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OTC Welding Students Enhance Skills in Virtual Reality

Welding department demonstrates new equipment to OTC staff

The Okefenokee Technical College welding department has enjoyed a great deal of attention recently as curious faculty and staff members have dropped by the classroom to see the VRTEX 360. Welding students and instructors have been more than eager to show them how the virtual reality welding trainer works. In fact, the students prefer to call the machine a “toy,” rather than an educational tool.

The reality, though, is that the VRTEX 360 by VR Sims and Lincoln Electric is an educational tool that creates a realistic simulation of welding in a variety of welding settings or scenarios using different materials and various positions. A welding student uses the virtual reality simulator in the classroom while the instructor, and occasionally other students, watches the progress on a screen that shows what the student is seeing through VR-goggles. Some of the settings programed in the trainer include a racecar shop, construction site industrial facility, and military site, complete with M16s, gunfire and other distractions. Students see all the details normally associated with the setting.

Although it is fun to use and ecofriendly, the trainer was mainly purchased because it helps students learn proper body position, gun angles and position, travel speeds, and welding techniques and because it promotes the transfer of skills from the virtual training environment to the weld booth. Through immediate and continuous feedback to the welder and the instructor or observer, the simulator accelerates the learning process.

“What I love,” stated Furman “is that it gives me the ability to check for discontinuities and defects in the weldment. Students can complete the gas welding flux core and shield metal arc welding processes on the simulator, and it will graph work angles, travel angles, contact to work distance, welder aim, and welding speed, among other things. Discontinuities are drawn on the graph in line with the weld so that I know exactly where they occurred. As a result, I can use the graph to show students how they can improve the weld. That’s just one example of the simulator’s tracking capabilities.”

“Students are required to program the machine in the same way they have to program for welds in the booth,” continued Furman.  “Another neat feature of the trainer is that students can conduct a bend test and get immediate results. The machine comes complete with a virtual reality welder certification, as well.”

“For most students,” stated Furman, “it’s a lot more exciting than the traditional lab. Part of the fun of the simulator is the competition it generates. Students earn a score, and they all begin to compete for the highest score.”

The VRTEX 360 rates the student’s performance according to American Welding Society (AWS) guidelines, gives the welder a numerical weld score, and keeps detailed records on all students who train on the machine.
Finally, the simulator makes the welding program leaner, more efficient, and ecofriendly by reducing the cost of materials needed for class. Students can practice basic skills and more advanced techniques using the simulator before trying them out in a live welding exercise, thus reducing the amount of materials used, reducing gas emissions and waste products generated by welding classes, and consuming fewer resources.

 “You’re using just an eighth of the electricity compared to what’s used in the welding booth,” explained Furman. “There’s no metal, no gas, no oxygen, no alloy fumes. The student can’t get burned; therefore, it’s safer, as well.”

Additional information about the simulator can be found online at www.vrtex360.com. For information about the OTC welding program, contact Doug Furman or Ryan Deal at dfurman@okefenokeetech.edu or (912) 287-5853.

Doug Furman and Ryan Deal

OTC instructors Doug Furman (right) and Ryan Deal demonstrate the capability of the VRTEX 360, a virtual reality welding trainer. They invite the public to use the welding simulator at the Waycross Exchange Club fairgrounds during the week of the Okefenokee Agricultural Fair in November. The welding department will demo the trainer at OTC’s fair booth.  

Joey Coombs

Joey Coombs, an OTC welding student, listens intently as his instructor critiques his weld. “That’s a perfect weld right there,” stated Furman, pointing to the screen where we see Joey’s weld. “With this technology, the instructor can set the screen on the instructor view or the welder view,” explained Furman. “I can look at the weld. If I want to inspect it, I can zoom in, pan, or rotate the weld.  Perfect finish, Joey.” 

Doug Furman

The VRTEX360 creates a realistic simulation of welding in a variety of settings or welding scenarios. The welder, Joey Coombs, wears a standard-looking welding helmet with a special eyepiece that allows him to see all the details normally associated with the setting.

Doug Furman

“With this machine, you (referring to instructors) can get a view that you don’t normally get in the booth,” stated Furman. “I can’t see the welder’s view in the booth. With the trainer, I get information that I don’t normally get. I can see what he sees. With this ability, I can critique the welder’s body profile, body geometry, the weld, and the geometry of the weld. Then I can suggest adjustments that improve the weld and the welder.”

Shannon Herrin

Shannon Herrin displays his before and after welds. The weld on the left was completed in the welding lab before training on the simulator. One of his instructors suggested that he try the weld on the simulator to determine how to improvement the weld. Using the graphs and profiles from the trainer, Shannon’s instructors determined the problem. Shannon couldn’t see the left side of the weldment because of the angle of his body. Based on the guidelines from the machine, Deal and Furman suggested that Shannon move over 6 inches on the next pass. The result was a perfect weld. After completing the weld correctly just once on the machine, Shannon “nailed it” in the booth (right plate).  “The simulator gives the instructor the ability to see what the student sees,” stated Furman. “The error Shannon was making is not easy to see in the welding booth because I can’t see what the welder is seeing, but with this technology, Ryan and I could see the problem right away. What makes this machine so special is that after using it to make a correct weld, the student knows what it feels like with his muscle memory, sees where he needs to place everything with his eyes, and knows where he needs to place his body.”


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