ESAB – Leader in the production of welding and cutting equipment
ESAB is a Swedish industrial company, a world leader in the production of welding and cutting equipment and consumables. The main areas of ESAB activities are manual welding and cutting equipment, welding consumables, welding automation, and mechanized cutting systems, offering solutions for all the processes and applications.
As a leader in this segment, ESAB cooperates with customers worldwide from automotive, fabrication and civil construction, pipelines, power generation, and many other industries.
ESAB’s reach extends to almost every nation in the world, with more than 10 000 employees and manufacturing facilities across five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia/Pacific).
ESAB is a part of Colfax Corporation.
Challenges and Needs
One of ESAB’s main goals is implementing innovative and novel solutions, aimed at providing its clients with the highest quality services and products. One of the newest and most modern solutions to do that is WeldCloud. It is an IoT application designed to connect welding devices, collect data and events, aggregate them, analyze and as a result assist to improve the productivity and quality of the customers’ welding processes. From the beginning, it was clear that the real challenge would be to connect a large number of devices all over the world and to monitor numerous aspects of their operation.
The scope of WeldCloud capabilities has been impressive from the very beginning. It included a vast range of tools and services that help to analyze a significant amount of data, provide support in improving quality, performance, and productivity while being user-friendly.
One of the main functionalities is gathering different kinds of information. Not only those concerning the condition of the machines but also on all operations carried out as part of the welding process.
In such a system, by implementing the Smart Connected Products paradigm, we can meet standard expectations regarding management, provision, and maintenance of connected devices. In terms of supporting administrators, operators, and service teams in trouble-free and faster operation, this is even more important when we are considering multiple devices to connect. The features also included Software Content Management, enabling remote firmware and software upgrades on many different devices at the same time.
All the functions mentioned above require an appropriate environment to ensure the ease of connection, implementation of the solution, but also scalability and high availability. Obviously, by making the application available to its contractors, ESAB had to secure the best quality and reliability possible.
The designed solution meets all standards for Smart Connected Products. However, the project team of outstanding specialists from ESAB and TT PSC faced a rather complicated task.
One of the biggest challenges was to ensure stable communication between devices scattered around the world, with diverse communication capabilities and standards. Therefore, to fully use the potential of Industry 4.0, the ThingWorx Platform embedded in the Microsoft Azure environment was chosen. This combination offers the best possibilities in terms of reliability and scalability while being flexible and easily expandable.
Gateway / Edge collects machine-generated data and sends it to Azure IoT Hub. Then they are passed on for further processing to other Azure services (Azure Functions, Stream Analytics, Cosmos DB) and, through the IoT Hub Connector, to the ThingWorx Platform. Some types of data must be sent to the Platform as soon as possible for information, status, and notification purposes. Others may go through Stream Analytics and Azure Functions first for appropriate preparation.
The connection between the Platform and Azure services is quite close, so provisioning of devices can be done directly from ThingWorx or firmware upgrade. The integration of the services was crucial during the implementation phase to uncover the full potential of cloud solutions. A great example is the use of Azure Active Directory B2C, which allows us to provide a compound identity management service.
The organization of data, and the application itself, is designed to ensure the highest level of security. It is especially significant in multi-tenant environments to separate all data, operations, and users and provide the privacy required.
In addition to these possibilities, through the ThingWorx Platform, it is possible to display real-time data or generate the necessary statistics and reports. However, ThingWorx user screens are not the only way to view information. Besides them, each operator can use a mobile application that allows the welding machines fast initial connectivity to the cloud, scans bar-codes and QR codes of consumables, welders’ identity, parts and also notifications and alerts.
WeldCloud is vendor-agnostic software – using ESAB’s Universal Connector, almost any MIG/MAG and TIG machine can connect to the application and be a part of the 4.0 Revolution.
ESAB provides its customers with a secure, robust, and scalable system that gives insights facilitating continuous improvement in welding operations. Thanks to an innovative approach and forward-thinking while taking care of details, and with the highest level of professionalism, ESAB, with the help of Transition Technologies PSC, could create an impressive solution that supports Customers every day.
By connecting power sources to WeldCloud, they can improve productivity, assets management, process documentation, and easily track welding quality. The solution allows efficient monitoring of the main parameters for each weld seam produced.
Equipment, technology, tools:
ThingWorx, ThingWorx IoT Hub Connector, Azure services (IoT Hub, Azure File Storage, Azure Functions, Cosmos DB, Stream Analytics).