The art of welding is an essential and often under-appreciated component of everyday life. In the simplest terms, welding is the act of joining separate pieces of metal together as a single piece at high temperature with a device called an electrode, which conducts the electric current necessary for this fusion. It’s easy to forget that many of the things we take for granted that are made of metal which we depend on did not start out looking the way that they did; rather, they were deliberately and carefully welded to be that way.
Whether it’s common household items such as tea kettles or lawnmowers, or larger structures such as bridges and skyscrapers, welding represents a vital backbone in all these things. Within the realm of welding, there are several different major styles, each with their own unique benefits. We talked to Edward Traylor of Palm Beach County, Florida to learn about the details of each of these.
Flux-Cored Arc Welding
This type of welding utilizes an electrode that is continuously filled with a material called flux. Flux protects against harmful airborne agents that can be released as the metals are heated up. It is commonly used for welding pipelines and shipbuilding. Edward Traylor notes that the main advantage is portability, as it does not require a component of welding called shielding gas, which is a gas designed to protect metal from damage via oxygen or water vapor.
Gas Metal Arc Welding
Gas Metal Arc Welding features an electrode that is a simple metal wire which is supplemented by the shielding gas. It is commonly used in automotive production, construction and railroad tracks. The main benefits here are minimal clean up and waste, as well as being cost-effective. Edward Traylor explains that when a metal is welded this way, it is also less prone to chipping.
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding
In this type of welding (aka Tig welding), the electrode is made of tungsten, and utilizes shielding gas, typically Argon but sometimes half-mixed with Helium. Typically the amount of heat is controlled by the welder with a foot pedal. It has seen usage in the aerospace industry as well as being used to create works of art. Advantages of this type of welding include a better sense of precision and a wider range of useable metals. There are also no resulting fumes, sparks or smoke clouds.
Plasma Arc Welding
Plasma Welding shares a lot of similarities with Gas Tungsten Welding, chiefly the use of a tungsten electrode and shielding gas. The key difference here is that an additional gas is used called a plasma stream. It is used for welding keyholes and electronics. Edward Traylor states that the addition of this plasma stream allows for faster welding and deeper penetration; additionally, it is a more precise method that is also easier to learn compared to other methods.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding
This type of welding is one of the oldest ones, having been used since the 1890s. Here, the tip of the electrode is coated, and as it melts, a shielding gas is created directly, rather than being drawn through an external source. It is used in construction and in the creation of farm machinery. In terms of advantages, the associated equipment is very basic, inexpensive, and easily portable, while also being better suited for working outdoors.
Submerged Arc Welding
Submerged Arc Welding involves covering the surface of the metals with flux in powdered form, which in turn provides protection against harmful airborne agents that are released during the process. It is commonly used in ships, large tubes or beams, and large vessels. Edward Traylor explains that this type of welding has an advantage in quality, as well as being time effective.
While the differences between each type of welding are quite subtle, it is important to consider the characteristics of each in order to ensure that the right type of welding is being chosen for the job. Between all the different types, they cover the creation of a wide range of products, vessels and devices used by dozens of different industries every day. Edward Traylor concludes that welding is a revered trade that will continue to prove essential throughout every decade and century, both in the development of current products as well as the creation of new ones.