guaranteed to stay in a perpendicular position while they move, and remain in this position throughout the welding process.

The tables that utilize an electric motor drive can be adjusted with program control. However, the frame welding gauge enables the tables to pivot utilizing pneumatic load balancing so that the table can be flipped without an electric motor drive.

The unique suspension of Forster frame welding tables allows frames with a width of up to 2.5 m to be turned. Any imbalance that might result is compensated for by a functional pneumatic cylinder and pedestal.

The support base of these versatile tables offers perfect support for frame welding, and the clamps at the corners can be adapted for a wide variety of designs. Also, the corner clamps can be moved so that they remain parallel and are guided in both axes by rollers. Measurements are stamped on the frame of the table so that the clamps and rails can be positioned exactly where required.

If you would like to know more about the top features offered by Forster frame welding tables, or you’d like to order one or more for your welding business, contact us now.

The Value of Sophisticated Welding Jigs

One of the traditional welder’s most closely guarded secrets is his jig. Often custom made, it is key to both bending metal and cutting and connecting all the pieces required for any kind of project, big or small. But technology has taken over, and the contemporary welder has the advantage of being able to use the most sophisticated welding jigs, clamps, stops, angles and support elements available today.

Leading manufacturer and supplier of sophisticated welding jigs, Forster America has a wide range of unique fixtures, tools, and accessories that are designed for use with their cutting-edge welding equipment including modular welding tables, frame welding fixtures, rail and fence railing fixtures, and lift, turn and tilt welding tables. These make the old-fashioned welding jigs, made for purpose by welders, redundant.

The value of these sophisticated welding jigs, tools, fixtures, and accessories is that they enable welders to accommodate workpieces of different shapes and sizes, and they can be used to create unique solutions for all their welding needs. They also enable welders to work faster, more easily, and with ultimate accuracy.

Equipment Sets

Welding jigs are essentially tools or devices that are used to hold components in place for cutting and welding. Forster’s range of equipment sets do this and more.

For example, sophisticated equipment sets for stainless steel rack and case manufacturing contain absolutely everything a welder in this industry niche needs including:

  • Clamping arms, clamping columns and clamping towers
  • Adjustable flat clamps and flat stops
  • Aluminum try-squares of various sizes
  • Right-angled brackets and support arms
  • Double slot profiles each with two screws and two T-nuts for assembling on a try-square
  • A continuously adjustable angle and universal angles

There are also very similar equipment sets for rack and case manufacturing with other metal materials that contain the same kinds and numbers of tools and accessories.

Equipment sets for manufacturing stainless steel frames are also similar. They come with a number of bronze-pad clamping arms, flat chromed steel clamps, and precision steel clamping columns, aluminum-finish universal angles, and flat stops, try-squares, edge angles, and quick release clamps, all made of aluminum.

Equipment sets for manufacturing frames made of other types of metal contain everything required for this type of welding including flat clamps, clamping arms and columns, flat clamps and stops, try-squares, edges and universal angles, and quick release clamps with flat stops.

Equipment sets for both stainless steel universal manufacturing and for universal manufacturing using other metals.  Both containing multiple clamps, stops, supports, try-squares, and other items.

Equipment sets for stainless steel tube manufacturing that contain all the tools and fixtures needed for successful stainless steel tube manufacturing. Like the other jigs and equipment sets, these work exceptionally well with Forster’s 3D welding systems and are uniquely versatile.

Equipment sets for tube manufacturing using metals other than stainless steel, also with the full range of tools and other equipment.

A wide variety of clamping elements, as well as angles, support elements, and clamping columns and clamping arms, are available separately, enabling welders to access every part of their welding tables without any effort.

Whether you need a sophisticated 3D welding system or just equipment sets that will enable you to set up your own unique jig, Forster America is certain to have exactly what you need. Give us a call today.

Improve Your Company’s Productivity With Solutions from Forster America

Any company that is serious about welding will want to maximize efficiency to improve their company’s productivity. The question is, what sort of welding solutions are available that can help companies up their game by increasing precision, and reducing downtime?

Forster America has a selection of innovative products that are designed to make welding jobs faster and more efficient. Some of the solutions they offer are:

  • 3D Modular welding tables that adjust for every position using only a few additional components.
  • Ergofix welding manipulators that adjust to different heights, rotate a full 360 degrees, and tilt to accommodate the most demanding jobs.
  • Frame welding fixtures that enable welders to work on even the largest workpieces from every side.
  • Awesome equipment sets including clamps and brackets you probably thought didn’t exist.

Modular Welding Tables

Imagine a welding table with a surface that moves exactly the way you need it to so that you can adjust the position of your workpiece. Imagine a welding table that uses a specialized lift, horizontal rotary, or vertical turntable that will cope with any possibility you might face when doing a customized project.

Forster America’s superbly different 3D modular welding tables are available in non-ferric gray cast iron or aluminum/copper alloy, which is ideal for stainless steel processing. Sizes range from 118 inches x 59 inches to 39 inches x 47 inches for both types.

Ergofix Welding Manipulators

Ergonomics, as a science, strive to ensure we use less physical effort to do things. By minimizing strain, ergonomics help to keep our bodies healthy and more relaxed. Welding equipment that is designed to help people work more ergonomically is not only better for their physical health, but it will also improve productivity.

Forster America’s Ergofix welding manipulator features a table that is infinitely adjustable in height, and it can be tilted to a 45-degree angle to make access to the workpiece much easier. It can also be rotated a full 360 degrees. For the welder, it provides the opportunity to maintain a perfect ergonomic posture regularly, with no more bending or neck straining. These machines work with hydraulics, which also makes them ultra-easy to operate.

Frame Welding Fixtures

Forster America offers frame welding and railing welding fixtures that enable workers to make quick, easy adjustments on all four sides of rectangular frames. The most significant advantage is that all angles are exposed, making them easily accessible.

Frame welding fixtures may be swiveled substantially, from 225 to 360 degrees, depending on the size of the workpiece. There are several different frame fixture sizes with maximum working loads and pivot ranges. Most are pneumatic with brakes that lock manually, though the largest model has an electric motor.

The company also offers highly innovative railing welding fixtures that are designed specifically for jobs including railings and banisters, handrails, stakes, and so on. These fixtures are available in carbon steel, stainless steel, or aluminum, which makes them more versatile than any other welding solution for these particular product designs. It is possible to streamline production by up to 50 percent with these fantastic fixtures.

Equipment Sets

A modular welding table from Forster America will undoubtedly help you to up your game. But it gets better than that. The company’s equipment sets provide a versatile way to customize your welding table with clamping systems and various brackets and supporting arms, depending on your needs. Sets are available for steel, for universal welding, for frame welding, pipework, and for rack and case. Take your pick.

So, if you are serious about welding, and serious about improving your company’s productivity, you know which specialist company to call for a top quality solution. Forster America will have a solution to meet your needs.

Giving Female Welders an Edge

How 3-D modular welding equipment improves working conditions and output

This article was originally published on and for TheFabricator.com by Michelle Howell of Forster America

Despite continued growth in the number of female welders, only 24 percent of today’s welders are women. Opportunities abound as employers struggle to find skilled welders. Advanced welding equipment, such as 3-D modular tables and clamping systems, can make welding a more attractive, feasible career option for females.

Photo courtesy of Förster America.

As long as females weld correctly and have the required certifications, they can achieve substantial success in the field. Nevertheless, according to the Precision Manufacturing Institute (PMI), which is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, only about 24 percent of welders are women. While this is a significant increase from the less than 5 percent the PMI estimates were employed in 2016, it still leaves a lot of room for growth.

Only a small percentage of U.S. welders are females, largely because the industry is perceived to be suitable only for men. But the truth is, with innovative, cutting-edge equipment, the women welding alongside men are achieving the same high-tech standards as their male counterparts.

So, why aren’t more females applying for and getting welding jobs?

Why More Women Aren’t Welders

Historically, blue-collar jobs that involve manual labor have been dominated by men. Women, on the other hand, traditionally were employed in white-collar jobs, often in administrative positions, or as teachers, nurses, or seamstresses for two main reasons:

  1. Women generally stayed at home and looked after the household, while men were the breadwinners.
  2. Manual jobs, in general, were considered risky, if not downright dangerous.

Welding does come with dangers, not only from the risks associated with fumes, dust, and other pollutants in the air, but also because it involves working with electricity and gas, often in small spaces, at heights, and sometimes in water. Back and muscle strain also are concerns as welders have to bend and twist themselves into strange positions to reach hard-to-access areas.

While different welding jobs entail working with different types of equipment, the initial safety precautions for all welders, male or female, include proper training, wearing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and using suitable ventilation systems.

Currently, the U.S. is facing a shortage of qualified people to fill welding jobs. In the 2017 IndustryWeek Salary Survey, welding was ranked as one of the jobs that is hardest to fill because so many industries require welders. This fact alone should help make welding a very attractive career option for anyone.

As is the case with male welders, the right skills and targeted experience increase the likelihood of females succeeding as welders. Providing them with appropriate training and high-tech, 3-D modular welding equipment can enhance the possibility for success and lead to higher salaries and increased career opportunities.

How 3-D Equipment Can Help Women Welders Succeed

For decades, designers have created ergonomic equipment for offices and homes, helping people avoid skeletal and muscular injuries by sitting correctly. High-tech welding equipment also enables those doing strenuous metalwork to maintain ergonomic positions and avoid injury.

Ergonomics combined with easy adjustments are key to top-quality welding equipment, particularly welding tables that can be modified to accommodate custom clamping and those that have lift and tilt or pivoting functions that operate with hydraulics.

Combined with various rotary tables, turntables, and lift tables, they simplify welding jobs, helping to make the process more efficient and, ultimately, faster.

If a welding table cannot be raised and lowered or adjusted to different positions, the welder might have to do the work manually on a static horizontal surface. To do this, she needs a certain degree of physical strength, as well as an ability to bend and literally contort her body to get to the exact points that need to be welded. But if welding equipment can be manipulated to make cutting, clamping, and joining the metal less likely to cause injury, the job can be done more quickly and downtime minimized.

With the right equipment, the welder doesn’t have to be strong, and there is absolutely no need to strain. This makes special welding tables and 3-D equipment particularly well-suited for use by females, but all welders benefit.

The optimal welding manipulator can be adjusted in height from about 2 ft. 7½ in. to 3 ft. 11¼ in., rotated by 360 degrees, and tilted to an angle up to 45 degrees. Both tilt and lift functions rely on hydraulics for movement, so the welder can change the table’s position without risking any strain.

Once the table is in the correct position, the workpiece can be clamped using a vacuum clamping system so that every bit of metal to be joined is easily accessible. Clamps also can be used with 3-D workpieces, which would otherwise be more challenging for anyone to weld.

So, whether you are a female welder or you employ them, there is a good case for using 3-D modular welding equipment. Not only is job setup easier and quicker, but the all-important bottom line is positively affected by improved efficiency.

Rail Welding Fixture for Fence Manufacturing

Rail welding fixtures add a completely new perspective to welding for anyone who has always relied on flat horizontal or vertical welding tables and benches used with relatively static jigs.

When welders use a new-age rail welding fixtures, all sides of the workpiece being welded are exposed during the welding process and these can be adjusted to virtually any angle at any time. It provides an incredibly steady mounting for what is being welded and keeps the workpiece in place.

This makes rail welding fixtures particularly well suited to operations like fence manufacturing.

Advantages of Rail Welding Fixtures for Fencing

7 Meter Railing Welding Fixture

The bottom line is that rail welding fixtures make fencing jobs quicker, easier, more accurate, and ultimately more cost-effective. But how?

All you have to do is look at one of Forster America’s rail welding fixtures to see the difference. Unlike a solid table or even one of Forster America’s 3D welding tables that features movable rails, their rail welding fixtures allow for rail positions in many custom configurations. So, instead of clamping the workpiece onto the top of a solid welding table, or even onto movable slats, you are able to clamp all the different elements onto either the upper or lower side of the fixture.

Suitable for both manual and robotic welding, these rail welding fixtures move on a parallel plane according to scale. Most allow pneumatic load balancing and they all have locking brakes. They have mechanical clamping elements that feature spindle-compression, and the design ensures that the welder can position the joint of workpieces so that the possibility of irregularities will be minimized. This is a particularly easy operation when it comes to fence manufacturing, even with relatively elaborate designs made from any of the favorite metal types including aluminum and mild steel.

Positioned above floor level in the same way as any other welding table, the rail welding fixtures manufactured by Forster America can be moved and swiveled between 225 and 360 degrees. This depends largely on the size of the components being welded, especially those that will need to be welded once the workpiece is rotated onto its other side.

Rail Welding Fixtures From Forster America

Forster America produces rail welding fixtures in five different sizes from 59 in x 118 in to 118 in x 157 in. The maximum working loads of these devices range from 110 to 440 lbs, and the pivot range is 360 degrees for the two smallest rail fixtures to 225 degrees for the other three designs.

The largest, heavy rail welding fixture is, like all the others, made to move along the x-axis in a parallel motion. It uses a digital display to move along the y-axis. The machine comes standard with a single fixed cross beam as well as another that can be shifted. Possibilities are though versatile, and additional cross beams are available and all beams may be moved using program control if required. The option for pneumatic clamping and centering is also available.

Other fixtures have clamping corner braces designed for 360-degree movement. The pneumatic load balancing system that is incorporated allows for rails that are wider and not positioned centrally.

Forster America’s rail welding systems can be used with the company’s patented vacuum clamping system and amazing welding jigs.

If you think this is the answer to your welding dreams – or you know a rail welding fixture will help you up your game – call Forster America for a free quotation or advice.

When to Choose Aluminum Alloy or Gray Cast Iron Welding Tables Instead of Carbon Steel

Welding jobs involve the use of various types of metal and a number of different processes. While traditional welding tables were made of carbon steel, specialty welding tables are made of other metals including gray cast iron and various alloys that enable welders to achieve a professional finish.

The question though is, Which type of welding table should you use for specific projects?

Benefits of Gray Cast Iron Welding Tables

There are various types of cast iron all of which are alloys of iron, carbon (usually between 1.7 and 4.5 percent), and silicon.

Gray (or grey) iron is the most common form of cast iron. Also known as flake graphite because it contains many graphite flakes as well as perlite, it does not have good mechanical properties, and it is not an easy metal to weld using the metal arc-welding process unless the metal is preheated and the welding heat is controlled very carefully. It also has very low ductability and a low expansion point when the metal is exposed to any kind of heat.

The irony of this is that gray cast iron makes a really great surface for welding because the surface remains flat and welding spatter doesn’t stick to it. Since most welding processes result in some degree of spatter, it is an advantage to work on a welding table that is resistant to spatter.

As it ages, gray cast iron becomes increasingly resistant to the hot, molten bits of metal that spatter onto the work table surface during the welding process.

Benefits of Aluminum-Copper Alloy Welding Tables

When welding with stainless steel the best results will be produced by working on non-ferritic surfaces that do not contain iron. Ferrous metal surfaces can result in scratches to the stainless steel work piece and sometimes even more severe pitting.

By separating a stainless steel work piece from any type of ferritic material you are already well on the way towards a more professional finish. An aluminum-copper (AL/Cu) alloy surface has a high tensile strength, but this is combined with low surface hardness and high thermal conductivity which is also ideal in terms of spatter-resistance.

What Else Makes a Great Welding Table?

While the metal used for a welding table is hugely important, so too is the design of the table itself.

Foster America specializes in modular 3D welding tables that can be adjusted to accommodate a variety of components that can be used to create custom solutions for welding. The most exciting concept is so simple you’ll be pinching yourself, wondering why other systems don’t offer the same options. Forster America tables have rails that are spaced 100 mm apart and can be moved to accommodate jigs and other fixtures. This helps immensely during all those initial processes like measuring dimensions and angles, and is invaluable when you have to correct, re-align, and mechanically rework sections.

If you want something really great that offers a completely custom solution for your welding operation, call Forster America to see how we can help.