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Automatic welding: higher safety, quality and productivity standards

Published 4.12.2023

Thanks to the support provided by the automatic welding process, the construction to lay the Collahuasi C20+ pipeline is making steady progress, with some 85 km of pipe welded so far. Read about the advantages, challenges and results of this innovative technology.


Techint Engineering and Construction is developing the C20+ project in Chile, which is advancing at a good pace. This is mainly due to the incorporation of the automatic welding process, which allows higher quality production in less time.

Although at the beginning of the project, everybody hired to work on the automatic welding system had to undergo a training course, followed by an adaptation period, the results soon began make themselves visible.

Here's how Kevin Borisov, Welding Superintendent, describes it: “We tried to make the learning curve as short as possible with the intention of overcoming as many challenges as we could at the outset of the project. Once we reached our predicted work speed, we were able to maintain the pace while adhering to safety and quality standards. So far, we’ve welded approximately 85 km of pipe, at an estimated average of 50 joints per day, with around 90 people working per shift.”

Project Manager Ricardo Juan adds that, “I’d like to highlight the great work done by the employees in the welding group for the regular pipeline, as they’ve achieved a high standard of performance regarding productivity and product quality. And they’ve contributed to achieving the safety indicators set by the Company.”


Automatic welding vs. manual welding
The automatic welding system is an innovative and competitive technological solution that obtains better results in less time than manual welding. The main advantage is that it’s much faster because many of the movements undertaken during manual welding are automated and mechanized. "Automatic welding means that welders don’t have to physically move the electric arc, as this is moved by using a remote control which is less tiring and ensures better quality welding, because the equipment in fact does most of the work. However, the welder must be fully focused on the task, as the arc must be centered in the middle of the bevel and its sides must not touch each other. On the whole, there are fewer control parameters than there are in manual welding, where the worker has to keep their hands very steady while working,” clarifies Borisov.

Cem Altin · CRC Automatic Welding Supervisor.

The automatic welding system being used at the project employs technology provided by the CRC company. When it has to perform the first welding pass, the machine uses an internal coupler with four welding heads. “It’s a really fast system. The first bead made from the weld is internal, inside the pipe itself. This has the advantage of speeding up work, because once the parameters have been set, everything is done to the same quality standards. From then on, after the second step all the way through to completion, access can be obtained from the outside, from the welding booths that provide a protection area,” explains Santiago Villacis, Welding Superintendent, who is from Ecuador and is enjoying his first work experience outside his country.


Interpreters and PPE: all tools that contribute to success

There is no doubt that multiculturalism and safety are the most important challenges involved in this project. Ricardo Saavedra, Occupational Health and Safety Advisor for the Automatic Welding Phase, agrees that cultural differences and managing the rigors of Chile's regulatory safety system, which is stricter than in other countries, are a daily challenge. “At the project, there are people from countries as diverse as England, Türkiye, and Peru, for instance. It’s hard for a foreigner to adapt to another culture and different legislative requirements. The operational tasks are in themselves highly complex, as there is a lot of human-machine, machine-machine and suspended load interaction. Operators are working in areas where floor personnel are relatively close to the machines on a permanent basis, so we have to be extremely rigorous in terms of safety. We are always alert, educating and training people every day how to use personal protection equipment properly, because not everyone is used to wearing and using these in their countries of origin. And to get this right, communication is crucial: we are using interpreters to help us with Turkish, and have supervisors who speak this language.”

Cem Altin is the CRC Automatic Welding Supervisor, and agrees with this assessment. He’s from Turkey and is currently leading a group of 27 compatriots working on the project. He started working at Techint E&C in 2014, and participated in projects such as Minera Escondida and Los Bronces, before being posted to the C20+. He describes his main function as “a bridge for communication throughout the project”, and coordinates the relationships between his team and the CRC people. His role is vital to managing the intercultural aspects of each process. “I can single out three key things about this project: safety, production and quality. I’m very much enjoying this experience in Chile, it’s very good, particularly because of the importance given to safety, where people’s well-being is always the top priority, with high standards of care. Production and quality are also of a high standard, but safety is always the first point that must be taken care of. I think the main challenge is to continue in this fashion, making progress, but taking care of people first.”

Borisov concludes that, “Fortunately, it’s very clear that automatic welding is producing excellent results at this project, enabling a higher quality output in less time. But always prioritizing safety along with quality and productivity, so that we can progress in an articulated and efficient way.”


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