For Australian manufacturers looking to future-proof their business, environmental sustainability must be a major consideration. However, many manufacturers equate sustainability with expense, believing that while sustainable operations may be a value-add in terms of market position, it won’t bolster their bottom line.

K-TIG not only leads the way for environmental sustainability within the welding industry – its state-of-the-art technology and process is proven to reduce welding and fabricating costs by an average of 80%. Developed by the CSIRO, K-TIG is a high speed, single-pass, full-penetration welding technology that eliminates the need for wire, edge-bevelling or skilled operators. K-TIG, or Keyhole TIG (tungsten inert gas), is a variant of gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).

K-TIG operates exceptionally well across a large array of applications, demonstrating working speeds up to 100 times faster than conventional welding technologies like TIG/GTAW. K-TIG’s stable keyhole penetrates materials up to 16mm in thickness with a fraction of the maintenance requirement of other processes. The technology has eclipsed past technologies through massive reductions in gas and power usage, and through single-pass welds, which eliminate, or significantly reduce, grinding and reworking at a faction of the price of laser systems.

According to Attila Szabo, Principal Joining Engineer at GE, “K-TIG delivers the penetration of a high-powered laser at a small fraction of the cost and complexity.”

K-TIG makes light work of longitudinal and circumferential welds across many surfaces, from pipe, plate and spooling, to vessel, tank and more. Generating unprecedented productivity gains, K-TIG is able to perform a standard TIG weld that once took six hours in a mere three minutes. All this is achieved without compromising on quality: K-TIG meets the most stringent industry standards and code requirements.

K-TIG can easily weld in 1G and 2G positions, and on pipe diameters as low as 3 inches (7.6cm). It can work with titanium between 3mm to 16mm, stainless steel between 3mm to 13mm, and alloys between 3mm to 9mm.


Environmental efficiencies

Industrial fabrication, and the welding process in particular, is a highly energy-intensive process involving the consumption of large quantities of gas, electricity and consumables. So how does K-TIG meet its commitment to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint in fabrication?

“K-TIG offers an extraordinary speed and efficiency advantage, which is up to 100 times faster than TIG or GTAW welding,” says K-TIG’s CEO, Neil Le Quesne. “This means that both energy and gas consumption are reduced by up to 95%. K-TIG achieves incredibly high levels of accuracy, and requires significantly fewer consumables to produce best-in-class results that exceed industry standards. This means less waste.”

For example, a three-metre TIG weld in 16mm titanium will consume approximately 14,900 litres of welding grade argon gas. The same TIG welding action performed by K-TIG will consume approximately 720 litres, a saving of 95%.

“All of this means that, when compared to traditional welding technologies, K-TIG has achieved a revolution in sustainable welding,” adds Le Quesne. “By offering exponentially faster welding speeds with increased accuracy, energy and gas consumption is significantly reduced, whilst materials wastage is cut.”


Case Study: General Electric

K-TIG technology was deployed at General Electric (GE) in the production of exhaust diffusers made from 8mm 347 stainless steel. GE’s conventional GTAW process required extensive edge preparation, a V-groove preparation as well as joint cleaning for each joint, resulting in slow set-up times.

GTAW’s inability to fully penetrate the material created a requirement for four to five passes, plus tacking to complete each joint. Weld inspections were also required throughout the process, resulting in long welding and processing times. The need for a V-groove preparation and multiple passes created a requirement for large quantities of filler wire and consumables, while gas consumption, power consumption and arc-on times were correspondingly high.

With the application of K-TIG technology, GE’s welding time was reduced from more than 260 hours to 14 hours, with corresponding savings in gas, power, consumables, preparation, labour and overall cost. The quality of K-TIG welds were found to be exceptional, with the single-pass welding process dramatically reducing the opportunity for porosity, inclusions, lack of fusion, rework and repairs.

“K-TIG welding is a new productivity benchmark,” said Attila Szabo, Principal Joining Engineer at GE. “It sets an entirely new bar for what can be achieved with an arc welding system. The speed, penetration, quality and overall savings generated by the process are extraordinary.”

The results achieved by GE included:

  • A 93% cost saving.
  • 100% reduction in edge preparation time.
  • 95% reduction in welding time.
  • 66% reduction in defects.
  • 99% reduction in wire consumption.
  • 75% reduction in number of passes.
  • 90% reduction in gas consumption.
  • 84% reduction in grinding and cleaning.


Case Study: Bilfinger

The inherently slow welding speeds of Bilfinger’s conventional metal inert gas (MIG) welding process on 10mm 321 stainless steel plates had resulted in long welding times, high gas consumption and high power consumption.

As MIG isn’t able to fully penetrate 10mm 321 stainless steel, the material required significant edge preparation which couldn’t be handled in-house. The outsourced edge preparation created significant expense, increased lead time and introduced another party into the delivery schedule. The existing MIG process also required large volumes of high-cost wire consumables and multiple weld passes, which were prone to weld quality issues. Job set-up times for each weld were excessive, while the need for extensive cleaning and grinding between passes further strained productivity.

Bilfinger now uses K-TIG technology on the plates, with a square plasma cut edge only—no preparation is required. Longitudinal and circumferential seams are K-TIG welded from the outside, leaving a slightly proud reinforced weld on the outside and a small penetration bead on the inside, which is wire buffed.

Bilfinger’s results were impressive:

  • A 92% cost saving.
  • 100% reduction in edge preparation time.
  • 90% reduction in welding time.
  • 99% reduction in wire consumption.
  • 87% reduction in gas consumption.
  • 66% reduction in job setup time.
  • 75% reduction in number of passes.
  • 73% reduction in grinding & cleaning.

Of particular interest, environmentally speaking, is the fact that wire consumption was virtually eliminated, while gas consumption was reduced by 87%. So it’s clear that from a sustainability perspective, K-TIG has made an incredible contribution to reducing Bilfinger’s carbon footprint.

K-TIG leads the way in environmental sustainability within the welding industry because it drastically reduces the carbon footprint of a given product, while giving companies every incentive imaginable to invest in the technology.