Comment on Welding – semi-robotic, solar system colonization, contract work in vacuum, atomic fuels
Thanks for the site!! Some good advice here.
There are lots of options for making intelligent tools for human welders, rather than completely replacing them with robots. Have you run across this yet?
For instance, I came to your site from a search “welding” (“current” OR “amperes”) “sticky” looking for the physics and mathematics behind the tension in arcs and currents. I think it could be very useful, and I have a rough idea how to measure and quantify it. Yours was one of the first listings on Google.
But, when I started reading, I see two things. One, every new welder is supposed to learn it just by eyeball and human senses. I will continue with my Internet review of this topic. But I think I am mostly correct. A person wants to learn welding, they find the tools and things eventually and they are faced, them – the current source – and the thing they are supposed to weld or cut or shape. Man and nature. Bare human senses.
But what about a multispectral camera to focus on the work? Look at the screen at whatever convenient magnification, then work that way. When I was growing up, the cool thing was waldo’s, those hand operated controls to move radioactive parts and small things inside a radiation proof cell. Staring through a thick lead glass shield. My point is there are possibly cameras that could help. They are so small one could be mounted on the rod or head-mounted (face guard? I cannot remember the name just now).
The robots need a way to monitor the current during the work, steady current and steady forces by a robot match the steady current and steady forces a human operator needs to give a smooth cut, or a smooth weld, or smooth bead. But the robots have help. Because someone makes a feedback control system that monitors the current, the spectrum of the light from the process, the temperature in the rod, vibrations in the rod. All these are also available to a human operator.
Do welders work together? I know that many problems in the world cannot be solved with one person. The proverbial one armed paper hanger. Folding large sheets. Carrying a stretcher. Lifting something large. But if there are only two human eyeballs to watch a weld, and two human hands to hold and guide. You see the limitations? But what about a group of fifty people assembling a large station in space or on the moon? They are not going to send hard to program and expensive robots. But they will send small, smart, hardworking, and adaptable humans. And pay them gargantuan salaries. It isn’t like NASA days anymore. Rocket hauling not exploration, bulk shipping not just a few rare and very expensive trips, tourists!, and I am betting – contract workers for difficult jobs.
I was thinking of just the problem of feeding the rod and monitoring the current and distance and forces. A stepper motor and arduino can push a rod and read data from an inertial measurement unit gathering 3 axes of acceleration, 3 gyros, 3 magnetic field measurements and temperature. Maybe you have to up the performance and use a Raspberry Pi or a Jetson Nano or any one of many small processors now. But tracking distances, moving small rods, watching the intensity and spectrum from a weld, measuring the forces — all these sorts of things are just small parts and computer software — and communities of people working together to improve their lot.
Now, I was impressed with exoskeleton robots when I was a child 60 years ago. But not they are mostly not necessary.
For about 30 years I carved stone and wood by hand. And I always found it hard to find materials, tools and anyone to talk to. So I spend a decade and helped set up a site for sculptors to help them all work together better. Now that sort of thing is easier. Just find a good website and tools and start doing it. My point though is efforts likes your are going to be limited by your time, your resources, and what you know or can find out. The people who need you the most might not even speak your language, or be in an industry you never heard of. Did you know there is a thing called “gravitational engineering” now? Probably not. But it is going to change the speed of solar system colonization dramatically in your lifetime.
I don’t have any particular purpose in writing. I like your tone and I think you truly care about your craft and the people trying to learn it. If they need tools, there are people who can make those tools. If new industries and new applications, and completely new places come up, the challenges might not be just guiding an semi-automatic welding tool – but trying to survive in harsh new environments and worlds where a small mistake can end the lives of a whole crew.
One of the many things I have seen in the last 23 years looking at all human knowledge on the internet is the fast growth in magnetic technologies. I think that in space (vacuum and weightless) welding will be displaced by switchable magnetic welds. They can make thin film magnetic materials that bind more strongly than a weld. And they need to line up precisely, so anyone doing it is going to need to know how to work through the computer with an array of sensors, monitoring algorithms, and continuously sensitive controls.
I haven’t really started on my review of “welding” and “sticky”. It affect plasmas, electrolytics, high temperature molten salts and metals, high pressure plasma arcs, sintering assembly with a range of energy sources (lasers, electron beams, particle beams, ultrasonics, electrochemical, plasma).
The combinations and possibilities are not endless. But they are far greater than most anyone has completely explored. Literally, if you can think of something that you think would be possible, it is pretty likely there are ten or a hundred thousand people around the world working on it already, or working on all the pieces – and almost always they are not working together.
So the welders have counterparts in other industries. This is good. It should mean there are lots more interesting jobs and new things for humanity to explore. But it means more planning, more collaboration, much larger industries and global efforts. I just checked and there do not seem to be any trillionaires, yet. And only a few countries and large corporation are in that range. I estimate the world will need to increase the global economy by almost a thousandfold to even begin the colonization of the solar system. That is because the larger the dream and the larger the task, the more you need to accomplish it. Did you know there are people working seriously on warp-drives? When I was in college just learning electrodynamics the equations and mathematical tools were clumsy and almost impossible to use for most practical applications. People would spend decades getting good at a tiny part of it, and then grow old and quit or die. Then later when I learned gravitational field theories, it too was clumsy and slow. But now any high school kid can go online and find Einstein field equation solvers, and electrohydrodynamic solvers for a wide range of problems and designs. There are simulators and tools to make most anything and larger and more sophisticated global online collaborative communities working to create new applications.
More importantly those communities are linked to pathways and tools and other communities. So when someone has a good idea, there are ways to test it and simulate it. If a part or computer or device needs building there are, increasingly, freelance and open communities to try things out. When something works and is useful to many people, there is crowdfunding, microinvestment and other ways to build virtual groups to make that happen.
Getting rid of brick and mortar offices makes a lot of sense. What many people might not realize is the same thing is happening to scientific and technological labs and factories.
I am getting a bit tired. I could write for two years and not scratch the surface of all I have seen in te past 23 years as Director of the Internet Foundation. The original Internet Foundation was supposed to look at why we have an Internet, and how people should and could use it for society. But that Foundation, which was supposed to be paid for by that $15 per domain per year (now with 400 Million active domains that would be $6 Billion a year). I work 12-18 hours a day, 7 days a week. I still cannot cover everything, but I try to help global communities to work together more efficiently. I try to write standards for websites and online sharing.
I like welding. I never go to do it. When I was at the point of learning, I got funneled into the “college” path and learned physics, chemistry, calculus and differential equations. My dad was working at Cape Canaveral when I started high school so everyone was working like crazy to prepare to go to the moon. And the attitude was “we can do anything we decide to do”.
Nowadays I say about all the impossible things: They are not impossible, not hard, just tedious. The conception, the decision and the direction are easy. Then you just keep doing it until it is done.
Sorry to ramble. I am thinking about a lot of things these days. I want to find the physics and electrohydrodynamics behind welding. I am pretty sure there are groups working on what I call “intermediate” materials and fuels. These are intermediate in bond energies between the roughly 10 electron volts per bond of chemical compounds, and the millions of electron volt bonds inside the nucleus. Midway are materials where the energy density is ten to a thousand times greater. To get some perspective on that, consider a three hundred foot tank of fuel for those moon and mars rockets and think about four inches instead. There are more efficiencies when you have that much fuel capability in a small package and weight. But it helps me to think in concrete terms. Three hundred feet of tank or four inches. When people get to Mars and the moon, there is lots of oxygen there in the soils and rocks and dust. It has to be melted and separated, but you get oxygen and useful metals. My bet is people won’t care too much if it is not pure, but “does it work?”. Can it be welded? Can your pour it into a mold? Is it strong enough and reliable enough to hold a vacuum? Is the whole process simple enough to let a robot do parts of it? Or to run unattended for years at a time?
This note is to you, but I want to improve it. So I posted it at /?p=1384
My notes at GravityNotes.Org are fairly narrow, tracking just a few of the technologies for earthquake early warning using gravitational signals, and low cost gravitational GPS, and gravitational imaging arrays for working underground and under oceans, and for imaging things like the interior of moons, planets, asteroids, comets and suns.
Richard K Collins, Director, The Internet Foundation