Every day, there are more industrial, commercial, and residential construction projects developing around the country. With the many styles of structures around today, there is a lot of training needed to become a welder. Depending upon what level of certification you are looking to receive when you become a welder, the hands-on-training and classroom time will vary. The six major types of welding involve shielded metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, gas metal arc welding, flux-cored arc welding, electroslag welding, and oxy-fuel welding/cutting. Each is a sculptural process that joins materials by heating and melting the base, often with the addition of a filler material that is added to form a joint that can be as strong as the base material. There are a few different welding environments, and the type of equipment you will use in each varies. Most construction is in the open air, but some specialty jobs are under water or in outer space. Learning different types of welding, and gaining experience in a well-rounded environment, will help you in becoming a welder.
When You Become A Welder, You Learn… Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
This is the most used of all types of welding, and is used in projects similar to construction, industrial and railroad work. It’s also one of the most common types of welding that you learn when you become a welder. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) is a process that uses an electrode surrounded by a protective material for the puddle called “flux”, with a substance called slag protecting the finished weld from atmospheric contamination, this is called stick welding. This certification is highly sought after by the Labor Trade Unions, is essential in becoming a welder and takes a few months to complete the course. This method usually leads to career work with great wages, health care benefits, and a 401K.
…Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)
The second of the types of welding is better known as MiG (Metal, Inert Gas), requires a gun that feeds wire at an adjustable speed and flows argon-based shielding gas or a mix of argon and carbon dioxide. This protects the weld from any atmospheric contamination that may happen. There are numerous opportunities for employment that are fairly easy to obtain. This method is primarily used in fabrication, manufacturing, production, or for auto body welding purposes. This is a class that can be completed within 2 weeks, often leading to immediate employability and is how most people work on becoming a welder. Most new welders acquire this certification in order to get a job to pay for future certifications they want to acquire during their career.
…Flux-cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
This is the third preferred in the types of welding, and is necessary while becoming a welder in steel fabrication. This method consists of an automatically fed consumable electrode, in addition to a blanket of granular fusible flux. When the electrode is struck on the metal it creates a molten weld and an arc zone, which is projected from atmospheric contamination by being “submerged” under the flux blanket. This requires a longer period of training, but with less work opportunity in comparison to SMAW & GMAW. After certification, most FCAW welders acquire work with great career possibilities, including benefits.
…Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
Commonly known as TiG (Tungsten, Inert Gas), this process uses a non-consumable electrode to create the weld. The inert shielding gas, usually Argon or Helium, is what protects the weld from atmospheric contamination. Windy outdoor environments tend to make types of welding like this difficult to master. It is recommended to have had hands-on experience before becoming a welder of this proficiency; typically three to five years of work experience is required. You don’t start out with TiG welding as soon as you become a welder! It is used in the nuclear field, for food grade work, in engineering facilities, with low-end auto work, and for repair welding. Because of the quality of work and experience required, GTAW welding leads to high paying jobs and is always high in demand. The training requires several preliminary courses, and takes a couple of years to complete.
Of course, if robots can learn to TiG weld, so can you!!
Robot footage courtesy of FANUC America’s awesome YouTube Channel.
…Electroslag Welding (ESW)
This is a heavy duty, highly productive, single pass welding process that is for thicker materials between 1 inch and 12 inches, in a vertical or close to vertical position. It is used mainly to join low carbon steel plates or sections that are very thick. It can also be used in types of welding with structural steel if certain precautions are observed. This is a certification that can be acquired while becoming a welder, during a basic welding course.
…Oxyacetylene Welding and Cutting
Pure oxygen, instead of air, is used to increase the flame temperature to allow a concentrated melting of the material. This is one of the oldest processes, and is still widely utilized for welding pipes and tubes, but other specifically devised technologies have been adopted in industrial applications. While becoming a welder, this is what you will use for most repair work, and it is favored over other types of welding for fabricating metal-based artwork. Oxy-fuel has an advantage over electric processes in areas where accessing electricity would present difficulties. When oxy-fuel welding, a welding torch is used to heat metal to a temperature which produces a shared pool of molten metal, the pool is generally supplied with additional filler. In oxy-fuel cutting, the welding torch is used to heat the metal to its melting temperature. A high flow of oxygen is then applied to the metal, melting it so that it flows out of the cut as slag. There is also the single tank variety, which uses atmospheric air instead of oxygen, however these are not considered oxy-fuel torches, and they are typically used only for soldering and brazing.
While the many different types of welding offer huge opportunities for becoming a welder, a good welder is also safety conscience. Not all of the welding is difficult, but a number of subtle safety points that should be learned are as follows: the importance of eye protection, safety with cylinders, chemical exposure, flashback, burns, inhalation of poisonous gases, and exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation. Wearing the proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is necessary to becoming a proficient welder. Appropriate facemask, jacket, pants and gloves are all needed. An accredited and thorough welding program will make safety a priority for all of their students, teaching skills to help your career to be long and prosperous.