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The Pros & Cons of Welding Stainless Steel & Best Ways of Welding Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is a popular building material long heralded for its durability and substantial resistance to corrosion. Welding with this attractive metal does pose some unique challenges that need to be considered before launching into a project with stainless steel.

Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of working with this substance and examine the best ways of welding stainless steel.

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MIG vs TIG Welding: Why MIG Welding is Better Than TIG Welding

Arc welding processes are as varied as the workpieces they create, and choosing the right one is vital to your project’s success. While MIG and TIG welding both form the weld using an electric arc, the techniques are quite different, and choosing the wrong one can lead to more than one headache.

Read on for the reasons you may want to choose MIG welding vs. TIG welding.

(Click here to learn why TIG is better than MIG.)

MIG vs TIG Welding

MIG and TIG welding both use an electric arc to create the weld. The difference between the two is the way the arc is used.

mig welding process
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MIG (metal inert gas) welding uses a feed wire that constantly moves through the gun to create the spark, then melts to form the weld. It uses a semi-automatic or automatic arc.

tig welding process
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TIG (tungsten inert gas) welding uses long rods to fuse two metals directly together. It uses a non-consumable electrode and a different fillermaterial.

RELATED: Most Common Welding Equipment and Processes

Why MIG Welders Are More Efficient

Diversity

A number of reasons make being a MIG welder the superior choice for your job. First, it’s more diverse. While TIG welding can be used on more types of metals, it’s limited in its effectiveness on thicker jobs. MIG welding can be used on aluminum, stainless steel, and steel, and on every thickness from 26-gauge sheet metal to heavy-duty structural plates.

MIG welding holds this big advantage over TIG because the wire feed acts not only as an electrode, but also as a filler. As a result, thicker pieces can be fused together without having to heat them all the way through. And because it uses filler rather than fusing, MIG welding can be used to weld two different materials together.

Speed

Another reason for choosing MIG vs. TIG is speed. A MIG gun is designed to run continuously for long periods of time, making them more efficient and productive than its counterpart. For large, industrial operations that require high production rates, MIG is the go-to choice. (It also lends itself well to automation). Oppositely, TIG welding is a much slower process that’s focused on detail.

Finest Welding Equipment Manufacturer American Torch TIp, mig welder

Cost

As with any manufacturing job, time equals money. And because the MIG welding process is so much faster, it’s also more cost-effective. MIG parts are also more readily available and far less expensive than TIG.

TIG welding has a lower deposition rate making it more expensive per foot of bead. The initial costs are also a little more than MIG because the consumables are a bit pricier.

Ease

Finally, being a MIG welder is easier to learn and can be perfected after just a few weeks of training. In fact, it’s even been referred to as the “hot glue gun” of welding — just pull the trigger to start or stop the weld. MIG welders can hold and operate the gun with only one hand, making it a better option for beginning welders. TIG welding, on the other hand, is a specialized technique that requires the use of both hands and one foot — all doing separate things.

RELATED: How to start a career in welding

When to Use MIG Welding

Both TIG and MIG welding have their pros and cons so it is important that you consider the application.

Here are applications best suited for MIG welders:

  • Ticker material
  • Long runs
  • Difficulty positioning

Manufacturers find MIG welding useful when high production is neccessary and delicate work isn’t required. It can also be helpful when there aren’t experienced welders available.

Get High-Quality MIG Welding Parts, Torches, & Guns

Are you a MIG welder looking for high-quality MIG welding equipment? American Torch Tip manufacturers and offers durable MIG welding parts, torches, and funs that are built with welders, like you, in mind.

Our line of Lightning® MIG guns and consumables are impact resistant, ink-resistant, and ergonomic. With our indestructible handles and swivel-neck technology, welders can get more done with less downtime.

For help with your MIG setup, download our free MIG Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide.

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Create Sustainability & Save Money Through VR Welding Training

Increased sustainability and lower costs may not seem like a compatible couple. But thanks to some innovative thinking and state-of-the-art tech, teachers, business owners, and welders are forging a new, virtual way to accomplish both at once.

Here’s the rundown on how virtual reality plays a role in welding, why it’s important, and how you can get in on this growing tech trend.

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How Welding Robots Can Decrease Your Costs and Boost Your Productivity

It’s no secret that U.S. manufacturers face constant increases in labor costs, which are already up 0.6 percent since the start of this year. The biggest contributors to that uptick are wages and benefits, but lost time due to illness, injury, or mistakes that throw a job off schedule also plays a part.

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The History of Welding & The Evolution of Welding Technology

The History & Future of Welding Technology

When we think of welding, we tend to think of it as a fairly recent technology used to construct some of the marvels of the modern age.

The truth is that there are dozens of forms of welding, some of which date back over five thousand years.

Ever since man first began shaping metal, there has been a desire to fuse two pieces of it together. It is entirely logical then that some of the first welders were blacksmiths and the first techniques used to bond metals were accomplished with a hammer and a forge.

The basic methodology was to heat a material to the point of malleability, and then smash it into another piece of similarly heated metal until they stuck together. This process remains largely the same today and is still used by blacksmiths to forge bespoke blades and ornaments.

Let’s explore some more history of the welding industry and analyze how it will shape the future.

The History of Welding: Forge Welding

Forge welding was the preferred process of joining metals from the early bronze age (circa 3,500 B.C.) through 1836, when gas welding became possible with the discovery of acetylene. Although this represented a tremendous leap forward in welding technology, early welding gases were inconsistent and expensive and the quest for more modern methods continued.

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In 1877, English-born American engineer Elihu Thomson invented the process of resistance welding by chance while preparing a lecture at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Eight years later, in 1885, Thomson built the first electric welder.

The First Carbon Electrode

In 1887, Nikolai Bernardos and Stanislaw Olszewski patented the first carbon electrode to be used with the arc welding technology developed in 1881 by Auguste de Méritens to join lead battery plates and manual metal arc welding was born. The process was cemented in 1890 when C.L. Coffin of Detroit was awarded the first U.S. patent for arc welding with a metal electrode.

history of welding
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In stark contrast to the approach used by earlier methods, thermite welding was developed by Hans Goldschmidt in 1893 and by 1899 it was being used to join sections of railways in Germany. Over a century later, Goldschmidt’s process is still common in the rail industry.

20th Century

The twentieth century brought about rapid development in the burgeoning practice of welding during the machine age and many of the processes we are all familiar with today were developed during this time. Although the arc welding process and carbon electrodes had been invented years earlier, the welds produced by this process were prone to flaws and unsuitable for use in structural applications.

Everything changed in 1900 when Arthur Percy Strohmenger and Oscar Kjellberg released the first coated electrodes, which offered increased arc stability and more consistent welds.

Post World War

In 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, twenty members of the Wartime Committee of the Emergency Fleet Corporation founded the American Welding Society. Alternating current welding was also introduced by C.J. Holslag the same year but would not gain popularity for another decade until electrodes were developed which favored the process.

history of welding society
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In 1920, P.O. Nobel of General Electric invented automatic welding; the first process to feed a wire electrode automatically based on arc voltage and the basis for what would later become MIG welding. A decade later, National Tube Works Company of McKeesport, Pennsylvania developed the submerged arc welding process to achieve higher deposition rates in pipe welding, a purpose for which it is still very popular to this day.

Welding During Times of War

Warfare has served to spur many major technological advancements and World War II proved to be no exception. One of the least-appreciated yet most significant contributions to welding technology was born in California’s Mare Island Naval Shipyard in early 1941 when shipbuilder Ted Nelson invented stud welding for use in attaching deck boards to ships.

Prior to Nelson’s invention, decking was attached with nuts and bolts using wrenches and large scaffolding systems. Nelson’s process was estimated to have saved the U.S. Navy more than 50 million man-hours during WWII.

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The process he invented bears his name to this day as a registered trademark of the Stanley® company. Around the same time, Russell Meredith of the Northrup Aircraft Corporation developed the standard process for gas tungsten arc welding for use in aircraft construction using aluminum and titanium.

His patent would later be licensed to Linde, who renamed it Heliarc and invested heavily in further development of the process. The post-war years saw a booming U.S. economy which further drove the need for new and improved welding processes capable of supporting infrastructure, construction, transportation, and demand for consumer goods. The prevalent technologies of the jet age were shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and gas metal arc welding

The History of GTAW Welding

GTAW stands for gun tungsten arc welding. These processes were capable of producing high-quality welds, but not at the high deposition rates that manufacturing demanded. This led to the development of gas metal arc welding (GMAW / MIG) at Battelle Memorial Institute in 1948.

With much higher deposition rates than competing processes, gas metal arc welding quickly gained popularity and has been renowned for its ease of use and speed ever since. In 1949 electron-beam welding was developed by German physicist Dr. Karl-Heinz Steigerwald, which uses a high energy beam of focused electrons to weld without filler metal in a vacuum.

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This process can weld complex joints with a very small heat-affected zone. The space-age saw the first patent awarded for the plasma arc welding process to Robert Gage of Union Carbide in 1957.

Plasma arc welding is very precise and produces very high-quality welds on a variety of materials. Perhaps the most extreme form of metal fusion, explosion welding was developed by DuPont in 1962 and can be used to bond two metals that cannot be welded by other means. In this process, two sheets of material (a backer and a cladder) are buried in a granulated explosive compound which is then detonated at the corner, permanently sandwiching the sheets together.

In 1964, Kumar Patel of Bells Labs developed the Co2 laser, and laser beam welding was born. This process is similar in theory to electron-beam welding but electrons are transmitted via light at a 10.6μm wavelength and the process need not be performed in a vacuum.

The Development of Friction Stir Welding (FSW)

Friction Stir Welding (FSW) was invented by Wayne Thomas of The Welding Institute in 1991. FSW uses a tool that rotates at high speed and travels across a joint where downward force is applied and heat is induced by the friction of the tool meets the plate.

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No filler material is used and the heat-affected zone is extremely minimal. This technology is most commonly used to join aluminum alloys up to 75mm in thickness but is also capable of joining dissimilar metals including magnesium, titanium, and nickel.

The Welding of The Present and Future

Modern-day welding technology is largely focused on process improvement, waste reduction, and efficiency. While robots have been integrated into welding processes since General Motors adopted the UNIMATE in 1962, recent improvements in collaborative robotics technology have allowed robots to work right alongside their human counterparts in flexible applications that don’t require lofty upfront investments, dedicated floor space, and lengthy programming sequences.

These “cobots” are well-suited to welding applications and can be integrated into a production welding environment in a matter of hours, expanding or supplementing manufacturing capacity exactly when and where the need arises. As the needs of an ever-evolving economy change, the future is sure to see the continuation of the storied tradition of innovation and adaptation of welding technology that has shaped the world we live in today.

As the welding industry & its needs continue to evolve, we will continue to bring you the most updated information and products here at American Torch Tip.

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The Welder’s Slang Dictionary

Welding Slang: How to Talk the Talk Like a Pro

Every industry has its own secret language and welding is no exception.

This can make life difficult for those outside the industry or the novice looking to learn more about the trade. In order to make things easier for you, we’ve gathered a list of the most common slang words and terms used in the welding industry. This list is non-region specific and some terms may have different meanings depending on the location or context in which they are used.

By the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be speaking the welder’s language with the best of them!

Our Dictionary of Welding Slang Terms & Definitions

Alligator Cut: A poor quality cut done with a torch that looks like an alligator chewed on it.

Arc Burn: Photokeratitis.

Arkansas Bell Hole: A pipe weld performed in the 6G position.

Back Purge: A process of filling the back side of a weld joint with a shielding gas (usually argon) to prevent contamination.

Backer: A plate or tool or strip of material placed behind the opening of a weld joint.

BBs: Small balls of spatter usually generated when MIG welding.

Bell Hole: A large hole dug around a pipe which allows safe and easy access to the work area.

Bird Nest: A jumbled ball of welding wire usually caused by a feeding problem.

Bird Poop: A poor quality weld that has the appearance of bird poop.

Blackballed: Banned from working on a particular job or for a particular company.

Brother-in-Law Weld: A weld done by two welders at the same time, usually on large diameter pipe.

Bubble Gum: A poor quality weld that looks like chewed bubble gum.

Busted Out: Failed a weld test.

Buzz Box: An arc welder which uses alternating current.

Cap: The last bead laid on a multi pass weld, typically in pipe fitting.

Coupon: A section of a welded joint which is cut out for destructive testing.

Cup: A TIG welding nozzle.

Dingleberry: An unsightly ball of spatter hanging off a weld.

Downhill: Welding vertically from top to bottom.

Drag Up: To quit a job abruptly without giving prior notice.

Fill: A weld bead laid after the root, but before the cap on a multi pass weld, typically in pipe fitting.

Fish Eye: A type of weld defect (usually a pin hole at the end of a bead) that resembles a fish eye.

Fish Plate: A reinforcing plate on top of a butt weld that adds strength and diffuses stress risers.

Flash Burn: Photokeratitis.

Frying Bacon: The sound of a MIG weld when it the settings are dialed in properly.

Golden Arm: A welder with excellent technique who produces top quality welds.

Grasshopper: See “Third Hand”. Also, a device for grounding when pipe welding.

Heliarc: An old school term for TIG welding when helium was the primary shielding gas.

Highway Tight: To secure all the equipment on a mobile welding rig prior to departing the jobsite.

Mortar Board: See “Mud Board”.

Mud Board: A piece of wood a welder lays on to position themselves out of the mud during pipeline work.

Pancake: A type of fixed shade welding helmet that is flat and round on the front like a pancake.

Pipeliner: A type of fixed shade welding helmet commonly used in pipeline work.

Potato Face: A welder suffering from photokeratitis. Putting sliced raw potatoes on the eyes is said to bring relief.

Puddle: The liquified or molten portion of the weld.

Pup: A short piece of pipe used to fill a gap between two pieces that are too far apart to weld.

Rose Bud: A generic term for a heating tip.

Rig: A mobile welding truck.

Root: The first bead laid in a multiple pass weld, typically in pipefitting.

Roustabout: A laborer or unskilled worker.

Run Off: To get fired from a welding job.

Shooting A Weld: Performing x-ray inspection of a weld joint.

Slag: Flux which has cooled and solidified on top of a weld bead.

Smile: A warp in a pipe flange.

Spatter: Small bits of molten metal generated by the welding process which become deposited on the torch and nearby surfaces.

Spoon: A device used as a backer for filling holes with weld, typically in body work.

Stacking Dimes: A TIG weld that looks like a line of dimes partially stacked on top of each other.

Stencil: A mark on a pipe weld indicating who welded it.

Stick: SMAW welding process.

Stickout: Contact tip to work distance.

Stinger: A SMAW electrode holder.

Stringer Bead: A weld bead that is straight with no weave or whip.

Texas TIG: An arc welding technique which uses two electrodes, one held in the electrode holder, and one fed by hand, to fill a large gap.

Third Hand: A mechanical device that holds parts temporarily in place until they can be tack welded.

Tombstone: An old SMAW welding machine, typically a Lincoln AC225.

Undercut: Lack of fusion at the edge of a weld.

Unemployment Wagon: A mobile weld testing and inspection truck.

Uphill: Welding vertically from bottom to top.

Wagon Tracks: A type of weld defect found at the toe of a root pass which resemble the tracks left by a wagon.

Walking the Cup: A technique used to TIG weld pipe where the welder rotates the nozzle back and forth along the weld to form a weave.

Weed Burner: A large heating torch used for preheating pipe and other larger weldments.

Welding Papers: Certifications a welder has which qualify them for a particular job or task for a specific period of time.

Whip: A MIG gun. Also, a wrist motion made when MIG welding.

Zorro: A welder who is attempting to remove an electrode that has become stuck to the workpiece.

Now that you know the welding slang terms, you’re ready to speak the welder’s language. Just don’t use them all at once because it may look like you’re trying too hard!

To learn more about the welding industry, have a look at our other articles.

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Welding & Metalworking in the US Military

Every branch of the US Armed Forces must build, repair, and maintain equipment using the same practices which are common in the civilian sector. Here is a breakdown on welding and metalworking roles and responsibilities by service branch.

Welding in the US Army

The United States Army classifies jobs under a code called Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. In the US Army, the job which performs welding and metalworking is called an Allied Trade Specialist or 91E. Allied Trade Specialists are responsible for fabricating, repairing, and modifying metallic and non-metallic parts as well as operating lathes, drill presses, grinders, and various other tools and machine shop equipment. After 10 weeks of Basic Combat Training (Boot Camp), Allied Trade Specialists undergo an additional 13 weeks of Advanced Individual Training (AIT) at Fort Lee, Virginia. To qualify for this job, enlistees will need to score at least 98 points in the General Maintenance segment of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test, or a combination of 88 points in General Maintenance and 95 points in the General Technical portion.

Welding Needs in the US Navy

The United States Navy calls their enlisted jobs ratings or rates. There are three main rates that perform welding & metalworking in the US Navy.

The first of these is the Hull Maintenance Technician (HT). HTs perform metal work to keep shipboard structures and surfaces in good condition. Essentially, they are a ship’s handyman. They are trained in welding, pipefitting, brazing, and other tasks. HTs must be versatile and able to troubleshoot and solve a variety of problems which may occur on a ship.

Next up is the Steelworker (SW). Seabees build a variety of structures in just about every environment imaginable. SWs fabricate structural steel and sheet metal.

Lastly, Underwater Construction Team (UCT) Divers perform highly specialized underwater welding and cutting. They must attend a seven-week long Diver Preparation Course in Great Lakes, Illinois, followed by another fifteen weeks at Second Class Dive School in Panama City, Florida. Many Second Class Divers eventually qualify as First Class Divers or Master Divers. UCT Divers use special underwater SMAW equipment, including water-resistant electrodes, lightweight insulated electrode holders, and of course, specialized dive suits. All underwater welding done using a DCEN process due to the unique environment.

Welding in the US Air Force

The United States Air Force uses Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs) to classify job roles. The AFSC that does the most welding is Aircraft Metals Technology (A2A7X1) This job role is responsible for repairing and creating essential aircraft parts. These Airmen weld and fabricate custom metal components which are critical to the function of an aircraft in addition to CNC machining and other tasks. They will attend 8.5 weeks of basic military training, followed by 67 days of technical school training at Sheppard AFB in Texas. This job frequently works with aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel components common to modern aircraft.

Welding in the US Marine Corps

The United States Marine Corps is known as the smallest service branch, but they still see the value of training their Marines to perform welding and metalworking. The Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) primarily responsible for this task is the Metal Worker (1316). To qualify as a Metal Worker, recruits must score a 95 or higher on the Mechanical Maintenance portion of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. Metal Workers are trained on oxy/acetylene, SMAW, GTAW, and GMAW welding processes alongside their Allied Trade Specialist counterparts as part of a detachment stationed at Fort Lee, Virginia. Metal Workers in the USMC must be prepared to apply their trade wherever the need arises and frequently repair or replace armor plating on combat vehicles.

Welding in the US Coast Guard

For dry dock repairs and maintenance, the United States Coast Guard prefers to outsource to civilian contractors, such as at USCG Base Miami Beach in South Florida. When at sea, however, the job falls to the Damage Controlman (DC). The DC fills a very dynamic role and is sort of a “Jack of all trades” aboard USCG ships. They are responsible for maintaining the watertight integrity of the ship, firefighting, flood control, plumbing, welding and fabrication, as well as nuclear, biological, and chemical attack detection and decontamination. DCs typically attend a fifteen-week “A” school course in Yorktown, Virginia where they learn oxy/fuel cutting and brazing, plasma cutting, and SMAW welding among other topics. After “A” school, DCs may also receive further training at “C” courses such as advanced steel welding and aluminum welding.

Welding in the US Space Force

As the United States’ newest service branch, the role of the Space Force is still evolving. While they don’t technically have a job role that performs welding and metalworking just yet, it is only a matter of time before vessels bound for outer space will require onboard maintenance while in flight. Who knows what role the Space Force will develop for this sure-to-be highly-specialized task on the final frontier and who will fill it?

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the Risk to Fabricators

Carpal Tunnel: The potentially career-ending condition you need to know about

Most of us have heard of carpal tunnel syndrome but few of us actually understand what it is and the risks we face of developing it. In this article, we will discuss what carpal tunnel syndrome is, what risk factors exist for welders and fabricators, how to effectively mitigate them, and when you should see your doctor.

What is carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)?

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a musculoskeletal disorder caused by compression of the median nerve inside the carpal tunnel, a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of the wrist. The median nerve is responsible for providing sensation to the palm side of your thumb and other fingers, except the little finger as well as nerve signals which control the muscles at the base of the thumb. Symptoms of CTS include numbness or tingling (which may travel up the wrist to the forearm), weakness (which may cause the afflicted person to drop objects), or atrophy of the muscles in the hand and fingers.

Who is most at risk for CTS?

Workers who perform highly repetitive tasks that involve stress-inducing forces on the wrist over a long period of time are most at risk for developing CTS. These stress inducing forces include weight, flexion, vibration, temperature, and strain. Repeated flexion and extension of the wrist can cause the protective sheaths which surround the tendons around the median nerve to thicken, exerting excess pressure on the median nerve and causing CTS. In welding and fabrication, workers often hold torches in their hands and move them in repetitive motions for hours per day in addition to operating grinders, scalers, hammers, bevelers, and other high-risk tools.

The size, shape, and weight of these tools all contribute to the risk the operator faces of developing CTS. Simply holding and operating a welding torch can be a high-risk task since increases in carpal tunnel pressure can be induced by wrist, forearm, and finger posture as well as pressure applied to the fingertips. Welders are often forced to alter their both their body and wrist posture to gain access to a joint. This sub-optimal posture when combined with the need to operate mechanical controls such as triggers or switches and support the weight of the torch in addition to the period of time the operator spends doing all of the above can greatly increase the risk of CTS development.

 

What other factors increase the risk of CTS?

  • Sex: CTS is generally more common in women, likely because women have a smaller carpal tunnel area than men.
  • Previous Injury: Wrist fractures or dislocations can affect the space within the carpal tunnel.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes and some other chronic illnesses carry an increased risk of nerve damage, including the median nerve.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can affect the lining of the tendons in the carpal tunnel.
  • Obesity: Overweight people are at higher risk for developing CTS.
  • Anatomy: People of smaller stature are more likely to have smaller carpal tunnels.
  • Temperature: CTS is more likely to develop at lower temperatures.

 

How can the risks of CTS to welders and fabricators be minimized?

While there are no hard and fast rules for preventing the development of CTS, there are some generally accepted practices that will serve to reduce the risk. No matter the task being performed, the risk is lower when a worker’s hands are in a neutral position (not flexed or extended), force applied to the fingers is minimized (less resistance), hands and wrists are kept warm, and shock load and vibration exposure are reduced.

Risks specific to welding can be mitigated by practicing better posture when welding, selecting a torch which allows for a more neutral wrist position, taking frequent, but short breaks from welding, and performing stretching exercises whenever possible.

 

When should I see a doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to the prevention of permanent median nerve damage. You should see your doctor if you experience numbness, tingling, or weakness of the hands, frequently drop objects or have difficulty determining hot from cold objects when touching them with your hands. Your doctor can perform tests to determine if you are experiencing CTS or another condition such as arthritis. When CTS is diagnosed early, non-surgical treatments such as stretching and strengthening exercises, anti-inflammatory drugs, and corticosteroids are often effective.

As the old adage says “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In the modern workplace, safety is taken far more seriously than ever before, but that doesn’t mean risks are wholly addressed or completely eliminated. It is the responsibility of each and every worker to assess the tasks they perform and make a determination of the best safety practices to follow, whether they are mandated by their employer or not. If you are unsure of the risks you encounter on the job or how to address them, consult your safety manager, human resources department, or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

For more information about safe welding practices, see our other articles about Welding.

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The 4 Main Types of Oxy/Fuel Heating Cutting, & Welding Gases

The 4 Main Types of Oxy/Fuel Heating Cutting, & Welding Gases

A flame is a flame, right?

Well, not exactly.

While all industrial fuel gases are capable of generating a flame, their properties can be very different.

Here is a rundown on the four common types of oxy/fuel heating cutting, and welding gases.

Acetylene: The Old Standby

First, the nerdy stuff. Acetylene (a.k.a. ethyne) is an alkyne hydrocarbon consisting of two carbon atoms and two hydrogen atoms (C2H2). It was discovered in 1836 by Edmund Davy, who accidentally produced potassium carbide, which reacted with water to produce the gas. The gas was given the name acetylene by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot in 1860.

Acetylene is intrinsically unstable, especially when pressurized. Because of this, industrial acetylene is dissolved in acetone and stored in porous cylinders which render it safe for transport and use. This is why acetylene cylinders should always be stored upright. If acetylene cylinders are tilted, or if the operating pressure exceeds 15psi, liquid acetone can become introduced into the torch, which will cause flame to drip from the orifice. This is also why acetylene has a withdrawal rate limit of 1/7 of the cylinder volume per hour.

From a performance perspective, acetylene has the hottest flame (around 5,720°F). It has a total calorific value of 1,470 BTU. The low hydrogen content of acetylene makes it an excellent choice for oxy/fuel welding. When used as a cutting fuel, the inner cone of the flame will contain about 507BTU and the outer cone will contain about 963BTU. This allows for fast piercing with a minimal heat affected zone. It also generates a fair amount of slag, requiring more post-cut cleanup. Acetylene is also highly prone to flashback. Flashback arrestors should always be used when cutting with acetylene.

Propane: Not Just for Grilling

Propane is an alkane consisting of three carbon atoms and eight hydrogen atoms (C3H8). It was discovered in 1857 by French chemist Marcellin Berthelot (the same man who gave acetylene its name). Propane is a liquefied petroleum (LP) gas and a by-product of natural gas processing and petroleum refining. Propane is heavier than air and has a tendency to sink when a leak occurs. This can pose a risk of explosion or fire, especially when propane is stored in basements near heat sources. Propane has a lower temperature flame than acetylene at around 5,122°F. Propane is not recommended for oxy/fuel welding. The most notable potential benefit that propane offers is a significantly higher calorific value than acetylene at around 2,510 BTU. This makes it an excellent choice for heating. When used for cutting, the inner cone of the flame will contain about 255 BTU and the outer cone will contain a whopping 2,243 BTU! This allows a much faster preheat than acetylene, but as a tradeoff for much longer piercing times and larger heat affected zone. One piercing is done, cut speed is comparable to acetylene.

Propylene: The Other Prop-Gas

If propylene (C3H6) sounds similar to propane, that’s because it is. The prop- prefix that the two gases share means that they both have three carbon chains.

The molecular difference between propane and propylene is the number of hydrogen atoms (propane has eight, propylene has six). The similarities of the two gases don’t end there. Both gases have a comparable flame temperature and calorific value. The main difference between propane and propylene is the heat distribution when cutting. Propylene has a higher BTU value in the inner cone and lower BTU value in the outer cone than propane. The oxygen to fuel gas ratio is also slightly lower with propylene, making it somewhat more efficient than propane.

Methylacetylene-Propadiene: The gas you’ve never heard of (or have you?)

Methylacetylene-Propadiene (C6H8) is universally known as MAPP gas (a Linde trademark) or MPS.

There is some confusion surrounding the name. You might have heard that MAPP gas is no longer available. This is technically true. The last MAPP gas production plant in the US closed in 2008.

Gases available today are MAPP substitutes. MAPP gas does not over many benefits over propane or propylene and is typically only used for small part heating and brazing. The one standout benefit of MAPP gas for cutting is its performance in high pressure submerged cutting applications, although this is a rare application these days. These four gases comprise the vast majority of fuels in use today for industrial heating, cutting, and welding. Many other gases exist, including branded gases which are usually one of the above-mentioned gases with a proprietary additive to enhance certain characteristics.

Knowing the capabilities and limitations of your fuel gas will make for a safer and more productive work environment. If you are unsure of the safety considerations of the gases you are using, please consult your gas supplier or OSHA standard 1910.253.

American Torch Tip is dedicated to providing the most up-to-date information surrounding the newest updates in the welding and cutting industry. For example: Need to learn more about evaluating plasma cut quality? Our new article covers everything you’ll need to know!

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TIG Welding: Scratch Start, Lift Start, or High-Frequency?

TIG Welding: Scratch Start, Lift Start, or High-Frequency?

When considering a TIG welding machine, the number of features, modes, and settings can be daunting. One of the most critical to understand, however, is the arc initiation method a machine is designed to utilize. These are the three types of arc starting methods:

The Scratch Start Method in TIG Welding

The scratch start method is the oldest, simplest, and most difficult to use. With the scratch start method, welders must manually “scratch” their electrode across the workpiece, similar to This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY SA striking a match.

This is not very user-friendly and takes quite a bit of practice, as the electrode tends to stick to the workpiece, leading to point loss on the electrode and contamination of the weld. When using this method, the operator must also manually terminate the arc by pulling away from the workpiece. Gas is controlled by way of a valved torch head instead of being controlled by a gas solenoid in the machine. This arc starting method will only be found on older machines, entry-level machines, and machines converted from SMAW operation. If you are new to TIG welding, machines utilizing scratch start will be difficult and frustrating to learn on.

The Lift Start Method in TIG Welding

Lift start is a common method used on many TIG welding systems. To use this method, the welder will touch the electrode to the work piece, depress the foot pedal or finger switch, and “lift” the torch off of the workpiece to form an arc.

This arc initiation method is much smoother than scratch start and will not disrupt nearby sensitive electronics like high-frequency start circuitry can. Lift start is very often found on multi-process machines where the TIG process may only be used sparingly.

The High-Frequency Start Method in TIG Welding

This is the most common arc initiation method for industrial TIG welders. High-frequency start is the only true “touchless” method of arc initiation in TIG welding and is sometimes required in applications where any contamination of the weld puddle would result in a structural defect, most notably aluminum pipe work. High-frequency arc starting is also the most user-friendly method, as the welder may simply hold the torch where they want to start an arc and depress a foot pedal or finger switch. Machines which utilize scratch or lift start can be upgraded by adding on a module with high-frequency capability.

High-frequency systems can cause issues with nearby televisions, radios, computers, lighting, pacemakers and other sensitive electronics and machines equipped with high-frequency arc starting capability will usually have the option to switch to lift start when it is needed.

Scratch start, lift start, and high-frequency start all have their pros and cons, but it’s definitely important to know the difference to know when to choose each method for MIG welding.

For more information about TIG Welding practices, you can read more of our guides & blogs here at American Torch Tip.

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Welding Hazards & Risk Management 101

How to Approach Welding Hazards

Welding and fabrication require the use of specialized tools and equipment to perform processes that present elevated risks that must be understood and mitigated in order to work safely and prevent death or serious injury to the operator and other nearby persons. It is very important to recognize what these risks are, how and when they appear, and what to do in order to ensure that the chance of bodily harm through acute or cumulative exposure is as low as possible. 

The Types of Hazards in Welding & How to Prevent Them

There are a variety of high-risk factors in welding. Here’s what they are & everything you’ll need to know about each.

Radiation 

Electromagnetic radiation is the way in which energy moves from one place to another. Most welding and cutting processes produce one or more forms of radiation. This radiation varies in 

energy depending on the wavelength or frequency. Radiation with a shorter wavelength (higher frequency) carries a higher density of energy than radiation with a longer wavelength (lower frequency). Exposure to higher frequency radiation (such as a welding arc) for even a short amount of time can cause severe damage to the eyes and skin. In the eyes, radiation exposure can cause photokeratitis (arc flash burn), retinal scarring, cataracts, and even blindness. Ultraviolet radiation attacks the electrons in skin cells, causing burns on exposed skin.

Prolonged exposure can eventually lead to skin cancer. In order to prevent radiation damage to the eyes, protective eyewear and lenses which meet ANSI Z87.1 and ANSIZ49.1:2005 should be used. To prevent UV damage to exposed skin, clothing should be worn in accordance with OSHA standard 1910 which covers as much exposed skin as possible, including the neck, face, and forearms. 

Electric Shock 

Exposure to as little as 100 milliamps (1/10 amp) of electrical current can be fatal. Electric shock occurs when the human body accidentally becomes part of an electrical circuit. When this happens, electrons in the atoms of human tissue resist the flow of electrical current and quickly absorb the resulting heat, which causes severe burns, tissue damage, or death. Since many welding and cutting processes use electricity to generate an arc, it should come as no surprise that according to OSHA standard 1910.332, welders face a higher-than-average risk of electric shock. When poorly maintained or improperly connected equipment, sweat, moisture, and incorrect operation are added to the risk formula, the potential for death or serious bodily injury rises considerably.

Many injuries resulting from electric shock are caused when the injured party falls after sustaining a shock, as the muscles spasm involuntarily. To mitigate the risk of electric shock welders face, operators should be trained and familiar with the proper operation of equipment.

Additionally:

  • Equipment should be well-maintained and turned off when not in use.
  • Operators should inspect the condition of their equipment, especially the cables, on a daily basis.
  • When extension cords are used, they should be rated for the application, properly grounded, and routed away from moisture and moving equipment.
  • Welders should wear personal protective equipment that insulates them from electrical current and take care in wet environments or when perspiring excessively as sweat is highly conductive.
  • Welders performing tasks above ground level should follow fall protection protocol. 

Fires & Burns 

Welding can be a violent process, generating sparks and sending bits of molten metal onto nearby surfaces which can burn operators and cause fire or explosion. Cutting torches are often used which can burn in excess of 4,000°F and require the use of compressed highly-flammable gases. Welders can sustain burns either directly from the process they are performing or from fire ignited as a secondary hazard of the process. In order to reduce the risk of fire, welders 

should be trained on fire prevention strategies including the segregation of combustible materials, care of oxygen and fuel gas storage cylinders, and inspection of equipment. Welders should also wear flame-resistant clothing, have access to fire extinguishers, and be trained in their use. Burns may be sustained either directly from the equipment being used, from sparks or molten metal originating from the work surface, or via residual heat from the workpiece. To prevent burns, welders should wear proper gloves, sleeves, aprons, and footwear. Welders should also have access to and be trained to use first aid equipment to treat burns such as bandages and compresses. 

Fumes & Gases 

Many welding and cutting processes generate hazardous fumes and gases. You should absolutely avoid this welding hazard.

Fumes and gases are produced when a material is heated above its boiling point and vapors condense into tiny particles which become airborne. These particles may or may not be visible and may originate from filler rod or wire, base materials, or coatings or plating.

When inhaled, these fumes and gases may cause nausea, dizziness, headache, fainting, or disorientation. Prolonged exposure may cause emphysema, lung cancer, brain damage, and even death.

Zinc fumes are particularly hazardous and can induce a condition commonly referred to as “metal fume fever” which has symptoms similar to the flu. Because of this, welders should take particular care when welding or cutting zinc plated or galvanized material.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous substances which can be transformed into a toxic gas by welding or cutting is hexavalent chromium or hex chrome. Hex chrome can cause cancer, ulcers, respiratory distress, and allergic reactions. Other common metals which produce hazardous fumes to welders are aluminum, manganese, nickel, cadmium, beryllium, iron, mercury, and lead.

To reduce the risk of fumes and gases generated by welding or cutting, welders should wear respiratory personal protective equipment such as powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), use fume extraction devices, or both. 

Noise Hazards 

It takes a lot of energy cut, weld, bend, twist, form, and work metals. When this energy is transmitted, sound is often a byproduct. This sound can range from barely noticeable, such as in the buzz of a TIG torch, or powerfully deafening, such as in air carbon arc gouging. OSHA requires companies to implement a hearing conservation program when employees are exposed to noise at or exceeding 85 decibels (dB) averaged over eight working hours. Unfortunately, it takes far less than eight hours of exposure to high-decibel noises to cause permanent hearing damage. At noise levels above 112dB, hearing damage can occur in seconds. Noise hazards are extremely common for welders; however, they can be easily and effectively mitigated with earplugs or ear muffs with the proper attenuation rating for the environment. In extreme environments, both may be required to reduce sound levels below the 85dB threshold. 

Taking appropriate measures to increase workplace safety will help ensure that every employee goes home healthy at the end of the day. Free welder safety training is available online from the American Welding Society.

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How to Start a Career in Welding

A career as a welder can be very rewarding. Good pay, high job demand, and opportunities for advancement into robotics or management (or both.) But it’s not a career you can just decide to start overnight. It takes specialized training, skill development, and certifications, so we put together a list of schools, scholarships, and more to help you get started.

Here are 4 steps to guide you to your preferred job in the welding field.

1. Research Different Welding Programs

 

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Why TIG Welding Is Better Than MIG Welding

TIG welding and MIG welding both use electric arcs, filler metals and shielding gasses to create a weld. But their techniques, applications and finishes are quite different. As with any welding project, success depends on choosing the right processes and equipment. So we created a list of reasons to choose TIG welding over MIG welding. (Click here for the reasons to choose MIG welding over TIG welding.)

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Robots in Welding: Why you Should Weld with Collaborative Robots

Why Use Robots in Welding?

Should you use collaborative robots for welding (cobots)?

For some, it may become a necessity in the near future to help keep up with product demand.

Keep reading to learn about robots in welding and how they could help increase your productivity.

Man Using Robots for Welding

The History of Robots in Welding

For many years, the option to integrate a robot into a manufacturing environment was binary.

Companies could choose to continue to utilize a human to perform a task or they could choose to replace that human with a robot. This spawned an entire subcategory of science fiction where robots were portrayed as a blue-collar competitor at best, and at other times an evil automaton determined to overtake humanity in the name of efficiency or logic.

A 1964 episode of The Twilight Zone, entitled “The Brain Center at Whipple’s” sees the greedy owner of a manufacturing corporation (Mr. Whipple) replace all 283,000 of his employees with robots in the name of progress despite the pleadings of his Plant Manager, Mr. Hanley. At the end of the episode, after replacing every single employee with a robot, the board of directors replaces Mr. Whipple with a robot as well. Only then does he realize what a grievous mistake he has made and expresses sympathy for humanity.

Collaboration in Welding Between Humans and Robots

Unlike Mr. Whipple, businesses are no longer forced to choose between a human or a robot. Today, a third option exists called collaborative robots, or cobots.

Unlike previous robots, cobots are designed to work with and alongside their human counterparts and supplement their capabilities where human labor may not be readily available.

Sensors allow cobots to be integrated much more quickly by existing employees and to work right next to them without the need for a dedicated enclosed space.

If a cobot senses potential contact with their human coworker or an unexpected object, it will rapidly decelerate to prevent injury or damage. Cobots can be mounted on tables or carts which can be moved around a production floor as needed. Programming can be accomplished kinematically, or manually guiding the robot into the proper position, instead of using a program to write complex G code.

Some systems even allow programming using a smart device app. A variety of arm attachments increase the number of tasks a cobot is able to perform.

The possibilities are vast and still rapidly expanding as cobot manufacturers expand the reach, weight capacity, and available attachments.

The Role of Cobots in Welding

Since cobots can be adapted to a wide range of applications and there is a severe shortage of skilled welding labor, it should come as no surprise that welding is a natural fit for cobots.

Due to the flexibility and deposition rate, GMAW is the most popular weld process used with cobots. Once the proper mount has been fitted to a cobot, a torch can be attached which is optimized for the application, taking into account factors such as amperage, cable length requirement, duty cycle, mounting method, length and bend of the gooseneck, and type and size of consumables to be used.

Choosing the proper torch will allow the cobot to reach its full potential and maximize productivity.

To further increase output, attachments which ream spatter from the nozzle, trim wire, and apply anti-spatter solution can be added to the work station.

With cobots performing bulk production work, human welding labor resources can be reallocated to work requiring more skill, finesse, or experiences such as one-off jobs, repairs, or welds requiring other processes such as GTAW or SMAW while the operation of the cobots can be done by other employees.

Fixturing is simplified as well, with standard jigs and clamps being utilized on standard welding tables versus custom-built fixtures which can take days or weeks to produce.

Since one operator can effectively manage multiple cobots simultaneously, it has become commonplace to set up tandem workstations where a cobot can work on one side while an employee loads, unloads, or retools the opposite work station. This process can double output without adding additional labor or requiring additional cobots.

Companies who Provide Cobots

With so many possibilities to integrate a robot into a production welding environment and a shallow pool of available labor, companies such as Hirebotics have jumped in to bridge the gap between demand and access for these cobot welding systems.

Instead of making a large upfront capital investment in cobot welding systems, Hirebotics has partnered with Red-D-Arc to allow manufacturers to “hire” a cobot welder the same way they would hire a human and pay per week of use. This also allows companies to “lay off” the cobot if a job has been completed or if the needs of the business change. This model stands in stark contrast to traditional robotic weld cells which can cost over $100,000 and must be purchased outright.

Cobots are the Future of Welding

Business owners can take the 21st Century approach to manufacture with technologies such as Cobots. Cobots are used to help companies become more responsive to product demand, bid on more jobs, and boost profit margins through efficiency improvements.

If you’re interested in learning more about Cobots, providers like Hirebotics could be a great resource for you!

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