Welding is a core metal fabrication process that is widely used in the manufacturing and construction industries. Welders are able to transform different types of metals into unique shapes and products that they envision. The type of metal that is being welded will often determine the welding technique that will be used to provide the best possible result. Like any other specialized skill, the art of welding is something that has to be mastered.
Most welding in metal fabrication involves common metals like steel, iron, aluminum, copper and other metals that can be joined using different welding techniques. There isn’t a single welding process that is suitable for all applications. It’s important to consider these factors when deciding on the type of welding technique to use for metal fabrication:
- The type of metal
- The thickness of the metal
- The size of the welding project
- What you want the welds to look like
- Your overall budget
- Whether you’re welding indoors or outdoors
To understand the different types of welding, we’re going to look at the four common welding techniques used in metal fabrication:
Different Types of Welding
Stick or Arc Welding (SMAW)
Stick welding, otherwise known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding is one of the easiest and widely used welding techniques in metal fabrication. This welding technique uses a consumable electrode stick that produces electric current. When in contact with steel, iron or any heavy metal that’s being welded, it creates an electric arc that generates temperatures as high as 6500 fahrenheit.
This type of welding can be performed on metals that have not been pre-cleaned and is quite effective when working on rusty metals, making it less time-consuming for welders. However, when using this welding technique, it’s important to use the proper amount of amperage for the thickness of the metal being welded. Working with thin metals can make the process more complicated and may require the presence of an experienced and highly skilled welder.
Stick, or arc welding is mostly suitable for heavy metals like iron and steel ranging from size 4 mm and above. As one of the most common welding techniques, stick welding is mostly used for repairing heavy metal equipment, pipeline welding, steel structure erection as well as metal work in the manufacturing and construction industries. Learning the right arc welding procedure is important to ensure a proper weld.
MIG Welding (GMAW)
Unlike the stick welding technique, Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) uses a gun that’s continuously fed with a consumable electrode. This method uses an external gas to shield the welded metal from various environmental factors like oxygen, therefore, making the welding process quick and continuous. This method produces less welding fumes and is easy to learn, requires less heat input and has a high electrode efficiency.
Find the right equipment for Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding can, however, be costly. This welding method is not effective on thick metals but works well on metals like magnesium, stainless steel, aluminum, silicon bronze, nickel and copper. It’s widely used in construction, automotive repairs, metal fabrication, plumbing, robotics and maritime repairs. To create high-quality welds, the metal has to be cleaned before any welding in metal fabrication takes place.
This can easily be done by grinding the metal to remove any paint, rust or solvent that may have accumulated on the metal. If you don’t have a metal grinder, you can also use a detergent, solvent and water to remove any grease that is present on the metal. Once the metal is clean and the welding begins, it’s important to ensure that the welding torch doesn’t touch the metal being welded. A zigzag pattern should be used in this common welding technique to ensure that both sides of the metal joint are being welded.
TIG Welding (GTAW)
TIG welding, also referred to as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding uses tungsten rods to create a well defined and neat weld that is visually appealing. To produce a high-quality weld, the metal needs to be cleaned thoroughly. It’s also important to choose the smallest electrode possible when performing the weld so you can minimize the chances of contamination. Different arc lengths must be used for different metals when it comes to using the TIG welding technique.
For high-quality work, welders should use the shortest arc length possible. Unlike other types of welding techniques, this method can be time-consuming and challenging and requires a high level of focus and skill to perfect the technique and perform the highest standard of work. An external shielding gas is also required. While TIG welding may be one of the most difficult of all the common welding techniques used in metal fabrication, it produces a top-quality weld and can be used to weld virtually any type of metal.
Because of the high level of skills required to master TIG welding, many welding and metal fabrication companies are in constant search for professional and highly experienced TIG welders. TIG welding is most suitable for vehicle welding, aerospace welding, bike manufacturing, motorcycle manufacturing, tubing and piping and high-precision welds.
Flux Cored Arc Welding
This welding method is almost similar to the MIG welding technique as far as the overall welding process and the equipment used is concerned. This welding technique in metal fabrication requires an electrode containing a flux and a constant amount of voltage. It also requires a shielding gas that is used to protect the welding surface from any atmospheric contamination. This is a quick welding process that can be used on many different types of metals.
The Flux Cored Arc Welding process is more costly than other welding techniques. The method has quickly developed as a reliable alternative to shield welding. Thanks to its high welding speed and portability, this semi-automatic arc weld is widely used in construction projects that involve metal fabrication work, heavy equipment repairs and steel erection. This common welding technique is effective in welding thick metals.
Choosing the Right Welding Technique
Welding techniques have highly evolved over the last few years, giving rise to a variety of more innovative welding methods. Due to this, it’s necessary that welders understand the different types of welding techniques so they can know which one is right for the job. Metal fabrication companies will likely determine who to hire depending on the level of knowledge they have in welding processes. Every welding technique has its own pros and cons, so it’s important to take your time before selecting the most suitable process for your welding applications.
Buying the Right Equipment
When it comes to buying welding equipment, it’s important to consider your metal fabrication needs. The welder is perhaps your biggest expense, so make sure that you’re buying the best quality that you can afford. The type of welder you’re going to buy depends on whether you want a simple wire-feed welder for regular metal work or one that is specifically designed for industrial metal fabrication. You’ll also need to buy the right welding wire for your welding machine.
Other equipment that you will need, include the right shielding gas, welding cart to increase portability, a carbide or awl scribe to mark cut lines, a magnet square or miter clamp to secure joints, a right angle grinder for flattening, beveling or grinding your welds, a chipping hammer or wire brush for cleaning up spatter and slag and welding pliers to remove spatter from the welding gun nozzle and trim your welding wire.
Safety is Paramount
Regardless of which common welding technique is used, welding processes expose everyone to similar hazards. Ensuring welding safety is a critical component in any metal fabrication service. If you’re involved in welding work or responsible for safety at a metal fabrication company or steel construction firm, it’s important to highlight key safety guidelines for all workers.
- Refer to the welder’s operating manual that contains important safety guidelines and information. The manual also contains important procedures regarding the machine’s use.
- Ensure that you are buttoned up when welding. Any exposed skin can be exposed to the damaging and painful effects of infrared and ultraviolet rays. Open pockets or pant cuffs that aren’t completely buttoned can smolder unnoticed when the welder is working under a protective hood.
- Wear the right protective gear. This includes safety glasses, industrial grade auto darkening helmet, leather apron, protective welding gloves, denim pants without cuffs and leather shoes.
- Respiratory safety is also important when welding. Smoke and fumes emitted during welding in metal fabrication could pose a health hazard. Make sure that you’re able to breathe freely and avoid working in confined spaces where fumes could accumulate, making the air unbreathable. Some welding work specifically requires that you wear the recommended respirators when welding. It’s important to consult the manufacturer’s welding electrode data sheet for proper procedures.
- It’s important also to lose any clutter in your welding area. Clearly mark or label the place for each piece of welding equipment. The welding area should only contain the required tools and equipment that the operator uses.
As global building and construction increases, the demand for qualified welding experts will continue to increase. According to industry experts at Metal Supply, a leading metal fabrication company in Los Angeles, 80% of companies in the metal fabrication industry cannot find enough qualified welding professionals to match their needs. The demand for companies that specialize in welding services, and specifically with the necessary skills required to understand the common welding techniques mentioned above is expected to grow by 26% in the next decade.
Metal Supply is your trusted partner in offering full-service metal fabrication services and steel and aluminum supply in and around Los Angeles. For more than 55 years, we’ve been offering complete metal fabrication solutions to our clients in the residential, industrial and commercial sectors. If you’d like to discuss your welding project or have any questions, please contact us today.