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High-quality end preparation is essential before orbital welding of tubes.

But what Nadia Reicher Fournel, CEO Protem GmbH Dettenheim, Germany
A graduate of Mulhouse University, has worked for Protem since 1987 where she
types of equipment and methods are suitable in what circumstances? Using cheaper, started out as Business development manager of Protem SA. rising through the
ranks to General manager of Protem GmbH, and to her current position of CEO
low-tech methods is sometimes acceptable, but often it is counter-productive. When Protem GmbH Dettenheim a position she has held since 1991. Her other
responsibilities include steering conferences on cold cutting techniques; member of
Dragados Offshore used portable bevellers from Protem to prepare duplex pipes in an the German nuclear community; head of project for dismantling a German fast
breeder reactor; head of communication for all major nuclear projects for the
offshore oil & gas project, it brought clear advantages in productivity and quality. Protem Group; management of the German subsidiary of Protem SAS.

system similar to a miniaturised

Preparing metal tubes for orbital welding guillotine that nibbles the material
away to a predetermined shape.

By Nadia Reicher Fournel operator, create most of the common

weld preps in use at present.
are more accurate than hand-held
torches, although there are still
Purpose-built end
preparation machines
No matter which method is used for However, grinding is of no value limitations to be taken into account.
Dedicated end preparation machinery
joining tubular components, whether where there is risk of fire or explosion. Plasma cutting has the advantage
can prove invaluable in certain areas.
for example welding, threaded joints It is also dirty and can be dangerous over flame of being able to work on
The first is at the end of a tube or pipe
or pressure-energised couplings, because of the risk of inhaling more exotic materials such as
production line. A customised end
accurate end preparation is essential. airborne particles (though stainless steel, but it can be extremely
preparation system, matched to the
This applies to tubes and pipes of precautions can be taken against this messy and, on heavy materials, the
speed of the line, will give the
both non-metallic and metal risk). Grinding is also very noisy and cut tends to dissipate as it advances
manufacturer a product which will
construction, the latter being the can contribute to industrial deafness. through the wall, leaving an
look well finished and be more
subject of this article. Hidden costs can include the inaccurate finish. Both flame and
acceptable to a customer than a saw
Preparation, which often constitutes grinding discs, especially if they are plasma cutting induce a certain
cut end. It also offers the producer
the final stage of the manufacturing designed for use on exotic materials, amount of heat into the material.
the facility of sending out a product
process, serves not only a cosmetic and maintenance. The accuracy of
Protem internal tube cutting machine for steam end-finished to meet the exact
purpose, it also produces a finished generators in a French nuclear pow
grinding is not optimal under any Lathe or boring machine requirements of the customer,
product which will be more circumstances, and the more Employing a lathe or boring machine
thereby removing the need for further
acceptable to the buyer. Accurate end complicated the profile, the harder it is an accurate and sometimes fast
preparation of tube ensures that, Hacksaw and file is to achieve. Particles of the grinding method compared to the others
The producer can offer the client a
where lengths of tube are to be joined Although inexpensive in terms of disc can be deposited on the pipe available. It can also produce complex
choice of end profiles applicable to
to each other or to other components, equipment, this process is too slow material, which can result in weld profiles with a high level of
the joining process to be used in
the squareness of the tube end will and inaccurate to be considered as a defects in the subsequent joining repeatability. In a lathe, with the
Protem drilling, facing, threading, boring, core assembly. Similar facilities are
guarantee proper fit-up and correct practical method of preparing weld process. workpiece rotating, there are drilling and stud removal machine
available to the manufacturer of plate
alignment on long runs. The many joints. The high cost of labour also limitations as to the size and shape of
types of preparation vary according to makes the benefits of this method Flame or plasma cutting the pieces to be prepared. A 12-metre Hand-held milling and
the size of the component, wall dubious. Several methods exist for creating length of tube spinning at high speed nibbling machines
thickness and the joining method to end preparations on tube and pipe can be very hard to control. A boring Hand-held milling and nibbling
be employed. Most welding Grinding using flame or plasma cutting. Many machine has far fewer limitations, but machines vary in size and capacity
specifications call for a pre- Grinding is the most common of the of them provide acceptable surfaces there are many disadvantages from a small electric drill for
determined end form which will vary low-tech methods employed in the for welding under certain common to both machines. Using lightweight plates about 3mm thick to
according to the subsequent welding tube and pipe fabrication shops. It is circumstances and depending on the these machines for end preparation free-standing machines that have the
method. relatively inexpensive, as the initial skill of the operator. The cost of ties up the machines and prevents workpiece fed through by hand. Some
Methods of end preparation vary investment in equipment is manual flame/plasma cutting them from being used for the many of these machines carry a milling
from the simplest, e.g. a hacksaw and considerably less than many of the equipment is not prohibitive, and more complex operations of which cutter that will remove large amounts
file, to high-tech, high-volume CNC alternative types of machinery these methods can be employed in a they are capable. Handling large or of material very quickly. These leave a
production machinery, which can turn currently available. It can be used on number of on-site situations, both complicated pipes, possibly with surface finish that is generally
out hundreds of finished tubes or a wide selection of materials and it indoors and out. Mechanised bends or fittings welded into them, acceptable for most methods of
pipes per hour. will, given sufficient time and a good methods of flame and plasma cutting can be difficult and slow. welding. Other machines use a Protem tube cutting and pipe bevelling machine


Equipment for tube and pipe end chain method is that it is difficult to
preparation can range from a set up and, if care is not taken, the
machine as simple as a grinder cutter may wander, resulting in a
mounted in a jig which clamps the spiral instead of a prepped end.
pipe to faster and more accurate CNC Nearly all the users of such chains
machines. use a mandrel to facilitate self-
On occasions end preparations have centring and self-alignment. Most of
to be created in an environment that the operators employ also form tools
precludes normal methods. This may to create the desired shape on the
be under water or in an irradiated pipe end. Many will perform more
area, or possibly in a situation where than one cutting operation
a human operator cannot be simultaneously, i.e. a compound
employed due to inaccessibility or bevel, counter-bore and root face. For
danger to life. For these applications thicker wall applications some
remote-control machines are needed. machines use single-point tooling
In situations where it is not permitted with articulated tool holders. These
to touch the inside of the tube, for types of machines can also be
example with an electrochemically adapted to reinstate a damaged
Protem pipe bevelling and tube cutting machine polished tube, machines employ gasket seat on flanges and vessels.
products, with largely the same workshop. Machines designed for in- special clamping collets to grip the
benefits as for tube and pipe. In some situ use are usually lightweight in workpiece, while others use a system Welding (super) duplex pipes Stationary bevelling and cutting machine
instances, for example where plate is relation to the dimensions they are of jaws similar to a chuck. For smaller The advantages of using high-tech
being rolled into a tubular section, made to work on. They can be sizes the collet system is the optimal portable tools were made evident studying the problem, Kalmia and require a large initial capital
accurate machining to width is supplied with a variety of drive solution. Another subcategory of the when Dragados Offshore SA was Protem decided to offer portable investment. This can be a daunting
imperative as this will govern the systems. There is a wide choice of collet method is the chain fixing, the asked to build an LNG processing tools for working pipes ranging from prospect, particularly for small
diameter of the finished tube. methods for attaching the machine to biggest advantage of which is that it is plant on Melkøya Island as part of 1” to 42” . The toolkit comprised low- businesses. However, the enhanced
Machines of this nature are usually the work, and several different cutting practically without limit of diameter. Statoil’s Snøhvit project. In the past speed bevellers using high-speed accuracy and repeatability of these
built into production lines, together methods can be employed. The principal disadvantage of the the company had prepared large- steel tool bits for the lower sizes, and machines can lead to a reduction in
with rolling and welding equipment. diameter hard-alloy pipes (stainless high-speed bevellers using carbide the number of components needing
For workshop activities, a vast range steel duplex and super duplex, P91, inserts for the bigger sizes. Most of to be scrapped and a reduction in the
of both fixed and portable systems is etc.) using several methods, the tools were offered with hydraulic number of weld defects. Accurate end
available. The choice of using a fixed including cutting by flame or band drives, because the working torque profiles mean that more advanced
system, as opposed to a portable saw, manual bevelling with abrasive was more stable compared with other welding processes can be employed.
machine, largely depends on the discs or, when high quality was types of motorisation. Many automated welding systems
volume of ends to be prepared and important, using a lathe. But these Dragados Offshore accepted the offer need very accurate fit-up, and are very
the speed at which it is to take place. methods proved unproductive, and worked all weld preps in hard unforgiving if there are inaccuracies
If there is a large number of similar- polluting, low quality and alloy tubes with Protem portable in the weld preparation. If an
sized items to be prepared in a inconvenient. So Dragados Offshore bevellers. The most important estimator can judge more accurately
common profile, a fixed system asked Kalmia SA and its partner advantage of this method was a the time taken to perform end
should be preferred. This can be Protem to propose a method of noticeable increase in productivity. profiles, the total time allowed for the
installed on a production line and machining pipes that avoided all “Due to the high quality of the weld operation can be more easily
work in harness with any other these problems. preps we were able to carry out a lot quantified. This makes it easier to
process that the components have to Most of the conduction of this plant of the welding using newly acquired calculate labour costs and make a
pass through. had to be constructed in duplex and orbital welding equipment,” said José correct price quote. In most cases
Portable machines also have the super duplex pipes to handle high Ramón Damborenea, General Sales therefore it is of considerable benefit
advantage that, if the prepared pipes pressures in corrosion weather Manager of Kalmia SA. for companies to invest in the most
are to be assembled on site, the conditions. The weld preps were to be advanced equipment available to
machinery can be taken to the job made in different configurations (30°, Capital investment enhance quality and productivity.
location and the same standards of 37°30” and “J” shape) and in different Portable machine tools and
accuracy can be achieved as in the Protem pipe bevelling machine sizes, schedules and materials. After sophisticated production systems