Fundamentally, welding is the process of permanently joining metal parts. Heat is applied to the metals and fuses them in an incredibly strong permanent bond. This process is a vital contribution to the construction of ships, automobiles, bridges, buildings and aerospace crafts. For construction purposes specifically, welding is used when building structures and to join pipes in pipelines, power plants and refineries.
There are more than 80 different welding methods that welders utilize. Arc welding is one of the most common techniques. The arc welding process uses an electrical current to create the heat necessary to bond metals together quickly and effectively. The electrical current in this process also allows the metals to cool quickly and makes a solid bond between the metals possible. Two types of arc welding are:
- Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG): This is a common, yet advanced type of arc welding typically used with materials such as stainless steel and aluminum. In this process, a welding rod is used in combination with an electric torch. The electric torch simultaneously melts the rod and the piece.
- Metal Inert Gas (MIG): This is another common and advanced type of arc welding that uses a feeder to continuously distribute a wire that joins long stretches of metal. The wire allows the welder to continuously weld without having to stop and replace a rod.
Similarly to welders, soldering and brazing workers fuse two metals together. Yet in these processes, one of the metals is of a lower melting point than the other. This allows for fewer distortions and weaknesses in the piece that welding sometimes allows. Soldering is useful for joining electrical, electronic and other small parts, while brazing makes joints that are stronger than those that have been soldered. Brazing can also be used to create protective coatings that protect mechanical parts from excessive wear and corrosion.
During the workday, when a welding task has been assigned to a welder, he or she will do the work based on a drawing or the specifications of what is required. The welder can then determine his or her own plan to best join the parts based on his or her knowledge of welding techniques. Most welders follow this procedure when they begin the work:
- Set up the welding equipment
- Execute the planned welds
- Examine the completed welds to make sure they meet the required standards or specifications
The difficulty of the work depends on a few factors: the position in which the welder is working (standing, crouching, working overhead), the types of metals being used or the work environment (indoors, outdoors, at an elevated height). Undoubtedly, welding involves the use of some hazardous materials. Hot metals and intense light and heat are common to the work environment, but safety precautions are extremely advanced and those who are careful and alert on the job will be out of harm’s way. Protective shoes, goggles, hoods with protective lenses and other safety devices are part of the work uniform for welders. These accessories protect the wearer from burns and eye injuries.
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