Virtual reality (VR) is no longer the exclusive domain of the gaming community, and immersive simulators are gaining popularity in other applications, particularly the training sphere. In line with its purpose of creating a safe and secure world together with its stakeholders, Babcock is supporting virtual learning as a safe training platform in the welding sector.

Complementing its range of welding equipment and consumables, Babcock’s Plant Services has launched a virtual welding training system that allows trainees to hone their skills in a safe and efficient simulated environment. Babcock’s total welding education solutions support learning from novice to professional levels, facilitated by compact welding training simulators supplied by Lincoln Electric.

The Lincoln Electric VRTEX 360 simulators give students a realistic and fully immersive learning experience with the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets, superior graphics and accurate sound and movement. This includes responsive welding puddle and the simulation of sparks, slag and grinding in virtual environments as diverse as a pipe processing plant and a shipyard. Over 190 welding configurations are available, while three learning levels for each weld cater to all skill levels.

The units track and score key weld parameters, such as work angle, travel angle, travel speed, distance and position, while a virtual bend test offers instant results. This allows students to easily see and understand what causes a weld to pass or fail.

For optimal efficiency, trainees can practice repetitive welds without consumables or the need to discard scrap. As there’s no need for shielding gas, welding electrodes and weld fume removal, the process is also environmentally friendly.

“Virtual welding training is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa as it offers clients a host of benefits,” says Everts, sales representative for Babcock. He lists cost efficiency as one of the biggest advantages, as the simulators save on equipment, materials, consumables and energy. Users also have access to instant cost-saving data, thanks to the VRTEX system’s ability to track the use of virtual consumables, like gas usage and base materials.

The small and portable VRTEX 360 simulators are useful to any industry where metal working takes place. Image credit: Babcock International Group

The small and portable VRTEX 360 simulators are useful to any industry where metal working takes place. Image credit: Babcock International Group

Internal upskilling of welders is another advantage, with companies able to train students in any location at any time. Welding theory software, lessons on safety and measurement as well as GMAW, SMAW and FCAW curriculum books are included in the package, for ease of on-site training. Software updates are free and the system does not need a licence activation fee. Additional benefits are quick training, fast-setup and simple plug-and-play features.

Everts says Babcock has received an order for three simulated training units from a major South African mining company and anticipates interest from other sectors.

The small and portable VRTEX 360 simulators are useful to any industry where metal working takes place like automotive manufacturing, government training schools and the petrochemical industry.

The table-top design makes them easy to set up and transport and the units are supplied with an adaptable stand, touchscreen monitor, VR headset, welding tools and adjustable welding pool. The package also includes a MIG wire welding gun, retractable stick stinger, TIG torch and filler and a foot pedal, giving welders all the equipment needed for comprehensive training.

A demo mode allows for an easy show-and-tell approach to teaching while a replay mode immediately highlights welder errors. Trainees also get visual cues and instant feedback and scoring, which helps to reduce training time. As a result, companies can benefit from higher pass rates in their welder training programmes and improve their certification rates.

The VRTEX 360 simulators available from Babcock are ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified, meeting international quality and environmental management system standards.

“With years of welding expertise under our belt, we’re well-equipped to offer clients advice and after-sales support in partnership with Lincoln Electric,” says Everts.

Babcock is among the largest suppliers of welding equipment and consumables in South Africa, including traditional welding equipment as well as multi-process and engine-driven welders. Alongside other major brands, Babcock carries the full range of Lincoln Electric welding machines known for their superior quality, robust design and simple controls.