“We need to train people to weld more like robots and teach robots to weld more like people.”


David Landon, Manager of Welding Engineering, Vermeer Corporation
President (2020-2023), International Institute of Welding
Past President (2015), American Welding Society
You are highly recognized for your extensive contribution towards welding science, engineering, research and training. Please introduce a more about you?
First of all, thank you for the opportunity to talk with you and share a little about my story. From a personal standpoint, I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  I have been married to my lovely wife for 38 years and the father of four grown children and 9 grandchildren with two more on the way.
From a professional standpoint, I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Welding Engineering from LeTourneau University.  I started my career working as a welding engineer for Chicago Bridge and Iron (CBI) company.  During my tenure with CBI, I was introduced to the world of codes and specifications (ASME and AWS), and learned how to develop and write welding procedure specifications and welding procedure qualification records.  CBI had an incredible training program for their young welding engineers that exposed me to non-destructive testing, destructive testing, metallurgy lab, and applied welding research and development.  It was with CBI that I had the opportunity to work with a team of engineers during the 1980’s to implement Hot Wire Gas Tungsten Arc Welding into a field application.
After CBI, I started my own business which provided welding engineering consultation and training.  It was during this time that I became a Certified Welding Inspector with the American Welding Society.  At that time, I was told that I was the first person to score 100% on the AWS D1.1 exam.
In 1992, I had the privilege to join the team at Vermeer Corporation, located in Pella, Iowa, USA.  During my 29-year tenure at Vermeer, I have had the privilege to develop the welding engineering department from a single person (myself) to a team of three welding engineers, seven welding engineering technician’s, three weld training specialists, two metallurgists, a metallurgy lab technician and an additive manufacturing technician.
Please elaborate on the research and development on experimental welding process of Hot Wire Gas Tungsten Arc Welding.
The work that I did on Hot Wire Gas Tungsten Arc Welding was proprietary work with CBI and unfortunately, I am not at liberty to share that information.
Currently, you are a Manager of Corporate Welding Engineering and Metallurgy, Vermeer Corporation. Can you please elaborate on the company and type of projects your have worked upon?
Vermeer delivers a real impact on the way important work gets done through the manufacture of high-quality agricultural, underground construction, surface mining, tree care and environmental equipment. With a reputation for being built tough and built in a better way, that equipment is backed by localized customer service and support provided by independent dealers around the world.
When I started at Vermeer, we were 1200 team members with a single manufacturing location in Iowa. Early in my career with Vermeer, I developed our welding quality program known as Vermeer Welding Standards.  Around the same time, when the company was experiencing double digit growth, the need for training new welders became quite evident.  So in 1993, I developed the curriculum and started Vermeer’s in house welder training program.
The role of welding engineer at Vermeer is one of a consultant to our design engineering team for new product development, a consultant to our operations team to provide training and troubleshooting for production team members, and subject matter expert in welding and continuous improvement on relentless pursuit of identifying waste in our operations and proposing new methods and technologies to eliminate waste and improve productivity.
You had developed metallurgical laboratories at Vermeer and VBM. That’s great. Can you share more details on the lab?
In 1992, our “metallurgy lab” consisted of myself, a 10x macro scope and a grinder / polisher.  Through the years, our equipment and capabilities grew to include, Brinell, Rockwell, and Knoop hardness testing, high power digital optical microscopes, optical emission spectrometry, XRF, tensile testing, impact testing, bend testing, FTIR, scanning electron microscopy, gravimetric oil testing, ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle testing, dye penetrant testing, and hydrogen leak testing.  We have a PhD chief metallurgist, a second undergraduate degreed metallurgist and a metallurgical technician.
As Vermeer expanded with manufacturing in China, we duplicated some of the basic metallurgical tools in our facilities in China and trained our Chinese team members.
These laboratories facilitate our engineering teams globally in failure analysis on warranty returns as part of our continuous improvement methodology.  Our laboratory capabilities have moved beyond metallurgy into true materials testing and evaluation, allowing us to support new product development, research and development, and all facets of production and operations.
You are among the qualified Welding engineering consultant to manufacturers and engineering firms in Iowa, and have also designed weld structures. Please share some of your experiences.
Early in my career as a consultant, I would assist companies in Iowa with welder training, weld procedure qualification, code compliance, and welding inspections.
Failure analysis is a key to every success. And you have played a major role to perform analysis and make recommendations for re-design. Can you share some of the projects that you were involved into?
As I have previously mentioned, Vermeer uses failure analysis on prototypes as well as production machines as part of our continuous improvement methodology in our product design.  As such, details of those designs and improvements are confidential.  However, I am reminded of one of the “gold nuggets” that I learned from one of my mentors, Dr. Duane Miller from the Lincoln Electric Company.  Dr. Miller has an incredible talent of taking a very complicated principle of engineering and explaining it is simple terms easy to remember.  One of those principles that has stuck with me over the years is related to failure analysis: “Listen to the steel.”  Listening to the steel means that every failure will leaveone or more clues which often lead to the origin of the failure.  The key to failure analysis is to use one’s observation skills without jumping to conclusions.
It feels great to understand that you have been recently appointed as a President of International Institute of Welding. Congratulations. The IIW is internationally recognised as the most reliable source of technical knowledge in welding and related technologies. What plans have you designed for further enhancement of the institute?
I am honored to serve as President of the International Institute of Welding.  I was affirmed by the General Assembly in July of 2020 to a three-year term.  Being President of IIW is not about me, rather it is serving the association as chair of the Board of Directors and to work with the Chief Executive Officer of IIW to lead the incredible staff and volunteers through the implementation of our strategic planto be the leading global community linking industry, research and education to the advancement of welding and joining for a safer and sustainable world.IIW has five key initiatives:

  1. To have an Education, Training, Qualification, and Certification system which meets the needs of industry and IIW members.
  2. Implement an effective organizational and management structure.
  3. Improve IIW’s visibility and impact through effective communication and marketing.
  4. Ensure the industrial relevance of IIW research best practice development and standardization activities.
  5. Increase the value of involvement to all IIW stakeholders.

As an engineer from industry, one area that I do feel uniquely qualified, is to share with other end users in industry the incredible value of participation in IIW.
Any recent events?
Obviously, the year 2020 and the global pandemic has resulted in a change of plans for individuals and organizations around the world.  IIW was one of the earliest global organizations to host an international conference utilizing a fully virtual event with over 600 participants from 34 countries.  With the lingering of the pandemic, the IIW Board of Directors have focused their efforts of implementation of our strategy within the limits of the pandemic.
Can you please discuss with us more on the role of International Institute of Welding for the upliftment of welding industry?
IIW is a consortium of welding associations and welding institutes from 50 countries.These member societies make up the General Assembly of IIW.  The General Assembly have placed the Board of Directors to operate the business of the association with the assistance of the CEO and Secretariat.  The Board of Directors have two primary working units within the business of IIW;the technical output which is managed by the Technical Management Board and the qualification and certification system which is managed by the International Authorization Board.
The IIW is internationally recognized as the most reliable world source of technical knowledge in welding and related technologies. This knowledge is made available through a range of documents and products – IIW’s technical output – and is widely utilized by industry, research, and training organizations around the world. This output gives access to up-to-date knowledge and integrated expertise in the many fields of materials joining.The 23 technical Working Units (WUs) – named Commissions and Study Groups – are collaborative forums which utilize and foster the expertise of practitioners, scientists, engineers, and other specialist personnel from around the world. Their input and consensus lead to the generation of many types of technical output.
The IIW qualification and certification systems have a three-fold orientation: qualifications for the international welding community, certifications for welding personnel, and certifications for companies.
The institute is constantly working to develop the qualification and certification system. Elaborate.
Through the local Authorized Nominated Body, such as the Indian Institute of Welding, IIW provides training guidelines that cover all professional levels in welding technology fulfilling the requirements of welding coordination as outlined in ISO 14731:2019, including: International Welding Engineer, International Welding Technologist; International Welding Specialist, and International Welding Practitioner.
IIW also provides training guidelines for International Welding Inspection Personnelwhich cover the core education and training in welding and inspection technology required by those responsible for performing inspection tasks at various levels.  In addition, IIW provides training guidelines for International Welding Structural Designer.
IIW has training guidelines that seek to achieve harmonization in the training, examination and qualification testing of International Welders which provide assessment for both theoretical knowledge and practical skills, the latter being linked to the requirements of ISO 9606 (or equivalent standard).
In our world where automation is becoming the norm, IIW has guidelines for the education, training, examination, and qualification of International Mechanized, Orbital, and Robotic Welding Personnel.
Currently, IIW offers four levels of certification of welding personnel, International Welding Engineer, International Welding Technologist, International Welding Specialist, and International Welding Practitioner.  This professional competence validation covers the assessment of academic and professional qualification, knowledge, experience, and skills required for welding coordination tasks.
Through the IIW-IAB manufacturers certification system for metalworking companies, in cooperation with the local Authorized Nominated Body for Company Certification, IIW provide a third party certification of companies according to the requirements of ISO 3834.
What type of international standards for welding quality management are been practiced in USA?
In the USA there are two popular welding quality management systems that are used by companies: ISO 3834, Quality Requirement for Fusion Welding of Metallic Materials; and AWS B5.17, Specification for the Qualification of Welding Fabricators.
IIW’s role towards Welders Skill Development?
As I stated previously, IIW has developed the harmonized training, examination, and qualification testing guidelines for International Welders and International Mechanized, Orbital, and Robotic Welders.  In addition, IIW fully supports local, national, and international welding competitions hosted or supported by IIW member societies and organizations such as WorldSkills.
What is your say on the current welding market scenario globally and in USA?
Unfortunately, I do not have a crystal ball to see into the future.  Certainly, COVID has had a dramatic impact on all levels of the global economy.  Fortunately, in many areas of the world, construction, manufacturing, transportation, and infrastructure (all in which welding plays a significant role) have been identified as essential businesses, thus allowing many continued operations.
How is the demand and supply scenario?
Let me focus my response to the demand and supply of trained welders in the USA.  Even with the affects of COVID on the US economy, the demand for trained welders is still much greater than the supply.  That is why companies like Vermeer Corporation have created in-house welder training centers to train both new and current team members.
What is the country’s effort towards encouraging welding as a career?
The American Welding Society has spent considerable effort and resources in promoting welding careers and the image of welding.  One tool that has been very effective is the Careers in Weldingtrailer which travels around the USA to large venues promoting the incredible career opportunities available in the field of welding. The 53-foot single-expandable trailer provides visitors with a unique learning experience. Its wide array of hands-on exhibits engages the senses and sparks an interest in the welding industry.  Reader can take a virtual tour at www.careersinwelding.com/mobile-exhibit/
What new technologies have been introduced in USA, especially when welding is concern?
I am most familiar with the heavy equipment manufacturing industry in the USA.  Most of the trends that I see in new technologies and advancements in the welding marketplace are dealing with improved productivity and improved quality. Several of the welding equipment manufacturers have introduced very high deposition power sources and consumables for the MIG/MAG (GMAW) welding process. Some of these new systems allow for deposition rates of over 8 kg/hour in the semi-automatic applications with solid wire and over 11 kg/hour in robotic applications.
From a quality standpoint, we are seeing the use of smart technologies throughout welding.  At Vermeer Corporation, we are implementing digital instructions for welders that couples arc monitoring with step-by-step photo instructions for new welders to learn how to assemble and weldnew components. This system provides location of welds, sequence of welding, and tracks value added time versus non-value-added time.
Another recent advancement is related to some of the newer auto-darkening welding helmets.  Some manufacturers have added welding productivity information gathering to the welding helmet.  By tracking when the lens turns dark, a welding helmet can track arc-on time which can be used for making welding productivity improvements.
What major challenges do the welding industry in USA faces? What can be the ways to resolve the same?
There is no secret that one of the greatest challenges in the welding industry in the USA, and most of the global welding industry, is the lack of trained and qualified welding professionals.  The shortage of welders in the USA has been well documented by the American Welding Society.
I tend to be a simple person.  In my mind, there are two ways to resolve this challenge: attract and train more people into the welding industry; and help both new and current welders to become more productive. I believe technology is the key for significant breakthroughs in both areas.
Let’s face it, youth today are attracted to technology.  The welding industry has incredible technology throughout the market.  One area of which I have been a champion for many years is the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, and motion tracking cameras in the training of new welders.  At the core of the shortage of welding professionals is the shortage of trained welders.  Utilization of tools like virtual reality, augmented reality, and motion tracking cameras not only attract young talent to welding; they also become an incredible tool in the training of that talent with the proper technique required to produce a sound, quality weld.  These tools will never replace the instructor; however, they will make the instructor more efficient and more effective. One of the primary methods to improve quality is through repeatability.  These tools help instill that principle.
Automation is often considered as a methodology to improving productivity.  However, automation by itself is not intelligent.  Automation by itself cannot adapt to abnormalities.  Automation does provide for repeatability, which leads to quality improvements.
To bring this back around to the original question of the challenge and way to resolve such, I revert back to a challenge that I shared with many of my colleagues in the welding equipment industry:“We need to train people to weld more like robots and teach robots to weld more like people.”
Safety in Welding is highly important. What is the institute’s role towards boosting safety?
The International Institute of Welding has a long history of being a leader in research and dissemination of research in safety in welding.  This work program resides in Commission VIII, Health, Safety and Environment.  The terms of reference for this Commission include: To act interdisciplinary network for the exchange of knowledge in the field of health and safety in welding; To regularly review the general trends in the exposure to physical and chemical agents which may affect health and safety in welding; To share information on national laws, rules and regulations related to health, safety, and environment in welding; To monitor the issues dealing with environment and welding.
Please share some of the interesting anecdotes while in the role as a President (2015) of American Welding Society?
During the year of 2015, I had the privilege to travel to 35 of the 50 states in the USA and to 13 countries to speak at international conferences, technical seminars, local AWS section meetings and countless schools.  Whenever I spoke to students, the instructor would always ask the same question, “If you could give my students one piece of advice, what would that be?”  My answer was always the same.
Find the organization that is dedicated to your chosen profession or the profession that you are studying.  (In the USA, for welding, that organization is the American Welding Society.  In India, for welding, that organization is the Indian Institute of Welding.)  Find that organization, become a member, and become active.  Becoming a member and becoming active are two separate things.  Becoming a member is good.  Becoming an active member is great!  An active member attends meetings.  An active member gets involved in committees or leadership.  An active member finds a mentor and learns from that mentor.