Welding & Fabrication

Overview of Welding and Fabrication

Techniques in welding and fabrication have moved on considerably during the last century. From what was originally a way of quickly joining pieces of metal together, has now evolved into many different disciplines. It can even be a form of art.

Welding is the process of joining two metal objects together using heat and sometimes using a filling material.

Fabricating structures in metal requires a quick, yet very strong method of joining parts of a larger structure together. That is the welding part, but fabrication is more than that. It requires design skills, the ability to choose the right materials and welding methods, and ultimately, the skill to use the tools.

Before any items can be joined together, the welder must understand technical drawings and blue prints to be able to visualise the finished item. The job also involves mathematics, calculating the materials required and dimensions of joints. And finally, the finished work must be inspected to ensure it is a strong joint.

Welding is a skilled job, that requires specialized training. There are over 100 different welding methods, with the most common being Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Tungsten Arc Gas Welding (TIG), Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG), soldering and brazing. One other popular form is oxy-acetylene, which is a very basic form of welding, that can also be used for cutting steel.

The type of welding required depends on the work being carried out and the materials being used. Brazing and soldering differ from welding in that they do not involve melting the objects to be connected, but instead user a filler metal to join the pieces.

Stick and MIG welding techniques are used when fabricating structures from iron or steel pieces. When joining materials such as stainless steel and non-ferrous metals, TIG welding is used.

Brazing is generally used in plumbing applications, joining pipework with permanent leak free connections. Soldering is a lower temperature technique, using a soft metal filler, and is used to connect electronic components on circuit boards, for example. Both brazing and soldering have applications in art and jewelery manufacturing.

Careers in Welding and Fabrication

Fabrication and welding are an essential processes in many different industries, and the career opportunities are varied.

Most people thinking about welding careers probably visualise a welder joining heavy steel girders together, to build a bridge or a ship, for example. But there is so much more to it than that. Welding is employed in one form or another in a myriad of applications. With such a variety of applications, your career choice is also expansive.

With over 100 types of welding in use, it pays to learn a number of different methods. For a career in welding, your job opportunities will expand if you are adaptable, able to turn your hand to a range of different welding systems.

MIG welding is the most common welding process in industrial applications. There are a couple of main reasons for this. First, it is quite easy to learn and with a little practice it can be used for many different applications. Second, it is an efficient method that can produce long continuous weld joints that don’t require lengthy cleaning processes.

MIG is the main method used in the auto-mobile repair industry, but it is also the most common method used by the construction industry for buildings, bridges and many other construction projects. With so many applications, a career in MIG welding and fabrication will provide varied opportunities and good prospects for future employment.

Stick welding is the informal name for the SMAW method and it has been a go to type of welding since the late 1800’s. It is a simple arc welding method, that is cost-effective and has a number of practical advantages in use. It is good for working outdoors, the equipment is easily portable and it’s able to weld a range of materials.

If you are considering a career in the aerospace industry, then TIG welding may be your focus. The TIG method is often used on thin or delicate materials as it uses a lower temperature and is less likely to damage the base pieces. This method is more complicated and time consuming than MIG or SMAW, but with practice produces very neat, strong joints.

A career in welding can take you to many different places. You end up at the top of a 100 story tower block, or at the top of a wind turbine. Perhaps building ships interests you.

One particularly interesting career is underwater welding. Yes, this is a real job, although it does seem a little odd when you remember that you are mixing electricity, hot metal and cold water! As a career choice, it provides a very good income, but it is one of the most hazardous careers in welding. Hyperbaric welding is used in these high pressure conditions, and can be carried out either in the water or inside a specially constructed chamber with the water pumped out. Perhaps if diving is already one of your passions, this could make a great career choice.

Welding and Fabrication Schools

So you’ve decided that welding is a good career choice. What options are available for training?

There are many schools to choose from, all will offer the basic methods, such as SMAW, MIG, TIG etc. Not all schools will be able to offer underwater welding, so if that is your favored career, you may have less choice.

So what will you learn? Initially, you will learn the basic forms of welding, practicing on flat metal plates. After mastering this, you will move on to pipe welding. This is far more challenging, as you may be required to weld in many different positions, including overhead and upside down.

At the same time, you will also learn how to interpret blueprints. This is an essential skill, allowing you to construct complex pieces with the correct weld types. Blueprint reading is also required for carrying out inspections of finished welding work.

Welding school costs can vary significantly. What seems like a great deal may end up costing you in the long run though. Beware of cheap courses that only teach the very basics and skip essential skills such as pipe welding and blueprint reading. Course costs can typically be between $5000 and $15,000, but the more skills you want to learn, the higher the price.

At the very least, you need to learn;

  • Blueprint reading
  • Oxy-acetylene (gas welding)
  • Stick welding
  • MIG
  • TIG, and
  • FCAW (Flux Core Arc Welding)

Courses can last anything from 7 months up to 2 years, depending on the welding skills being taught and any other skills such as metallurgy and pipe-laying. In the end, the more skills you have, the greater chance of landing your dream job.

If funding your course is an issue, there are several schemes, for military, adult learners etc that may be able to assist. The other choice is to learn the basic skills, take a basic job and save for future courses. This is of course a much longer route.

Ultimately, welding and fabrication can offer a varied, rewarding career that also provides a good standard of income.

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