Welding has been around for a long time—since the Bronze and Iron ages, in fact. In the past, welders used rudimentary techniques such as pounding heated metal together.
But over the years, welding has undergone a revolution. Welders began using electrical power, gas, or lasers to create a powerful welding bond.
Today, unique technological advancements allow welders to work just about anywhere. They’ve also sped up the welding process and made it more accurate and more cost-efficient. For more information about modern welding techniques, read on.
1. Welding in Space
In 1969, Russian cosmonauts first performed welding experiments in space. Since then, other astronauts have conducted welding experiments, using many different welding methods. Although astronauts find that welding in space can produce similar results as welding on Earth, they also realize how dangerous welding is in an unpredictable environment.
The depressurized atmosphere in outer space leads to some unique problems. As the weld forms, the materials may distribute differently than they do on Earth. Plus, certain methods of welding don’t work well in space. The atmospheric pressure makes it difficult for welders to form an arc. Any welding process that uses gas becomes complicated, since gas acts differently in zero gravity.
A new tool—the variable power handheld laser torch—allows astronauts to weld more accurately without safety problems. It doesn’t require gasses or a vacuum like other welding methods. Its accuracy, maneuverability, and ease of use have made it astronauts’ choice to repair any spacecraft since 1989.
2. Welding Underwater
What happens when underwater ships, pipelines, and platforms need repair? Companies look for welders that are trained in scuba diving as well as welding. Just like in many above-ground environments, these welders use shielded metal arc welding. To create the weld, they use a waterproof electrode. This electrode creates a gaseous bubble that shields and protects the weld.
One of the biggest challenges with underwater welding is that it produces lots of bubbles, making it difficult to see the weld. Underwater welders learn to work in this low-visibility environment.
Companies can also choose hyperbaric (dry) welding. In this method, welders work from the protection of a habitat. To prevent toxic buildup, the surface team pumps air into the habitat while the habitat expels its air through fans and pipes. Large habitats are more high-cost and are used for larger projects such as ships and oil rigs.
3. Welding with Robots
Welding is both complicated and dangerous. Typically, it’s performed by trained professionals. However, in the 1980s, many companies began using welding robots to lower labor costs. In 2005, the North American industry used about 120,000 robots—and they used half of those robots for welding.
These automated devices most commonly perform spot welding. In spot welding, the robots use electrodes to bind overlapping metal sheets. In the automotive industry, a robot can create thousands of spot welds on just one car.
Recently, manufacturers have begun using arc welding robots as well. These robots use either pre-programmed movements or machine vision to perform nearly every step of the welding process. Along with saving companies money, these robots can produce very precise, accurate welding.
From the Iron Age to our age, welding has formed an important part of our culture. Look around you, and you’ll see many modern conveniences that required welding, including buildings, bridges, machines, cars, and airplanes. Over the years, advanced welding technology has made it possible to weld in nearly any environment. It will be interesting to see where industrial progress takes us next.
If you need welding for your business, count on the certified welders at Moorhead Machinery & Boiler Company. We perform many different types of welding procedures to help your business succeed.