What Is Structural Welding?

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Structural welding is joining two metal pieces together by melting their edges and filling the gap with molten metal. It can be done using either an electric arc or gas flame, but the most common structural weld type is shielded metal arc welding. Those who use this method are called structural welders.

Structural welders are the people who make the metal parts for buildings. They make the framework of buildings and bridges, too. They cut beams, columns, and girders - all kinds of things. Structural welders work for construction companies or other people who need them.

This article will answer some questions about structural welding, its benefits, and why it's so important for some types of projects.

What type of welding is used for structural welding?

Structural welding is a type of welding used to join two or more pieces of metal together.

It can be hard to find the right kind of welders for structural work, and it can be even harder to know what kind of welding they're using.

There are many different types of welding, such as stud welding and flux core welding. The most common type of structural welding is called stick welding. It's commonly used in construction to join two pieces of steel together.

This type of welding uses an electrode made from a wire that has been wrapped around with a flux core. When the electrode contacts the steel, it creates an arc that fuses the two metals, creating one piece.

01. Stick welding

Stick welding is the most common type of welding used for structural work.

This process uses an electrode made from a wire that has been wrapped around with a flux core. When the electrode contacts the steel, it creates an arc that fuses the two metals, creating one piece.

This type of welding is commonly known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) or manual metal arc welding (MMA), and an experienced welder usually does it.

One of the advantages of sticking welding is that it's easy to find the equipment and supplies needed.

Stick welding is useful for:

  • Repairing damaged or worn structures (such as bridges and buildings)
  • Building new structures (such as steel frameworks for new buildings)
  • Joining two pieces of metal together, such as sheets of steel on a building
  • Stick welding is usually done outdoors or in a workshop while the integrity of the structure holds up.

The welder also needs to be protected while using this equipment since it emits fumes and an electric arc that can easily burn them.

02. Stud Welding

There are other types of structural welding, such as stud welding and flux core arc welding. Stud welding is similar to stick welding because it uses an electric arc to fuse two pieces of metal. The only difference is that the electrode doesn't have a flux core wrapped around it.

Stud welding is another common type of structural welding used for joining two pieces of metal together.

It uses an arc formed between two high-powered electrodes, one of which is pointed at the metal being welded and the other at a fabricated metal stud.

Once the arc makes contact with both pieces of metal, they fuse to create a long solid piece.

Stud welding can be applied to both flat pieces of metal as well as hollow pieces. The pointed electrode heats the metal, causing it to melt onto itself before solidifying into a single piece.

The only drawback to stud welding is that it's very hard to control, and if done by an inexperienced welder, there's a chance the electrodes could hit other pieces of metal, causing serious injury.

On the other hand, there are many advantages to stud welding, including:

  • Creates a strong weld that's free of contaminants, such as cracks and porosity.
  • You can use it on thin sheets of metal without failing due to excess heat.
  • It can be used to weld different pieces of metal together without having to add filler material.

You can also find stud welding under the names stud-arc and stud-drive. An experienced welder usually does it, and it's best for joining two structures together, such as bridges or building supports.

03. Flux Core Arc Welding

FCAW (Flux-core arc welding) is a type of welding that is often used to make complex structures. The process is similar to MIG welding because both use the same type of wire.

The difference with FCAW is that it uses flux instead of shielding gas. This gives the weld pool more time to cool, which makes for a more stable weld puddle.

FCAW needs an electric machine that feeds wire into the weld pool, making it easy for most people to use this kind of welding on thicker sections of steel or other metals at least one inch thick.

There are many advantages to Flux-core arc welding, including:

  • Flux core welding does not require a gas like other types of structural welding.
  • It is used outside and in windy conditions (like on high buildings).
  • Other types of structural welding have more chance to have holes than flux core welding.
  • FCAW is all about where you put the filler metal. It is easy to learn and do.
  • Flux core welding is used in industries that need fast repetitive work done well, like construction or factory work.

Field vs. Shop-based Structural Welding: What's the difference?

Structural steel fabrication is a complex process that requires precision and expertise.

The welding process for structural steel fabrication can vary depending on the project, but two main types of welding processes are used in this type of work: field and shop.

Field welding is done outdoors, while shop welding takes place indoors with more controlled conditions.

Shop welders have access to specialized equipment like large-scale power sources and computerized controls, making them better suited for larger projects than field welders who need to bring their supplies.

However, if you're looking for a lower-cost option or want to do some outdoor work as well as indoor work, and then field welding might be your best bet.

Welding structural steel is a challenge. It can be tough to make an accurate bid and meet deadlines. It would be best to think about the welding process or filler metal you will use for this structural steel welding. This will help you have the best quality and efficiency in your work.

People usually use stick welding and self-shielded flux-cored arc welding for outdoor steel, but if they need to do it indoors, they use gas-shielded flux-cored arc welding or submerged arc welding. But most people use metal cored wire for that instead of solid wire.

People who make things should think about which welding process is best for them. For example, people who work in the field can decide between stick and FCAW (Flux-Cored Arc Welding). For people who work in a shop, you can choose from MIG (Mig) welding, SAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding), or FCAW.

Filler Metals and Processes for Field Applications:

While outdoor jobs are often done with stick welding, FCAW-S can be even better. Stick welding is portable - operators like it because they can move around when doing outdoor work.

Stick welding has to change electrodes (the metal wires) every 12 inches and needs replacement.

So when there is outdoor work in one place, FCAW-S with wire is the best choice because it will not waste as much time changing sticks and electrodes.

At the end of a day, one person's process for a field application depends on how much time they spend welding versus how much time they spend relocating. If a person is mostly stationary during an outdoor application, FCAW-S should be considered to boost productivity.

But if not, it might be wisest to stay with the stick welding process. And if someone wants to change their welding process, the fabricator may need to re-qualify the welding procedures for that application.

Although this takes both time and effort, it can be worthwhile given long-term cost savings through productivity increases. In structural applications where people weld together pieces of metal, it is common to use "pre-qualified" procedures that require much less testing, minimizing this potential problem.

When you have a big project, you might want to use both stick welding and FCAW-S. Stick welding is good for little jobs, and FCAW-S is better for bigger projects. You can use stick welding in places that don't need much welded. Then, use FCAW-S, where it will be more useful.

There is some other information you should know, which includes:

  • Hydrogen levels: AWS 7018 electrodes are often used. They have low levels of hydrogen (4 ml per 100g). FCAW-S wires are more common and have high levels of hydrogen (8 ml per 100g) or more.
  • Power sources: FCAW needs a constant voltage power source. It needs DCEN or DCEP polarity. DCEN is more common but not used for all FCAW-Swires. In many cases, the operator will already have a machine that can do this. But if not, then they need to buy a power source that can handle these settings too.
  • Training: In FCAW-Swires, there are many different types. The one you use depends on the AWS classification of the wire, including how much voltage it has and what its stick-out is. Sometimes you might need a gun angle or a travel speed for these wires to get a good weld. If you want to learn about this kind of wire welding, I recommend that you take some training before trying it on your own.

Filler Metals and Processes for Shop Applications:

For structural welding, FCAW-G wire is a popular choice. It is easy to use and good for all positions. These wires are also forgiving when people do things wrong or don't do them right.

FCAW-G wires can be welded on dirty metal, like mill scale from hot rolled steel, which is common in welding. This wire can make a lot of slags, so people will need to clean it up after welding and in between passes of the welder's machine.

MIG welding is different than FCAW-G. MIG welding does not make slag, so you don't need to do extra work, like grinding or chipping after you weld.

You can also weld in any position with MIG welding, but it isn't as easy to use. It's good for welding metal that has mill scale on it, though.

Filler metals are the things you use to help people weld metal together. You can choose from two options: solid wire or metal-cored (or composite) wire.

Solid wire is easier for you to weld. After all, it doesn't need as much attention on your part because it has an even flow of heat. Metal-cored wires are more forgiving, but they only work when the conditions are right.

They also cost more because they contain deoxidizers which make them good for dirty or rusty metals like mill scale.

The SAW process is used for welding long, continuous welding lines on steel structures. It needs a lot of power and is more expensive than other types of welding.

But it can be worth it if you need to weld for a long time. The wire inside the metal-cored wire is tubular - this means that the wire will get hot fast, so think about using less amperage, so you don't get too much heat in your steel structure.

A wire that is 1/8 of an inch in diameter at 100 wire feed speed (wfs) and 30 volts would produce 650 amps and travel at 22 ipm, which means it is "X" size, but a metal-cored wire at 650 amps would require 150 wfs, 30 volts and must travel 27.5 ipm to produce the same weld size of "X." That means the SAW process with metal-cored wires speeds up by 25% and reduces heat input by 25%.

For a structural steel welding scenario, this welding productivity gain and heat reduction can add up to big savings. If you have less time spent welding or don't need straightening beams from other activities like grinding or post-welding cleaning, you can save a lot of money.

Labor is the largest cost in any welding operation, so even gaining a small reduction in cycle time can provide huge savings in the long run. This can come from depositions rate and reducing non-welding activities like grinding, post-weld clean up, etc.

How do you make a structural weld?

To make a structural weld, you need to know how to use your welding machine. It's often preferable for beginners who are not yet familiar with their machine to find someone who knows more about welding than they do so that tools can be set up correctly and there is someone on hand with an idea of the perfect arc.

It is also helpful if this person has experience in what material will be used, but it's unnecessary.

The different types of welds are suited for different things; some are stronger, some are stronger looking. The most basic weld type is called 'butt weld,' where two pieces of metal or other material are pushed together until the edges meet flush, without overlapping. This produces a clean line and a strong weld.

For the butt weld, the edges should be clean and flat, without any debris or rust or paint on them. If one of the pieces is not flat but rather round or has a hole in it, it can be built up with weld until it has enough thickness to accommodate for that.

For example, if you are welding a metal rod into a round hole, the rod should be built up around the outside of this circle with a weld. Then, it can be filed down until there is no seam between them, and the round piece looks as if it was one solid block of metal.

After cleaning any pieces you will weld and making sure they fit together well, it is time to prepare the electrode. If you're going to do a butt weld, you need a short electrode that will not burn out before reaching the end of this type of weld.

For a fillet weld, however, you need a longer one. This is because a fillet weld creates an overlap between two pieces at the top and bottom, and the electrode should be able to produce a bead that reaches this spot.

If you're not sure what kind of weld to do, consult with your teacher or another friend who knows more about welding than you do, as long as they also have experience with the material you'll be working with.

Some other tips for making a structural weld are to be patient and keep the arc on. The electrode should not fall off or drift sideways, which can happen when you're new to welding due to nervousness about keeping it steady long enough for a strong weld. It takes time and practice to learn how long an arc needs to be held in one spot for the metal to melt.

Another tip is to move back and forth quickly, rather than staying in one place for too long (which can lead to excess heat). Staying still will only make a small 'puddle,' which will end up having a lot of cold spots. A cold spot is where the metal did not melt completely, leaving behind a weak point in the weld.

Once you have a bead of melted metal connecting your two pieces, you should stay at this point for about 20 seconds to allow it to cool enough that it can hold its weight.

Then you can take it off the electrode and put it into the water, which will cool it down faster. The stress from being heated up so much will help it hold together, but you should still wait a few minutes to be safe before touching it or trying to move it.

The final step is filing down any bumps or jagged edges from the metal being built up so that your weld looks smooth and even. This can be done with some rough sandpaper or an angle grinder if you have one.

Welding can be a difficult task to take on, but with enough practice, you will become more comfortable with it and create stronger welds!

How Do You Become a Structural Welder?

A structural welder needs a high school diploma or GED certificate to do the job. There is no guideline for other education, but it is recommended that they get certified as a welder.

However, it is necessary to have training in welding before applying for a job. You may also need experience in construction or metalworking fields.

Learning how to use tools like hammers and wrenches is highly recommended, and having carpentry skills. Safety procedures are important when dealing with large structures, and welders need to stay aware of their surroundings and be willing to work with others.

Some companies provide welding training. You can get certified in it before you apply for a structural welding position. If you want to be a structural welder, do this first.

How long does it take to become a structural welder?

How long it takes to become a welder depends on which education you go through. For example, apprenticeship training can take a few years. But if you go to vocational school, then it can take less than one year.

You need to know that some people start welding training in high school if their school offers a vocational program.

After you get a degree from vocational school, you have to become a certified welder before working.

Some states also have apprenticeship training programs available for students ready to get started right after high school.

An apprentice might need to go through 1-5 years of school and on-the-job training to get the necessary certification.

What do structural welders do?

Structural welding is a necessary part of building most buildings, roads, and freeways.

A structural welder builds iron or steel girders, columns, and other materials to form buildings, bridges, and other structures.

They also cut iron or steel bars to reinforce concrete. They may repair old infrastructure too. Sometimes they weld metal in fabricating shops too.

In the early days of bridge building, no machines could span over large areas with ease and quickness. To cross rivers without worrying about fording them, bridges were built from pieces of wood. To build the structure, many people worked together to put it together by hand.

In those days, whenever a bridge was built over a deep river that needed support from below, people had to be thrown into it as "structural pieces" during construction.

How Much Does A Structural Welder Make?

It can be tough to know exactly how much earn a welder because there are so many factors that influence this number.

However, the average annual salary for welders employed in the United States may range anywhere from $32,000 on average at entry-level positions to about $59,000 on an experienced career level.

Of course, suppose you have certifications or advanced education relating to welding. In that case, there are plenty of opportunities out there with good pay - somewhere between $65k and close to $100k on higher-level jobs.

Conclusion

Structural welding is the process of joining metal pieces together to form a structure. Structural welders are experts in heating, assembling, and connecting steel or other metals by melting them at high temperatures with an arc welder. They might cut pieces from large sheets of material for use as plates, beams, channels, or stiffeners that will then be joined together into a larger framework. The structural welder may also assemble prefabricated sections before attaching these assemblies with their expertise using intense heat and pressure from the molten metal until they become permanently fixed through solidifying.

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