Why do we weld steel?

The ins and outs of this critical manufacturing process

Steel is an incredible building material. It’s made primarily from iron ore mined from beneath the earth, then transformed through modern technology, allowing us to customize its properties. Depending on how we prepare it, steel can be soft or hard, malleable or immutable, resistant to the elements, or reactive to a slight mist.

But the most important thing about steel, in our opinion (and we’ve been building with it, almost exclusively, for decades) is its weldability. Welding is the permanent joining of similar or disparate materials, usually metals but sometimes thermoplastics.

How does welding work?

Welding steel involves partially melting two pieces of material, allowing them to combine and resolidify, effectively becoming a single piece of metal. Usually, a third filler metal, such as aluminum, copper, nickel, or titanium, is introduced as well, giving the process more material to create the bond. 

Depending on the materials, the process, and the skill of the person performing the work, the joint where the material is welded together can be stronger than the rest of the material being joined together. 

The end result of these specialized welds performs mission-critical applications, like holding together a high-pressure pipe carrying dangerous liquids or bearing the weight of a snow-laden warehouse roof. So making sure the pieces are expertly welded together is pivotal!

Types of welding

There are many welding techniques used for steel, but they all begin with very high heat. Most steel needs to reach at least 1500°F, typically accomplished through acetylene gas and accelerated by pressurized oxygen or, more commonly, with electricity. 

The use of electricity in welding is called “Arc Welding,” named for the electric arc used to melt the metals. There are many different types of arc welding, but the most common types introduce additional metal to the weld, either through a consumable electrode (stick welding) or an automatically fed wire (wire feed welding).

Keep the Air Out

Oxygen is the enemy of good welds as it causes oxidation and rust, so we use various means to make sure oxygen doesn’t penetrate the molten metal. Sometimes a chemical called flux is added to the electrode or welding wire, which coats the weld as it’s being made. This cleans off any oxidation already present on the steel and forms a barrier to keep oxidation away until the joint cools. Other times, a shielding gas not containing oxygen is pumped over the weld as it’s created, displacing air to keep it out of the mix.

Count on Our Team of Steel and Welding Experts

At Metal Works, our expert team of welders is experienced and certified in virtually all welding processes. Our 30 years in the metal fabrication business have provided us with unparalleled expertise in metal fabrication—including a whole lot of welding! Get in touch with our team to see how we can help with your next project!

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