When Robert Trudelle enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after high school, he didn’t know it would set the course for a lifetime career in the aerospace industry – or that it would
lead to his love of welding and teaching.
In the Air Force, Trudelle served as a structural repair technician working on B-52 and KC-135 aircraft, which gave him the experience to secure a position as a mechanic at a major commercial airline in the Atlanta area after completing his four-year enlistment. There, his supervisor requested that he attend a local technical college to learn welding to add to his skill set.
“Soon after I graduated, the college asked me if I wanted to teach their night program,” he says. “That was when I really found out how much I liked teaching people. I thought I was going to do it for a couple of years, and 15 years later, I was still doing it.”
In addition to teaching at the college, Trudelle was also a welding instructor at the airline, where he recently retired with 30 years of service. In his spare time, he opened his own welding business to provide training to individuals and companies. He also became a certified welding educator (CWE) and certified welding inspector (CWI).
“I had a chance to do a lot of training of diverse people, between the technical college and the airline,” Trudelle says. “It provided me with a really broad range of welding experience, between all the welding processes and different people who were working in different industries.”
It also gave Trudelle an appreciation of having the right equipment to not only get the job done, but to also help ease welder training. That’s why he’s relied on equipment from Miller Electric Mfg. LLC during his career and continues to use it at Pro-Weld Services LLC – his growing, full-time business that offers training.
Pro-Weld Services is based in Williamson, Ga., just south of Atlanta. There, Trudelle provides welding training and consulting services primarily to those in or entering the aerospace industry, as well as to general fabricators. He also offers specific individual training based on the application.
Trudelle’s background has set him up for success with this endeavor, with a waiting list for his specialized aerospace training and services to prove it. In recent years, training sessions at the Pro-Weld facility have focused primarily on aerospace and TIG welding, with the consulting and training he provides at customer facilities having a broader scope to include aluminum MIG welding and flux-cored wire fabrication.
“The aerospace folks are typically individuals looking to get hired in that industry,” he says. “They’ve either gone to a local technical college or they don’t feel ready to yet. I saw a need for focusing on one-on-one training.”
Trudelle’s facility has four welding booths featuring Dynasty TIG welders from Miller, including the Dynasty 210, 280 and 400 – equipment he knows will provide the quality needed for critical aerospace applications.
“In my experience with training welders, the Miller equipment plays an important role,” he says. “I’ve had a long-standing relationship with Miller. The reliability of the Dynasty machines has been great for me. I haven’t had any issues with them.”
Like other industries, aerospace manufacturers and commercial airlines are facing a shortage of skilled welders. That makes it important to have equipment that is easy to use
and facilitates training new welders.
Trudelle explains that aerospace welding varies from customer to customer, whether it’s an airline or a manufacturer. In repair situations, for example, welders need to have solid skills when working with thin material applications. They also need to be able to control the heat input when welding and correctly set machine parameters.
The Dynasty machines Trudelle uses have similar interfaces across all of the models to ease setup. That includes the Pro-Set feature, intended to eliminate the guesswork when setting weld parameters. This technology offers the speed, convenience and confidence of preset controls. Operators select the feature and adjust it until Pro-Set appears on the display; it provides balance, frequency, pulse and TIG parameters.
Trudelle adds that Dynasty machines have easy-to-navigate menus and similar functionalities. Display graphics and quick reference guides give operators an understanding of why they’re changing a parameter and what it’s doing.
“They’re pretty consistent from one machine to the other, so it makes it easier to train the student when moving them from booth to booth,” he says. “That helps keep them from getting confused and going the wrong way when making parameter adjustments.”
Trainees at Pro-Weld Services appreciate the interface similarities, along with other features on specific Dynasty models that help simplify their training.
For example, the Dynasty 400 and 280 machines (with an expansion card) have independent amplitude/amperage control that allows electro-positive and electro-negative amperages to be set independently. This helps welders precisely control heat input to the workpiece and electrode. The independent control also provides:
- Better penetration
- More capability on thicker materials
- Less tungsten degradation
- Improved post-weld appearance
The independent control is especially good for working on larger aluminum or magnesium projects because it allows the welder to use higher heat input without sacrificing cleaning.
“The feedback I get from the trainees on this equipment is that they really like it,” Trudelle says. “It’s consistent. It makes sense when trying to teach them what a parameter does and they’re looking at the encoder or the functions on the machine control. They feel good when they lay down a good weld.”
Having accurate and consistent welding equipment increases the chances for welder qualification success in an already difficult and extensive testing environment and process. Many times, welders who have experience on advanced welding equipment, like the Dynasty series, have less trouble during the training and qualification process, according to Trudelle.
“Aerospace candidates or welders need to have the basic training to succeed,” he says. “Companies invest quite a bit of additional money, materials and time in training these individuals once they are hired, so the more they bring to the table when they arrive, the better companies can get them through the process, and start to grow them even more.”
Power and portability
Aerospace applications, specifically repairs, require equipment that is easy to transport – a benefit Trudelle knows the Dynasty machines can provide in real-world applications. It’s also important to be able to connect to the available power once a welder gets to the destination.
The Dynasty 210 and 280 weigh 47 lbs. and 52 lbs., respectively, making them highly portable for jobs on the fly.
“Being able to take a machine up in high areas or elevate it off of the floor or whatever the space requirements are is important. It’s a lot easier to move that smaller footprint package around,” Trudelle says. “The Dynasty models allow welders do that when they are at work in the field.”
That portability isn’t just a convenience, it’s also a time and cost saver.
“The turn time – getting to an airplane out at a remote location, getting the repairs completed and getting it back in service – all adds to the bottom line,” he says. “The welder needs to be able to get to that aircraft and fix it in the fastest time they can and get it back in service.”
Welders also need to be able to connect a machine to whatever power is available when they transport it. This is an advantage that the Dynasty welders provide through Auto-Line power management technology, which allows hookup to single- or three-phase electrical input from 120 V to 480 V (Dynasty 210) or 208 V to 575 V (Dynasty 280, 400 and 800) with no manual linking.
“I like the machines for their input power versatility, especially the ability to use 110 V for some jobs out in the field using the 200 models, but then be able to still connect it to higher input power for in-shop use,” Trudelle says. “Being able to have multiple input powers is really good when dealing with moving around from one application to another. Just change out the plug, and the machine takes care of it.”
Trudelle has made his mark in the aerospace welding industry. In addition to his commitment to training welders at Pro-Weld Services, he also serves on the AWS Aerospace Specifications Committee and helps a local youth aviation program with welding training. At the heart of everything is connecting with people.
“A lot of young people don’t necessarily have a good direction of where they want to go,” he says. “It’s part of my job as an instructor to give them a little balance when they ask questions about the industry. I like not only giving them good, basic, fundamental training that they can use to move into the industry, but also guiding them a little bit, giving them some reassurance and helping them add to their learning skillset.”