Welding is the process of putting together or sculpting together more than one material, often metals and often at a processing plant, by joining them in some way. The most common way of welding is using heat, but that’s not the only way we’ve been joining things together through our history. Welding goes into the manufacturing of a lot of things in our world you might not have known about. Whatever you know, though, you’ll likely learn something you didn’t when you read through these weird facts about welding equipment, history, and processes.
Welding Has Been Around since 3,500BC
We’ve developed some processes and tools since then, such as the TIG welder and the MIG welder, the plasma cutter, and laser etching. But the basic idea has been around since ancient gold boxes were constructed by welding lap joints together. During the Middle Ages, while there were no processing plants, lots of iron was still welded together by hammering. Welding by heat, as we commonly think of it today, was discovered in 1836 and became a practical process by the late nineteenth century. TIG welding, which is used in aerospace, automotive, and art applications, was developed in the 1930s.
We Are Very Dependent On Welding
More than 50% of the products we make require welding, and the third largest manufacturing industry in America is fabricated metals. In our processing plants we’re doing aluminum welding, food processing machinery construction, and steel and aluminum fabrication constantly. By 2020 estimates are that the metal fabrication equipment market will have grown by 7%.
Even NASCAR Depends on Welding
It takes about 950 man-hours of welding and fabrication before a NASCAR race car is ready to go out onto the track. Parts from the chassis, the suspension, the drive train, and even the body have to be welded and machined before the car is fit to race.
We Even Weld in Space
There’s no processing plants in space, but we need something to do emergency repairs on spacecraft and put together things like the International Space Station. The first space welding was attempted in 1969 by two Russian cosmonauts. They tried three different types of welding and very nearly nearly burned through the hull of their living compartment and ended their lives; fortunately they stopped just in time. Their experience did help everyone understand the danger of welding in space, though, and today there are special devices that make welding in space as safe as possible.
There’s Such a Thing as Ultrasonic Welding
This type of welding creates energy by emitting very high-intensity acoustic sounds. These cause plastic to vibrate in a way that brings the molecules together to form a bond. The first entirely plastic car was made this way.
There’s Also Something Called Explosion Welding
Although most processing plants don’t use it much, it’s a powerful process that welds together things that simply refuse to be joined by other methods. It’s possibly to join nearly any kind of metal this way.
The First Welding Robot Was Called The Unimate
General Motors designed and installed it in their factory in 1961. This enormous robot weighed over two tons. It had step-by-step commands programmed into a magnetic drum, and it could follow them to spot weld all kinds of things.
We rely on welded products every day, and the constant innovation of new techniques and tools for welding are always making it possible for us to do new things.