VWL (Virtual Welding Lab) is a web-based e-learning course on various welding processes, that includes: machine shop and welding safety; welding symbols; joint design; welding equipment and equipment setup; welder training lessons for the various types of joints; common problems and how to avoid them; inspection and testing; weldability including material science basics and selection of filler materials; and virtual reality welding demonstrations. The VWL includes 3 sub-modules: VWL-SMAW (shielded-metal arc welding), VWL-FCAW (flux cored arc welding), VWL-GMAW (gas metal arc welding) (under development), and VWL-GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding) (under development).

The key elements of the VWL system are:

  • Textured 3D photo-realistic virtual models of the welding equipment and training facility.
  • Simulator for the welding equipment (amp box, electrode, electrode holder, needle gun, wire brush, etc.), work table, fixtures, and work-pieces.
  • Finite element model of the welding process. The finite element method along with an Eulerian volume-of-fluid (VOF) formulation are used to model the welding process. The Navier-Stokes equations including: mass, momentum, and energy conservation equations as well as an equation of state (which includes change of state from liquid to solid) are solved for the material velocity and temperature. The VOF algorithm is used to reconstruct the free-surface of the weld. (under development)
  • Hierarchical knowledge-base for welding process training.
  • Unstructured knowledge-base for lecture delivery.
  • Natural-language human-like intelligent virtual tutors. The tutors are lip and gesture synched. They can also answer the user's questions by searching the lecture knowledge-base.
  • Web-based framework. The VWL runs inside a web browser. The VWL uses the IVRESS (Integrated Virtual Reality Environment for Synthesis and Simulation) player and the LEA (Learning Environment Agent) engine, which are ActiveX controls that can be embedded in a web-page. The interface consists of six windows: a VE window, a multimedia instruction window, a speech window, a hierarchical lecture outline window, a hierarchical list of voice commands window and an agent-options window. All the windows can be moved and resized to suite the user's preferences.

The VWL fulfills the following education, training and research functions in a safe self-paced environment:

  • Education functions: Lecture Delivery: The VWL includes a comprehensive multimedia course on shielded metal arc welding.
  • Training functions: Hands-on virtual welding process training (under development).
  • AscienceTutor.com is developing VWL modules on the following welding processes: SMAW (Shielded-Metal Arc Welding), FCAW (Flux-Core Arc Welding), GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding) and GTAW (Gas Tungesten Arc Welding).
  • The VWL-SMAW module is currently being used at several community colleges. It consists of the following secionts:
    • Machine shop safety.
    • Welding safety.
    • SMAW welding tools.
    • 25 lessons various types of welding (stringer beads, horizontal/vertical/overhead fillet welds, horizontal/vertical/overhead butt welds, 6010 electrode work, carbon arc work, open work, end wrap work and corner welds).
    • Common welding problems and how to avoid them (this includes details on how to maintain a good weld puddle and examples of weld puddle problems).
    • Weldability (including material science basics, filler materials and base metals).
    • Welding symbols.
    • Joint design.
    • Basic virtual-reality (video game like) demonstration of SMAW.


Minimum hardware: Pentium-4 2 GHz or Pentium-M 1.5 Ghz (or equivalent AMD processor); 512KB RAM; DVD drive or 4 GB free hard-disk space; and Nvidia GeForce (or equivalent) graphics card. Our software runs on most PC laptops (that are 1-2 years old) and most PC desktops (2-3 years old).

Software: Windows Vista/XP/2000 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or 7.


The VWL is a collaborative project with Northrop Grumman Newport News, Paul D. Camp community college, and AscienceTutor.com. The project received funding from the Virginia Community College System's Institute of Excellence.