More than half of all American products manufactured require welding. However, the term “welding” applies to a number of different processes and tools used to join metal. With a staggering 30 different methods of welding in total, it’s easy to get confused.
Right up to the tail end of the 19th century, forge welding was the only process used until both arc welding and oxy-fuel welding came to the fore. Global warfare in the early 20th century was largely responsible for the development of new welding processes that were both cost-effective and dependable.
Rudimentary manual processes like shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) sprang up and remain popular today. From here, gas metal arc (MIG) welding and flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) were developed. Advances in welding continued throughout the latter part of the 20th century with laser beam welding and robot welding, both of which are used in industrial settings.
We’ll focus now these industrial settings with a brief snapshot of six industries that use welding in its many different forms. As you will soon see, though, it’s MIG welding that occupies the pole position across all industries.
Unsurprisingly, since welding is one of the most effective methods of fusing metal, the aerospace industry has plenty of use for it. In fact, aerospace engineers employed welding to make the very first commercial aircraft.
Gas welding was once the standard production method – it’s still used now for aircraft repairs – but it has been supplanted by electrical arc welding. This replacement method works well for most types of metal. TIG welding, initially developed by the aerospace industry for working with magnesium, became popular in the 1940s.
Today, engineers use MIG welding for manufacturing aircraft, while plasma arc welding and electric resistance welding are commonly used for joining sheeting and precision work.
Since MIG welding delivers a super-strong bond even between thinner metals, it’s ideal for joining sheets of aluminum on the manufacturing line. Increasingly, laser MIG welding is gaining ground as car manufacturers appreciate the cost-effective nature of this process, which also offers superior penetration depth.
The average car requires thousands of welds, so unless things change radically, welding will remain a staple in the automotive industry.
Construction and Infrastructure
MIG welding was developed for the purposes of joining non-ferrous metals like aluminum. In the construction industry, though, workers predominantly use steel, and MIG welding is also widely employed for steel work.
With over 50% of the steel produced globally used in construction of commercial and residential buildings, there’s an enormous demand for welding on site. Beyond building, welding is a great way to repair damaged machines or broken tools.
Flux-cored welding is also regularly used in the construction industry, and shielded-metal arc welding is a messy but cost-effective option. Plasma arc welding works well for detailed precision projects.
Mass production of everything from computer componentry to machinery coils is another area in which MIG welding is standard. Its speed and cost-effectiveness means it’s the ideal solution for high-output manufacturing.
MIG welding, as we’ve already seen, is also extremely versatile. Since the manufacturing sector uses such a broad spread of metals, this flexibility means MIG welding is incredibly important to the industry. In fact, fully 60% of all welding jobs are manufacturing-based.
From furniture to agricultural tools, computer parts to mining machinery, just about anything you can think of that’s put together on a production line will need welding somewhere during the process.
Welding is a pivotal part of the railroad industry. When steel rails were introduced more than 100 years ago, welding was vital for joining these rails. Shot welding was an innovative form of spot welding invented in 1932 as a way of fusing this steel together effectively.
The Pioneer Zephyr, America’s first diesel streamline train, was made by the Budd Company, the firm behind shot welding. This metal behemoth was one of the first examples of spot welding being used to great effect.
From cruise liners and large tankers to cargo ships and aircraft carriers, welding underpins the construction of most ships. Although engineers can also use rivets, welding is a great deal quicker.
For reasons of speed and economy, welding has been the gold standard in the shipping industry since WWII. Much like in the construction industry, welding is also a routine process for repairing ships of all shapes and sizes.