Welding is a standard process both in the manufacturing and construction industries. For a specific application, there are well over 100 different welding processes. Welders are employed in automobile, shipbuilding and aerospace industries. Not only that, but they also join rafters and beams in residential and commercial construction. Laying of pipelines and working to build and maintain power plants and refineries are also some of their tasks. At times, many welders are certified in one or more welding techniques such as MIG welding, stick welding, and TIG welding.
Since the industrial revolution, the technological advancements of mankind have been moving at an unprecedentedly brisk pace. The different human industries likewise have manifested great innovations. With the introduction, for example, of steel as a construction material, the different fabrication methods and techniques have been significantly developed, and because of the limited natural sources of mineral ores for the steel building, the process of recycling and joining metals have becomes inevitable. At the onset, the most commonly-used method of joining steel together was either by bolts or rivets. However, due to the intensiveness of the riveting and bolting process, other methods of joining steel had to be developed, and for this reason, the process of welding steel joints was afterward introduced.
Welded joints, especially, in steel fabrication, are found to be far stronger than riveted or bolted joints, for welded metals are bonded together by means of fusion. In fusion, the base metal or workpieces are heated, melted, and joined together at the molecular level. Moreover, in its earliest form, welding was done by hammering two pieces of red-hot metals together until they fused. This process is now called “forge welding.”
Another early form of welding is the Oxy-fuel welding/cutting. Otherwise known as “oxyacetylene welding” for its use of Oxygen as oxidant and acetylene as fuel, oxy-fuel welding produces high-temperature flame to heat and melt the base metal or workpiece to create a molten pool where filler of similar metal is added to form a molecular bond. Oxy-fuel cutting is somewhat identical to the oxy-fuel welding, but instead of melting the workpiece to create a bond, oxy-fuel cutting uses a different type of torch that produces a flame that could cut through the metal.
The same oxyacetylene welding equipment is employed in brazing and/or soldering, albeit using solder wire instead of filler. Arc welding, on the other hand, uses a similar procedure to oxy-fuel but employs electrical arc rather than flame, and thus it achieves higher welding speed.
Arc welding is the most common metal-welding technology today. Arc welding uses electrical arc (concentrated near the tip of the electrode) to heat and melt the base metals or workpieces that are to be welded along with the filler material that creates a bond at the joints. There are various types of arc welding, and some of the most common arc welding processes are:
Different Types & Processes of Welding
1) Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)—SMAW, also commonly known as “Stick” welding due to its use of rods or stick electrode, is the predominantly used type of arc welding. The consumable electrode serves as the filler material and is coated with flux. The flux coating produces a shielding gas that protects the molten pool from atmospheric effects. The same flux is also deposited on top of the molten pool and forms a material called “slag” to protect the pool as it cools.
2) Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)—FCAW is very similar to SMAW except that FCAW uses a continuous electrode. But instead of being coated with flux material, the consumable FCAW electrode uses a fine metal tube filled with flux.
3) Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)—Like FCAW, GMAW or more commonly MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding uses a continuously-fed consumable wire electrode that also acts as filler material to the weld. However, in MIG welding, the wire electrode is without flux and must rely on an external shielding gas.
4) Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)—Otherwise known as TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding, the GTAW welding is unlike most arc welding processes that utilize a consumable electrode that also acts as filler material. Contrariwise, TIG welding uses a tungsten electrode to create an electrical arc and uses a separate, manually-introduced filler wire. TIG welding also uses an external shielding gas similar to that of GMAW welding.
5) Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)—SAW process differs from most arc welding processes for, in the case of SAW, the electrical arc is submerged under a layer of flux. The flux covers the welding from atmospheric contaminants and prevents spatter or sparks from flying. The flux also shields the operator from the intense UV (ultra-violet) light that the arc creates. Moreover, the molten flux serves as an electrical conductor between the consumable, continuous electrode and the workpiece. SAW is usually available in automatic or mechanical form; however, there are portable, manually operated models with pressurized or gravity-fed flux delivery system.
Types & Categories of Welding Jobs
It is basically self-evident that no one can perform perfect welding without having welding skill. Welding skill is the knowledge that can only be acquired through practice. At the onset of the development of the different welding processes, welders generally gained their welding skills through apprenticeship. At present, however, welding courses are already offered to train those who would like to become welders. After learning the basic techniques and principles, the prospective welders must further learn other skills related to welding like the knowledge of how to read technical drawing plans. Moreover, the ideal welders should be proficient in two or more welding types.
Since most modern structures and means of transportation that we use today are made of steel, there is definitely a huge demand for welding skills. Hence, welders will surely never run out of job, and job opportunities for welders are mostly needed in various industries. Here are some in-demand jobs for welders:
1) Pipe Fitter
Pipefitters are generally responsible for pipe layout and installation of all piping systems found in buildings and other constructions, HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) fabrication and plumbing. Due to their work responsibility, pipe fitters need to acquire additional skills such as the proficiency in reading blueprints and drawing aside from the basic knowledge of laying and joining pipes together.
2) Sheet Metal Worker
The fabrication of items such as those of air conditioning and heating ducts as well as rain gutters require some adroitness on the part of a sheet metal worker. Hence, aside from welding, welders need to have basic knowledge of oxyacetylene welding and soldering process for thin sheets of metal do not need very high-temperature heating process. Sheet metal workers should also be learned in fabricating parts of cars, airplanes, and boats.
3) Fabrication Welder
The fabrication welder is required to cut and weld metals to fabricate parts of machines. Moreover, they are required to follow engineering drawings and specifications. There are two categories of fabrication welders: light and heavy. Light fabrication welders usually work in fabrication companies of car chassis and body as well as in fabrication companies of vehicles, metal chairs or table, water tanks, and reservoir. Fabrication of bridges and shipbuilding falls under the category of heavy fabrication welder. Heavy fabrication welders usually work with heavy and thick metals that need deep welding joints.
4) Welding Inspectors
A certified welding inspector needs to be a very experienced welder as he needs to examine and determine if the welding satisfactorily meets the specified requirements or specifications. To become a welding inspector, one is required to have significant experience in arc welding, gas welding, as well as in pipe welding. Moreover, to be a welding inspector, one needs to be adept at reading blueprints and other fabrication drawings. Furthermore, he has must have necessary skills in drafting. Lastly, the welding inspector is required to have a firm foundation in physics and mathematics.
Welding Jobs / Careers You Can Pursue
Due to the vastness of the scope covered by welding that includes various welding procedures, types, tools and machineries, welding jobs themselves have three general categories, namely, cutters, brazers and solderers, and welders and welding machine operators.
1) Welders and Welding Machine Operators
As mentioned earlier, welders need to know at least two types of welding processes, especially, in the field of arc welding. In manual welding operation, the welder needs to know how to set up the welding machine and must have the knowledge about equipment, materials, and garments that are required for a specific welding job. The same is true of welding machine operators. However, welding machine operators must also be well-versed with various techniques and welding procedures. They should also be adept in using welding machines. It is important to note here that welding machine operation is mostly employed in large-scale production and fabrication using semi-automated welding processes.
Similar to welding, cutters must have the know-how on using manual and machine cutters that use plasma, oxy-fuel or electric arc to trim or cut a workpiece to its precise dimension and shape. They must also know how to use these tools in cutting and chopping fixed-metal structures such as steel bridges into smaller pieces for recycling or scrapping. On the other hand, cutting-machine operators are employed to dismantle movable large metal structures (ships, airplanes, cars, and locomotives) into their smaller components.
3) Solderers and Brazers
Similar to the welder in various respects, solderers, and brazers don’t use very high temperatures and don’t need to melt the workpieces that are being joined. They instead heat the workpieces together with the solder material to join the workpiece together. Moreover, while solderers and brazers share common work procedures and materials, brazers only engage in melting the soldering material. Lastly, the brazing process requires the workpieces (such as pipes) that will be joined are closely fitted so that the melted soldering material can flow through the gaps between the workpieces via capillary action.
4) Fabrication Welders
Did you ever dream of building a bridge or cruise ships, or even something small as a bicycle or working for NASA or even NASCAR? Welding Fabricators, also referred to as Fabrication welders, do just about this. With the help of engineering drawings, metals are cut into desired shapes and weld together to form a specific structure. Building bicycles or car bodies is a part of light fabrication. Heavy fabrication involves the production of boats, bridge structures, and canes. The demand for fabrication welders is, but not limited, in the areas of construction, aerospace, manufacturing and automotive, etc.
They are welders specializing in fabricating, installing, maintaining, and repairing of large tanks, which hold liquids and gas. Constructing these vats out of metal always withstand extreme pressure – hot water boilers; storage tanks and steam generators are some examples of this. They are known for making the custom steel plates and pipes, which make up these big containers. Boiler making training most of the times is involved in welding programs.
6) Pipeline Welders and Pipefitters
A lot of gas, water and oil industries rely on pipelines for the transport of their product throughout the world. The ounce of constructing and repairing the pipelines fall on pipeline welders. The professionals who install the piping system are known as pipefitters. With the help of specialized welding skills, they lay and bond pipes together. Pipefitters and pipeline welders need to be able to read blueprints. There is a need for these types of skills for jobs in plumbing, construction, HVAC, manufacturing, oil, gas, water, and other utility industries.
7) Structural Iron and Steel Workers
At times, structural steel welders, also known as “Ironworkers, are the people who work to assemble the steel structure of large buildings. Ironworkers, at times, work at very high altitudes. Their job is full of dangers, and it is not uncommon to see an ironworker missing a part of a finger or the whole thing. The unpredictable speeds and directions of the wind can easily blow a hanging beam in any direction causing severe injuries to the ironworkers.
Even facing these dangers, welders and Ironworkers can work side-by-side. The Ironworkers can be working on making structural connections, while the welders weld on the brackets or tabs.
8) Underwater Welders
The area of underwater welding is a unique career path. Unlike structural welders, who often work at heights, underwater welders work in the rigging, deep-sea fitting, cutting, inspecting, welding, and repairing heavy metal products such as Naval ships, submarines, oil rigs, gas pipelines, etc. due to intensity of the work, it’s crucial to have a physical exam for underwater welders. Not only this, but they should also be certified divers.
9) Production Welding Jobs
One can find these jobs in a factory or assembly-line type of production facility. In production type of setting is where you will find most MIG welding jobs. This is in large part due to its cleanliness and speed. From working on a large pressure vessel to directly welding brackets onto a sheet metal or a beam, there is a lot of work for production welder.
Their minimum wage starts mostly from $30 an hour. Factors that determine their rate depend upon the setting and the company that they are working for. Some of the higher paying production welding jobs are in heavy equipment companies like John Deere, Case, Caterpillar, and Volvo.
10) Industrial Maintenance Welding
You will find maintenance welders in factories, extensive manufacturing facilities, and oil refineries. Their tasks include piping, installation of new machinery, repair welding, and ductwork. Other skills, such as basic electrical and pneumatic knowledge are often needed.
11) Ship Building
In the USA, most shipbuilding companies can be found on the Gulf Coast, in either Florida, Alabama, Louisiana or Mississippi. Many larger shipbuilding companies offer apprenticeships where one can start with no to little experience as a welder. After completing the training, one gets certified as a welder and can earn a minimum wage of 20$ per hour. If you already have the experience, then you can start as s full-fledged shipbuilder.
It is easy to get a job in this field. The ease of finding employment is because of the magnitude of the work that ship companies work on and the length of time that it takes to complete a project.