Welding – The Ins And Outs

Welding occurs when two metal parts are melted together and filled, forming a joint. The welding process can be done with an electric arc, a gas flame, ultrasound, or even a laser. Before the beginning of the 20th century, all welds were made through forge welding; pieces were heated until red-hot, then hammered together. As electricity became more prevalent, the process was simplified, and welding became very important during the World Wars. Here, you’ll learn about the different modern welding processes and their limitations.

  • Arc welding uses electrical current and can be done with the most basic equipment.
  • Gas welding is best for repairing pipes and tubing. The process is common in jewelry manufacturing, as well as in connecting low-temp materials such as plastic.
  • Resistance welding uses extra metal sheets to enclose the pieces to be welded. This is the most eco-friendly method, but the equipment can be cost-prohibitive.
  • Laser or energy beam welding is by far the most modern welding technique. A laser seam welding machine yields precise, fast results, but the high cost of the equipment keeps it out of reach of most industries.

Not all kinds of metal can be welded. Some, like stainless steel, will warp and crack if overheated. Alloy welding can be very difficult, as it’s hard for the welder to know the exact composition of the alloy. The welding process has become increasingly automated over the last few years; in the auto industry, robot welders are very commonplace.

Welding can be done in very unusual places and conditions. Underwater welding is regularly done to repair ship hulls and pipelines, and space welding is being explored as a way to assemble future space stations and outposts.

When most of us think of welding dangers, we think of arcs and flying sparks. However, they’re only a small part of the risk. The sparks’ bright UV light can cause cancer in unguarded eyes and skin; use gloves and welding helmets to minimize exposure. The sparks themselves usually aren’t hot, but care should be taken not to set hot metal on a combustible surface.

To get a welding job, you’ll need to be relatively fit as you’ll be moving heavy pieces. You’ll need to have a keen eye and nimble hands; welding requires quick thinking and even faster reflexes sometimes. It’s not necessary, but an interest in metalworking is useful- welders can work in a variety of settings, such as shipyards, factories and plastics companies.

This article was written by James Harper on behalf of Westermans, stockists of seam welding machines. For a look at their range of seam welding machines, visit their site.

Photo: Official U.S Navy Imagery

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