Man has been sticking pieces of metal together using forms of welding for thousands of years. But since the 19th century, many different techniques have been developed that each has its own advantages and disadvantages over its competitors.
Here we explore what is actually meant by welding and discuss which types are the best. We also introduce to you a couple of artists who are doing some interesting work using welding.
What is welding, and why it is done?
Welding is a time-tested fabrication process or sculpting process of materials, usually metal, using high temperatures to melt and fuse parts together. It should be noted that, however, pressure can also be used to aid the process or be used exclusively to produce a weld.
"The process of welding doesn't merely bond the two pieces together as in brazing and soldering, but, through the use of extreme heat and sometimes the addition of other metals or gases, causes the metallic structures of the two pieces to join together and become one." - brighthubengineering.com.
It is usually distinguished from lower temperature metal fusing techniques like brazing, or soldering, which do not usually melt the base metal.
Welding usually also involves the use of something called a filler material. This, as the name suggests, is used to provide a "filler" or pool of molten material that helps facilitate the formation of a strong link between the base metal parts.
Most welding processes will also require some form of shield to protect both the main components and filler from being oxidized during the process.
Welding can be performed using various energy sources. Examples include, but are not limited to, a gas flame (chemical), an electric arc (electrical), a laser, an electron beam, friction, and ultrasound. It is a highly versatile technique that can be performed in the open air, underwater, and even in space.
What are the types of welding?
Welding has been used in metallurgy for millennia with forge welding performed by blacksmiths as the only real viable technique. This all changed in the 19th century when newer methods like arc-welding and oxyfuel welding were developed.
Some of the most common welding processes commonly employed day include (credit to welderstation.com):
- MIG - Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
- TIG - Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
- Stick - Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
- Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
- Energy Beam Welding (EBW)
- Atomic Hydrogen Welding (AHW)
- Gas Tungsten-Arc Welding
- Plasma Arc Welding
What is the strongest type of weld?
This is not as simple a question to answer as it may first appear. The best weld depends on the base material in question and its final intended use. From TIG to Plasma Arc Welding, each technique has its own unique advantages and disadvantages over the others.
According to cromeld.com, the strongest type of weld could be stick welding: "if pure strength that counts and the thickness of the material that can be welded, then stick welding is the winner. As we said, the stick is the only one capable of welding cast iron and works on both dirty materials and in harsh weather conditions."
But that doesn't necessarily mean stick welding is the best choice for all scenarios. "However, MIG can be applied to many metals of varying thickness, while TIG produces the highest quality welds, especially when it comes to thin metals."
It will also completely depend on the metal you wish to weld. Aluminum, for example, is a fairly soft metal and can't cope with too much heat. For this reason, there are only two viable welding techniques that can be used, MIG and TIG.
Of these two techniques, TIG is widely considered to be the de-facto technique for best results.
Steel, on the other hand, is a much beefier metal when compared to aluminum. For this reason, it can take a lot more punishment before compromising its strength. But, which welding technique provides the strongest weld depends on the thickness of the material.
MIG is generally considered to be the best technique for most steel applications. For thicker steel sheets, many attest to the superiority of stick and flux welding.
If the steel is mild and stainless, TIG and MIG can be used without any real issues.
What is the best welder for a beginner?
If you are new to the world of welding, some techniques are much easier to pick up than others. MIG welding, for example, is widely considered to be the easiest to pick up and run with. But why?
MIG is a welding technique that has high adjustability of power output. It also produces very clean welds compared to other techniques. It is also great as it tends to be a pretty quick welding technique to produce a good weld for beginners and master welders alike.
Other techniques also exist if your budget allows. You could consider getting yourself something called a hybrid welder. This lets you, as the name suggests, try multiple styles at once. Yet despite this, many practicing welders attest to the simplicity and reliability of MIG welding to learn the ropes.
What non-industrial things can welding be used for?
While welding is of great utility in many industries around the world, it can be used for other things too. One example is in the world of art.
If you ever watched the timeless classic animated film, The Iron Giant, Dean McCoppin (voiced by Harry Connick Jr.) did just that.
But in the real world, many artists around the world are using any one of the above-mentioned welding techniques to produce magnificent works of art. Of those artists out there who use welding to produce their work, one interesting example is Chain Breaker Welding.
This chap uses old bike chains to produce wonderfully aesthetically pleasing sculptures. You really should check out their work on Instagram.
Another great welding artist is David Madero. This chap creates stunning works of art using plasma cutters and spot welding techniques.
View this post on Instagram
I just finished this 26×19 bike chain and sprocket tree commission today. I went back to my old style of placing sprockets on both sides of the chain per the client's request. I placed the darker sprockets behind and shinier ones in front to add some depth to the piece. This piece is destined for @thehandlebardc along the Racoon Trail in Dallas Center, Iowa. I had the pleasure of riding part of the Racoon Trail last year on RAGBRAI between Jefferson and Cooper. The 71 mile ride to Jefferson just wasn't enough riding for me that day. If you would like a custom piece if art for your bar, restaurant, home, office, or wherever, I am open for commissions! Just send me a message. I would love to make some art for you!
But they are but two of the many artists creating interesting work around the world using the timeless technique of welding.