Remember the 80’s movie, Flashdance? The female lead, Jennifer Beals, was a welder by day in a Pittsburgh steel mill and for many people that was their first glimpse of what a welder did for a living.
Jennifer certainly made welding look glamorous even though the movie, not to mention Jen’s skills as a welder, were both panned by the critics.
Jen reportedly said afterwards that she studied welding for two months before filming began, but because the director wanted more sparks on camera, she was forced to do a terrible job. Perhaps we can let her off the hook.
Despite what the movies portray, welding is of course a serious job. It is used to join pieces of metal together and is a very skilled trade. So what are the different types of welding and what are they used for in industry?
MIG welding is one of the easier types of welding for beginners to learn. MIG welding is actually two different types of welding. The first uses bare wire and the second flux core.
Bare wire MIG welding can be used to join thin pieces of metal together. Flux core MIG welding can be used outdoors because it does not require a flow meter or gas supply. MIG welding is usually the welding of choice for DIY enthusiasts and hobby welders who don’t have the money to spend on expensive equipment.
Stick welding, also known as Arc welding, is doing it the old fashioned way. Stick welding is a bit harder to master than MIG welding, but you can pick up a stick welding equipment for very little if you want to have a go at home. Stick welding uses a stick electrode welding rod.
The below video explains the difference between Wire Feed Welding and Stick Welding.
TIG welding is extremely versatile, but it is also one of the more difficult welding techniques to learn and Lincoln Electric TIG welders are skilled individuals.
Two hands are needed for TIG welding. One hand feeds the rod whilst the other holds a TIG torch. This torch creates the heat and arc, which are used to weld most conventional metals, including aluminum, steel, nickel alloys, copper alloys, cobalt and titanium.
TIG welders can be used to weld steel, stainless steel, chromoly, aluminum, nickel alloys, magnesium, copper, brass, bronze, and even gold. TIG is a useful welding process for bike frames, lawn mowers, door handles, fenders, and more.
Plasma Arc Welding
Plasma arc welding is a precision technique and is commonly used in aerospace applications where metal thickness is 0.015 of an inch. One example of such an application would be on an engine blade or an air seal. Plasma arc welding is very similar in technique to TIG welding, but the electrode is recessed and the ionizing gases inside the arc are used to create heat.
The normal combination of gases is argon for the plasma gas, with argon plus 2 to 5% hydrogen for the shielding gas. Helium can be used for plasma gas but because it is hotter this reduces the current rating of the nozzle.
Want to know more about Plasma Welding? Check out this article.
Electron Beam and Laser Welding
Electron beam and laser welding are extremely precise, high energy welding techniques. Electron beams and lasers can be focused and aimed with the exceptional accuracy required to weld the smallest of implantable medical devices, and yet also deliver the tremendous amounts of power required to weld large spacecraft parts. Electron beam and laser welding are versatile, powerful, automatable processes. Both can create beautiful welds from a metallurgic and an aesthetic perspective. Both can be cost-effective.
Check out the video below showcasing some of the advantages and disadvantages of Electron Beam Welding vs Laser Welding.
Gas welding is rarely used anymore and has been largely superseded by TIG welding. Gas welding kits require oxygen and acetylene and are very portable. They are still sometimes used to weld bits of car exhaust back together.
There is currently a huge shortage of skilled welders in the US and the rest of the world, so for young people who do decide to take up a career as a welding technician, the job prospects are good.