Category: News

Match of the New Millennium: Man vs. Machine vs. Robot


In manufacturing, these are your only choices. Fortunately, there is still a place in the world for people. Some things humans do best. Any task which requires flexible adaptation to unpredictable dynamic environments is a good example. But sometimes the best man for the job is a robot, or possibly a machine.

When your only tool is a hammer the whole world looks like a nail. When your system integrator is a robot house you should expect a robotic solution. Over the last 30 years, robots have become faster, more reliable, cheaper, and easier to integrate and operate. So, we use ‘bots on an ever-increasing percentage of our systems. But not always.

Sometimes the best solution is a purpose-built machine. The reasoning may be a smaller footprint, or maybe you don’t need 6 axes of motion or standard robot software won’t fit your needs. What I have found over my 40 years of building machines is that a purpose-built machine is typically faster and more precise than a robotic solution. Today’s video showcases two welding solutions that my team decided to automate with an ARC Specialties purpose-built machines.

At ARC Specialties we thrive on problems, send us yours!

Making America Work Again

It’s now early May, and here’s where we stand in the United States regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The death rate sits at 0.023%, while the unemployment rate has ballooned to 14.7% (as of May 8). COVID-19-related stimulus spending has reached $3.5 Trillion.

I keep a $10 trillion Zimbabwe bill tacked up on the wall in my office to remind me of what rampant inflation will do to a currency when too many dollars chase too few goods.

Printing money will not solve this pandemic-turned-economic-crisis. You can’t eat money, and it won’t keep you warm in the winter or protect you from the rain. All these things come from the segments of our economy that create real wealth and real goods – mining, farming, manufacturing and construction.

To solve our problems, we need to get back to work. We also need to manufacture critical infrastructure items here in the U.S. Because of these two points, I expect an onshoring trend in U.S. manufacturing to result from efforts to get back to business as usual.

We are the largest exporter of food in the world because we automated farming, and automation will continue to enable the U.S. to compete with low-cost labor while creating high-value jobs right here at home.

We can do this!

For example, our ARC-06S welds parts seven times faster than the semi-automatic technology used overseas. If we could help you make parts 700% faster than your competition, would that help?

ARC Specialties thrives on problems. Send us yours, and find out how we can solve them.

  • Dan Allford, President, Arc Specialties

Fatigue Life of Additive Manufactured Aluminum

Thanks for the comments & questions regarding Additive Manufacturing (AM) and material properties. Our motto, see below, really is our mission statement. We learn when you send us problems.

Today we post a video reporting on material properties of AM build aluminum parts. To maximize the material properties of aluminum requires alloying and heat treatment. Typical aluminum welding wires are either silicon alloy 4000 series or magnesium alloy 5000 series, neither of which is heat treatable. Brian Harrison with Alcotec Wire Co graciously supplied a spool of heat treatable copper alloyed 2319 wire. After solution heat treat and aging, we measured tensile strength at 63,000 psi. This means you can use AM to build an aluminum part with the strength of steel and 1/3 the weight.

Next, we built a 5356 aluminum test specimen using AM for fully reversed cyclical fatigue testing at 70% of the tensile strength (130% of yield). The part survived 5,500 cycles. Less than a heat-treated 6061-T6 part but not bad. This is useful data as we build our reference library of AM material properties.

At ARC Specialties we thrive on problems, send us yours!

The Roboticist Chronicles: Getting Dirty and Dangerous with Abrasive Finishing

Robots are perfect for abrasive finishing, because they work well in situations that possess all three of the “Big Ds” – dull, dirty and dangerous.

Even so, while more companies are embracing robotics, there are some areas, like abrasive processing, that are yet to see full integration even though they are “three-D situations.”

“I think it’s kind of interesting that, here we are in the 21st century, and we’re just now starting to robotically automate finishing. Because, if you rewind 60 years ago, one of the first areas we started automating was in machine tools,” said Dan Allford, the president of ARC Specialties. “The difference is, way back then, we were imposing our will on the part. That means we take a big block of metal or whatever and then we machine a part from it.

“Fast forward to now, and you’re trying to do finishing on parts, but we’re having to adapt to the shape of the part. That’s the big difference, and that’s why it’s taken robotics so many years to catch up to machining.”

There’s still work to do, with organizations like ARC and 3M collaborating more and more frequently beyond this special podcast, with 3M co-sponsoring the Robotics Industry Association’s Grinding and Finishing Conference.

“At the end of the day, the knowledge in the industry about robotic abrasive processing is really in its infancy, frankly,” said Scott Barnett, Application Engineering Manager for Robotic Abrasive Processing at 3M. “It is a fairly complex thing to get right, and we want and need industry members to develop more expertise in the space so we can help our customers with their processing challenge.”

Now, after years of slow progress, things are moving quickly in the right direction.

Teamwork: The Problem-Solver’s Premier Tool

At ARC Specialties, we build around three control platforms – robot, CNC and Industrial PCs (IPC).

Our popular ARC-05 family of Gas Tungsten Arc (GTA) Clad Hot Wire welding systems are all based on the Beckhoff Automation IPC, and we have machines running in 32 countries.

That kind of global presence means we need absolute reliability at all time. We can’t afford to fall short of exceeding the standards we’ve established for ourselves – and that our customers have come to expect.

To that end, Richard Lester, our Beckhoff application engineer, and the Beckhoff IPC have provided a successful foundation and pathway toward achieving that goal of absolute reliability.

GTA welding is a harsh application for an IPC due to the high-frequency starter, and the IPC must sample arc voltage arc in the 10-20 VDC range and survive the arc starter on the same circuit operating at 15,000 volts and 1 MHz.

That’s true noise immunity!

In combination with Beckhoff’s single-system approach and commonality of programming, training and use of solutions become simpler than ever before, offering industry-leading resource savings, consistency, reliability, flexibility, modularity and performance.

Superior Cladding provides key corrosion-resistant and wear-resistant overlays for oil and gas industry clients, making reliability paramount.

“Mistakes in this industry are heard about on the news, so our mistakes are unacceptable,” Superior Cladding’s Nathan Sumrall said. “ARC Specialties’ equipment is indispensable because of its consistency. (It) allows us to perform at a very high standard and also with great accuracy with our parts.”

To get a better idea of exactly how the Beckhoff IPC combines with our GTA welding solutions to provide unmatched results, check out the video here, which features Superior Cladding Products and their ARC-05 machines in action.

At ARC Specialties we thrive on problems. Don’t believe us? Send us yours!

Contact ARC today.

The Economic Consequences of COVID-19

The debate about how many lives were spared by stay-at-home policies enacted to “flatten the curve” and fight back against the COVID-19 pandemic will likely rage for years to come.

However, the devastating effects the effective shutdown has had on the U.S. economy and the health and well-being of Americans will be undeniable.

By early April, it became very apparent that the economic future of the country is extremely grim. As the pandemic rages, the country’s unemployment numbers are projected to be far worse than they were during the Great Depression, which is viewed as the end-all, be-all of U.S. economic downturns. And a bailout with freshly printed money won’t fix that.

I agree with Michael Burry, MD and economist.

“Lockdowns intended to contain the coronavirus pandemic are worse than the disease itself,” he said. “It bleeds deep anguish and suicide.”

Ultimately, there are only two solutions to COVID-19 and the ripple effects its orchestrated throughout the U.S. and global economies – a vaccine, which is not expected to be ready for widespread availability at any point in the near future, and herd immunity.

Lockdown is only intended to “flatten the curve,” not act as a long-term solution.

Having celebrated 61 birthdays, I am thankful that the virus mostly spares the young. As a parent, I am willing to sacrifice for my kid and future grandkids.

This is a time for shared sacrifice. I call on politicians to lead by example and take a deep pay cut, as my company officers and I have here at ARC. At ARC, no one has been laid off. Bills are paid and everyone is working safely, cashing pay checks and supporting the economy.

It is time to get back to work, restart the economy and start the healing.

– Dan Allford, President, ARC Specialties

ARC Specialties’ Applied Automation Seminar Delivers Industry-Leading Insights

RIA Certified integrator ARC Specialties is proud to be leading the charge in educating and empowering major players in the robotics, automation and finishing industries.

To that end, ARC hosted January’s Applied Automation Seminar, or AAS 2020, highlighting the company’s commitment to elevating the industry and its collective efforts to innovate and drive the future.

Representatives from Across the Industry

Sponsored by Graebener Maschinentechnik, AAS 2020 featured insights from representatives from a variety of industry leaders, including ATI Industrial Automation, KUKA North America, Xiris Automation, Inc., 3M and FANUC America Corporation.

The event was a tremendous opportunity for the industry to gather with a shared purpose – providing a forum for critical discussion of the latest advancements in robotics and how those at the industry’s forefront can take advantage.

Highlights of AAS 2020

The event featured eight distinct presentations, each highlighting an engaging and impactful look at an aspect of the industry.

Each of the presentations is linked below – you can also view all eight videos by here.

RIA & A3: Robotic Application of Tool Changers and Compliant Finishing Tools

Keynote speaker Catherine Morris, Director of Automation Sales for ATI Industrial Automation, delivered a deeper look at how being a part of trade associations RIA and A3 can help you ensure you’re at the forefront of emerging technology, business opportunities and new markets.

The Evolution of Cladding

ARC Specialties Vice President John Martin walked attendees through “The Evolution of Cladding,” highlighting how equipment needed to manufacture components that keep pace with the ever-evolving needs of the oil and gas industry is being designed and innovated to fulfill that purpose.

KUKA – ready2_grind

KUKA Robotics Senior Robotics Software Engineer Constantin Opreau presents the latest collaborative innovation between 3M and KUKA – the ready2_grind preconfigured robotic weld grinding system, designed to provide increased automation and efficiency in grinding applications.

Robotic Thermal Spray

ARC Specialties Project Manager Randy Ellington took the stage to give attendees an in-depth look at the processes, history, efficiency, safety and automation innovations in the thermal spray process, helping them understand both how far the process has come and where it’s headed.

XIRIS: Arc Monitoring with Real-Time Dimensional Data

XIRIS Automation Product Manager Greg Cooke examines how real-time dimensional data elevates arc video monitoring, diving into how users can make applications with XIRIS cameras for OEM and research use cases and more.

Robotic Machining, Sanding & Surgery

ARC Specialties Control System Programmer Kevin Sevcik presents not only the current aspects of robotic automation that are innovating the way finishing is done and providing unmatched manufacturing benefits, but a cutting-edge endeavor from the company – robotic surgery.

3M: Automated Material Removal & Media Selection

3M Advanced Application Engineer Tyler Naatz enlightens his audience about how they can correctly choose an abrasive product solution that meets their unique process needs, outlining how 3M’s solutions deliver benefits throughout the automation process.

FANUC: Collaborative Robotics

FANUC America Senior District Manager Matt Gresens provides an overview of the world of collaborative robots before taking a deeper look at the six different models offered by FANUC, which range from 4-35 kg in payload and 550-1,813 mm in reach.

Look Ma, NO HANDS!

The continuing saga of Coping with COVID 2020

The ARC Specialties “open door” policy of blocking all the doors open to avoid touching doorknobs worked well……. until the Houston summer heat made it unbearable. So we had to escalate. Our guys made and installed some foot-operated, hands-free door openers so now we can avoid door knobs AND run the air conditioners too.

As the COVID pandemic drags on we continue to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

Keeping America Working!

Dan Allford


New Hire John Stoll



[HOUSTON, TEXAS, April 22—] We are pleased to announce the recent hiring of John Stoll to the position of outside sales application engineering representative. John comes to us from voelstalpine Bohler North America, where for five years, he served as an application engineer and strategic accounts manager. This is preceded by his 27 years of service with Lincoln Electric Metrode Products Ltd. from which he retired with the last 5 years as the North American Manager of Alloys.


He is a member of NACE, a life member of AWS with 40+ years of continuous service and a past AWS District 18 Director. He was elected and served on the Executive Committee of the AWS Board of Directors in 2016. He is also a member of ASME, and serves on several API committees, including A582 and A934G. He has served on the advisory boards for both San Jacinto College and Tulsa Welding School (Houston campus). He has been a judge for the Houston Livestock Show’s Ag-Mechanics contest for the past 20 years and continues to do so.


He has developed, produced, and conducted at least two Welding Symposiums per year, for the past 15 years, for the greater Gulf Coast area. In addition to the educational aspect, these conferences have allowed QA/QC management, Welding Engineers, and Sr. Welding personnel a chance to meet and discuss common industry challenges. These Symposiums have included some of our industry’s leading authorities sharing their experience and wisdom pertaining to the betterment of our welding industry. As a bonus, PDH credit hours have been awarded to the participants.

Just Truss Me: Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing

We decided to build a truss to see just how strong Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) built aluminum parts really are. Mike Willey created a truss design and used FEA to estimate that it would support over 1000 lbs. Kevin Sevcik then imported the model into Robotmaster offline programming software to create the robot path. Then using Lincoln Electric R350 Power Wave with Advanced Module running in AC pulse mode Jim Walker built a 5356 aluminum truss using the ARC-06 robot in our laboratory. Total build time was around 3 hours and for an 8 pound part. Finally, we tested the part in our own special Texan way to over 1,200 pounds WITHOUT FAILURE.

Watch the video for the whole story:

ARC Specialties thrives on problems, send us yours!