Welding as we know it today took centuries to develop. With the help of several dedicated and innovative minds, welding processes and welding components were sharpened and refined to give us the modern-day welding systems we are familiar with and use on a day-to-day basis. Milestones were created and history was made, leaving us with the cutting-edge technology we use today. This can only mean, however, that we must continue to innovate the science of welding so future generations can continue to create new and improved operations.
Welding is not a new advancement of modern-day technology. While the technology we use is very specific to our time period, the concept and practice of welding has been around since before the Middle Ages. The earliest examples of welding come from welded gold boxes made during the Bronze Age, a period of time that was defined as the first time that humans began working with metal. While different societies entered the Bronze Age at different times, people in the Middle East were likely to have been the first to begin utilizing bronze to replace stone versions of tools and weapons. During the Bronze Age, humans also began making other technological advances, like writing and the invention of the wheel. Bronze was popular to use because it was hard and more durable, making it ideal to use for tools and weaponry.
Just as bronze replaced copper, iron replaced bronze in the 1st millennia BC. Specialized workmen in the Middle Ages welded iron tools by hammering them through a process called blacksmithing. These craftsmen would first smelt the iron by forging it so they could work with it more easily. Then, using tongs to hold the hot piece of iron on a steel-surfaced block, or anvil, the blacksmiths would begin to shape the iron into their preferred shape. Hammers, chisels, and other tools were used to weld, shape, or cut the object. Until the Industrial Revolution, blacksmiths were responsible for hand-making most of the wrought iron tools used around the world.
Where Innovation and Science Meet
It wasn’t until the 1800s that a major breakthrough was made in the world of welding. Sir Humphrey Davy used a battery-operated tool to discover that an arc could be produced between two carbon electrodes. This arc was a huge development in the welding world, as before the century was over, August De Meritens, a French scientist, would fuse lead plates together using the heat that the arc generated. Meritens’ pupil, Nikolai N. Benardos, patented the process of electric arc welding with carbon rods, streamlining the advancement of welding. Metal electrodes were used for welding before being followed by the arc welding process discovered by C.L. Coffin, an American engineer. Coffins’ patent became logged as the first record of melting metal using the electrode carried across the arc, depositing filler metal in the joint to make it weld. The process of arc welding used coated metal electrodes that foreshadowed the development of shielded metal arc welding.
In 1919, after World War I, Comfort Avery Adams founded the American Welding Society in the hopes to advance the welding process. During this time, the alternating current was invented by C.J. Holslag, but despite its beneficial uses, it didn’t become popular until more than 10 years later. The start of the 1920s brought about the invention of the automatic welding, introduced by P.O. Nobel. Used to repair and mold metal, it integrated the use of arc voltage and bare electrode wires. Throughout the 1920s, various forms of welding electrodes were developed and used by the public, giving inspiration to future inventions, like the development of stud welding that was created in 1930. This technique was popularly used in shipbuilding and construction.
Milestones That Changed the History of Welding
As welding methods became more developed, they became an ode to the masters who helped create them. Gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW, sprung from an idea that C.L. Coffin had to weld in a non-oxidizing gas atmosphere. The concept was optimized so it could be used to weld magnesium, stainless steel, and aluminum. After it was perfected to include a water-cooled torch, patented, and renamed Heliarc welding in 1941, it became one of the most important milestones in the history of welding.
In 1953, Lyubavskii and Novoshilov were the first to announce that welding could be done in a carbon dioxide atmosphere and was favored because it allowed for the welding of steel. The CO2 arc welding process developed into a process that could use smaller electrode wires with refined power supplies. Thin materials became possible to weld on, and macro-wire — or short-arc and dip transfer welding — allowed for gas metal arc welding variations. The 50s came and went, but paved the way for more advancements.
The 60s was a prosperous decade in technological and scientific innovations, which is why it’s no surprise that many welding variations came out of this time period. In addition to plasma arc welding, dualshield welding, innershield welding, and electroslag welding were developed during this decade, being used in a number of manufacturing industries in the United States. Laser welding, one of the most recent developments in the modern world of welding, is being used for a number of welding jobs. Lasers have the ability to channel tremendous amounts of energy in small spaces, making them a powerful and precise heat source.
The history of innovation is never brief, as it takes hundreds and hundreds of years to develop an invention that will significantly impact society as we know it. If you’re eager and motivated to learn more about the art of welding, then choose us, Missouri Welding Institute, for benefits, challenges, and opportunities. Learn more about the Missouri Welding Institute and enroll with us today!