LEARNING MANAGEMENT SYSTEM FOR A REAL-TIME SIMULATED VIRTUAL REALITY WELDING TRAINING ENVIRONMENT

- LINCOLN GLOBAL, INC.

A learning management system (LMS) for tracking student progress as students learn how to weld in a real-time, simulated, virtual reality welding training environment. Systems and methods to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment are provided. Welding student training data generated by students while using virtual reality welding systems is stored in a centralized database. The centralized database is accessible by a user (e.g., a welding instructor) using a personal computer having a learning management software application (LMSA) installed thereon. The LMSA is configured to allow the user to access at least a portion of the student training data for one or more of viewing, analysis, grading, and reporting.

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Description

This U.S. patent application claims the benefit of and priority to U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/876,352 filed on Sep. 11, 2013 which is incorporated herein by reference it its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

Certain embodiments relate to virtual reality simulation and training. More particularly, certain embodiments relate to systems and methods for tracking student progress as students learn how to weld in a real-time, simulated, virtual reality welding training environment.

BACKGROUND

Learning how to arc weld traditionally takes many hours of instruction, training, and practice. There are many different types of arc welding and arc welding processes that can be learned. Typically, welding is learned by a student using a real welding system and performing welding operations on real metal pieces. Such real-world training can tie up scarce welding resources and use up limited welding materials. Recently, however, the idea of training using welding simulations has become more popular. In particular, training in a virtual reality welding environment has gained momentum. A significant amount of data can be generated during a virtual reality welding training session for a student welder. A welding instructor, having multiple students in multiple classes at different levels of training, can find it very challenging to keep track of a student's progress and formulate relevant feedback for that student. Therefore, it is desirable to provide systems and methods to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment.

Further limitations and disadvantages of conventional, traditional, and proposed approaches will become apparent to one of skill in the art, through comparison of such approaches with embodiments of the present invention as set forth in the remainder of the present application with reference to the drawings.

SUMMARY

Embodiments of the present invention provide systems and methods for tracking student progress as students learn how to weld in a real-time, simulated, virtual reality welding training environment and to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment.

One embodiment of the present invention provides a learning management system (LMS). The LMS includes at least one virtual reality welding system configured to generate student training data in response to at least one student performing at least one virtual welding process on the at least one virtual reality welding system, a database server system configured to receive and store the student training data, and a personal computer having a learning management software application (LMSA) installed thereon, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) includes executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to perform one or more of: downloading the student training data from the at least one virtual reality welding system to the personal computer in at least one of a wired or wireless manner, uploading the student training data, analysis results, and reports from the personal computer to the database server system via an external communication infrastructure, and downloading the student training data from the database server system to the personal computer via an external communication infrastructure. The learning management system may also include an external communication infrastructure such as, for example, the internet, a cellular telephone communication network, a WiFi communication network, or a satellite communication network. The LMSA may further include executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to analyze the student training data and generate the analysis results and the reports. The LMSA may further include executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to generate at least one grade for at least one welding student based on at least a portion of the student training data. The LMSA may further include executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to identify, based on at least a portion of the student training data, any welding skills that a welding student is having trouble mastering. The LMSA may further include executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to compare welding performance of two or more welding students based on at least a portion of the student training data. The LMSA may provide instructional welding lessons and materials for welding students and welding instructors. The student training data may include information related to welding parameters including at least one of contact tip to work distance, weld angle, travel angle, and travel speed as affected by a welding student during a virtual welding process. The student training data may include information related to at least one of a welding student name, a date and time of a virtual welding process performed by a welding student, default tolerances used during a virtual welding process, technique parameter scores based on a welding procedure specification (WPS), a welding pass number and a weld score per pass, an average of weld score passes, an overall score, a welding process and technique used, a joint configuration and position, discontinuities and percent, number of welds completed per joint configuration, data for return-on-investment reporting, student arc time, student material usage, student simulator time, and results of virtual reality destructive testing.

One embodiment of the present invention provides a method. The method includes accessing a database server system using a personal computer having a learning management software applications (LMSA) installed thereon, downloading student training data from the database server system to the personal computer using the LMSA, wherein the student training data derives from one or more virtual welding processes performed on one or more virtual reality welding systems, and analyzing the student training data using the LMSA to determine a welding performance of one or more welding students associated with the student training data. The method may further include using the LMSA to do one or more of: selecting graded joint configurations from a list to create a grade book for a class, entering welding projects and assignments, that are not derived directly from a virtual reality welding system, for data manipulation, applying pricing to data to determine cost savings, organizing student data by one or more of class/period/shift, measuring student improvement between two welding exercises or points in time, generating pass/fail indications based on a cutoff score input by a welding instructor, adding performance comments to a report for a welding student, generating a report card and selecting items to be included or excluded from the report card, generate printable reports by one or more of welding student, welding class, or time frame, archiving final welding class results to the database server system, and creating and tracking virtual certifications as acquired by welding students performing to determined levels on welding exercises. The method may also include using the LMSA to enter real world welding data generated during a real-world welding process performed by a first student welder using a real-world welding machine, and using the LMSA to compare the real-world welding data to at least a portion of the student training data associated with the first student welder.

These and other features of the claimed invention, as well as details of illustrated embodiments thereof, will be more fully understood from the following description and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates an example embodiment of a system block diagram of a system providing arc welding training in a real-time virtual reality environment;

FIG. 2 illustrates an example embodiment of a combined simulated welding console and observer display device (ODD) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 illustrates an example embodiment of the observer display device (ODD) of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 illustrates an example embodiment of a front portion of the simulated welding console of FIG. 2 showing a physical welding user interface (WUI);

FIG. 5 illustrates an example embodiment of a mock welding tool (MWT) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 illustrates an example embodiment of a table/stand (T/S) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7A illustrates an example embodiment of a pipe welding coupon (WC) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7B illustrates the pipe WC of FIG. 7A mounted in an arm of the table/stand (TS) of FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 illustrates various elements of an example embodiment of the spatial tracker (ST) of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9A illustrates an example embodiment of a face-mounted display device (FMDD) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 9B is an illustration of how the FMDD of FIG. 9A is secured on the head of a user;

FIG. 9C illustrates an example embodiment of the FMDD of FIG. 9A mounted within a welding helmet;

FIG. 10 illustrates an example embodiment of a subsystem block diagram of a programmable processor-based subsystem (PPS) of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 11 illustrates an example embodiment of a block diagram of a graphics processing unit (GPU) of the PPS of FIG. 10;

FIG. 12 illustrates an example embodiment of a functional block diagram of the system of FIG. 1,

FIG. 13 is a flow chart of an embodiment of a method of training using the virtual reality training system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 14 illustrates an embodiment of a virtual reality welding system;

FIG. 15 illustrates an embodiment of a personal computer being a tablet device;

FIG. 16 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an example embodiment of the tablet device of FIG. 15;

FIG. 17 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a learning management system (LMS);

FIG. 18 illustrates an embodiment of a screen shot of an instructor home page of a learning management software application (LMSA); and

FIG. 19 illustrates an embodiment of a screen shot of a student home page of a learning management software application (LMSA).

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Initially, an embodiment of a virtual reality arc welding (VRAW) system is described herein to put in context the idea of training in a virtual reality welding environment. Subsequently, a learning management system (LMS) is described herein in the context of collecting data from one or more VRAW systems (or similar virtual reality welding systems) and storing and analyzing the data. The data may be representative of simulated welding operations performed by student welders on the VRAW systems, and analysis of the data may be initiated by a welding instructor, for example, to track student progress and provide proper feedback to a student welder.

Virtual Reality Arc Welding System

An embodiment of the present invention provides one or more virtual reality arc welding (VRAW) systems each having a programmable processor-based subsystem, a spatial tracker operatively connected to the programmable processor-based subsystem, at least one mock welding tool capable of being spatially tracked by the spatial tracker, and at least one display device operatively connected to the programmable processor-based subsystem. The system is capable of simulating, in a virtual reality space, a weld puddle having real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics. The system is also capable of displaying the simulated weld puddle on the display device in real-time. The real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics of the simulated weld puddle provide real-time visual feedback to a user of the mock welding tool when displayed, allowing the user to adjust or maintain a welding technique in real-time in response to the real-time visual feedback (i.e., helps the user learn to weld correctly). The displayed weld puddle is representative of a weld puddle that would be formed in the real-world based on the user's welding technique and the selected welding process and parameters. By viewing a puddle (e.g., shape, color, slag, size, stacked dimes), a user can modify his technique to make a good weld and determine the type of welding being done. The shape of the puddle is responsive to the movement of the gun or stick. As used herein, the term “real-time” means perceiving and experiencing in time in a simulated environment in the same way that a user would perceive and experience in a real-world welding scenario. Furthermore, the weld puddle is responsive to the effects of the physical environment including gravity, allowing a user to realistically practice welding in various positions including overhead welding and various pipe welding angles (e.g., 1G, 2G, 5G, 6G). The system is further capable of saving data associated with a simulated virtual reality welding session for a student welder.

FIG. 1 illustrates an example embodiment of a system block diagram of a system 100 providing arc welding training in a real-time virtual reality environment. The system 100 includes a programmable processor-based subsystem (PPS) 110 having processing units and computer memory. The system 100 further includes a spatial tracker (ST) 120 operatively connected to the PPS 110. The system 100 also includes a physical welding user interface (WUI) 130 operatively connected to the PPS 110 and a face-mounted display device (FMDD) 140 operatively connected to the PPS 110 and the ST 120. The system 100 further includes an observer display device (ODD) 150 operatively connected to the PPS 110. The system 100 also includes at least one mock welding tool (MWT) 160 operatively connected to the ST 120 and the PPS 110. The system 100 further includes a table/stand (T/S) 170 and at least one welding coupon (WC) 180 capable of being attached to the T/S 170. In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, a mock gas bottle is provided (not shown) simulating a source of shielding gas and having an adjustable flow regulator.

FIG. 2 illustrates an example embodiment of a combined simulated welding console 135 (simulating a welding power source user interface) and observer display device (ODD) 150 of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The physical WUI 130 resides on a front portion of the console 135 and provides knobs, buttons, and a joystick for user selection of various modes and functions. The ODD 150 is attached to a top portion of the console 135. The MWT 160 rests in a holder attached to a side portion of the console 135. Internally, the console 135 holds the PPS 110 and a portion of the ST 120. In accordance with an alternative embodiment, the selection of the modes and functions provided by the WUI 130 may be in the form of a touch-screen display.

FIG. 3 illustrates an example embodiment of the observer display device (ODD) 150 of FIG. 2. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the ODD 150 is a liquid crystal display (LCD) device. Other display devices are possible as well. For example, the ODD 150 may be a touchscreen display, in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. The ODD 150 receives video (e.g., SVGA format) and display information from the PPS 110.

As shown in FIG. 3, the ODD 150 is capable of displaying a first user scene showing various welding parameters 151 including position, tip to work, weld angle, travel angle, and travel speed. These parameters may be selected and displayed in real time in graphical form and are used to teach proper welding technique. Furthermore, as shown in FIG. 3, the ODD 150 is capable of displaying simulated welding discontinuity states 152 including, for example, improper weld size, poor bead placement, concave bead, excessive convexity, undercut, porosity, incomplete fusion, slag inclusion, excess spatter, overfill, and burnthrough (melt through). Undercut is a groove melted into the base metal adjacent to the weld or weld root and left unfilled by weld metal. Undercut is often due to an incorrect angle of welding. Porosity is cavity type discontinuities formed by gas entrapment during solidification often caused by moving the arc too far away from the coupon. Data associated with the parameters and states may be stored on the VRAW system for student welders.

Also, as shown in FIG. 3, the ODD 50 is capable of displaying user selections 153 including menu, actions, visual cues, new coupon, and end pass. These user selections are tied to user buttons on the console 135. As a user makes various selections via, for example, a touchscreen of the ODD 150 or via the physical WUI 130, the displayed characteristics can change to provide selected information and other options to the user. Furthermore, the ODD 150 may display a view seen by a welder wearing the FMDD 140 at the same angular view of the welder or at various different angles, for example, chosen by an instructor. The ODD 150 may be viewed by an instructor and/or students for various training purposes. For example, the view may be rotated around the finished weld allowing visual inspection by an instructor. In accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention, video from the system 100 may be sent to a remote location via, for example, the Internet for remote viewing and/or critiquing. Furthermore, audio may be provided, allowing real-time audio communication between a student and a remote instructor.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example embodiment of a front portion of the simulated welding console 135 of FIG. 2 showing a physical welding user interface (WUI) 130. The WUI 130 includes a set of buttons 131 corresponding to the user selections 153 displayed on the ODD 150. The buttons 131 are colored to correspond to the colors of the user selections 153 displayed on the ODD 150. When one of the buttons 131 is pressed, a signal is sent to the PPS 110 to activate the corresponding function. The WUI 130 also includes a joystick 132 capable of being used by a user to select various parameters and selections displayed on the ODD 150. The WUI 130 further includes a dial or knob 133 for adjusting wire feed speed/amps, and another dial or knob 134 for adjusting volts/trim. The WUI 130 also includes a dial or knob 136 for selecting an arc welding process. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, three arc welding processes are selectable including flux cored arc welding (FCAW) including gas-shielded and self-shielded processes; gas metal arc welding (GMAW) including short arc, axial spray, STT, and pulse; gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW); and shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) including E6010 and E7010 electrodes. The WUI 130 further includes a dial or knob 137 for selecting a welding polarity. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, three arc welding polarities are selectable including alternating current (AC), positive direct current (DC+), and negative direct current (DC−).

FIG. 5 illustrates an example embodiment of a mock welding tool (MWT) 160 of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The MWT 160 of FIG. 5 simulates a stick welding tool for plate and pipe welding and includes a holder 161 and a simulated stick electrode 162. A trigger on the MWD 160 is used to communicate a signal to the PPS 110 to activate a selected simulated welding process. The simulated stick electrode 162 includes a tactilely resistive tip 163 to simulate resistive feedback that occurs during, for example, a root pass welding procedure in real-world pipe welding or when welding a plate. If the user moves the simulated stick electrode 162 too far back out of the root, the user will be able to feel or sense the lower resistance, thereby deriving feedback for use in adjusting or maintaining the current welding process.

It is contemplated that the stick welding tool may incorporate an actuator, not shown, that withdraws the simulated stick electrode 162 during the virtual welding process. That is to say that as a user engages in virtual welding activity, the distance between holder 161 and the tip of the simulated stick electrode 162 is reduced to simulate consumption of the electrode. The consumption rate, i.e. withdrawal of the stick electrode 162, may be controlled by the PPS 110 and more specifically by coded instructions executed by the PPS 110. The simulated consumption rate may also depend on the user's technique. It is noteworthy to mention here that as the system 100 facilitates virtual welding with different types of electrodes, the consumption rate or reduction of the stick electrode 162 may change with the welding procedure used and/or setup of the system 100.

Other mock welding tools are possible as well, in accordance with other embodiments of the present invention, including a MWD that simulates a hand-held semi-automatic welding gun having a wire electrode fed through the gun, for example. Furthermore, in accordance with other certain embodiments of the present invention, a real welding tool could be used as the MWT 160 to better simulate the actual feel of the tool in the user's hands, even though, in the system 100, the tool would not be used to actually create a real arc. Also, a simulated grinding tool may be provided, for use in a simulated grinding mode of the simulator 100. Similarly, a simulated cutting tool may be provided, for use in a simulated cutting mode of the simulator 100. Furthermore, a simulated gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) torch or filler material may be provided for use in the simulator 100.

FIG. 6 illustrates an example embodiment of a table/stand (T/S) 170 of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The T/S 170 includes an adjustable table 171, a stand or base 172, an adjustable arm 173, and a vertical post 174. The table 171, the stand 172, and the arm 173 are each attached to the vertical post 174. The table 171 and the arm 173 are each capable of being manually adjusted upward, downward, and rotationally with respect to the vertical post 174. The arm 173 is used to hold various welding coupons (e.g., welding coupon 175) and a user may rest his/her arm on the table 171 when training. The vertical post 174 is indexed with position information such that a user may know exactly where the arm 173 and the table 171 are vertically positioned on the post 171. This vertical position information may be entered into the system by a user using the WUI 130 and the ODD 150.

In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the positions of the table 171 and the arm 173 may be automatically set by the PSS 110 via preprogrammed settings, or via the WUI 130 and/or the ODD 150 as commanded by a user. In such an alternative embodiment, the T/S 170 includes, for example, motors and/or servo-mechanisms, and signal commands from the PPS 110 activate the motors and/or servo-mechanisms. In accordance with a further alternative embodiment of the present invention, the positions of the table 171 and the arm 173 and the type of coupon are detected by the system 100. In this way, a user does not have to manually input the position information via the user interface. In such an alternative embodiment, the T/S 170 includes position and orientation detectors and sends signal commands to the PPS 110 to provide position and orientation information, and the WC 175 includes position detecting sensors (e.g., coiled sensors for detecting magnetic fields). A user is able to see a rendering of the T/S 170 adjust on the ODD 150 as the adjustment parameters are changed, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7A illustrates an example embodiment of a pipe welding coupon (WC) 175 of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The WC 175 simulates two six inch diameter pipes 175′ and 175″ placed together to form a root 176 to be welded. The WC 175 includes a connection portion 177 at one end of the WC 175, allowing the WC 175 to be attached in a precise and repeatable manner to the arm 173. FIG. 7B illustrates the pipe WC 175 of FIG. 7A mounted on the arm 173 of the table/stand (TS) 170 of FIG. 6. The precise and repeatable manner in which the WC 175 is capable of being attached to the arm 173 allows for spatial calibration of the WC 175 to be performed only once at the factory. Then, in the field, as long as the system 100 is told the position of the arm 173, the system 100 is able to track the MWT 160 and the FMDD 140 with respect to the WC 175 in a virtual environment. A first portion of the arm 173, to which the WC 175 is attached, is capable of being tilted with respect to a second portion of the arm 173, as shown in FIG. 6. This allows the user to practice pipe welding with the pipe in any of several different orientations and angles.

FIG. 8 illustrates various elements of an example embodiment of the spatial tracker (ST) 120 of FIG. 1. The ST 120 is a magnetic tracker that is capable of operatively interfacing with the PPS 110 of the system 100. The ST 120 includes a magnetic source 121 and source cable, at least one sensor 122 and associated cable, host software on disk 123, a power source 124 and associated cable, USB and RS-232 cables 125, and a processor tracking unit 126. The magnetic source 121 is capable of being operatively connected to the processor tracking unit 126 via a cable. The sensor 122 is capable of being operatively connected to the processor tracking unit 126 via a cable. The power source 124 is capable of being operatively connected to the processor tracking unit 126 via a cable. The processor tracking unit 126 is cable of being operatively connected to the PPS 110 via a USB or RS-232 cable 125. The host software on disk 123 is capable of being loaded onto the PPS 110 and allows functional communication between the ST 120 and the PPS 110.

Referring to FIG. 6, the magnetic source 121 of the ST 120 is mounted on the first portion of the arm 173. The magnetic source 121 creates a magnetic field around the source 121, including the space encompassing the WC 175 attached to the arm 173, which establishes a 3D spatial frame of reference. The T/S 170 is largely non-metallic (non-ferric and non-conductive) so as not to distort the magnetic field created by the magnetic source 121. The sensor 122 includes three induction coils orthogonally aligned along three spatial directions. The induction coils of the sensor 122 each measure the strength of the magnetic field in each of the three directions and provide that information to the processor tracking unit 126. As a result, the system 100 is able to know where any portion of the WC 175 is with respect to the 3D spatial frame of reference established by the magnetic field when the WC 175 is mounted on the arm 173. The sensor 122 may be attached to the MWT 160 or to the FMDD 140, allowing the MWT 160 or the FMDD 140 to be tracked by the ST 120 with respect to the 3D spatial frame of reference in both space and orientation. When two sensors 122 are provided and operatively connected to the processor tracking unit 126, both the MWT 160 and the FMDD 140 may be tracked. In this manner, the system 100 is capable of creating a virtual WC, a virtual MWT, and a virtual T/S in virtual reality space and displaying the virtual WC, the virtual MWT, and the virtual T/S on the FMDD 140 and/or the ODD 150 as the MWT 160 and the FMDD 140 are tracked with respect to the 3D spatial frame of reference.

In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the sensor(s) 122 may wirelessly interface to the processor tracking unit 126, and the processor tracking unit 126 may wirelessly interface to the PPS 110. In accordance with other alternative embodiments of the present invention, other types of spatial trackers 120 may be used in the system 100 including, for example, an accelerometer/gyroscope-based tracker, an optical tracker (active or passive), an infrared tracker, an acoustic tracker, a laser tracker, a radio frequency tracker, an inertial tracker, and augmented reality based tracking systems. Other types of trackers may be possible as well.

FIG. 9A illustrates an example embodiment of the face-mounted display device 140 (FMDD) of the system 100 of FIG. 1. FIG. 9B is an illustration of how the FMDD 140 of FIG. 9A is secured on the head of a user. FIG. 9C illustrates an example embodiment of the FMDD 140 of FIG. 9A integrated into a welding helmet 900. The FMDD 140 operatively connects to the PPS 110 and the ST 120 either via wired means or wirelessly. A sensor 122 of the ST 120 may be attached to the FMDD 140 or to the welding helmet 900, in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention, allowing the FMDD 140 and/or welding helmet 900 to be tracked with respect to the 3D spatial frame of reference created by the ST 120.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the FMDD 140 includes two high-contrast SVGA 3D OLED microdisplays capable of delivering fluid full-motion video in the 2D and frame sequential video modes. Video of the virtual reality environment is provided and displayed on the FMDD 140. A zoom (e.g., 2×) mode may be provided, allowing a user to simulate a cheater lens, for example.

The FMDD 140 further includes two earbud speakers 910, allowing the user to hear simulated welding-related and environmental sounds produced by the system 100. The FMDD 140 may operatively interface to the PPS 110 via wired or wireless means, in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the PPS 110 provides stereoscopic video to the FMDD 140, providing enhanced depth perception to the user. In accordance with an alternate embodiment of the present invention, a user is able to use a control on the MWT 160 (e.g., a button or switch) to call up and select menus and display options on the FMDD 140. This may allow the user to easily reset a weld if he makes a mistake, change certain parameters, or back up a little to re-do a portion of a weld bead trajectory, for example.

FIG. 10 illustrates an example embodiment of a subsystem block diagram of the programmable processor-based subsystem (PPS) 110 of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The PPS 110 includes a central processing unit (CPU) 111 and two graphics processing units (GPU) 115, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The two GPUs 115 are programmed to provide virtual reality simulation of a weld puddle (a.k.a. a weld pool) having real-time molten metal fluidity and heat absorption and dissipation characteristics, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 11 illustrates an example embodiment of a block diagram of a graphics processing unit (GPU) 115 of the PPS 110 of FIG. 10. Each GPU 115 supports the implementation of data parallel algorithms. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, each GPU 115 provides two video outputs 118 and 119 capable of providing two virtual reality views. Two of the video outputs may be routed to the FMDD 140, rendering the welder's point of view, and a third video output may be routed to the ODD 150, for example, rendering either the welder's point of view or some other point of view. The remaining fourth video output may be routed to a projector, for example. Both GPUs 115 perform the same welding physics computations but may render the virtual reality environment from the same or different points of view. The GPU 115 includes a compute unified device architecture (CUDA) 116 and a shader 117. The CUDA 116 is the computing engine of the GPU 115 which is accessible to software developers through industry standard programming languages. The CUDA 116 includes parallel cores and is used to run the physics model of the weld puddle simulation described herein. The CPU 111 provides real-time welding input data to the CUDA 116 on the GPU 115. The shader 117 is responsible for drawing and applying all of the visuals of the simulation. Bead and puddle visuals are driven by the state of a wexel displacement map which is described later herein. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the physics model runs and updates at a rate of about 30 times per second.

FIG. 12 illustrates an example embodiment of a functional block diagram of the system 100 of FIG. 1. The various functional blocks of the system 100 as shown in FIG. 12 are implemented largely via software instructions and modules running on the PPS 110. The various functional blocks of the system 100 include a physical interface 1201, torch and clamp models 1202, environment models 1203, sound content functionality 1204, welding sounds 1205, stand/table model 1206, internal architecture functionality 1207, calibration functionality 1208, coupon models 1210, welding physics 1211, internal physics adjustment tool (tweaker) 1212, graphical user interface functionality 1213, graphing functionality 1214, student reports functionality 1215, renderer 1216, bead rendering 1217, 3D textures 1218, visual cues functionality 1219, scoring and tolerance functionality 1220, tolerance editor 1221, and special effects 1222.

The internal architecture functionality 1207 provides the higher level software logistics of the processes of the system 100 including, for example, loading files, holding information, managing threads, turning the physics model on, and triggering menus. The internal architecture functionality 1207 runs on the CPU 111, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. Certain real-time inputs to the PPS 110 include arc location, gun position, FMDD or helmet position, gun on/off state, and contact made state (yes/no).

The graphical user interface functionality 1213 allows a user, through the ODD 150 using the joystick 132 of the physical user interface 130, to set up a welding scenario. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the set up of a welding scenario includes selecting a language, entering a user name, selecting a practice plate (i.e., a welding coupon), selecting a welding process (e.g., FCAW, GMAW, SMAW) and associated axial spray, pulse, or short arc methods, selecting a gas type and flow rate, selecting a type of stick electrode (e.g., 6010 or 7018), and selecting a type of flux cored wire (e.g., self-shielded, gas-shielded). The set up of a welding scenario also includes selecting a table height, an arm height, an arm position, and an arm rotation of the T/S 170. The set up of a welding scenario further includes selecting an environment (e.g., a background environment in virtual reality space), setting a wire feed speed, setting a voltage level, setting an amperage, selecting a polarity, and turning particular visual cues on or off.

During a simulated welding scenario, the graphing functionality 1214 gathers user performance parameters and provides the user performance parameters to the graphical user interface functionality 1213 for display in a graphical format (e.g., on the ODD 150). Tracking information from the ST 120 feeds into the graphing functionality 1214. The graphing functionality 1214 includes a simple analysis module (SAM) and a whip/weave analysis module (WWAM). The SAM analyzes user welding parameters including welding travel angle, travel speed, weld angle, position, and tip to work distance by comparing the welding parameters to data stored in bead tables. The WWAM analyzes user whipping parameters including dime spacing, whip time, and puddle time. The WWAM also analyzes user weaving parameters including width of weave, weave spacing, and weave timing. The SAM and WWAM interpret raw input data (e.g., position and orientation data) into functionally usable data for graphing. For each parameter analyzed by the SAM and the WWAM, a tolerance window is defined by parameter limits around an optimum or ideal set point input into bead tables using the tolerance editor 1221, and scoring and tolerance functionality 1220 is performed. Various types of student training data such as, for example, parameter data and scoring data may be stored on the VRAW system and may be used later with respect to a learning management system (LMS) as described later herein.

The tolerance editor 1221 includes a weldometer which approximates material usage, electrical usage, and welding time. Furthermore, when certain parameters are out of tolerance, welding discontinuities (i.e., welding defects) may occur. The state of any welding discontinuities are processed by the graphing functionality 1214 and presented via the graphical user interface functionality 1213 in a graphical format. Such welding discontinuities include improper weld size, poor bead placement, concave bead, excessive convexity, undercut, porosity, incomplete fusion, slag entrapment, overfill, burnthrough, and excessive spatter. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the level or amount of a discontinuity is dependent on how far away a particular user parameter is from the optimum or ideal set point.

Different parameter limits may be pre-defined for different types of users such as, for example, welding novices, welding experts, and persons at a trade show. The scoring and tolerance functionality 1220 provide number scores depending on how close to optimum (ideal) a user is for a particular parameter and depending on the level of discontinuities or defects present in the weld. The optimum values are derived from real-world data. Information from the scoring and tolerance functionality 1220 and from the graphics functionality 1214 may be used by the student reports functionality 1215 to create a performance report for an instructor and/or a student.

The system 100 is capable of analyzing and displaying the results of virtual welding activity. By analyzing the results, it is meant that system 100 is capable of determining when during the welding pass and where along the weld joints, the user deviated from the acceptable limits of the welding process. A score may be attributed to the user's performance. In one embodiment, the score may be a function of deviation in position, orientation and speed of the mock welding tool 160 through ranges of tolerances, which may extend from an ideal welding pass to marginal or unacceptable welding activity. Any gradient of ranges may be incorporated into the system 100 as chosen for scoring the user's performance. Scoring may be displayed numerically or alpha-numerically. Additionally, the user's performance may be displayed graphically showing, in time and/or position along the weld joint, how closely the mock welding tool traversed the weld joint. Parameters such as travel angle, work angle, speed, and distance from the weld joint are examples of what may be measured, although any parameters may be analyzed for scoring purposes. The tolerance ranges of the parameters are taken from real-world welding data, thereby providing accurate feedback as to how the user will perform in the real world. In another embodiment, analysis of the defects corresponding to the user's performance may also be incorporated and displayed on the ODD 150. In this embodiment, a graph may be depicted indicating what type of discontinuity resulted from measuring the various parameters monitored during the virtual welding activity. While occlusions may not be visible on the ODD 150, defects may still have occurred as a result of the user's performance, the results of which may still be correspondingly displayed, i.e. graphed. Again, various types of student training data such as, for example, parameter data and scoring data may be stored on the VRAW system and may be used later with respect to a learning management system (LMS) as described later herein.

Visual cues functionality 1219 provide immediate feedback to the user by displaying overlaid colors and indicators on the FMDD 140 and/or the ODD 150. Visual cues are provided for each of the welding parameters 151 including position, tip to work distance, weld angle, travel angle, travel speed, and arc length (e.g., for stick welding) and visually indicate to the user if some aspect of the user's welding technique should be adjusted based on the predefined limits or tolerances. Visual cues may also be provided for whip/weave technique and weld bead “dime” spacing, for example. Visual cues may be set independently or in any desired combination.

Calibration functionality 1208 provides the capability to match up physical components in real world space (3D frame of reference) with visual components in virtual reality space. Each different type of welding coupon (WC) is calibrated in the factory by mounting the WC to the arm 173 of the T/S 170 and touching the WC at predefined points (indicated by, for example, three dimples on the WC) with a calibration stylus operatively connected to the ST 120. The ST 120 reads the magnetic field intensities at the predefined points, provides position information to the PPS 110, and the PPS 110 uses the position information to perform the calibration (i.e., the translation from real world space to virtual reality space).

Any particular type of WC fits into the arm 173 of the T/S 170 in the same repeatable way to within very tight tolerances. Therefore, once a particular WC type is calibrated, that WC type does not have to be re-calibrated (i.e., calibration of a particular type of WC is a one-time event). WCs of the same type are interchangeable. Calibration ensures that physical feedback perceived by the user during a welding process matches up with what is displayed to the user in virtual reality space, making the simulation seem more real. For example, if the user slides the tip of a MWT 160 around the corner of a actual WC 180, the user will see the tip sliding around the corner of the virtual WC on the FMDD 140 as the user feels the tip sliding around the actual corner. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the MWT 160 is placed in a pre-positioned jig and is calibrated as well, based on the known jig position.

In accordance with an alternative embodiment of the present invention, “smart” coupons are provided, having sensors on, for example, the corners of the coupons. The ST 120 is able to track the corners of a “smart” coupon such that the system 100 continuously knows where the “smart” coupon is in real world 3D space. In accordance with a further alternative embodiment of the present invention, licensing keys are provided to “unlock” welding coupons. When a particular WC is purchased, a licensing key is provided allowing the user to enter the licensing key into the system 100, unlocking the software associated with that WC. In accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, special non-standard welding coupons may be provided based on real-world CAD drawings of parts. Users may be able to train on welding a CAD part even before the part is actually produced in the real world.

Sound content functionality 1204 and welding sounds 1205 provide particular types of welding sounds that change depending on if certain welding parameters are within tolerance or out of tolerance. Sounds are tailored to the various welding processes and parameters. For example, in a MIG spray arc welding process, a crackling sound is provided when the user does not have the MWT 160 positioned correctly, and a hissing sound is provided when the MWT 160 is positioned correctly. In a short arc welding process, a steady crackling or frying sound is provided for proper welding technique, and a hissing sound may be provided when undercutting is occurring. These sounds mimic real world sounds corresponding to correct and incorrect welding technique.

High fidelity sound content may be taken from real world recordings of actual welding using a variety of electronic and mechanical means, in accordance with various embodiments of the present invention. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the perceived volume and directionality of sound is modified depending on the position, orientation, and distance of the user's head (assuming the user is wearing a FMDD 140 that is tracked by the ST 120) with respect to the simulated arc between the MWT 160 and the WC 180. Sound may be provided to the user via ear bud speakers 910 in the FMDD 140 or via speakers configured in the console 135 or T/S 170, for example.

Environment models 1203 are provided to provide various background scenes (still and moving) in virtual reality space. Such background environments may include, for example, an indoor welding shop, an outdoor race track, a garage, etc. and may include moving cars, people, birds, clouds, and various environmental sounds. The background environment may be interactive, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. For example, a user may have to survey a background area, before starting welding, to ensure that the environment is appropriate (e.g., safe) for welding. Torch and clamp models 1202 are provided which model various MWTs 160 including, for example, guns, holders with stick electrodes, etc. in virtual reality space.

Coupon models 1210 are provided which model various WCs 180 including, for example, flat plate coupons, T-joint coupons, butt-joint coupons, groove-weld coupons, and pipe coupons (e.g., 2-inch diameter pipe and 6-inch diameter pipe) in virtual reality space. A stand/table model 1206 is provided which models the various parts of the T/S 170 including an adjustable table 171, a stand 172, an adjustable arm 173, and a vertical post 174 in virtual reality space. A physical interface model 1201 is provided which models the various parts of the welding user interface 130, console 135, and ODD 150 in virtual reality space.

In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, simulation of a weld puddle or pool in virtual reality space is accomplished where the simulated weld puddle has real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics. At the heart of the weld puddle simulation is the welding physics functionality 1211 (a.k.a., the physics model) which is run on the GPUs 115, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. The welding physics functionality employs a double displacement layer technique to accurately model dynamic fluidity/viscosity, solidity, heat gradient (heat absorption and dissipation), puddle wake, and bead shape.

The welding physics functionality 1211 communicates with the bead rendering functionality 1217 to render a weld bead in all states from the heated molten state to the cooled solidified state. The bead rendering functionality 1217 uses information from the welding physics functionality 1211 (e.g., heat, fluidity, displacement, dime spacing) to accurately and realistically render a weld bead in virtual reality space in real-time. The 3D textures functionality 1218 provides texture maps to the bead rendering functionality 1217 to overlay additional textures (e.g., scorching, slag, grain) onto the simulated weld bead. For example, slag may be shown rendered over a weld bead during and just after a welding process, and then removed to reveal the underlying weld bead. The renderer functionality 1216 is used to render various non-puddle specific characteristics using information from the special effects module 1222 including sparks, spatter, smoke, arc glow, fumes and gases, and certain discontinuities such as, for example, undercut and porosity.

The internal physics adjustment tool 1212 is a tweaking tool that allows various welding physics parameters to be defined, updated, and modified for the various welding processes. In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, the internal physics adjustment tool 1212 runs on the CPU 111 and the adjusted or updated parameters are downloaded to the GPUs 115. The types of parameters that may be adjusted via the internal physics adjustment tool 1212 include parameters related to welding coupons, process parameters that allow a process to be changed without having to reset a welding coupon (allows for doing a second pass), various global parameters that can be changed without resetting the entire simulation, and other various parameters.

FIG. 13 is a flow chart of an embodiment of a method 1300 of training using the virtual reality training system 100 of FIG. 1. In step 1310, move a mock welding tool with respect to a welding coupon in accordance with a welding technique. In step 1320, track position and orientation of the mock welding tool in three-dimensional space using a virtual reality system. In step 1330, view a display of the virtual reality welding system showing a real-time virtual reality simulation of the mock welding tool and the welding coupon in a virtual reality space as the simulated mock welding tool deposits a simulated weld bead material onto at least one simulated surface of the simulated welding coupon by forming a simulated weld puddle in the vicinity of a simulated arc emitting from said simulated mock welding tool. In step 1340, view on the display, real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics of the simulated weld puddle. In step 1350, modify in real-time, at least one aspect of the welding technique in response to viewing the real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics of the simulated weld puddle.

The method 1300 illustrates how a user is able to view a weld puddle in virtual reality space and modify his welding technique in response to viewing various characteristics of the simulated weld puddle, including real-time molten metal fluidity (e.g., viscosity) and heat dissipation. The user may also view and respond to other characteristics including real-time puddle wake and dime spacing. Viewing and responding to characteristics of the weld puddle is how most welding operations are actually performed in the real world. The double displacement layer modeling of the welding physics functionality 1211 run on the GPUs 115 allows for such real-time molten metal fluidity and heat dissipation characteristics to be accurately modeled and represented to the user. For example, heat dissipation determines solidification time (i.e., how much time it takes for a wexel to completely solidify).

Furthermore, a user may make a second pass over the weld bead material using the same or a different (e.g., a second) mock welding tool and/or welding process. In such a second pass scenario, the simulation shows the simulated mock welding tool, the welding coupon, and the original simulated weld bead material in virtual reality space as the simulated mock welding tool deposits a second simulated weld bead material merging with the first simulated weld bead material by forming a second simulated weld puddle in the vicinity of a simulated arc emitting from the simulated mock welding tool. Additional subsequent passes using the same or different welding tools or processes may be made in a similar manner. In any second or subsequent pass, the previous weld bead material is merged with the new weld bead material being deposited as a new weld puddle is formed in virtual reality space from the combination of any of the previous weld bead material, the new weld bead material, and possibly the underlying coupon material in accordance with certain embodiments of the present invention. Such subsequent passes may be needed to make a large fillet or groove weld, performed to repair a weld bead formed by a previous pass, for example, or may include a hot pass and one or more fill and cap passes after a root pass as is done in pipe welding. In accordance with various embodiments of the present invention, weld bead and base material may include mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel based alloys, or other materials. Again, various types of student training data such as, for example, parameter data and scoring data may be stored on the VRAW system and may be used later with respect to a learning management system (LMS) as described later herein. Other types of student training data may be stored as well such as, for example, student identifying data.

Learning Management System (LMS)

As described above herein, a welding student may train on a virtual reality welding system for various types of welding processes and coupons, and student training data associated with that training may be generated and stored on the virtual reality welding system. A significant amount of data can be generated during a virtual reality welding training session (virtual welding process) for a student welder. A welding instructor, having multiple students in multiple classes at different levels of training, can find it very challenging to keep track of a student's progress and formulate relevant feedback for that student. Therefore, it is desirable to provide systems and methods to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment.

Types of welding processes that a student may perform on a virtual reality welding system may include, for example, a shielded metal arc welding process, a gas metal arc welding process, a flux-cored arc welding process, and a gas tungsten arc welding process. Types of welding skills that a user may acquire using a virtual reality welding system may include, for example, how to set up a system for a particular welding process, how to prepare metal for welding, how to properly hold a welding gun/torch during a particular welding process, how to strike an arc at the start of a particular welding process, how to move the welding electrode during a particular welding process, various plate welding skills, and various pipe welding skills. Other types of welding processes and skills are possible as well, in accordance with other various embodiments.

In accordance with an embodiment, a learning management system (LMS) is provided for tracking student progress as students learn how to weld in a real-time, simulated, virtual reality welding training environment. The LMS provides for the gathering of student training data from one or more virtual reality arc welding systems, storing the student training data in a centralized database in an organized manner, and allowing welding instructors and/or welding students to access at least a portion of the student training data for one or more of viewing, analysis, grading, and reporting. The LMS may also provide instructional welding lessons and materials to aid welding instructors and welding students.

FIG. 14 illustrates an embodiment of a virtual reality welding system 1400. The virtual reality welding system 1400 is similar to the system 100 of FIG. 1 and is configured to generate one or more electronic files 1420 of student training data. In accordance with an embodiment, the PPS 110 tracks the student's virtual reality welding progress on the virtual reality welding system 1400 and generates the electronic file 1420 of student training data representative of the student's progress. For example, the student training data may include information related to parameters such as contact tip to work distance, weld angle, travel angle, and travel speed as affected by the welding student during a virtual welding process. The student training data may also include a score based on how close the parameters were to being within certain tolerances or meeting certain criteria as defined by a welding procedure specification (WPS) loaded onto the virtual reality welding system. The electronic file 1420 may be an Excel (.xls) file or a comma-separated values (.csv) file, for example.

In accordance with an embodiment, student training data for a student may also include a welding student name, a date and time of a virtual welding process performed by the welding student, default tolerances used during a virtual welding process, technique parameter scores based on a welding procedure specification (WPS), a welding pass number and a weld score per pass, an average of weld score passes, an overall score, a welding process and technique used, a joint configuration and position, discontinuities and percent, number of welds completed per joint configuration, data for return-on-investment reporting, student arc time, student material usage, student simulator time, and results of any virtual reality destructive testing (e.g., bend testing).

In accordance with an embodiment, the virtual reality welding system 1400 includes a communication device 1410 that is used to transmit student training data to some other external destination. The communication device 1410 is operatively connected to the programmable processor-based subsystem 110 of the virtual reality welding system 1400 and provides all of the circuitry and software for externally transmitting data in a digitally communicated manner. For example, the communication device 1410 may be a modem device providing wired or wireless connection to the internet. In other embodiments, the communication device may be WiFi communication circuitry and software, 3G or 4G communication circuitry and software, or universal serial bus (USB) circuitry and software, for example. Other types of communication devices are possible as well, in accordance with still other embodiments.

FIG. 15 illustrates an embodiment of a personal computer configured as a tablet device 1500. The tablet device 1500 may be used by a welding instructor or a welding student to access student training data for one or more of viewing, analyzing, grading, and reporting. The tablet device 1500 includes a display, wireless and/or wired communication means, and computer memory storing at least a learning management software application (LMSA). The tablet device 1500 also includes processing means operable to execute coded instructions of the LMSA.

FIG. 16 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an example embodiment of the tablet device 1500 of FIG. 15. The tablet device 1500 includes a wireless communication device 1510. The wireless communication device may include, for example, WiFi communication circuitry and software and/or 3G or 4G communication circuitry and software providing access to the VRAW system 1400 and/or an external communication infrastructure (e.g., the internet). The tablet device 1500 also includes a display 1520, a processor 1530, and computer memory 1540. The display 1520 may be a touch-screen display, in accordance with an embodiment. The processor 1530 may be a programmable microprocessor, for example, although other types of logic processors are possible as well. The computer memory 1540 may be, for example, electronic memory, such as a combination of random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). Other types of computer memory may be possible as well, in accordance with various other embodiments.

The computer memory 1540 stores at least a learning management software application (LMSA) 1545 having coded instructions that may be executed on the processor 1530 to track welding student progress and to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment. In accordance with an embodiment, the virtual reality welding system 1400 may be accessed via the wireless communication device 1510 to retrieve student training data stored on the virtual reality welding system 1400. The student training data may be stored on the virtual reality welding system 1400 in the form of one or more electronic files, for example. As a welding student (user) practices on the virtual reality welding system 1400, the system 1400 records student training data. The student training data may include, for example, student-identifying data, information identifying the types of welding processes the student has performed on the virtual reality welding system 1400, and information related to a performance of the user for each of the welding processes.

FIG. 17 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a learning management system (LMS) 1700. The LMS 1700 includes a virtual reality welding system 1400, a personal computer (e.g., a tablet device) 1500 having a LMSA 1545, an external communication infrastructure (ECI) 1710, a server computer 1720, and a database 1730. The server computer 1720 and the database 1730 constitute a database server system. The external communication infrastructure 1710 may include one or more of the internet, a cellular telephone communication network, a WiFi communication network, or a satellite communication network, for example. Other types of external communication infrastructure may be possible as well, in accordance with various other embodiments. The server computer 1720 and the database 1730 may be located “in the cloud”, in accordance with an embodiment. In other embodiments, the server computer and the database may be local (e.g., in proximity to the virtual reality welding system) and the ECI may instead be a local area network (LAN).

Student training data 1420 is generated and stored on the virtual reality welding system 1400 during a virtual welding training process. In accordance with an embodiment, the PPS 110 provides the computer memory for storing the student training data 1420. Again, the student training data 1420 may include, for example, information identifying the types of welding processes the student has performed on the virtual reality welding system 1400 along with information related to a performance of the student for each of the welding processes.

In accordance with an embodiment, student training data may be downloaded from the virtual reality welding system 1400 to the tablet device 1500 in a wireless manner via communication device 1410 and wireless communication device 1510. In accordance with an alternate embodiment, the wireless communication device 1510 may be a wired communication device (e.g., a USB device) and student training data may be downloaded from the virtual reality welding system 1400 to the tablet device 1500 in a wired manner via communication devices 1410 and 1510. In still another embodiment, student training data may be copied to a computer disk or a computer flash drive from the virtual reality welding system and transferred to the personal computer 1500 from the disk or the flash drive. In such an embodiment, the virtual reality welding system and the personal computer include a disk drive or a flash drive port.

The LMSA 1545 on the tablet device 1500 may be used by a welding instructor to view and analyze the student training data, to grade the student, and to generate reports (e.g., a student report card). Traceable reports may be generated that compare the performance of students to each other, or compare the performance of classes to each other, or compare the performance of this year's students to last year's students, for example. The LMSA provides analysis tools that determine how students are performing and identify any skills that a student is having trouble mastering. The LMSA summarizes student performance in the form of tables, charts, and graphs that are easily readable and understandable. An instructor can meet with an individual student and review the student's performance by viewing the various tables, charts, and graphs, on the display of the tablet device, that summarize the student's performance.

The transfer of data between a virtual reality welding system, a tablet device, and a server computer may be accomplished in various ways. In accordance with an embodiment, a welding instructor may upload raw student training data, analysis results, and reports from the tablet device 1500 to the server computer 1720, via the ECI 1710, to be stored in the database 1730. In accordance with an embodiment, student training data may be automatically uploaded from the virtual reality welding system 1400 to the server computer 1720, via the ECI 1710, to be stored in the database 1730. In accordance with an embodiment, student training data may be downloaded from the database 1730 to the tablet device 1500 via the server computer 1720 and the ECI 1710. For example, a welding instructor may download student training data for all of the students in a class, or for two or more classes, analyze the data, and make comparisons.

In accordance with an embodiment, the LMSA 1545 running on the tablet device 1500 generates a summary report of student virtual welding progress at the command of the welding instructor. The summary report of student virtual welding progress may include, for example, average performance information, or consolidated performance information for a student of the virtual reality welding system 1400. For example, an average pitch angle of how the student held a mock welding tool of the virtual reality welding system 1400 during a particular virtual welding process may be generated by the LMSA 1545 and displayed as part of the summary report. Furthermore, a consolidated presentation of pitch angle vs. roll angle of how a user held the mock welding tool during a particular virtual welding process may be generated by the LMSA 1545 and displayed as part of the summary report.

The summary report of student virtual welding progress may also include graphical information showing how a performance parameter associated with a student has changed (e.g., improved) over time. For example, a graph of the average travel speed of a mock welding tool over a plurality of successive welding activities performed by a student for a particular welding process may be generated by the LMSA 1545 and displayed as part of the summary report. The graph may indicate how the average travel speed started out varying between too fast and too slow and then eventually settled to a desired travel speed during the course of, for example, twenty (20) successive welding activities for a particular welding process, thus providing an indication of how long it took for the student to settle into applying the correct travel speed to the mock welding tool of the virtual reality welding system 1400.

Student training data may be accessed for a single student, or for a plurality of students, associated with one or more virtual reality welding systems, in accordance with an embodiment. For example, a welding instructor, using the tablet device 1500, may access student training data for all of his welding students across a plurality of virtual reality welding systems 1400 from the database 1730. The LMSA 1545 on the tablet device 1500 may create a summary report for each welding student and may also create a consolidated summary report which shows progress for all of the welding students, for example, in a comparative manner (e.g., a ranking of the welding students in a class).

FIG. 18 illustrates an embodiment of a screen shot of an instructor home page of the LMSA. A welding instructor can log in to view information related to the various students and classes for which the instructor is responsible. From the instructor home page, the instructor can navigate to perform various functions, including downloading and uploading data, as described herein. The instructor can also view lesson plans and make updates to those lesson plans as desired.

In accordance with an embodiment, the LMSA provides an easy set up wizard that provides personalized reporting, inputting of number of classes and class names, inputting of cost information of materials for return-on-investment calculations, diagnostic tools, confirmation of data downloaded, and the ability to backup data. Reports may be uploaded to a database or emailed to other instructors or students, for example.

Other functions provided by the LMSA include the ability to select graded joint configurations from a list to create a grade book for a class, the ability to enter other projects/assignments, that are not streamed or derived directly from a virtual reality welding system, for data manipulation (e.g., lab work scores, pre-classroom training, other assignments), applying pricing to data to determine cost savings, organizing student data by class/period/shift, measuring student improvement between two exercises or points in time, averaging student improvement across a group, generating pass/fail indications based on a cutoff score input by the instructor, generating a student information summary, the ability to add performance comments to a report for a welding student, performing analysis by category (analysis: average score, high score, low score, rank; category: all, joint configuration, process, class, data range, pass), the ability to define and enter a grading scale, the ability to generate a report card and select items to be included or excluded from the report card, the ability to generate printable reports (by student—report card generator, by class, by time frame; include area for comments/summary written by instructor), the ability to track student attendance, performing analysis of performance variables (including graphs/charts), the ability to archive final class results to a database server system, the creation and tracking of virtual certifications as acquired by welding students performing to determined levels on different welding exercises (e.g., passing root and face bend tests on 6″ Sch 40 pipe in the 2G position).

FIG. 19 illustrates an embodiment of a screen shot of a student home page of the LMSA. A welding student can log in to view information related to the student's lessons and performance. From the student home page, the welding student can navigate to perform various functions, including uploading student data, contacting the instructor, and reviewing lessons and performance.

In accordance with an embodiment, real world welding data (generated on a real world welding machine) may be downloaded to the tablet device 1500 along with student training data (generated on a virtual reality welding system) by a same student. The LMSA 1545 may be used to perform a comparison analysis of the real world welding data and the student training data for the student to determine the student's progress in transitioning from a virtual welding environment to a real world welding environment. The real world welding data is matched to the corresponding student training data and compared. In this manner, a student's progress through a welding school can be tracked and evaluated, from virtual welding through real world welding.

In summary, a learning management system for tracking student progress as students learn how to weld in a real-time, simulated, virtual reality welding training environment is provided. Systems and methods to help welding instructors and students manage the data associated with instruction and learning in a virtual reality welding environment are provided. Welding student training data generated by students while using virtual reality welding systems is stored in a centralized database of the system. The centralized database is accessible by a user (e.g., a welding instructor) using a personal computer having a learning management software application (LMSA) installed thereon. The LMSA is configured to allow the user to access at least a portion of the student training data for one or more of viewing, analysis, grading, and reporting.

While the embodiments discussed herein have been related to the systems and methods discussed above, these embodiments are intended to be exemplary and are not intended to limit the applicability of these embodiments to only those discussions set forth herein. The control systems and methodologies discussed herein are equally applicable to, and can be utilized in, systems and methods related to arc welding, laser welding, brazing, soldering, plasma cutting, waterjet cutting, laser cutting, and any other systems or methods using similar control methodology, without departing from the spirit of scope of the above discussed inventions. The embodiments and discussions herein can be readily incorporated into any of these systems and methodologies by those of skill in the art.

While the invention has been described with reference to certain embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted without departing from the scope of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from its scope. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiment disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.

Claims

1. A learning management system comprising:

at least one virtual reality welding system configured to generate student training data in response to at least one student performing at least one virtual welding process on the at least one virtual reality welding system;
a database server system configured to receive and store the student training data; and
a personal computer having a learning management software application (LMSA) installed thereon, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) comprises executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to perform one or more of:
downloading the student training data from the at least one virtual reality welding system to the personal computer in at least one of a wired or wireless manner,
uploading the student training data, analysis results, and reports from the personal computer to the database server system via an external communication infrastructure, and
downloading the student training data from the database server system to the personal computer via an external communication infrastructure.

2. The learning management system of claim 1, further comprising an external communication infrastructure.

3. The learning management system of claim 2, wherein the external communication infrastructure includes one or more of the internet, a cellular communication network, a WiFi communication network, or a satellite communication network.

4. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) further comprises executable computer instructions configured to execute on the personal computer to analyze the student training data and generate the analysis results and the reports.

5. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) further comprises executable computer instructions configured to generate at least one grade for at least one welding student based on at least a portion of the student training data.

6. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) further comprises executable computer instructions configured to identify, based on at least a portion of the student training data, any welding skills that a welding student is having trouble mastering.

7. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) further comprises executable computer instructions configured to compare welding performance of two or more welding students based on at least a portion of the student training data.

8. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the learning management software application (LMSA) provides instructional welding lessons and materials for one or more of welding students and welding instructors.

9. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the student training data includes information related to welding parameters including at least one of contact tip to work distance, weld angle, travel angle, and travel speed as affected by a welding student during a virtual welding process.

10. The learning management system of claim 1, wherein the student training data includes information related to at least one of a welding student name, a date and time of a virtual welding process performed by a welding student, default tolerances used during a virtual welding process, technique parameter scores based on a welding procedure specification (WPS), a welding pass number and a weld score per pass, an average of weld score passes, an overall score, a welding process and technique used, a joint configuration and position, discontinuities and percent, number of welds completed per joint configuration, data for return-on-investment reporting, student arc time, student material usage, student simulator time, and results of virtual reality destructive testing.

11. A method comprising:

accessing a database server system using a personal computer having a learning management software application (LMSA) installed thereon;
downloading student training data from the database server system to the personal computer using the LMSA, wherein the student training data derives from one or more virtual welding processes performed on one or more virtual reality welding systems; and
analyzing the student training data using the LMSA to determine a welding performance of one or more welding students associated with the student training data.

12. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to select graded joint configurations from a list to create a grade book for a class.

13. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to enter welding projects and assignments, that are not derived directly from a virtual reality welding system, for data manipulation.

14. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to apply pricing to data to determine a cost savings.

15. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to organize student data by one or more of class, period, or shift.

16. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to measure student improvement between two welding exercises or points in time.

17. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to generate pass/fail indications based on a cutoff score input by a welding instructor.

18. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to add performance comments to a report for a welding student.

19. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to generate a report card and select items to be included or excluded from the report card for a welding student.

20. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to generate printable reports by one or more of welding student, welding class, or time frame.

21. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to archive final welding class results to the database server system.

22. The method of claim 11, further comprising using the LMSA to create and track virtual certifications as acquired by welding students performing to determined levels on welding exercises.

23. The method of claim 11, further comprising:

using the LMSA to enter real world welding data generated during a real-world welding process performed by a first student welder using a real-world welding machine; and
using the LMSA to compare the real-world welding data to at least a portion of the student training data associated with the first student welder.

Patent History

Publication number: 20150072323
Type: Application
Filed: Feb 26, 2014
Publication Date: Mar 12, 2015
Applicant: LINCOLN GLOBAL, INC. (City of Industry, CA)
Inventors: Deanna Postlethwaite (Chagrin Falls, OH), Matthew Wayne Wallace (South Windsor, CT), David Anthony Zboray (Trumbull, CT), Sarah Evans (Garrettsville, OH)
Application Number: 14/190,812

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: Soldering Or Welding (434/234)
International Classification: G09B 5/00 (20060101); G09B 19/24 (20060101);