This paper presents a technique for front image sensing of the weld pool in variable polarity plasma arc welding of aluminum alloys, and describes the determination of the geometrical size of the keyhole for subsequent real-time feedback control of a full penetration weld. Image formation occurs when the arc light reflects off the concave mirror-like surface of the depressed keyhole weld pool, and passes through a band-pass filter onto the image sensor. The image of the visual keyhole (nominal keyhole) is a two-dimensional projected picture of the actual keyhole weld pool. The variation in area of the nominal keyhole is closely correlated with the variation of the bottom width of the weld bead.

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