Welders are like superheroes without a cape. From diving into the ocean’s depths to floating in outer space, welders are the people that ensure that our buildings, vehicles and other man-made objects are held together and provide safe functionality. Welding requires a lot of practice to be considered a welding master, but like many skills, we all have to start somewhere.
Definition of Welding
Welding is the process of joining two or more pieces of metals together, usually by applying heat. The end result shows a single piece of material joined together in a bond stronger than before.
The applying of heat to the two objects results in the melting of the material that fuses the two items together as soon as they start cooling. At times, another element is added to the mix to increase the bond’s strength,.
There are two exceptions to the definition of welding:
- The process doesn’t always involve metals. Through the welding process, we can join some types of thermoplastics as well.
- Welding does not always require heat. Some methods like ultrasonic and pressure welding undergo cold temperatures.
Types of Welding
There are four basic types of metal welding:
A welder uses these methods depending on the metal used, application, and skills and experience.
This welding type is the easiest of them all, and new welders will find that it is best to begin with Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, also called Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW). MIG creates an electrical circuit running in the welding objects and uses a welding wire working as an electrode.
When this wire touches the object, it completes the circuit. Pulling this wire back a small distance from the metal creates and arc that heats up to thousands of degrees and helps in melting the wire and somewhat melting the other metals, thus joining the three melted objects at the base.
Continuing the welding action means the wire melts and is fed continuously from the welding gun. The reason behind using gas is that it provides a foggy atmosphere around the puddle of melted objects while welding at hot temperatures. The gas acts as a shield and prevents any contaminants finding their way into the melted pool.
The shield ensures a strong weld with minimal pockets of air in the weld. Mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum can be welded using this process.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) uses a tungsten electrode and requires a lot of hands-on practice. TIG welding is generally harder than MIG welding. The process offers more precision and welds aluminum, alloys, and thin gauged metals.
A welder requires a massive welding rod that needs insertion in the welding gun and then manually into the objects’ melted puddle. It also uses a protective shield of gas to protect the melted puddle.
TIG welding is physically tiring and challenging because the welder needs to:
- Control the torch
- Continuously feed the wire
- Move at a precise speed
- Produce precise current by foot pedaling
Also known as Flux-cored Arc Welding (FCAW), this welding process uses an electrode tube instead of a wire used in MIG. The electrode has an outer metal layer with a flux agent in its core. Due to rising temperatures, the flux melts and creates a liquid and gas slag that acts as a shield and prevents contaminants from entering the weld puddle. Though it serves as a better protective layer than the simple gas layer in MIG, it leaves a messy slag behind that needs cleaning.
Also called Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), it is similar to TIG for its two-handed process. Stick welding uses a metal electrode that’s coated with flux and fed by the welder manually. The flux coating also melts with the electrode in the high temperature and creates a liquid and gas slag. The slag then acts as a protective layer preventing the weld from oxidation.
The downside is, the leftover slag leaves a messy finish instead of a smooth and clean weld. Most self-taught welders learn Stick welding first because it is a versatile and inexpensive process that doesn’t require a proper setting or environment.
Equipment Required for Welding
Once the welder decides which method to select, the next step to look forward to is the right equipment. First and foremost, the welder needs proper machinery and safety equipment including a welding helmet that protects the face and the eyes from the rising heat and the bright sparks the electric arc creates. Thanks to innovation, the latest tech of auto-darkening helmets with vision screens enable the welder to adjust the brightness without flinching or losing the visual input. Additionally, welders require strong gloves, shoes, caps, overalls, long-sleeve shirts to cover the body entirely and stay safe from sparks and heat.
Tips for Beginners to Practice
Now that you know the basic types of welding and how welders work, here are some tips to follow as a beginner to develop a steady hand on welding:
- Sounds- people refer to welding sounds to know if the welding process is going great or not. A healthy sizzling sound like that of bacon frying in a pan shows that the welding process is smooth.
- Blueprints- it is essential to understand how blueprints work. They teach you how to implement welding in practical applications.
- AC and DC Currents- currents vary on the type of job and tools you decide to carry out. Learning which current to use to create a strong weld is an important step.
- Cover Your Eyes- it is easy to forget this step, and even most experienced welders forget this. Remember to keep your eyes covered from the bright light the welding process will emit. Without a good vision, you can’t weld.
Each welder develops its welding method based on the skills and experience they possess. Some basic and useful welds include Butt joints, Lap joints, T joints, and Spot welds.