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Welding & Gases At The 2012 London Olympics

Friday, July 27th, 2012

As the opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics gets underway this evening, the world of gases and welding will be front and center in two of the games’ most anticipated and iconic elements—the Olympic torch and the Olympic Stadium. Hydrogen vehicles also play an interesting role in the 2012 London Olympics.

London's Olympic Stadium

London's Olympic Stadium is 75% lighter than previous Olympic venues, thanks to the use of lightweight steel.

The Olympic Stadium
In years past, Olympic venues have been designed as monuments, something to remember for years to come. Take the Beijing National Stadium built for the 2008 Olympic games (the Bird’s Nest, as it has come to be known). The stadium with its whimsical steel frame—and 45,000 tons of steel in all—will no doubt be remembered. But the dig on Olympic venues is that they often serve little function after the games.

With this in mind, London’s Olympic Stadium looks to make a very different kind of statement than those of years past. During the 2012 games, the Olympic Stadium will seat 80,000 people. 55,000 of those seats are temporary. After the games, the stadium will be partly disassembled to create a smaller 25,000 seat venue. In fact, the builders didn’t even bother to cover the bolts used to hold the steel together, knowing that they will eventually be removed.

One of the keys to creating a stadium that could be transformed was the use of lightweight steel. In total, the Olympic Stadium contains just over 11,000 tons of steel (a far cry from Beijing’s 45,000), making it the lightest stadium in the world at this size. Also of note is the fact that the top ring of the stadium was built using 2,500 tons of reclaimed surplus gas pipes from the North Sea Gas Pipeline project.

The Olympic Orbit

The ArcellorMittal Orbit includes steel from five contintents.

As with any stadium construction, the Olympic Stadium relied on skilled welders to join the lightweight steel. One welder left his mark—and a good-luck charm for his home country—by welding a series of horseshoes that resemble the Olympic rings into the stadium’s roof. You can read more about how Construction Manager Steve Burley welded his creation 120 feet up on a pillar here.

Elsewhere in the Olympic Park, the Aquatics Centre (where swimming events will be held) stands out with its 525-foot-long wave-shaped steel roof, which rests on just three supports.

One of the most distinctive buildings at the 2012 London Olympics is the Orbit (officially the ArcellorMittal Orbit), an observation deck that doubles as a piece of public art. ArcellorMittal donated all of the steel for the project, sourcing the supplies from five different continents (including North America) in the global spirit of the Olympics. Just over 2,400 tons of steel were used in its construction, including 60% recycled steel.

The Olympic Torch
Arguably the most iconic symbol of the Olympics, this year’s Olympic torch is made from a special aluminum alloy originally developed for the aerospace and automotive industries. The alloy’s characteristics make it heat resistant, lightweight and strong.

The torch has a unique triangular design incorporating a complex pattern of 8,000 holes (representing the 8,000 people who carried the torch on its journey from Olympia, Greece, to London). Along with their symbolic representation, the holes are functional. One of the torch’s designers, Jay Osgerby , says, “The wind moves through the torch, the perforations allow the metal to cool, and so the torch never gets hot.”

The Olympic Torch

The Olympic torch relies on laser welding and cutting processes.

In creating the torch, the holes are cut from the alloy using a numerically controlled 2D laser cutting machine. After this, the manufacturer uses 3D laser technology to weld the parts of the torch together in a smooth, seamless joint and cut additional holes in the welded areas.

As for the actual flame, the 2012 torch uses a gas mix including two-thirds propane and one-third butane. Each of the 8,000 torches used this year (yes, they use a separate torch for every runner) has enough gas to burn for 13-14 minutes, although it only takes 3-6 minutes for each carrier to travel the 300 meters (328 yards) of each leg.

Scroll down to view a video of the torch’s construction.

Hydrogen Vehicles at the Olympics
Recently it was announced that five hydrogen taxis will be used to transport VIPs in London throughout the Olympics. The fleet will refuel at London’s Heathrow airport at a new Air Products fueling station.

Meanwhile, London’s fuel cell buses, which have been running since 2009 (and recently hit the milestone of 100,000 miles driven), are being decommissioned during the Olympic due to security concerns. The Air Products hydrogen fueling station in East London used to operate the buses was originally approved in 2009 on the condition that hydrogen fuel not be stored on-site between July and mid-September of 2012.

Notably, a fleet of 20 hydrogen buses was used successfully and without incident at the 2010 winter games in Vancouver, Canada.

With or without hydrogen buses, the gases and welding industry will be well represented at the 2012 games. As promised, here is a video showing the manufacture of the Olympic Torch.

Photos: London 2012, ArcelorMittal

A Summer Of Gases And Welding

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Now that it’s officially summer, it’s a perfect time for a gases and welding road trip. It seems you can’t go anywhere without coming across the marvels of the industry, but there are some places that truly showcase the wonders of gases and welding.

One incredible wonder of welding is the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which opened in 2007. The horseshoe-shaped steel and glass walkway rises 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. Thanks to incredible engineering and the power of welding, the Skywalk can support an estimated 71 million lbs., and can withstand earthquakes up to 8.0 in magnitude.

How was such an amazing feat achieved? The Skywalk’s frame is made welded carbon steel box girders that are 2 inches thick, 6 feet long and 2.5 feet wide. 40-foot sections were shipped in and sub-arc welded on site. Ultrasonic testing was used to ensure the quality of the welds, and revealed a weld reject rate at less than 2 percent for the entire project.

Lincoln Electric has more details about the welding processes used in the construction of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which in total was built with more than 1 million pounds of steel. The man-made wonder was also featured in Welding & Gases Today, along with other amazing destinations like the new Yankee Stadium and Cedar Point. Start planning your summer vacation with “The Great Welding And Gases Road Trip.”

What destinations would you put on your gases and welding road trip? Share in the comments or on Twitter @GasWeldEdge.

Is There Really A Welder Shortage?

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Welding Jobs: Help WantedThe shortage of skilled workers has been widely reported, but one economist has challenged this notion. Iowa State University Economist Dave Swenson was quoted in the Des Moines Register as being “baloney.” Citing the fact that Iowa has recovered fewer than half of the jobs it lost in the recession, he said, “The lament about work force shortage is not substantiated to the degree that the rhetoric has gotten play.”

That article has since disappeared from the Internet, but Swenson goes on in another article to explain: “U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational data for Iowa tells us…that Iowa was employing 6,000 fewer metal workers of all kinds in 2011 than it did in 2008. How, then, do we reconcile the claim that industry cannot find enough skilled metalworkers when it appears there are thousands of previously employed metalworkers still idle? Did they all retire?”

Interestingly, he’s not the only one to notice that there are fewer welders and other skilled workers employed in the past few years than there were prior to the recession. The State Of The Welding Industry notedly reported a projected need for almost 250,000 additional welders by 2019. But the executive summary states outright: “The results of a thorough examination of the labor market needs of the welding industry are somewhat deceptive, as they show a decline in the overall number of welding personnel from the period of 2002-2009. However, during that time there were consistently needs in different regions throughout the U.S. for up to 10% of the overall welding professionals to be replaced, predominantly due to retirements.”

I wanted to take it a step further to ask those who know first-hand. Putting the question out to welding industry professionals in Welding & Gases Today’s LinkedIn group, I asked, “Is there really a welder shortage?”

“I have been involved in welding for over 50 years at every level from entry to president. There has been a chronic shortage of skilled welders that entire time,” says Bryant Reed, partner at Advanced Welding Sales.

Sam Mangialardi at Praxair responds, “Speaking to customers and listening to the lack of ‘qualified welders’ is a concern now. The basic qualifications can be met, but as the jobs become more detailed, the lack of skill learned in the schools limit the welder’s capabilities to perform.”

The overwhelming response from distributors, manufacturers, welders and instructors is that there are not enough welders with the skills needed for current jobs.

Scott Laslo, instructor at Columbus State Community College sums up the situation nicely. “As a Welding educator of 7 years and a ‘welder’ for the past 18, I can say that as a society we are tackling a mountain…As a nation, we need to decide if our kids are allowed to get dirty and be respected for doing it.”

Respondents agree that it will take a village—or at least an industry—to bring about change. What do you see as the role of the welding distributor in this situation?

See the entire discussion and share your opinion in the LinkedIn Group here.

The Poetry Of Welding

Friday, April 6th, 2012
Welding Rodeo Art

Welding and art are a great combination, shown here at the Welding Rodeo.

As I mentioned in my last post, April is celebrated at National Welding Month. April, as it happens, is also National Poetry Month.

On the surface, the two crafts are very different, but when you look a little deeper, there are quite a few similarities. Both welding and poetry are used to create. Sometimes these creations can be artistic. Welding has taken off in the art world, as evidenced by welding sculpture competitions like the Welding Rodeo. But poetry and welding also provide the tools on which nations are built. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a perfect example of a poem of influence and historical significance.

The two crafts likewise take skill, training and lots of practice to master. In each, there are many forms. Welding has GMAW (MIG), GTAW (TIG), SMAW (stick) and others, along with newer forms such as ultrasonic welding and friction-stir welding. Poetry has haiku, sonnets, ballads and a variety of traditional and experimental forms.

Finally, welding and poetry rely heavily on advocates of the craft to ensure future longevity. It might be a welding supplier’s efforts that get a young student involved in welding—or it might be a poem that does the trick. I’ve compiled a few poems here that mention welding and illustrate its importance.

Poet Ed Lahey has been called the greatest poet Montana has produced. He was known for writing about miners and other workers, giving a voice to the state’s labor force. He gave voice to a welder in his poem “Gimp O’Leary’s Iron Works”:

“His arc welder would strike
white fire and a bead
of blue-black rod would slide
along between cherry streaks,
and acrid smoke would curl away
to leave clean married steel,
not too frail, or buttered up
but straight and strong,
hard as mill forged rail.”

You can read more from this poem here, beginning on page 101.

Some other welding-related poems to check out are “Arc Welding” by Australian Poet Philip Hodgins and “Vulcan” by George Oppen.

In the past, I’ve looked at movies that involve gases and welding. Indeed, art is a great way to promote the industry. Do you know any other examples of art that promote welding and gases? Share in the comments below or on Twitter @GasWeldEdge.

April Is National Welding Month

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

National Welding Month is upon us. As explained in a 1996 AWS press release, “The reason why April is listed as National Welding Month by Chase’s Edition of Events, a recognized calendar of commemorations, is because welding is the secret ingredient that keeps today’s world together.” It goes on to say that welding is in everyday things, from cars to toasters, as well as more extraordinary things: “Welding has taken us to the moon and back, produced monuments of steel where we work and live, defended us in war and has been integral in modern research—from connecting computer pathways to bonding space age materials.”

Welding Greeting Card

Happy Welding!via Funkart on Zazzle

Of course, National Welding Month was not created so that members of the welding industry could pat themselves on the back and talk about how great welding is. Those in the industry already know about the “wonders” of welding. National Welding Month is about education and encouragement—informing people about the industry and getting them involved.

How does one go about celebrating National Welding Month? As Helium.com contributor Janet Cipolli astutely observes, “You almost never see any ‘Happy Welding!’ or ‘During This Time of Annealing’ greeting cards.” Hmm…I’m sensing a new market for distributors here.

Working with school welding programs is one great way to promote National Welding Month this April. GAWDA President Bryan Keen and Keen Compressed Gas (Wilmington, DE) made a difference for students at one lucky school by giving them a welding lab makeover. Other GAWDA members will be stepping up to the “Paint A Vo-Tech” challenge throughout the month.

In the video below, 2012 AWS President Bill Rice says, “It is my goal to make national welding month a time for everyone to recognize the contributions to our lives and to our future generations.” He adds, “National welding month is a time to tell everyone what you do and what opportunities are available.”

What are you doing this April to commemorate National Welding Month? Share by leaving a comment or tweeting @GasWeldEdge.

Transportation Infrastructure Shows Promise

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Bridges and Transportation InfrastructureOn the official blog of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, there were multiple posts recently pointing to positive signs for gases and welding distributors. In a recent entry “The road to an America built to last,” LaHood writes:

If we want an economy that’s built to last, it must run on the wheels of a transportation system that’s built to last. We need to fix our roads and bridges; where it makes sense, we need to expand roads, rails, and runways…We have a lot of work to do, and—from engineers to heavy equipment operators to flagmen—we have Americans ready to do it.

The bottom line is that infrastructure—especially bridges—relies on gases and welding. The fact that this is a focus for DOT is a positive sign for gases and welding distributors.

High Speed RailIn another post entitled “High-speed rail is essential for economic growth and opportunity,” he says, “High-speed rail will transform American transportation for generations to come. And I’m excited to see this program take shape.” Distributors should be excited about high speed rail, too, because it means more work for their customers, particularly with the manufacture and repair of rail cars. LaHood explains that President Obama’s latest budget proposal includes a $47 billion investment in a high-speed passenger rail network over the next six years.

Are you seeing a rebound in these markets in your area? What markets do you expect to drive growth in 2012?

You Can’t Have A Super Bowl Without Gases And Welding

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Welding makes it possible for fans to stay warm in Indy's network of skywalk-connected buildings.

This weekend, the country’s attention turns to football. And with it, it’s a perfect time to recognize the gases and welding hard at work behind the scenes of the Super Bowl. As the title says, you can’t have a Super Bowl without gases and welding. Even if you could, why would you want to?

The game is being hosted in Indianapolis this year, and in February, that means it’s going to be cold. Thanks to propane supplied by Ferrell Gas Company, local fans will be able to keep warm. Tents are going up all over downtown Indy, and the Office of Code Enforcement is requiring that they be heated for safety reasons. The Super Bowl committee uses propane because it burns clean, with low odor and emissions, and it’s not affected if the power goes out.

Fans staying in any of the 4,700-plus hotel rooms connected to the Indiana Convention Center, on the other hand, can thank their warmth to welding. That’s because those fans will never have to walk outside to get to the game. The ICC is connected to Lucas Oil Stadium by climate-controlled pedestrian walkways (pictured at right). Judging from the pictures, strong welds are definitely key to supporting these steel-and-glass skywalks.

Within Lucas Oil Stadium, where the game will be played, there are 16,000 tons of steel. The stadium has a first-of-its kind SuperFrame Structural System with a unique two-panel moving roof design. The roof itself is supported on five rails. Also, the stadium, which normally has 63,000, has boosted its capacity to 70,000 for Super Bowl XLVI. Sounds like a lot of welding to me.

Of course, gases are at work throughout the game, whether it’s helium balloons, medical oxygen on the sidelines or carbon dioxide making sure fans’ drinks are nice and foamy. GAWDA member Cyl-Tec designed and installed the entire nine tank cryogenic CO2 beverage system within Lucas Oil Stadium. The system stores pressurized, liquefied gas, with a high capacity for vaporization that allows more gas per volume.

Photo Courtesy James Smith/Dallas Cowboy

Dallas Cowboys Stadium hosted the Super Bowl in 2011 with over 165,000 ft. of welding.

Finally, if you’re in town for the game and you’re in the mood for a steak, it turns out Indy offers a venue unlike any other. Dunaway’s Palazzo Ossigeno (“Oxygen Building” in Italian) is housed in a building formerly used for the manufacture of bottled oxygen and hydrogen up until 1991. The Indiana Oxygen Building, as it is known, was built in 1930 by the GAWDA member of the same name. No word on whether knowing the building’s former owners can help you get a reservation.

Also, for recommended reading, be sure to check out “Gases And Welding In The Big Game,” which talks about how welding and gases were at work in last year’s Super Bowl—starting with the fact that the host stadium’s arches alone have over 165,000 ft. of welding.

Welding Returns To Hollywood

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Every so often welding and gases make their way onto the big screen. Last year, we wrote about the robotic welding arm that figures prominently in Iron Man and its sequel, Iron Man 2, in “Welding Goes Hollywood.” Brian Simons, a robotic programmer with Lincoln’s Automation Application Group, talked about the challenge of programming the robotic arm on the fly. “There wasn’t necessarily a detailed plan as to what the welder would be doing in each scene. Most of it was done on the fly,” he says.

World Robot Boxing - Start Welding!Once again welding is back on the big screen. This time there are industry connections to at least two movies in theaters. First, Lincoln Electric teamed up with Picture Car Warehouse for the restoration and fabrication of the muscle cars used in the move Drive. The company has an inventory of hundreds of vehicles that it provides for commercials, TV shows and movies.

Next, just about any time you have robots, you have welding. When you have boxing robots, you definitely have welding. Since the upcoming movie Real Steel is in fact about boxing robots, you can bet some welding was used. Currently, the movie has a website for World Robot Boxing at www.wrb.com where you can design and build your own virtual robot. I admit I was excited when I clicked build and saw the button that says “Start Welding!” Despite the promise, I did not get to do any welding on the subsequent page. No word as to whether there will be actual welding in the movie either.

Of course, after welding helped create the amazing cars and robots used these movies, respectively, both of these films seem to have a common thread in the destruction of these creations.

Question of the Day: What’s your favorite gases and welding Hollywood moment?

Honoring The Welding Labor Force

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

In honor of Labor Day, I want to pay tribute to America’s labor force. In the original proposal for the holiday, it called for a parade to exhibit the strength and spirit of trade and labor organizations, followed by a festival for workers and their families. These days, the celebration tends to involve football and NASCAR. At least for a moment this weekend, let us remember the spirit of the holiday.

Welders are a very important part of the American work force. Recently, Welding & Gases Today looked at the shortage of welders in the work force in Building The Customer Of The Future. In the article, we looked at how distributors can help bridge that gap by not only recruiting welders, but making sure they have the necessary skills.

Gases and welding distributors are in a very powerful position. Because of their role, distributors have regular access to both manufacturers and end-users. From manufacturers, they can learn about the latest processes and technology. The ability to highlight new technologies shows students that welding is no long all about manual labor. With things like robotic welding, laser welding, virtual welding, friction stir welding, the game has changed—and yet perceptions have not.

On the end-user side, distributors can find out what skills are needed from working with customers. For example, pipeline welding may requires a different set of skills than a welder working in a manufacturing plant. Many distributors already have a hand in helping local schools. Getting involved in curriculum development only makes the distributor that much more of an asset to that school.

With all this combined, distributors are a critical piece of the puzzle in getting the welding work force where it needs to be. Now let’s remember, no white welding gear after labor day.

Distributors Go Back To School

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Students compete at Ozarc's Weld-A-ThonAt the Spring Management Conference, GAWDA President Lloyd Robinson emphasized the impact generated when distributors partner with schools. “We have a tendency in today’s economic environment to get bogged down with the bottom line and forget about what is really important,” says Robinson.

I’ve spoken to several distributors who have worked with schools in a variety of ways, the latest just a few weeks ago. Ozarc Gas held its 2nd Annual Weld-A-Thon event, which combined a welding competition and job fair into one. Nick Garner, sales rep at Ozarc and Weld-A-Thon organizer, says the job fair was added this year to help students understand the breadth of welding as a career. “They get to see that it’s not just manual welding, but also things like robotics and virtual training,” he says.

Students compete at Ozarc's Weld-A-ThonAccording to the AWS Foundation, the welding industry is expected to have some 238,000 new jobs by 2019, and nowhere near enough welders to fill the positions for welders, welding technicians, welding engineers and welding inspectors. Events like Ozarc Gas’ Weld-A-Thon play an important role in getting young people involved in welding. As Garner says, it’s important for students to see what welding really is—and how pervasive it is. And it doesn’t hurt to get them excited about welding with a little fun competition.

To find out the keys to getting involved with schools, be sure to check out “Back To School,” where 3 distributors dish on how to get the most out of school partnerships.

How is your company partnering with schools? Share by leaving a comment below.