Changes In Robotics for 2021

As the world reopens, the accelerated pace of automation will likely not only pick back up in the United States – it could begin to move even faster.

Robots, which have long filled a niche in America in taking on more complex tasks, may actually begin to be leveraged more often for the dull, dirty, and dangerous. Robots have always been capable of performing simple, previously manual tasks more consistently and effectively than humans, but these jobs will need to return to the forefront for America to catch back up in the world of manufacturing and allow humans to focus on innovating.

Dan Allford, President of ARC Specialties, said the pandemic and the ensuing shutdown has allowed companies across the U.S. to see that certain strategic items really should be made at home.

That includes medical supplies, green energy solutions, such as solar power and wind energy equipment, food, automobiles, and more.

“To effectively and efficiently manufacture this stuff, you need robots,” Allford said. “Robots are just another labor-saving device. In America, if we want to maintain the standard of living that we’ve grown to enjoy, we must be more efficient than the lower-wage economies of the world.

“And one way to do that is with machines and robots.”

Electrons are Cheaper than Photons (by the watt)

plasma welding overlay

My first job was in the Hughes welding research lab and I loved it. But my lab experience started as a youngster going to my mom’s radiation mutation genetics lab at UT Austin. My job was pipetting mutated drosophila (moving fruit flies from one test tube to another by sucking them up in a straw). Laboratories are in my blood.

We built our lab at ARC Specialties years ago so we could determine project feasibility and optimize process parameters BEFORE we build a machine.

In our lab, we have answered questions such as can you weld MoRe? Pure Tungsten? Make bullet-resistant coatings on Ti? Clad pipe 40′ deep? Use ESW for additive? Create wear-resistant coatings for aluminum? Maintain bond line flatness +/- .005′”? Too much fun!

This week’s challenge was to make .02″ thick metal to metal wear-resistant coatings for mud motor transmissions with a metallurgical bond, minimal cracking, and useable in the as-welded condition without a laser. With a little help from our friend Jean-Marc Tetevuide we succeeded.

If you have a manufacturing problem you would like for the ARC team to investigate contact me. If it is interesting we won’t even charge you!

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

– Dan Allford

Be Narrow Minded


I’m a long time advocate of narrow gap welding. The advantages are tremendous, but the challenges are too. A 5″ thick standard V Butt weld with a 75 degree included angle has five times the weld volume of a 1″ wide 5″ Square Butt. This means a narrow gap joint would have five times less weld wire, five times less arc time, much less distortion. And fewer defects because every inch of weld that you don’t make is an inch you don’t have to inspect and possibly repair.

Why isn’t narrow gap the standard technique for welding heavy sections? Because the technical challenges of welding vertical walls in confined spaces are huge. For good sidewall fusion, the arc must impinge on the walls. Otherwise, you risk lack of fusion defects at the bond line. Our new Narrow Gap Hot Wire Torch features a servo tungsten electrode oscillator to point directly at the sidewall. That is only half the battle. The wire must follow the tungsten. We did just that using a second independent servo this allows us full control of arc and the filler wire position. Finally, we use our HOT ONE AC constant voltage hotwire system to double the deposition rate, which cuts weld time in half.

To see a video including Xiris Automation Inc. arc monitoring click:

The Engineer & Gentleman We Should All Strive to Be

Ron Whitman, Welding Engineer LeTourneau University 1956 passed away last year and we miss him. He was the most inspiring teacher I have ever known. My success is due in no small part to the knowledge and passion he instilled in me. To honor Ron, we created an endowed scholarship in his name. The American Welding Society matched and administrates the Ron Whitman scholarship which is awarded each year to a LeTourneau University student enrolled in the joining program. Ron wrote the criteria for applicants which stresses hands-on welding skills. You can’t engineer what you can’t do yourself. This year’s recipient is Kendra Murphy a rising Junior. After reading her application, I feel sure that Kendra is precisely the type of student that Ron would have wanted the scholarship to go to. She should be graduating in 2021 and I expect great things from her.

Dan Allford
#scholarships #letourneauuniversity #americanweldingsociety #aws #weldingengineer

Robots VS Robotic Systems


In my 40 years as a roboticist, I have seen robots become simpler, cheaper, and more capable. They have evolved to the point of nearly being a commodity. But a robot needs tooling, software, fixturing, and ancillary process equipment to become a good robotic system. The process is called system integration, and a whole industry exists to handle it. Poor integration creates most robot system problems. I contend that the biggest use of robots in the world is dust collection. The robot fails to perform, and the system is moved to the back of the shop to collect dust. After end users have one of these experiences, I have to explain that it was the integrator, not the robot, which failed. I recommend that before you buy any robotic system, you do two things. First, make sure your integrator is certified by Robotic Industries Association see: Second, check references and ask to see similar systems in operation in the real world.

We are currently retrofitting three robots we removed from failed systems purchased elsewhere. We appreciate the work, but it is better and cheaper to do it right the first time.


It Depends


Is the answer I dread when I ask a technical question. Unfortunately when customers ask: “How accurate can you plasma cut parts with a robot?” I reply: “It depends”.

Recently we were asked to cut 1.575″ (40mm) holes in 3/16″ plate with a circularity of +/-.005″. This is a tight tolerance for plasma. Normally we would have recommended laser cutting. But I tell people that a watt of electrons is much cheaper than a watt of photons. Plasma has a number of advantages over laser: system cost, power efficiency, maintenance costs, and safety.

So we went to the lab to explore the limits of robotic plasma cutting. What made this project unique and doable was the fact that hole position tolerances were achievable. Our challenge was hole shape and size. We used a Hypertherm XPR300 High Definition Plasma and a KUKA North America robot. Jim Walker & David Luce programmed the cut in small segments to optimize torch path and cutting parameters and cut holes +/-.005″.

BUT your part accuracy depends on many variables. In the video, I stick out my neck and QUANTIFY best, worse and typical effects of 7 issues on part dimensions. This should start an argument!

ARC Specialties thrives on problems, send us yours!

Recovery Through Commerce


During the last two months of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing shutdown, ARC Specialties has continued to work to build the machines necessary for the critical infrastructure of America.

As I walked through the shop today, I was proud to see my team working on an interesting array of systems.

Most folks think of MIG when they think of robotic welding. At ARC, we consider all welding processes and match the solution to the problem rather than the other way around.

Currently, we are finishing up MIG, TIG, Subarc, resistance, drawn arc stud, laser and plasma welding robots, as well as diamond valve lapping and thermal spray systems. All of these innovative solutions are designed to provide highly tailored growth and success instead of pushing a tired, “one-size-fits-all” approach to unique operational needs.

I suspect that the tough economic environment we currently find ourselves in is the reason we are rebuilding three failed systems that were originally built by others.

We like the work, but we hate to see the customer have to pay twice.

This is yet another reason I am a huge advocate for the Robotic Industries Association Certified Integrator program, which ensures you can be confident an integrator has high-level capabilities regarding delivering safe, reliable and high-quality robotic solutions.

I am happy to report that ARC has not experienced any order cancellations. Our backlog is going up, and America is getting back to work. It’s an exciting time to be doing business, and we’re ready to keep pace.

If you would like to become more efficient and competitive, contact us today.

At ARC Specialties, we thrive on problems. Send us yours!

To view our video please see my recent post on LinkedIn.

Dan Allford, President, ARC Specialties

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!

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!

Shipping Machines to Essential Infrastructure Manufacturers


Today we shipped a large turbine repair welding system, an essential part of the Energy sector of our Critical Infrastructure. I want to thank Project Manager John Martin and all the ARC staff who designed, built, and programmed this system. I would also like to thank our customers, who make and distribute the food, goods, and energy consumed by Americans. Without you; Americans and the US economy would suffer.

We cannot work from home and build the robots or turbines that our fellow Americans rely on to keep America working. What we can do is continue to observe CDC guidelines by promoting good hygiene and social distancing.

Let’s stay well, stay smart, and keep working.