Since acquiring engineering services company WPF in late 2022, Duratec has helped to grow the business significantly. The addition to the workshop of the Novarc spool welding robot is set to further enhance WPF’s capabilities.

Established more than 20 years ago, WPF is a valued and trusted provider of manufacturing, fabrication and repair services to complex and specialised equipment used within the energy sector. A contributing factor to WPF’s success is its commitment to ongoing investment in the latest equipment and technology. The perfect example is the recent addition of Novarc Technologies’ spool welding robot (SWR) – the world’s first collaborative welding robot.

Game-changing technology

Based in Canada, Novarc Technologies specialises in the design of collaborative robots (cobots) for welding applications. AI, in particular, is enabling the transition from manual processes to sophisticated, automated systems.

Cobots, such as the SWR, are designed to work in conjunction with human operators. Novarc’s technology is capable of welding a variety of joints, while operators make adjustments during the weld without the need to reprogram.

Development of the SWR came about as a result of Novarc’s close collaboration with fabrication companies, who were looking for ways to automate the pipe spool welding process. There was general frustration at the lack of industry innovation and this set the wheels in motion for Novarc. The team got to work, designing and producing a robot with the precision and dexterity required by workshops.

Benefits of the SWR

Designed specifically for pipe and pressure vessel welding, Novarc’s SWR offers plenty of benefits to both WPF and its clients. WPF is the first company in Western Australia to implement this technology and it is already innovating the way the workshop operates.

The robot combines advanced automation technology with human input to produce fast, efficient and repeatable weld quality. As Novarc says, it allows crews to “concentrate on the art of welding and leave the heavy lifting to Novarc’s collaborative robot.”

Increased productivity, faster turnaround time

The SWR alleviates some of the pressures borne by the industry. Upon implementing the robot, a single human welder is able to achieve an increase of three to five times in pipe welding productivity.

This expedites timelines, allowing WPF to deliver projects faster, which is of great advantage to the client. It also increases WPF’s physical capacity as welding jobs that would have previously occupied four welding bays are now contained in just one bay. Anecdotally, international users of Novarc’s technology have said that it allows “pipe welding tasks to be completed more effectively and efficiently”.


Automation in welding involves the use of robotic systems to perform tasks traditionally carried out by human welders. When welding pipe, it is crucial that workers are protected from the UV radiation produced by the arc. The SWR does just this, thereby preserving workers’ safety and increasing the longevity of their careers.

The SWR collaborates with the operator and is equipped with a powerful, in-built safety system. This system features various sensors that can detect initial faults and isolate prior to failures occurring. It also includes emergency stop buttons at all practical locations to ensure the operator can intervene and stop any hazardous situation immediately.

Essentially, this cobot offers futuristic hands-free welding with minimised human intervention as the machine is operated via a pendant control. The operator simply positions the SWR, hits start and then presses stop upon completion of the weld. It means the rotatable, repetitive welds can be allocated to the SWR, freeing up skilled welders to concentrate on more complex welds.


The SWR consistently delivers high-quality welds. According to CEO of Novarc Technologies, Soroush Karimzadeh, the average repair rate of pipe fabrication workshops is three to five per cent. This robot, however, has seen the repair rate drop to less than one per cent.

The machine also meets key quality tests, while Novarc’s software programs provide accountability and traceability when it comes to quality assurance and quality control. Novarc’s smart-vision and image-processing system, which integrates state-of-the-art AI algorithms with advanced robotic controls, delivers X-ray quality welds.

Combating the skilled labour shortage

Karimzadeh also says that the most significant challenge currently affecting the fabrication industry is the global shortage of skilled welders. In Australia, it is estimated that by 2030, there will be a deficit of 70,000 skilled welders to deliver critical infrastructure. This gap between demand for welding services and the supply of skilled welders has forced the industry to pivot towards automation.

Attracting new talent to welding is becoming increasingly difficult, especially with an ageing population. In North America, the average welder’s age is 55 years, with many nearing retirement. Moreover, training new talent takes up to four years, further exacerbating the labour shortage.

Novarc Technologies’ innovative solutions are not only addressing current challenges but also paving the way for a more sustainable and efficient future.