Orbital Welding Overview

orbital welding

Orbital welding is a welding technique that is used to weld pipes or tubes. Its first use was found in the 1960s when the aerospace industry recognized the need for a superior joining technique for aircraft hydraulic lines. It was initially used to be done manually. But with advancements in technology, the welders start using computerized programs to perform orbital welding which come to be known as the modern orbital welding technique. The term ‘orbital welding’ comes from the circular movement of the welding tool around the workpiece. Generally, this technique consists of two main fields of application-

  • Tube to Tube/Pipe to Pipe Joining
  • Tube-to-Tube Sheet Welding

Post Highlights:

  • Orbital Welding Meaning
  • Principle (How Does it Work?)
  • Features or Importances
  • Equipment or Tools
  • Applications or Usages
  • Advantages or Benefits
  • Disadvantages or Drawbacks
  • Work Opportunities
  • Orbital Welder Salary

What is Orbital Welding?

It is a welding process in which an arc is rotated mechanically through an angle of 360° around the static workpiece i.e. pipe, tube, etc. This process was developed to address the issues of operating errors in gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). This process is a computer-controlled process that runs with very less intervention from the welding operator. The use of the mechanical welding process (use of a computer) leads to high-quality welds as compared to manual welding processes.

Orbital Welding Principle

Orbital Welding Diagram

The welding process uses a computerized program to perform the welding. The tubes or pipes are clamped in place and an orbital weld head rotates an electrode and electric arc around the weld joint to make the required weld. The power supply/control system supplies and controls the welding parameters according to the specific weld program created or recalled from memory. This supply provides the control parameters, the arc welding current, the power to drive the motor in the weld head, and switches the shield gas on/off as necessary.


Orbital Welding Features

  • The computerized process enhances the accuracy of the weld.
  • The enclosed type welder head provides an inert atmospheric chamber that surrounds the weld joint.
  • It reduces the chances of rusting at a weld joint.

Orbital Welding Equipment

The following basic equipment are as follows-

1. Weld Head

A welding head of different sizes is required in this technique. The welder’s head holds the electrodes in place and applies optimum pressure on the workpieces being welded. It also manages the flow of the welding current and maintains the required temperature for welding. Weld’s heads are normally of the enclosed type to provide an inert atmosphere chamber for welding.

2. Power Supply

The controlled power supply controls the welding parameters such as the flow of shielding gas, arc welding current, pulse rate, welding head travel speed, etc. It does it according to the specific weld program created or recalled from memory. A compact and lightweight power supply is preferred.

3. Wire Feeder

It requires a wire-feeding mechanism. It can come as a part of the welder’s head or as a separate device.

4. Coolant Unit

The process requires water or air-based coolant system. It is an imperative part and protects the welding equipment from damages caused due to overheating.

Orbital Welding Applications

The industrial applications are as follows-

1. Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry was one of the first industries to recognize the advantages of automated orbital welding. The single aircraft’s high-pressure systems can contain more than 1,500 welded joints created with orbital welding equipment.

2. Semiconductor Industry

The industry requires piping systems with an extremely smooth internal surface to prevent contaminant buildup on the tubing wall or weld joints. The build-up of moisture, particulate, or contaminant could ruin the batch process.

3. Nuclear Piping

Any type of leakage in the nuclear industry can affect public health and safety. For an industry with its severe operating environment and associated specifications for high-quality welds, the orbital welding technique comes as the best solution.

4. Tube Fittings, Valves, and Regulators

Generally, hydraulic lines, gas delivery systems, and medical systems all require tubing with termination fittings. Orbital welding systems provide a means to ensure optimum weld quality.

5. Pharmaceutical Industry

The pharmaceutical process lines require high-quality water for their processes. This requires high-quality welds in piping systems to ensure a source of water from the tubes is uncontaminated by bacteria, rust, or other unwanted things. Orbital welding comes as the best solution to achieve the required quality.

6. Food, Beverage, and Dairy Industries

Any pit, crack, or incomplete weld joints can trap the fluid flowing inside the tubing, and causes bacteria growth. For repairing these cracks, the welds must be as smooth as possible. So, orbital welding can achieve this purpose.

Orbital Welding Advantages

The benefits are as follows-

1. High Productivity

This welding type is much more productive than labor because the machine does mostly all the work.

2. High Quality

The welding system lays high-quality welds to that of manual welding.

3. Consistent Results

The welding system can repeatedly perform the same weld hundreds of times once a welding program has been developed.

4. Skill Level

To use the orbital welding equipment, the welder does not need to be certified. It only requires a skilled mechanic with some training in welding.

5. Safe Process

The process is performed mechanically through a computer-based program. So, the welder does not need to be present at the workplace all the time. They can perform welding from a safer space.

Orbital Welding Disadvantages

1. Setup time

Due to its precise nature, it requires more set-up time as compared to manual welding set-up in some applications.

2. Specific Training

There are very less training programs for orbital welding as compared to countless welding programs and vocational schools that teach manual welding. And also training specific equipment are available only at specific locations.

3. Specific Work Area

The orbital welding technique cannot be performed everywhere and anywhere. It has only specific work areas.

4. High Initial Cost

The initial set-up cost is very high i.e. up to 5 to 6 times more than manual set-up. It is because different welding heads are required for welding different objects.

Orbital Welder Work Opportunities

In today’s world, there is a high demand for the orbital welder as this is one of the best and most accurate techniques of welding. In the last ten years, orbital welding has gained popularity steadily. An orbital welder can work in industries like Aerospace, Food/Beverages, Dairy, Nuclear, Semiconductor, Pharmaceutical, etc.

Check Welding Jobs

Orbital Welder Salary

All welders do not make the same amount of money. The salary trends depend on factors like educational level, work skills, work experiences, etc. More experience fetches more monthly salary. Normally, an orbital welder makes between $22 to $36 hourly in the United States. On average, they earn $31 per hour. Also, the average earnings range from $38,318 and $59,514. The salary may change with the passage of time.


Orbital welding is one of the best welding techniques. Due to its high-quality finished weld, it has a wide range of applications. Despite, the very high initial set-up cost, it provides 2 to 3 times higher productivity than GTAW or TIG welding. Thus, the above-given information is useful in many ways for aspiring people.

Related: Other Welding Types

2 thoughts on “Orbital Welding Overview”

  1. I appreciate that you explained that it simply needs a capable mechanic with some welding experience. My father wants to secure the pipes in our home using orbital welding products. This article will surely help him to perform one. Thanks!

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