The History of Welding
The history of welding can be traced back to the olden days. It is believed to have started during the Bronze Age when small, circular gold boxes were made through pressure welding lap joints together. These boxes were estimated to exist for more than 2,000 years already. Then came the Iron Age, when Egyptians and the eastern Mediterranean people learned to weld iron pieces together. It was also during the Middle Ages when blacksmithing was developed and numerous items made of iron were welded by a hammer. Back then, welding wasn’t as high-tech as it is today.
In 1800, Sir Humphry Davy was acknowledged because he was able to produce an arc between two carbon electrodes with a battery. Meanwhile, Edmund Davy was credited for his acetylene discovery in 1836. In the middle of the 19th century, the invention of the electric generation and the popularization of arc lighting took place. It was in the late 1800s that gas welding and cutting were developed. Arc welding using the carbon arc and metal arc was also developed. The practice of applying resistance welding became famous as well thanks to Elihu Thompson who introduced this type of welding. His patents were dated from 1885 to 1900.
In 1881, Auguste De Meritens made use of the arc’s heat to join lead plates for storage batteries while working at the Cabot Laboratory in France. However, his Russian pupil, Nikolai N. Benardos, who was working in the French laboratory, was given the patent for welding. With his fellow Russian, Stanislaus Olszewski, he acquired a British patent in 1885 and an American patent two years after. The patents displayed a rudimentary electrode holder. Benardos was focused more on carbon arc welding, though he was also able to weld iron and lead. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, carbon arc welding became extremely favored thanks to him.
In 1888, Nikolay Slavyanov invented a consumable metal electrode. In the same year, Charles L. Coffin of Detroit was able to secure the first U.S. patent for an arc welding process using a metal electrode. To make a weld, metal melted from the electrode was carried across the arc to deposit filler metal in the joint. The process was called Shielded Metal Arc Welding, also known as stick welding. It was also during this time that a Russian named N.G. Slavianoff used a similar idea of transferring metal across an arc but with the casting of metal in a mold.
During this time in Great Britain, A.P. Strohmenger introduced a metal electrode with a thin coating of lime or clay. The coating stabilized the arc. Then, between 1907 to 1914, a Swedish named Oscar Kjellberg invented a coated electrode. Stick electrodes were made by plunging short bare iron wires into thick mixtures of silicates and carbonates then letting the coat dry completely.
At the same time, resistance welding processes such as spot welding, flash butt welding, and seam welding were also developed. A modification of spot welding called projection welding was also introduced.
In 1903, Hans Goldschmidt, a German inventor, introduced thermite welding, an aluminothermic process that enables rail track sections to be welded together continuously.
This was the time when gas welding and cutting were also perfected. In 1887, oxygen production and air liquefaction, together with the introduction of a blow pipe helped develop both welding and cutting.
Prior to 1900, hydrogen and coal gas were used with oxygen. In about 1900, however, a torch that could be used with low-pressure acetylene was developed.
Because of World War I, welding became more in-demand. Countless American and European companies were built for the manufacture of welding machines and electrodes just to meet the necessity.
When the war ended, the American Welding Society was founded by 20 members of the Wartime Welding Committee of the Emergency Fleet Corporation. The society, led by Comfort Avery Adams, was a nonprofit organization committed to the progress of welding and related processes.
It was also in this year that C.J. Holslag invented the alternating current (AC) but only became popular in the 1930s when heavy-coated electrodes became more useful.
This time, automatic welding invented by P.O. Nobel of the General Electric Company was introduced. Bare electrode wire was operated on direct current and arc voltage was used as the basis for controlling the feed rate. Automatic welding was so useful in building up worn crane wheels and motor shafts. It was even used for the production of rear axle housings in the automobile industry.
During this time, welding electrodes of various types were also developed. The fight between heavy-coated rods and light-coated rods also started here. The former was developed by Langstroth and Wunder of the A.O Smith Company in 1927. In 1929, Lincoln Electric Company began producing extruded electrode rods for the public. In 1930, covered electrodes were utilized widely because of the appearance of welding codes, which needed higher-quality weld metal.
The 1920s was also the time when shielding the arc and weld area was considered. This was possible with the use of externally applied gases. Gas shielding techniques were used for the research. Alexander and Langmuir even worked in rooms using hydrogen as a welding atmosphere. They used two carbon electrodes first before replacing them with tungsten electrodes. The hydrogen was then changed to atomic hydrogen in the arc. After it was blown out of the arc, it formed an extremely hot flame of atomic hydrogen. The arc produced half as much heat as an oxyacetylene flame. Because of this, atomic hydrogen welding process was discovered. Although this didn’t become famous, it was still used in the 1930s and 1940s for special applications of welding. Later on, it was used for the welding of tool steels.
Meanwhile, P.K. Devers and H.M. Hobart were performing a similar research but they were using argon and helium atmospheres respectively. In their 1926 patent application, arc welding used gas supplied around the arc. This process can be considered an ancestor of the gas tungsten arc welding process. Devers and Hobart also demonstrated welding with a concentric nozzle and with the electrode being fed as a wire through that nozzle.
In 1930 at the New York Navy Yard, stud welding was developed only for fastening wood decking over a metal surface. Later on, this type of welding became the main attraction in construction and shipbuilding industries.
During this time, the submerged arc welding process became popular. The National Tube Company developed this smothered arc welding process for a pipe mill in Pennsylvania and was tailored to create the longitudinal seams in the pipe. Robinoff was credited for this process but the patent was sold to Linde Air Products Company, then it was renamed Unionmelt® welding. Submerged arc welding was very useful in defense buildup in 1938 and as well as in shipyards and ordnance factories. In fact, it is very useful and popular today.
The gas tungsten arc welding or GTAW process came from the idea by C.L. coffin who welded in a non-oxidizing gas atmosphere. His idea was developed in 1920 by H.M. Hobart and P.K Devers, who used argon and helium. GTAW was a process recommended for welding magnesium, aluminum, and stainless. This was then perfected in 1941 the credit went to Meredith, it was then named Heliarc® welding. Later on, it was licensed to Linde Air Products, where the water-cooled torch originated.
In 1948, Battelle Memorial Institute developed the gas shielded metal arc welding or GMAW process with the sponsorship of the Air Reduction Company. This made use of gas shielded arc which was similar to the gas tungsten arc, but the tungsten electrode was replaced with a continuously fed electrode wire. The process became more usable because of the small diameter electrode wires and the constant-voltage power source. This principle was patented to H.E. Kennedy earlier. GMAW was specifically for welding non-ferrous metals. Later on, users tried the process on steel. During this time, the cost of inert gas was high and the cost savings weren’t available.
In 1953, Lyubavskii and Novoshilov introduced welding that used consumable electrodes in a C02 gas atmosphere. This welding process became popular in a blink of an eye because the equipment used which was developed for inert gas metal arc welding can now be used for welding steels too. The CO2 arc, which is a hot arc, as well as the bigger electrode wires needed fairly high currents. The introduction of smaller-diameter electrode wires and refined power supplies helped this process make a name for itself. The development was known as Micro-wire®, short-arc, and dip transfer welding. They all appeared in the late 1958 and in early 1959. This variation soon became the most in-demand variation of the GMAW process.
During this time, another variation became popular. It used inert gas with a bit of oxygen which provided the spray-type arc transfer. A new variation called pulsed current was also introduced. In this process, the current is shifted from a high to a low value at a rate of once or twice the line frequency.
After CO2 welding was introduced, a variation that used a special electrode wire was developed. The wire was tubular in cross section with the fluxing agents on the inside; it was for this reason that it’s described as an inside-outside electrode. This variation was named Dualshield® and was invented by the company Bernard. They announced their invention in 1954 but was only patented in 1957 when the National Cylinder Gas Company introduced it.
In 1957, Gage invented plasma arc welding which uses an arc through an orifice or a constricted arc that creates an arc plasma with a higher temperature than the tungsten arc. This was also used for metal spraying and cutting, that is why there’s a plasma cutter.
It was also during this time that the electron beam welding process, that utilizes a focused beam of electrons as a heat source in a vacuum chamber, was developed in France. This was announced by J.A. Stohr of the French Atomic Energy Commission on November 23, 1957. The welding process was widely used in the United States by the automotive and aircraft engine industries.
In 1958, the Soviets announced the electroslag welding process at the Brussels World Fair in Belgium. The process had been used since 1951 in the Soviet Union but was based on the work done by R.K. Hopkins in the U.S., who was given the patent in 1940. Sadly, Hopkin’s process, which was perfected and its equipment was developed at the Paton Institute Laboratory in Ukraine and at the Welding Research Laboratory in Czechoslovakia, was never used.
Later on, the Electro-molding process was used at the Electromotive Division of General Motors Corporation in Chicago. And in December of 1959, the process was announced. This process as well as its variation, which uses a consumable guide tube, is used for the welding of thicker materials.
Earlier that year, the production of an inside-outside electrode which didn’t need an external gas shielding began. This process was called Innershield® and became popular because of the absence of shielding gas.
In 1961, another vertical welding method called Electrogas was introduced by the Arcos Corporation. It used equipment that was developed for electroslag welding but utilized a flux-cored electrode wire and an externally supplied gas shield. Because a slag bath wasn’t involved, it was considered an open arc process. A more recent development uses self-shielding electrode wire and another variation utilizes solid wire but with gas shielding. Thanks to these methods, the welding of thinner materials is possible.
Another type of welding called friction welding was introduced. It utilizes rotational speed and upset pressure to give out friction heat. This process, developed in the Soviet Union, is a specialized process also called inertia welding.
Laser welding is another new process which was originally developed at the Bell Telephone Laboratories as a communications device. However, because of the enormous concentration of energy in a small area, it was thought of as a powerful heat source. The process has already been used for cutting metals and nonmetals and it’s believed that it has a potential to improve the operations in the automotive industry.