‘Getting real’ about virtual reality and how this can fast-track welding training in SA

From pilot simulation in the aviation industry to learning how to operate heavy machinery, virtual and augmented reality training has long since proven its practical value across a number of industries, from a safety, cost and operational efficiency perspective. Now, it is time for the welding industry in South Africa to embrace the significant advantages that virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) can bring to local industry.

This is according to Joash David, Managing Director of JTB Industrial Solutions (‘JTB’), an importer and distributor of engineering consumables, equipment and accessories to a wide variety of industry sectors, both locally and pan-Africa.

“We pride ourselves on offering ‘next generation’ technology and engineering solutions to our customers – and we believe that it is time to ‘get real’ about virtual reality and its huge possibilities within the welding space,” says David. “As counterintuitive as this might seem for an industry discipline that is so very physical in its operations and applications, welding simulation training can offer incredible training advantages.

While it is already used quite widely elsewhere in the world, virtual reality welding training is not widely used in South Africa as yet. We believe it is time to embrace its advantages more extensively – particularly with regards to our local learner education. We see virtual and augmented reality welding training as being an excellent value-add to the traditional welding training that takes place in our secondary schools and educational institutions currently.”

JTB Operations Manager Peter Hughes adds: “JTB is extremely committed to playing our part to improving the Further Education and Training (FET) space in South Africa. In line with this, we support selected schools with ongoing equipment and material supplies. Welding simulator training is a sophisticated, next-generation offering which resonates not only with our ethos and tagline of providing ‘next-generation solutions’ – but also with JTB’s values of innovation and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking. As such, it can play a very important part in upskilling learners at secondary schools and FET institutions.

Welding is a highly technical skill, and we believe that it needs to have a greater value placed on it in local industry. To this point, welders in other parts of the world are highly-respected as extremely skilled industrial artisans.”

David concurs, adding that to this end, welding simulation solutions can assist in attracting more young welders into the local market.

“Welding simulation can offer big-volume, basic welding training that is safe and effective – to larger groups of trainees simultaneously, than if only physical training is available,” he explains. “At the same time, the trainers and learners alike will benefit not only from the educational but also the safety aspects of the training. This is due to the absence of a physical flame and compressed gas. Training institutions will also be able to save on costs in the long run – because the requirement for welding consumables such as compressed gases and welding electrodes will be greatly reduced.

In short, the VR welding training offers significant safety advantages to trainees – while saving both time and money. The requirements of real-life, hands-on welding training will never entirely be replaced; however, welding simulation technology as a supporting resource is an excellent complement to fast-track learning for larger numbers of learners at the same time.”

An effective digital training solution to upskill multiple learners – safely

The use of virtual reality- and augmented reality-based welding simulators allows for training sessions to be offered across the welding discipline spectrum: including arc welding, gas metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding, MIG (Metal Inert Gas) and TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding.

  • While the trainee is busy welding in the virtual environment, data such as feed rate, advance angle, operating angle, position and arc length distance can be seen and reported on.
  • Data such as welding positions, joint methods, materials, material thicknesses and welding type can all be altered safely.
  • Errors are analysed to help the trainer and learner to move on to the next steps.
  • The welding simulation equipment includes the following:
    • Welding machine
    • Welding desk
    • Stand system – adjustable for height and position
    • Welding torches and pliers designed according to real-life specifications with regards to length, weight and shape
    • Virtual reality / augmented reality supported welding mask.

“We are passionate about education and training, and very committed to uplifting the youth of South Africa, and playing our part in helping to upskill the next generation,” enthuses David. “We fully support the government’s plan to move forward with the industrialisation of our country, which will pay such a key role in helping our economy and our people to move forward. This includes the highly technical skill of welding, which plays such an important role across multiple industries.

We believe that welding simulation training has a key role to play in both secondary schools and FET institutions – and we are extremely pleased to play our part in bringing this exciting and innovative educational resource to the attention of the local welding and education sectors,” he concludes.