Category: Blog

New Tech + Old Tech= Cool Tech

In 2019, we opened our surface coating R & D shop to explore the combination of robots, process control, and thermal spray. Thermal spray is a family of processes used for coating parts to improve thermal, corrosion, and wear resistance. There are several processes: plasma spray, high-velocity oxy-fuel, detonation gun, and twin wire arc spray. But in every case, these processes create mechanically bonded coatings. Coating bond strength is typically around 10,000 psi, which is adequate for many applications but 6 to 10 times lower than a metallurgical bond.

A unique exception is an old process called spray and fuse, which uses a self-fluxing brazing alloy as a matrix. After spraying, the part is fused, which creates a brazed or metallurgically bonded coating with much higher bond strength, less prone to bond line separations (failures) in high impact applications.

Spray and fuse is an old process. Combined with advanced robotic process control, it produces high quality, well-bonded coatings.

See the full video explaining the spray and fuse process and how to automate surface preparation, coating, fusing, and inspection:

Ain’t your Daddy’s Conference Table

Anyone who has visited the executive conference room at ARC Specialties in Houston has seen a constantly changing array of samples on the conference table. The term clutter has been used but I object to that phrasing. These are Show ‘n Tell samples as well as trophies from past projects. ARC Specialties has always been a tech company operated by a formidable crew of passionate engineers and craftsmen. I started ARC in ’83 building machines in my garage. Early in my career, I discovered that if we focus our efforts on making our machines work, then our Profit & Loss statement takes care of itself. This approach has worked for me for nearly 40 years.

The current batch of samples ranges from pipe welds to additive manufacturing. From boron to tungsten. From subterranean rock bits to spacecraft. Every piece represents a successful project, a satisfied client, and a proud ARC project team.

Periodically we clear off the table and archive the parts. So we will be ready to tackle YOUR project.

ARC Specialties thrives on problems, send us yours!

The Roboticist Chronicles: Lockheed’s “Skunk Works” Business Philosophy in Practice

Every business approaches how they work in a unique way. Each has a philosophy and culture, and each approach has it’s merits; some more successful than others. But why? On this episode of The Roboticist Chronicles, we talked business philosophy with Dan Allford, president of ARC Specialties.

ARC Specialties has sound technology, but they still need a corporate structure to execute it. Allford, who had years of technical training but only one business class, wanted to create something that worked at ARC Specialties. Instead of reading books on the latest fads, he followed people. And one that inspired him the most was Lockheed Martin’s founder Kelly Johnson and his Skunk Works philosophy.

What is Skunk Works? It is the name of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Program and has become a business philosophy applied to many, many industries. It’s based around creating groups within an organization and allowing them a high degree of autonomy.

“What I appreciate about Johnson and Skunk Works is that it’s about empowering project managers and giving them the ability to control their destiny,” Allford said.

While working in automation and robotics, you might assume that it isn’t people-centered. The human portion, or the “team,” is the most significant part according to Allford.

“We reward people based on what they create, not who they manage,” he said. “A good manager hires the right people, gives them a task, tools, resources and lets them do what they do best.”

That’s how ARC Specialties runs, stripping out layers of bureaucracy and focusing on the task. It also allows the company to remain nimble in the marketplace and exchange ideas. It even allows Allford’s employees to tell him when he’s wrong!

Walking the Cobot

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.



Robotic Plasma Cutting

Last year ARC Specialties introduced the collaborative SnapCut plasma cutting robot. The idea was to have a portable magnetic base cutting system which could be placed on or near the part then quickly and accurately cut shapes in places not normally accessible with robots or burning tables. Imagine a magnetic base drill that in addition to round holes is able to cut triangles, squares, bolt circles, slots, bevels on plate and structural shapes like pipe, I beam, channel and square tubes. Since then we have found many other applications for the technology. In this video ARC Specialties Welding Technician Jim Walker generated a cutting program offline to make complex matching cuts on tube and formed parts. The results are outstanding. The fit up is great which makes the subsequent welding operation quick and easy. As always the HyperTherm plasma did a great job making clean cuts. The Universal Robots UR10 running ARC Specialties SnapCut software is easy to operate. Before SnapCut this type of joint was either machined using a 5 axis CNC mill or hand cut and then ground to shape with a disk grinder. We think we have a MUCH better solution. Contact us if you have a 3D cutting problem which you would like solved.

ARC Specialties thrives on problems, bring us yours

Dan Allford

FANUC America Features Robotic Plasma Cutting System for Metal Pipe from ARC Specialties


From FANUC America:

FANUC America Authorized System Integrator ARC Specialties designs and builds custom manufacturing machinery and automated systems including systems for metal welding and cutting, material handling, pick and place, test equipment and other custom applications. In this robotic system, ARC Specialties utilizes a FANUC M-710iC/20L robot to perform plasma cutting for 40-foot long sections of metal pipe.

First, a full-length pipe moves from a notched workplate to an automated infeed conveyor system. The automated in-feed conveyor indexes the pipe into the headstock cutting area, where the pipe is automatically positioned into place by chuck jaws. The system has five sets of chuck jaws that can be manually changed to accommodate pipes of varying diameter – from 0.75” to 24” in outer diameter. The six axis FANUC M-710iC/20L robot, equipped with a quick tool changer, picks up either an OAC or PAC torch from the quick tool change station. The robot uses touch sensing, as well as laser sensing to locate the nozzle parts and the pipe.

Once the pipe has been located the FANUC robot proceeds to first make a bevel cut. The headstock contains a robotic aux axis motor package and pop-up turning rolls that rotate the pipe in coordinated motion with the robot as it makes the cuts. After the bevel cut, the robot proceeds to plasma cut small and large holes into the pipe. The robot uses FANUC Constant Path, which allows it to maintain the same path regardless of static or dynamic speed override changes.

The system features simple setup – An operator simply inputs the desired cut dimensions into the HMI, presses the Go button, and the robot executes the cut. ARC Specialties’ cutting software generates robot code to execute the desired cuts based on the operator’s input, and the HMI is able to save and store these part programs. Once the FANUC robot is finished cutting, the pipe parts roll onto a gravity-fed pipe rack where they are removed from a notched work plate and finished pipe rack manually.

FANUC America Authorized System Integrator ARC Specialties transform manufacturing processes into high-quality, high-production and high profit operations. To learn more, please visit