Arc welding stands as a cornerstone technique within Australia’s diverse engineering sectors, from the bustling automotive workshops to the dynamic shipbuilding docks, the robust construction sites, and the cutting-edge aerospace projects. This process harnesses the intense heat from an electric arc to fuse metals, a method that aligns with the nation’s commitment to growth, precision and sustainability.
At the heart of this welding technique is the electric arc, which is generated between the base material and the electrode – either a welding rod or wire – melting the metal at the point of contact and allowing welders to shape the resultant molten pool into a strong, durable weld.
How Does an Arc Welding Process Work?
Australian industry professionals often employ one of two main arc welding methods: consumable (such as SMAW and GMAW) or non-consumable (such as GTAW or TIG welding) electrode techniques. The choice between these methods depends on the role of the electrode, determining if it melts to become part of the weld itself or merely serves to conduct the arc.
Unlike some welding processes that rely solely on gas, arc welding in Australia predominantly uses electricity to generate the welding arc. This aligns with the country’s growing emphasis on renewable energy sources. Depending on the specific application, welders may use either direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC). Moreover, certain variations of arc welding require gas shielding to protect the arc and molten weld pool from environmental contaminants.
GOOD TO KNOW:
What is gas shielding?
Gas shielding is a practice of surrounding the weld area with a protective gas shield to prevent the molten weld pool from coming into contact with atmospheric gases, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and hydrogen.
In line with Engineers Australia’s vision for a net-zero emissions future, the selection of arc welding processes is increasingly influenced by considerations of energy efficiency and environmental impact.
Our comprehensive guide on arc welding types is an invaluable resource for Australian engineers seeking to identify the most suitable, sustainable, and innovative welding process for their unique applications.
Arc welding’s simplicity and versatility are prevalent in the maintenance and repair industry. It is also extensively used in constructing heavy steel structures and industrial fabrication, particularly because it can weld iron and steel, including stainless steel, aluminium, nickel, and copper alloys.
General Profile of Arc Welders
Arc welders need to master various techniques to manipulate the electrode and set up the welding machine correctly. Their skills are precious in field repairs for heavy machinery and where materials to be joined might be less than clean or slightly rusty.
Key Types of Arc Welding Processes in the Australian Industry
In the Australian trades landscape, four arc welding processes are predominantly employed, each chosen for their reliability and versatility.
1. MIG Welding (Gas Metal Arc Welding – GMAW)
MIG welding uses an electric arc formed between a continuously fed wire electrode and the metal workpiece. This process, shielded by an inert gas such as argon or a mixture of argon and CO2, allows the metals to fuse as the heat melts the wire, which is added to the weld pool. Once the heat is removed, the metal cools and forms a new fused metal.
MIG welding is favoured for its ability to weld various metals and thicknesses. It is commonly found in the fabrication of carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminium, and many other alloys. It is instrumental in the automotive and construction sectors, where a good weld bead and minimal splatter are essential.
Profile of MIG Welders
MIG welders are often popular because of the speed and efficiency, benefiting from the technique’s easy learning curve. However, they must be capable of managing the welding equipment, including the wire feed and gas supply, to ensure clean and effective welds.
The average salary for a MIG welder is approximately $39.59 per hour.
2. TIG Welding (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding – GTAW)
GOOD TO KNOW:
What is Tungsten?
Tungsten, sometimes referred to as Wolfram, is a chemical element designated by the symbol W and atomic number 74, notable for its exceptional strength and the fact that it possesses the highest melting point of any element at 3,422 °C, as well as the highest boiling point at 5,930 °C.
TIG welding, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), involves creating an arc between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the workpiece. This welding method is known for its superior weld quality and precision, producing clean welds with superior arch and weld puddle control. It requires a filler metal and is protected by an inert shielding gas, usually argon or an argon mix, to prevent oxidation and contamination.
This method is often employed where weld appearance is critical, such as in sculptures, architectural pieces, and automotive welds. TIG welding is suitable for joining a variety of metals, including aluminium, copper, and titanium, as well as handling complex welds on S-shapes, curves, and corners.
TIG welding is the best method to utilize when working with aluminium because it produces excellent results. Understanding that preheating varies depending on the type of aluminium is important.
Profile of TIG Welders
TIG welders are typically highly skilled artisans who require steady hands and concentration to produce high-quality, precise welds. They need to be familiar with various tungsten electrodes and how to prepare them for different metals and thicknesses.
This refined information should provide a more formal and informative view of the welding processes for your intended audience. Each section outlines the process, its applications, and the worker profile, providing a clear and comprehensive understanding of each method.
A TIG welder in Australia earns, on average, about $39.91 per hour, with yearly salaries ranging from $63,131 for entry-level positions to $87,750 for experienced workers. The average annual salary for TIG Welder jobs ranges from $60,000 to $70,000.
3. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
Image Source: Student Lesson
SMAW involves creating an electric arc between a consumable flux-coated electrode and the workpiece, which melts the electrode to deposit metal into the weld joint. Flux from the electrode shields the weld from atmospheric contamination.
SMAW is utilised in construction and repair due to its portability and effectiveness in variable environments. It’s suitable for steel, stainless steel, and cast iron, among others, and is a mainstay in heavy equipment manufacturing, structural construction, and pipeline work.
Profile of SMAW Welders
Welders skilled in SMAW are valued for their ability to operate under diverse conditions with minimal equipment. They must adeptly select appropriate electrodes and maintain arc stability for quality welds.
The average salary for a welder specialising in SMAW is around $78,000 annually, or an equivalent hourly rate of $38. In Melbourne, the average goes up to $82,874 annually or $40 per hour.
4. Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
Image Source: The Fabricator
FCAW uses a continuously-fed tubular electrode containing flux, which can generate its gas shield, enabling the process to withstand outdoor and windy conditions.
FCAW is prominent in construction and heavy manufacturing for welding carbon and low-alloy steels, stainless steels, and some high-nickel alloys. Its portability and high deposition rate make it favourable for large-scale.
Profile of FCAW Welders
FCAW welders are known for their efficiency in high-production environments. They work with advanced wire feeding systems and are proficient in handling outdoor welding tasks. Their expertise allows them to produce consistent welds with good penetration, which is crucial in heavy-duty fabrications and repairs.
The average hourly rate for FCAW is AU$35.00
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Safety and Certification
Safety Protocols and Hazards: Welding in Australia is considered a safe occupation when proper precautions are taken. However, the risks include electric shock, structural failures, and even fatalities if safety measures are ignored. Adherence to safety regulations and Australian Standards is crucial, but gaps in compliance frameworks do pose long-term safety concerns. The hazards span from electric shock to exposure to volatile gases and UV radiation, emphasising the need for rigorous safety protocols.
Health Concerns with Welding Fumes: Recent industry concerns have been raised around airborne contaminants, especially after the reclassification of welding fumes as carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Weld Australia advises welders to follow the new Technical Guidance Note Fume Minimisation Guidelines to manage these risks.
Welding Safety Council Initiatives: The Welding Safety Council, established by Weld Australia, advocates for robust safety requirements and risk minimisation in the welding sector. It provides a platform for industry and legislative authorities to collaborate on safety issues and develop solutions, aiming to eliminate welding-related injuries or fatalities.
The Future of Welding in Australia
The future of welding in Australia points towards integrating advanced technologies such as automation, robotics, and Industry 4.0 innovations. This shift aims to make welding safer, more efficient, and less labour-intensive. Economic benefits include cost reductions and increased global competitiveness.
The workforce is expected to develop with a greater focus on critical thinking and creativity, supported by advanced training methods like augmented and virtual reality. Investment in these new technologies is crucial to maintaining relevance in the evolving industrial landscape.
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Industry 4.0’s Impact on Efficiency and Quality
The implementation of Industry 4.0 in welding is enhancing operational efficiency and productivity, helping Australian businesses to remain globally competitive. With this technological shift, welders and fabricators can access data insights that optimise operations and improve the quality and repeatability of welds, which is critical since poor welds can have disastrous consequences.
Economic Competitiveness and Job Conditions
The economic competitiveness of Australia’s welding sector is bolstered by Industry 4.0, reducing costs associated with labour, inspection, and rework. This advancement also improves job conditions for welders, allowing them to focus on critical thinking and creativity, thereby improving job satisfaction and safety by reducing direct exposure to hazardous welding conditions.
Advancements in Welder Training
Advanced technology is revolutionising welder training with augmented and virtual reality systems that provide interactive, risk-free learning environments. Some welding certification companies utilise augmented reality simulators, enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of training programs and preparing welders for the industry’s future.
Necessity for Technological Investment
Finally, incorporating advanced technology in welding is not an option but a necessity for the future of the trade. Industry 4.0’s methodologies and automation tools are becoming integral for the success of welders and fabricators, with a clear message that failure to invest in such technologies could lead to obsolescence.
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Welding remains an indispensable trade in Australia, integral to the success and sustainability of various key industries. The processes discussed in this guide are not just techniques; they embody strength and precision in joining materials, a testament to the skill and dedication of the welders who perform them. As the industry looks forward, embracing innovation and maintaining high safety standards, the art and science of welding will continue to be a valued and respected craft in the Australian workforce.
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What is stick welding, and how prevalent is it in Australia?
Stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is one of the most common welding processes in Australia. It’s a manual arc welding process that uses a consumable electrode covered with a flux.
What is plasma arc welding?
Plasma arc welding is an advanced welding process where an electric arc is formed between an electrode and the workpiece. It differs from traditional welding processes by using a narrow, precise angle, making it suitable for high-precision applications.
Is shielded metal arc welding the same as stick welding?
Yes, shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) is another term for stick welding. It involves an electrode with a flux coating to protect the weld area from impurities.
What is atomic hydrogen welding, and is it still used in Australia?
Atomic hydrogen welding is an arc welding process that uses hydrogen gas as a shielding medium to prevent oxidation during welding. It’s less common now due to the popularity of methods like metal inert gas (MIG) and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding.
How does metal inert gas (MIG) welding differ from tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding?
MIG welding uses a continuous wire electrode and an external shielding gas, typically a mixture of argon and CO2, to shield the weld pool. TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and often requires an external gas supply, with argon being the most commonly used external shielding gas.
Why is an external shielding gas important in some welding processes?
External shielding gas is crucial in processes like MIG and TIG welding to protect the weld area from atmospheric gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen, which can cause defects in the weld.
Do all arc welding processes require an external gas supply?
Not all arc welding processes require an external gas supply. For example, stick welding uses a flux-coated electrode that provides its shield, whereas MIG and TIG welding generally require an external shielding gas source.
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