Welding And Fabrication – Pt.1
Schaus-Vorhies Manufacturing (SVM) has the capability to manufacture and fabricate nearly anything you could possibly need for your business. From durable and straightforward construction steel to beautifully intricate custom railings, we can and have made it before.
One of the essential aspects of fabricating metal structures, large or small, is welding. There are many times when bolts, rivets, screws, or any other fastener will not work. Depending on the application, using such connecting components could damage the structural integrity of the material, impede flow characteristics, increase vibrations in the structure, or look ugly. This is where welding and fabrication come into play. Taking a small stick of metal and applying electricity to melt it allows you to connect different parts of metal. As the hot metal in the weld cools, it hardens, bonding both pieces together. However, there are a significant number of different kinds of welding, each with their own fabrication applications. These include TIG, MIG, and Shielded Metal Arc, to name a few. Let’s take a brief look at each of these so we can better understand the skill and craftsmanship that is required to create a genuinely finished and beautiful product.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) – This method is most commonly used on hard materials with a high melting point, such as stainless steel. This is possible because tungsten has a higher melting point than any known metal. It also is excellent at conducting electricity. These two properties – a ridiculously high melting point and excellent electrical conductivity – allow the welder to generate an electrical arc of 11,000F (yes, that’s roughly the temperature of the surface of the sun). The welder then takes his stick of filler material (a thin rod of stainless steel, for example, and places it into the arc, melting it onto the desired location. The purpose of the inert gas (usually argon or helium) is to protect the weld area from the open air to prevent oxidation.
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) – MIG welding is similar to TIG welding in many ways, but it is much easier to use. The temperatures are not nearly as high, and it works well on many different kinds of metal, from stainless steel to the humble bronze. One of the things that makes it simpler than TIG welding is that there is no third element, such as tungsten. The material used as an electrode is also the material used to create the actual weld. This makes it much simpler for the welder to get a smooth and even weld. You can also get at it from more angles and use it in a much tighter space than TIG welding since you only have to get one hand in the weld area. The inert gas in this method is most often argon, though CO2 may also be used. If this method has a downside, it can only be used on relatively thin pieces of metal. There is also a version of this method that has an automatic feed built into the weld gun, allowing the welder to focus on the weld itself rather than having to worry about the weld and feeding the material in a bit at a time.
Shielded Metal Arc (SMAW) – This method is more commonly known as stick welding. That is because it uses a simple stick of weld material that is held with a clamp connected to the power supply. As with MIG welding, electricity is applied to the rod, and the weld material melts. In this case, the stick is covered with a flux that vaporizes to create the inert gas layer that protects the weld area. The primary benefit of this method is that it is straightforward to use. The main negative aspect is that as the gas cools, it does so on the weld as slag, which has to be removed. This is done either with a wire brush or a chipping hammer. A grinder may be used, though precautions must be taken to prevent the resulting sparks from starting a fire.
These are just some of the most common methods of welding in the fabrication industry. In the hands of a skilled welder, a weld can be so smooth and well-integrated with the material being welded that it looks like it was always there, and the welders at SVM are among the best in the business. In part 2 of this series, we will more address Welding And Fabrication Safety.