From its inception in 1983 to now, ARC Specialties has become a case study in the growth of an American entrepreneurial endeavor. Company President Dan Allford took the business out of a garage and has since turned the automated manufacturing systems provider into an international enterprise.
On the first episode of The Roboticist Chronicles, host Tyler Kern sat down with Allford to explore the history of ARC Specialties and analyze how its trials and tribulations reflect growth and challenges within the industry.
Continuity and steady growth kept ARC on an upward trajectory over the decades, and Allford said that sometimes it is not about what a company does, but what it does not do.
“As long as you keep your mistakes commensurate with the size of your business, you’ll survive. So, while we were small, we made small mistakes, and we survived,” Allford said.
ARC has endured the globalization of manufacturing which has seen jobs leave the United States, but Allford said the industry is entering a renaissance in America today. Certainly, that is a welcome sight to Allford, who after almost forty years still has an unwavering passion for welding and manufacturing.
“I still like building things,” he said. “The only thing better than building something is building something that builds something.”
After creating jobs in more than 20 countries, Allford’s greatest build may not be a product but an exemplary company.
ARC Specialties features a robotic drill & tap system with automatic part registration. The process occurs in 5 stages. In stage 1, the part is randomly placed near the robot, a Fanuc Robot with ARC software integrated. A Renishaw touch probe is used for automatic part registration, and then probing begins. Stage 2 is the drilling stage. Here a custom drilling spindle is used to drill the hole pattern. During the inspection stage, the FARO coordinate measuring machine confirms hole pattern and placement accuracy. This machine features an advanced user interface that streamlines and simplifies registration and machining. Tapping is stage 4, and in this stage, a floating tap performs the tapping operation using the robot’s 6th axes. And finally, in stage 5, the Vermont Gage Go/NoGo Thread Gage inspects the tapped hole for accuracy.
This innovative approach allows robots to replace machine tool operations with increased flexibility and reduced cost. Integrated solutions by ARC specialties are the product of our unique experience and commitment to excellence.
Recent advancements in AI computer processing and 2D lasers allows us to consider flexible automation for pipe welding. Up to this point, simple systems have been manufactured which can produce high-quality fill and cap welds using transverse slides to create a weave oscillation. But here at ARC Specialties that just wasn’t good enough. We have taken it to the next level by adding a 2D laser that can scan the weld joint and determine the configuration and then transfer the information to a robotic arm that can perform the weld from the root to the cap.
Utilizing a 6 axis UR Robot we can create virtually any type of oscillation desired. For this application, we created a pendulum type of oscillation that mimics “Walking the Cup”. By directing the energy of the arc, we can improve sidewall fusion, reduce the tendency for undercutting, and create a slight concave bead profile which has less potential for silicates to become trapped in the toes of the weld.
ARC’s AI Pipe Welder combines the Miller Continuum Power Supply with new modified short circuit (RMD) and advanced pulsed MIG/GMAW technology connected to a UR collaborative robot controlled by proprietary software that our team of programmers have created to make consistent, quality welds repetitively on pipe. The software creates an optimized path with preprogrammed welding parameters handling joint variations with adjustments in the torch path, oscillation, and travel speed. By increasing quality and productivity we have decreased the need for rework and created a solution for a growing problem in the fabrication industry.
Over the last 37 years, I’ve worked as a roboticist. Much has changed. It is my opinion that robot programming techniques and teach pendants have not advanced as quickly as the robots themselves. Quite simply programming robots is still not easy. There are several ways to program a robot. Point teaching and offline programming are two extremes. Teaching is the most basic technique. Using the teach pendant the programmer jogs the robot to the desired positions and saves or “teaches” the point. This is a slow process, robot positions are only as accurate as your eye and you must stop production to create new programs. The other extreme is offline programming which allows you to keep the robot in production while you write code but you need good solid models of your part as well as your robotic cell. You also need an additional level of programming skills and software. In my experience skilled offline programmers are even rarer than teach pendant style programmers. Finally, since robots are more repeatable than accurate programs generated offline frequently need to be touched up. Offline works well is it fits your shop’s skill set and part mix.
Parametric programming is a another option. It allows the programmer to simply enter a few key pieces of dimensional and process data into the ARC Specialties Expert System which then generates the entire program. At ARC our goal is to minimize or eliminate the time spent using the teach pendant.
Parametric programming is a good option when your parts have similar features, your dimensional data is known and you need to change programs on the shop floor quickly and easily without a highly skilled programmer. Think: third shift, 3AM in the morning, one batch of parts are finished and the operator needs to reprogram for a different part.
The ARC Expert System simplifies programming by handling as much of the welding process control as possible including welding conditions, travel speeds and step over.
We try to tailor our solutions to fit the shop and the products being manufactured. Sometimes parametric programming is the best approach.
“ARC Specialties thrives on problems, send us yours.”
#ParametricProgramming #ARCSpecialties #Kuka #Miller #Robot #Xiris #Plasma
An exterior finishing system intended to protect an underlying structure from elemental infiltration while imparting an aesthetically pleasing finish, cladding provides corrosion resistance for vital infrastructure. C&J Cladding in Houston has a quarter century’s worth of expertise in delivering exceptional cladding products for the subsea oil & gas, surface oil & gas, petrochemical & refining, space exploration, military-naval, mining, forging die repair & cladding and crankshaft sectors. Their commitment to unparalleled quality has resulted in each of C&J’s locations’ quality management systems achieving ISO 9001:2015 certification. Further, their processes are developed to meet a mix of customer requirements, providing highly technical services that go beyond ISO standards to meet and exceed exacting client specifications and expectations.
To ensure their cladding processes deliver precise results, they must rely on superior equipment to get the job done. For 25 years. C&J has turned to ARC Specialties for equipment that streamlines and automates processes while eliminating variables that can inhibit precision. Building machines for companies in 21 countries and a variety of industries, ARC Specialties furnishes one-of-a-kind machinery, generating excellent products that meet and exceed production needs and customer expectancies. Watch this video to learn why C&J Cladding relies solely on ARC Specialties, their automation integrator of choice.
Have you heard of the concept of robot taxation? It’s an idea that pushes for more taxes on companies that use robots over human labor, and supporters have a fierce advocate in their corner: Bill Gates. But does it make sense in the modern world, one in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and driven by data and automation? Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties, a provider of welding automation technology, joined us today to give his perspective on robot taxation and why, after his experience in the field, he think it’s a poor idea.
“I can only assume that Gates’ perspective on this is that it would save jobs. But automation has been part of manufacturing and other industries for a long time. Robots are just the newest form,” Allford said. “Think back to when looms replaced weavers. There was a fear of technology, but this innovation is the reason you have a closet full of clothes.”
Allford argued that automation improves people’s lives, and that robots haven’t hurt peoples’ jobs but rather empowered them. “Decades ago, 50% of all people were employed on the farm; now it’s only 2%. The result is we have plentiful, affordable food—not that jobs have been replaced,” he said.
“Look, robots have yet to take any fun jobs; they take the worst jobs. Jobs in dirty environments, hot environments, or even radioactive environments. So, it’s important for me to speak out on behalf of robots and automation,” Allford added.
Allford remembers, years ago, writing a paper on how the personal computer would wipe out typists. In this case, automation has affected the workforce. But he draws the connection between the end of the typist and Gates’ push for this taxation; he’s been one of the main catalysts for innovation in computer automation and automation in general.
“The truth is that placing a tax on a resurging market like manufacturing won’t save jobs. It will actually lead to more offshoring,” Allford said.
Automation has become the core of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and this emphasis on efficiency is no where more apparent than in the world of energy, specifically the oil industry. Automation is evolving the industry, offering new opportunities and structurally changing how professionals approach their day-to-day work. Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties, joined the podcast today to explain why he thinks this is one of the most positive evolutions the industry has seen in a long time.
“It’s an exciting time in the oil industry. What once was impossible or too hazardous is now feasible through automation and robotics. For example, automation is facilitating fracking, creating profitable wells that would have never been before,” Allford said.
ARC has been busy devising new products to empower the oil and gas industry, mostly around the equipment needed out in the field. “Robotics is becoming essential in the industry. First, they improve safety, often removing workers from danger. Collaborative robots can actually work together with professionals to do more,” Allford said.
He also recounts his and the company’s experience at the recently concluded OTC (Offshore Technology Conference), where they introduced a new AI-powered product. “Welding is one of the most challenging parts of developing equipment, it’s dependent on highly skilled welders. Lots of variations can occur, which the welder must account for and use their experience to configure correctly. Well, we’ve taken the knowledge that welders have along with data collected from a 2D laser to create a program that can compensate for these variations. Data and AI combine for a new technological solution,” Allford said.
OTC also gave a perfect representation of automation at work, focusing conversation on the impact that these efficiency-driven solutions will have on oil rigging for years to come. Listen to Allford give his insights on the industry, the future of technology, and on additional takeaways from the show.
The oil and gas industry has so much planning on the front end, but even with that type of thoroughness things can always go wrong. Accidents like Deepwater Horizon are on the front of everyone’s minds, and although tragic, they provide a huge learning lesson for how things can be done better.
As a child, he was fascinated with joining materials together, from super gluing fingers to playing with his dad’s welder. That has carried on through his B.A. in Welding Engineering and the five years that he has been in his important role at Superior Cladding.
“The justification for what we do in this company is the segue for so many challenges in oil and gas because parts either wear away or corrode away, and that’s where these claddings come in handy, because a piece of steel may have to last 20, 30, 40, 50 years and there’s a spot at the connection point where that product can wear away prematurely,” Sumrall said. “That’s where cladding fits in place.”
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The National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) estimates that corrosion costs $2.5 trillion to the global economy, or roughly 3.4% of the world’s GDP, with $1.372 billion attributable to the oil and gas production industry. In 2017, the U.S. produced 14.72 million barrels per day, surpassing Russia’s 11.3 million and Saudi Arabia’s 9.96 million barrels per day. As America’s pipelines continue to flow and develop, corrosion becomes increasingly challenging and costly, and the need for corrosion-resistant piping becomes more imperative.
Nobody knows this more than Superior Cladding. As a leading provider of cladding products for the oil and gas and other industries, Superior Cladding boasts 35 years of expertise, onsite welding engineering, and the industry’s best welding systems. Based out of Houston, Texas, the company provides corrosion-resistant or hard facing cladding overlays to safeguard vital infrastructure, protecting surfaces from corrosion, impact and wear, prolonging component life expectancy while resulting in fewer replacements and repairs. To meet exacting industry expectations such as ASME Section IX, DNV-E101, NACE MR0175, and API: 6A, 16A, 17D, the equipment they use to apply their precision welded cladding solutions must be accurate, flexible, easy to use and extremely robust.
From day one, Superior Cladding has turned to ARC Specialties for their robotic welding equipment needs for three simple reasons: (1) ARC custom builds their own equipment; (2) ARC is an equal parts hardware and software company; and (3) the user-friendly completely automated or manually operated precision control that ARC equipment delivers. Watch this video to see why welding engineer Nathan Sumrall at Superior Cladding states that “the products and equipment that ARC Specialties makes are not useful at this company…they are VITAL!”
Visit Arc Specialties at HousTex 2019 – Botth 2413!