Welding is not a new development because it has been around since the bronze age, to a lesser degree, but it has made great advances through the years. In describing and defining it we could use the title, The Science of Holding Metals Together: What is Welding? It has transformed the world that we live in and paved the way for industry to become mechanized with greater efficiency. Automobiles, skyscrapers, bridges, farming equipment, mass production machinery and many of the tools and gadgets that we take for granted are made strong and durable through the process of welding.
What is welding?
Welding truly is the science of holding metals together and it is accomplished through the use of thermal pressure. Training for welders includes a course in metallurgy along with thermodynamics, stress analysis and heat transfer. It is the method for fusing metals together with the use of heat and pressure by using a series of metal joints which are bonded to the metals that are to be joined. When done correctly, these joints are often stronger than the metals that are being joined. It is a process of molecular bonding.
Welding in its infancy
The first men who attempted to join metals did so in the bronze age. They developed a hammer forge technique by heating sheets of brass and hammering them until they fused. Modern welding has been around since the 1930s and through research and experimentation, has evolved into a craft which uses the heat generated by electrical arcs and resistance, oxyacetylene flames, lasers and electron beams. This method was used throughout the centuries until the advent of modern welding techniques. New machinery developed during the industrial boom of the early 19th century required a stronger way to join metals. Rivets, nuts and bolts could not provide the efficiency for the machinery that was used.
In the late 1800s a Russian researcher discovered that an electrical arc could generate the super heat needed to melt steel. Wehn a continuous seam was applied between the joints of 2 pieces of steel, it formed a weld that was strong and durable. The next discovery came from America as professor Elihu Thomson discovered that the passage of high amperage electrical currents through two pieces of steel had the capacity to fuse them. This process became known as resistance welding. Just a few years later a French chemist discovered that acetylene gas could be mixed with oxygen and burned with a flame that would generate enough heat to melt iron to weld it together. Within this short span of time, these advances opened new doors in the science of welding producing the groundwork for the modern welding methods of oxyacetylene, resistance and the modern welding arc.
Great advancements into the 20th century
In the 1930s, more improvements were made that included a gas shielding method which used helium and argon gases that cut down on the amount of slag in the weld that could cause weak spots. This led to greater reliability of the welds and increased strength. Additional chemical fluxes were created the bond alloys for seamless welding techniques and are used today in the creation of fine jewelry and other items.
These discoveries made it possible to bond other more lightweight metals such as aluminum and other alloys. Today, modern welders make use of refined tools and equipment with special safety ratings to help ensure safety and a superior weld.
Welding is a science that has evolved since the bronze age. It has developed through the use of technology gained through experimentation and discovery. Improvements have perfected the craft that enables us to function in a highly mechanized world that is dependent on the strength and reliability of the weld to hold together buildings, bridges, ships, automobiles and countless other structures and items that we take for granted.