Sparks of Progress: 100+ Years of Welding’s Evolution

Welding, without a doubt, is an essential part of steel fabrication, and the many specialty techniques that go into a seamless weld ensure our projects are at the forefront of modern welding training. The practice itself, however, goes all the way back to the ancient Egyptians! Archeological evidence shows examples of iron welding from thousands of years ago, along with “brazing,” the metal-joining process that combines two or more different metals using a filler metal. For centuries, innovative thinkers have been driving developments in welding technology to make welding more accessible, efficient, and effective. 

Let’s take a look at how welding has evolved over the last 100+ years!

100 Years of Welding Timeline:

But first, a few inventions from the 1800s…

Gas welding first became popular in the 1800s. This kind of welding burns a gas fuel like acetylene, using the heat to cut or join metals. It remains one of the most popular and widely used techniques in welding today. 

Russian inventor Nikolay Benardos developed carbon arc welding in 1881, making it the first practical arc welding of its kind. (Arc welding is when current passes in an arc through a gap between two electrodes. The heat of the current can cut through the metal). In the same year, a French electrical engineer named Auguste de Méritens succeeded in electric arc welding. Since then, advancements in welding have accelerated.  

Which brings us to…

  • 1923 The Institute of Welding Engineers was founded in the USA.

  • 1920s-1930s Electricity was made more widely available to the public in the USA, reaching 75% of households by 1930. And with the availability of electricity came the increased use of electric welding. Previously, welders had to rely on large batteries to power their electric welders.

  • 1948 Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, which uses a heated wire electrode to weld, was invented in 1948. H.E. Kennedy of the Battle Memorial Institute as well as H.M. Hobart and P.K. Devers at the Air Reduction Company contributed to this innovation. MIG welding is often used on carbon steel, one of the most common types of steel we use at Metal Works today.

  • 1951 Plasma Arc Welding, invented in Russia, built upon the foundation laid by TIG welding. The process is similar but can be done faster and uses less filler.

  • 1960 The invention of the laser in 1960 had a significant impact on the welding industry and led to the creation of laser beam welding in this decade. The process uses a laser to bond metals and is ideal for automated, high-speed welding.

  • 1991 Friction Stir Welding was invented by Wayne Thomas in England. This type of welding is used primarily on aluminum alloys and allows for different kinds of metals to be joined together using a rotating tool to create friction.
  • 2000 Magnetic Pulse Welding was introduced to the industry, which uses a magnetic force to fuse metals together. No need for a filler material and the cold process (it doesn’t generate heat) are both appealing. This type of welding is often used in the welding industry as well as in nuclear, aerospace, and electrical industries.

  • 2013 Gas Metal Arc Welding-Brazing (GMAB) was created to weld steel in cars. It joins thin, coated sheets of galvanized steel, making it ideal for use in the automotive industry.

Welding Today

Advancements in the modern welding industry continue to address common problems, like heat tint. If heat tint occurs during the welding process, the stainless steel will end up discolored and vulnerable to corrosion. This can be avoided by using a high-quality welding wire and removing the heat tint with gels, pastes, and other specialty items.  Other types of welding, like laser welding, continue to improve with new technologies and equipment. And hybrid welding methods are also popular, like combining MIG and laser welding. At Metal Works, we pride ourselves on staying on top of the latest technologies in the industry. We look forward to seeing what the next iterations in welding tools and technologies will be—who knows what the next 100 years will bring! Contact us to find out more about our processes right here in Northern California, and how we bring together the best and brightest for your future projects! 

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