Orbital welding is a method of joining two objects together under a high level of heat. In traditional welding, users manually rotate the arc, or heat source, around the objects. With an orbital welding machine, the arc automatically rotates 360-degrees around the objects to create a smooth, even joint. This process results in very clean welds with little room for user error.
In order to utilize orbital welding techniques, workers need special equipment, including a power supply and control system. A special orbital welding head connects to the power supply using flexible tubing or piping. These heads feature a built-in clamp that locks around the object being welded, as well as a built-in motor to rotate the electrode around the object. This electrode remains hidden within the head throughout the entire orbital welding procedure.
This process often requires a non-consumable electrode, which means that the electrode itself doesn't melt to create the weld. Instead, the electrode produces sufficient heat to melt the edges of the metal object to one another, forming a permanent bond. In this type of application, the welder relies on tungsten inert gas (TIG) rather than a standard welding rod. Orbital welding projects that require a consumable electrode often utilize a wire feeder to supply metal wire to the welding arc.
One of the primary advantages to this type of welding is that it takes away much of the risk of human error to produce a consistent, high-quality weld. Once the welding head is locked around the object, the electrode is guided automatically through the process. While it can be difficult for humans to maintain even distance when welding around an object, these welding heads move the electrode around the object in a constant, circular pattern. With no consumable electrode required on most projects, orbital welding also results in a very clean, splatter-free bond.
The clean bond created by orbital welding equipment makes this technique very popular in clean room applications. This includes food processing, laboratory work, and even nuclear welding projects. Orbital techniques may also be used in standard pipe welding within homes or businesses.
Welders who wish to utilize this technique must carry a large selection of welding heads to accommodate objects of varying sizes. Orbital techniques can only be applied when the right size welding head is available to fit around each object. This may require a substantial upfront investment from companies in order to secure a large section of welding head sizes.