What is a Welder?
Table of Contents
A welder is a skilled tradesman who joins metal together, or fills and repairs holes on metal constructions through the use of intense heat and gas. Welders work on all types of industrial, manufacturing, and construction applications; some even work underwater to repair oil rig foundations, ship hulls and other types of subaquatic structures. Due to the almost universal need for their skills, welders are in high demand worldwide.
How to Become a Welder
What does a Welder do?
The specific job duties of a welder vary depending on the skill of the welder and the industry in which they work.
Unskilled welders -
work on assembly lines, performing repetitive welding tasks. They may employ robots in order to join body panels from a car or truck or perform spot welds during the construction of specialized equipment. They may have little or no knowledge of the properties of metal, or what types of gas, wires, and settings are used to produce a stable, strong weld.
Skilled welders -
know the welding specifications of many types of metal. Through either apprenticeship or education, they learn advanced welding techniques and may hand weld or use robots to weld metal components.
While those who use robots are usually confined to working in a factory, those who weld by hand can work in almost any type of application. Construction welders join steel I-beams for high-rise structures, skyscrapers, and any other type of building that uses metal. Welders can also work on a car racing team, repairing the chassis of a damaged car or building an entirely new one. NASA even employs highly skilled welders to work on aerospace applications.
Depending on the project, welders use one of the more than 100 welding methods. In arc welding, workers either weld by hand or machine. It is the most common method of welding in which an arc of electric current combines two metal pieces with a special welding rod. Oxy-fuel welding, oxyacetylene welding, or gas welding use gasses and oxygen to produce the heat needed to melt and join pieces of metal. Other types include resistance welding, shielded metal arc welding, submerged arc welding, and the more modern laser beam welding processes. Welders may specialize in one or more of these types, as certain metals will require specific welding methods.
Welders typically work from blueprints or specifications, then use their knowledge of base metals and joining techniques to select the appropriate material for the job. They cut, position, and spot weld the metal in preparation for one of the many welding processes. The difficulty of the job depends on the type of metal and position. Hard metals like titanium and steel tend to warp less and are therefore easier to join together. Malleable, soft materials like aluminum are easily warped and subject to damage if the surface is not thoroughly cleaned; special care must be taken on the part of the welder to prevent imperfections in the weld.
Regardless of the type, welders are exposed to intense and blinding heat and must take special care to ensure their own safety and the safety of those around them. Welders wear special gloves and aprons to prevent sparks and flame from burning their clothes and skin. They also wear a special mask to prevent flash burns, which are much like an ocular sunburn. In addition to taking safety precautions, welders must monitor the metal they are welding closely. Special care is taken to prevent overheating of the metal which leads to warping, distortion, shrinkage or expansion. Welders also maintain their equipment and work with various power tools, including a grinder, to prepare metal surfaces for welding.
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How to Become a Welder
In the case of assembly line workers, no special training is required. Most of these welders receive on-the-job training, as no special knowledge of metal properties or welding techniques is required. The minimum requirement for securing a position in this field is typically a high school diploma or equivalent. Assembly line welders must also be patient and conscious of safety hazards. They should be able to focus their attention on one repetitive task for long periods of time.
Skilled welders may begin their training as early as high school. Vocational-technical institutes, junior colleges, and private schools offer advanced training, certificates, diplomas, and associate's degrees in the trade. In addition to a welding degree or diploma, many positions require certification on a national or local level, while other corporations have internal training programs and certifications for their employees. In addition to this training, welders must have good eyesight, coordination, and problem-solving skills. They must be able to work in awkward positions and concentrate for long periods of time.
What is the workplace of a Welder like?
Many welders work a regular 40-hour work week though opportunities for overtime work are frequent due to the demand for welding. It is estimated that one in five welders work 50 hours or more per seven-day period. They are exposed to a number of welding-related hazards while on the job including the inhalation of gasses and particulates and the danger of falling for construction welders working on high platforms. Some companies employ welders on overnight shifts so that production can continue 24 hours a day, year-round.
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