Welding is a fabrication process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by using high heat to melt the parts together and allowing them to cool, causing fusion. Welding is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal.
In addition to melting the base metal, a filler material is typically added to the joint to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool) that cools to form a joint that, based on weld configuration (butt, full penetration, fillet, etc.), can be stronger than the base material (parent metal). Pressure may also be used in conjunction with heat or by itself to produce a weld. Welding also requires a form of shield to protect the filler metals or melted metals from being contaminated or oxidized.
Many different energy sources can be used for welding, including a gas flame (chemical), an electric arc (electrical), a laser, an electron beam, friction, and ultrasound. While often an industrial process, welding may be performed in many different environments, including in open air, under water, and in outer space. Welding is a hazardous undertaking and precautions are required to avoid burns, electric shock, vision damage, inhalation of poisonous gases and fumes, and exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation.
Until the end of the 19th century, the only welding process was forge welding, which blacksmiths had used for millennia to join iron and steel by heating and hammering. Arc welding and oxy-fuel welding were among the first processes to develop late in the century, and electric resistance welding followed soon after. Welding technology advanced quickly during the early 20th century as world wars drove the demand for reliable and inexpensive joining methods. Following the wars, several modern welding techniques were developed, including manual methods like shielded metal arc welding, now one of the most popular welding methods, as well as semi-automatic and automatic processes such as gas metal arc welding, submerged arc welding, flux-cored arc welding and electroslag welding. Developments continued with the invention of laser beam welding, electron beam welding, magnetic pulse welding, and friction stir welding in the latter half of the century. Today, as the science continues to advance, robot welding is commonplace in industrial settings, and researchers continue to develop new welding methods and gain greater understanding of weld quality.
Arc welding is a welding process that is used to join metal to metal by using electricity to create enough heat to melt metal, and the melted metals, when cool, result in a binding of the metals. It is a type of welding that uses a welding power supply to create an electric arc between a metal stick ("electrode") and the base material to melt the metals at the point of contact. Arc welders can use either direct (DC) or alternating (AC) current, and consumable or non-consumable electrodes.
The welding area is usually protected by some type of shielding gas, vapor, or slag. Arc welding processes may be manual, semi-automatic, or fully automated. First developed in the late part of the 19th century, arc welding became commercially important in shipbuilding during the Second World War. Today it remains an important process for the fabrication of steel structures and vehicles.
Inert Gas Welding
Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is an arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area and electrode are protected from oxidation or other atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas (argon or helium). A filler metal is normally used, though some welds, known as autogenous welds, or fusion welds do not require it. When helium is used, this is known as heliarc welding. A constant-current welding power supply produces electrical energy, which is conducted across the arc through a column of highly ionized gas and metal vapors known as a plasma. GTAW is most commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. The process grants the operator greater control over the weld than competing processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding, allowing for stronger, higher quality welds. However, GTAW is comparatively more complex and difficult to master, and furthermore, it is significantly slower than most other welding techniques. A related process, plasma arc welding, uses a slightly different welding torch to create a more focused welding arc and as a result is often automated.
Oxy-fuel welding (commonly called oxyacetylene welding, oxy welding, or gas welding in the United States) and oxy-fuel cutting are processes that use fuel gases (or liquid fuels such as gasoline or petrol) and oxygen to weld or cut metals. French engineers Edmond Fouche and Charles Picard became the first to develop oxygen-acetylene welding in 1903. Pure oxygen, instead of air, is used to increase the flame temperature to allow localized melting of the workpiece material (e.g. steel) in a room environment. A common propane/air flame burns at about 2,250 K (1,980 C; 3,590 F), a propane/oxygen flame burns at about 2,526 K (2,253 C; 4,087 F), an oxyhydrogen flame burns at 3,073 K (2,800 C; 5,072 F) and an acetylene/oxygen flame burns at about 3,773 K (3,500 C; 6,332 F).
During the early 20th century, before the development and availability of coated arc welding electrodes in the late 1920s that were capable of making sound welds in steel, oxy-acetylene welding was the only process capable of making welds of exceptionally high quality in virtually all metals in commercial use at the time. These included not only carbon steel but also alloy steels, cast iron, aluminium, and magnesium. In recent decades it has been superseded in almost all industrial uses by various arc welding methods offering greater speed and, in the case of gas tungsten arc welding, the capability of welding very reactive metals such as titanium. Oxy-acetylene welding is still used for metal-based artwork and in smaller home-based shops, as well as situations where accessing electricity (e.g., via an extension cord or portable generator) would present difficulties. The oxy-acetylene (and other oxy-fuel gas mixtures) welding torch remains a mainstay heat source for manual brazing and braze welding, as well as metal forming, preparation, and localized heat treating. In addition, oxy-fuel cutting is still widely used, both in heavy industry and light industrial and repair operations.
In oxy-fuel welding, a welding torch is used to weld metals. Welding metal results when two pieces are heated to a temperature that produces a shared pool of molten metal. The molten pool is generally supplied with additional metal called filler. Filler material selection depends upon the metals to be welded.
In oxy-fuel cutting, a torch is used to heat metal to its kindling temperature. A stream of oxygen is then trained on the metal, burning it into a metal oxide that flows out of the kerf as dross.
Torches that do not mix fuel with oxygen (combining, instead, atmospheric air) are not considered oxy-fuel torches and can typically be identified by a single tank (oxy-fuel cutting requires two isolated supplies, fuel and oxygen). Most metals cannot be melted with a single-tank torch. Consequently, single-tank torches are typically suitable for soldering and brazing but not for welding.
Electric Resistance Welding
Electric resistance welding (ERW) is a welding process where metal parts in contact are permanently joined by heating them with an electric current, melting the metal at the joint. Electric resistance welding is widely used, for example, in manufacture of steel pipe and in assembly of bodies for automobiles. The electric current can be supplied to electrodes that also apply clamping pressure, or may be induced by an external magnetic field. The electric resistance welding process can be further classified by the geometry of the weld and the method of applying pressure to the joint: spot welding, seam welding, flash welding, projection welding, for example. Some factors influencing heat or welding temperatures are the proportions of the workpieces, the metal coating or the lack of coating, the electrode materials, electrode geometry, electrode pressing force, electrical current and length of welding time. Small pools of molten metal are formed at the point of most electrical resistance (the connecting or "faying" surfaces) as an electrical current (100-100,000 A) is passed through the metal. In general, resistance welding methods are efficient and cause little pollution, but their applications are limited to relatively thin materials.
Laser Beam Welding
Laser beam welding (LBW) is a welding technique used to join pieces of metal or thermoplastics through the use of a laser. The beam provides a concentrated heat source, allowing for narrow, deep welds and high welding rates. The process is frequently used in high volume applications using automation, as in the automotive industry. It is based on keyhole or penetration mode welding.
Solid State WeldingSolid state welding is a group of welding processes which produces coalescence at temperatures essentially below the melting point of the base materials being joined, without the addition of brazing filler metal. Pressure may or may not be used. These processes are sometimes erroneously called solid state bonding processes: this group of welding processes includes cold welding, diffusion welding, explosion welding, forge welding, friction welding, hot pressure welding, roll welding, and ultrasonic welding.
In all of these processes time, temperature, and pressure individually or in combination produce coalescence of the base metal without significant melting of the base metals.
Solid state welding includes some of the very oldest of the welding processes and some of the very newest. Some of the processes offer certain advantages since the base metal does not melt and form a nugget. The metals being joined retain their original properties without the heat-affected zone problems involved when there is base metal melting. When dissimilar metals are joined their thermal expansion and conductivity is of much less importance with solid state welding than with the arc welding processes.
Time, temperature, and pressure are involved; however, in some processes the time element is extremely short, in the microsecond range or up to a few seconds. In other cases, the time is extended to several hours. As temperature increases time is usually reduced. Since each of these processes is different each will be described.