Raised on a diet of computer games and X-Box, GenY welding apprentices have no trouble in adapting to learning manual skills on this newly released Fronius virtual welding training simulator.
The arc and weld seam, with all the right sound effects, are virtual creations but are a much safer alternative than facing a 2000°C live arc for the first time.
According to manufacturer Fronius, virtual welding reduces the material-intensive sessions needed when training welders on "real" welding equipment, resulting in an estimated 25% savings in time, space, materials, gas, filler material and energy.
Fronius, for 60 years the world leader in the development of welding equipment and technology, says the virtual welder is a more cost-effective way of teaching welding, a safer alternative to traditional methods and better for the environment with less waste and reduced emissions.
The system caters to all levels of welding experience starting at beginner level where the trainee receives visual and audible prompts of the correct torch position and speed to help them learn quickly.
The trainee's weld is recorded and can be replayed showing a 'ghost' of the correct torch position which also assists learning. A score is given for the accuracy of the weld performed with the top score displayed just like a computer game.
Sensors in the torch, work piece and helmet keep track of the torch and trainee's head position, detecting even the slightest hand movements and transmits these to the virtual world.
The virtual weld is displayed on the 3D glasses in the trainee's helmet as well as the unit's touchscreen display and can even be projected onto a large screen or LCD monitor for all to see.
As the trainee guides the torch along the sample work pieces they mentally process the visual and audible signals to determine whether the welding speed, torch distance and angle are all correct.
The "training workshop" comes either as a stand-up terminal or as a mobile case that is easily transportable to the training location.
Dave Smith, Manager SMENCO Pty Ltd, Australian distributors for Fronius, said the virtual welder had created a lot of interest from the TAFE and training sector.
"At half the cost of now-superseded training simulators on the market and with the very latest in computer technology it also represents very good value," he said.