Ultimate Guide to Orbital Welding

Ultimate Guide To Orbital Welding For Beginners [Includes Resources]

In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know about orbital welding.

  • What is Welding?
  • What is Orbital Welding?
  • When to Use Orbital Welding?
  • Advantages of Orbital Welding
  • Equipment Required for Orbital Welding
  • Achieving the Best Quality Weld: Preparation Process
  • Orbital Welding Machine Brands

Useful resources
The Orbital Welding Handbook

What is Welding?

Simply put, welding is a process where two separate pieces of metals (known as electrodes) are fused together using high heat.

Watch a basic welding demonstration here:

Welding Electrodes: Consumable VS Non-Consumable

There are 2 categories of welding electrodes.

Useful resources

What is Orbital Welding?

By definition, orbital welding refers to automated welding of secured tubes or pipes with the electrode rotating (or orbiting) around the tube.

It’s a specialised type of welding where the arc rotates 360° around the in-place object (pipe/tube) continuously.

How an automatic welding machine works:

History of Orbital Welding

Orbital welding was developed in the 1960s when there was a need for a more precise welding method in the aerospace industry.

This particular process then started to find its place in varying fields from automotive engineering to food processing.

When to Use Orbital Welding?

So, how do you choose between using welding and orbital welding?

Orbital welding should be used if

✓ The production involves difficult positions to handle manually

The location where the welding is taking place and where the machine itself is placed will affect the safety of the welder. Also, it plays a part in determining the difficulty of completing a task.

Hence, if the welder’s safety will be compromised, an automated procedure is advised.

✓ Large quantities of welds are required to be produced

Since the process is fully automated, orbital welding is perfect to produce large quantities of welds because of its repeatability.

On the other hand, if the production requires

  • Small quantities or
  • Customised parts

A combination of semi-automatic and mechanised machines may be used.

Advantages of Orbital Welding

  • Boosts Productivity

    Automated processes such as orbital welding will definitely cut down the time and effort required to achieve the perfect weld. Apart from that, the time needed to set up the machine and the welding parameters is also much less.

  • High Precision

    As a mechanised process, there are additional options to include other functions to minimise human errors. This guarantees high precision and a flawless finish.

  • Improved Workplace Safety

    During certain scenarios, it may be dangerous for a welder to operate. There’s when orbital welding is vital to reach places that manual welding simply cannot.

Equipment Required for Orbital Welding


1. Programmable Power Supply

Portable Power Sources

Weight: <30kg Current: up to 160 ampere Voltage: 1-phase 230 V

  • Portable: lightweight enough for the operator to carry it to the site
  • Compact: small enough to pass through manhole if required
  • Controls up to 4 axes of settings

Shielding gas flow, weld current intensities and pulse rates, travel speed of the welding head and wire feeding operations

Medium-sized Mobile Power Sources

Current: up to 400 ampere
Voltage: 3-phase 415 V

  • Heavyweight: fixes on wheels for mobility
  • Controls up to 6 axes of settings

Shielding gas flow, weld current intensities and pulse rates, travel speed of the welding head, wire feeding operations and arc voltage control and oscillation.

Full-size Power Sources

Current: 300 – 600 ampere
Voltage: 3-phase 415 V or multi-voltage input

  • Controls 6 axes or more

2. Weld Head


  • Holds electrode in place
  • Applies pressure on workpieces to be welded
  • Flows welding current
  • Maintain heat temperature

Tube-to-tube Welding Heads


  • Closed Chamber Welding Head

Diameters: 1.6mm – 168mm

Autogenous welding of tubes without filler wire


  • U-type Open Welding Head

Diameters: 8mm – 275mm

Typically used for orbital TIG welding with or without filler wire

  • Carriage-type Open Welding Head

Diameters: from 114 mm (outer) onwards

Orbits around tubes/pipes on designated rails with or without filler wire

Tube-to-tube sheet Welding Heads

  • Enclosed Orbital Tube-to-tubesheet Welding Heads (without filler wire)

Diameters: 9.5mm – 33.7mm (internal)

TIG welding (GTAW) applications without filler wire

  • Open Tube-to-tubesheet Welding Heads (with or without filler wire)

Diameters: 10mm (internal) – 60mm (outer)

3. Wire Feeder

Depending on the mobility of the welding equipment, a wire feeding mechanism may be required. It can be built into the welding head or come as a separate device.

4. Coolant system (Water/air)

Function: to prevent welding equipment from overheating

This is imperative in order to protect the equipment from heat damage and the operator from heat injuries.

There are 2 main types of coolant systems: water or air.

Air VS Water Coolant System

Conclusively, achieving a quality weld is dependent on the knowledge and experience of the operator to set the precise parameters.

Achieving the Best Quality Weld: Preparation Process

Planning is key when trying to achieve the perfect weld.

Other than preparing the materials and ensuring a safe environment, you should also accustom to the equipment.


Orbital welding is known for its repeatability and uniformity when producing multiple welds with the same parameters.

However, it’s advised that you inspect the external and internal quality of selected welds. Simply cut up some pipes to review the internal quality.

Thereafter, adjust the parameters accordingly if necessary.

1. Tube/Pipe End Preparation

Ensure that your cutting blades have been sharpened to obtain a clean cut without deforming the pipes.

2. Material Selection

With the same parameters, make test welds using different batches of metals to confirm that the end products are consistent.

3. Weld Joint Alignment

  • Alignment: Make use of engineering clamps to align and hold the welding pipes into place. This speeds up the preparation process.
  • Gaps: No more than 5% of pipe/tube wall thickness
  • Tube wall thickness: ±5% to ensure weld quality

4. Welding Gases

The suitable gas mixture depends on the fusing materials. Some common mixtures are:

  • Argon and Hydrogen
  • Helium and Argon

5. Tungsten Electrode Geometry

Source: Winning Preparation

  • Taper (Included Angle)

Source: 8 Practical Orbital Welding Tips

  • Tip Diameter

Source: 8 Practical Orbital Welding Tips

Your choice of tungsten electrodes should be an optimal balance of electrode life and welding performance.

6. Welding Parameters

Each welding machine comes with adjustable parameter settings. Prior to setting, you should research on the welding machine and equipment so as to be able to tune to precise, accurate parameters.

Orbital Welding Machine Brands

Price range: $, 15k – 30k

With 98 distributors over 60 countries, AXXAIR has one of the largest ranges of orbital welding machines and equipment. They’re recognised for their decades of expertise in the industry, becoming a globally trusted brand.

Price range: $$, 20k+

As a firm believer of constant improvement, Swagelok aims to be the go-to advisor for all things related to science, logistics and engineering.

Price range: $$$, 25k+

Another outstanding brand that is well-known for its quality, durability and functionality is Arc Machines Inc. (AMI). Established in 1976, they have since clinched over 3,000 partnerships all over the world.

Price range: Available upon request

POLYSOUDE boasts a “zero risk and zero defect” approach when working with clients. Their products provide innovative solutions for your operational needs, regardless of the industry your business is in.


To ensure that projects aren’t delayed, it’s crucial to check if your distributor has a local team that’s able to do repair services.

Otherwise, engineers would have to come over from their overseas headquarters to do the repair for you. This would lead to costs incurred and time wasted.