Joining hunt for a better weld

(Edmonton) A new federal funding program will help the University of Alberta’s Canadian Centre for Welding and Joining explore new technologies to keep Canadian manufacturers competitive in the worldwide competition to supply oilsands developers with the machinery and services they require.

The $1.5-million Alberta Metal Fab Innovation Program, funded by Western Economic Diversification, was announced Oct. 13.

The U of A’s Centre for Welding and Joining was set up last year and operates as part of the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. The centre’s focus is on the science behind welding and finding new efficiencies for the industry.

Associate professor Patricio Mendez, director of the welding centre, says the importance of innovation for the industry can’t be overstated. “There’s a shortage of skilled welders in Western Canada so, with this funding, we will test the newest joining equipment and welding techniques to help companies keep up with the workload and invest in the best emerging technologies that suit their particular needs.”

The oilsands has a big appetite for fabricated metal and machinery, he said.
“The oilsands are an extremely abrasive environment. Everything�from the giant scoops that do the digging, the heavy dump trucks that carry the loads and the specialty metal alloys that are used in the processing plants�wears out and require specialty welding equipment to repair and replace them.”

The goal of program also includes helping Canadian companies expand their services. “Not only do companies have to make better welds with the newest equipment, but also they have to work on new metals that they’ve never worked with before and do it at a competitive price,” said Mendez.

To help busy small and medium manufacturers adapt to new welding and joining technologies the program buys new equipment that Mendez and his U of A students put to the test.

“We go beyond the sales and marketing information provided by the makers of welding equipment,” said Mendez. “Welding firms need engineering information about a new piece of equipment; they need to know if it will work for them on the metals they use and in the conditions in which they operate.”