Penn College Welding Programs Add High-Tech Equipment

Published 02.28.2000


With the addition of a lightning-quick welding robot and a precision, computer-controlled cutting system, students in the welding programs at Pennsylvania College of Technology are getting hands-on instruction with some of the most "cutting-edge" equipment available in the industry.

The School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at the College recently added a Fanuc robot, distributed by the Lincoln Electric Co., Cleveland, and a computer numerical control shape-cutting unit, made by C&G Systems, Inc. of Itasca, Ill, a division of Thermadyne Holdings Corp., St. Louis.

The welding robot, known as the "ARC Mate 100i," was purchased from Lincoln Electric at one-half the retail price, due to the Lincoln Electric Co. Foundation's support of welding education.

The CNC shape-cutting unit, known as the "Challenger," was acquired with grant funds, said Donald O. Praster, assistant dean of the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies.

David C. Dietrick, associate professor of welding at Penn College, said the Challenger, which comes with a controller made by the Burny Division of Cleveland Machine Controls and a powerful Pentium processor, has expanded capabilities and is more user-friendly than the unit it replaces. It uses the plasma and oxy-fuel cutting processes.

"It's top of the line," he said of the unit, which cost $92,671.

The Challenger can handle sheets of metal up to 4 feet by 8 feet, and the plasma-cutting process works on anything that conducts electricity, Dietrick added.

Accuracy is to within five one-thousandths of an inch, and the plasma-cutting process can cut 100 inches per minute of 3/8-inch steel, Dietrick said. The unit' s primary use in business would be for production lines and one-of-a-kind parts any instance in which accuracy is needed in a repetitive process, he said.

The new welding robot has the capability of operating at a rate of 4,000 inches per minute, said James W. Fox, assistant professor of welding and head of the Welding Department at Penn College. The top speed of the unit that it supplants is 1,181 inches per minute.

"This new robot moves incredibly fast," he said recently as he demonstrated the capabilities of the new unit at the Avco-Lycoming Metal Trades Center.

As with the shape-cutting unit, a number of safety elements have been incorporated, including sensor mats that will shut down the unit if someone has ventured too close while the robot is operating.

The robot differs from the shape-cutting unit in that its processes are controlled by a hand-held "teach pendant." The computer that controls the shape-cutting system is mounted directly on that unit.

The welding robot is a six-axis unit that's best suited for "mid-volume production," according to Fox.

"It's a multifunctional manipulator. It's capable of doing a lot of different things," he said.

Fox said students in the welding programs have become more computer-savvy and more adept at programming in recent years, a necessity, given the increasing role computers play in today' s welding industry.

Penn College has the largest educational welding laboratory in the state, and it boasts a virtual 100-percent placement rate for graduates of its welding programs (bachelor's degree, associate's degree and certificate).