Projekt

WIFI - Welding Interaction in Future Industry

Abstract:

Currently, there are about 4000 companies in Austria that train highly qualified welders. Application areas for welding technologies are broad and include, for instance, ventilation or heating engineering and pipeline, automotive, boiler or bridge construction. Despite recent advances in robotics technology in the area of welding, the majority of welding applications are manual ones.

Thus, human-machine interaction (in this case, between the welder and the welding unit) is essential for high quality of the overall welding process, e.g. regarding precision, speed and efficiency.  Interaction does not only comprise starting and stopping the process but also the configuration of various parameters like current, arc length, basic and filler material, or welding gas. The welding process is a highly precise artisanal task that strongly relies on accurate burner control using both hands. The welder’s eye focus has to stay with the arc and even the smallest movement can be the cause for inaccuracy. Thus, a significant functional impairment related to use of the upper extremities can be noted that is similar to the impairments of people with tetraparesis or quadriplegia. Interaction possibilities are currently limited to starting and stopping the process; some welding machines additionally offer restricted current adjustment options. All further parameters have to be configured via an external operating panel that is usually fixed to the welding power source, which, however, requires an interruption of the welding process.

 The project “Welding Interaction in Future Industry” (WIFI) deals with novel interaction methods (e.g., based on mouth, head or voice control) in the domain of industrial welding that bear potential to significantly improve the current situation regarding speed (which again leads to increased productivity). The approaches developed in the WIFI project should allow for changing configuration options in real-time, i.e., during the welding process without having to interrupt it. Additionally, WIFI investigates output methods that allow for providing feedback regarding the quality of the current welding process (e.g., haptic feedback via the welder’s protective clothing).

WIFI relies on a unique domain transfer connecting the domains of industrial welding and assistive technology for people with impairments. Findings of many years of research in the area of interaction solutions for people with impairments should be transferred to the domain of industrial welding and the novel findings of the WIFI project should be transferred to the domain of assistive technology likewise. This two-way transfer allows for taking advantage of synergies that have not been exploited in the past. The concepts, methods and prototypes developed in the WIFI project will be evaluated scientifically and additionally regarding their economic potential.

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