Welders cut and join metal parts together using remotely-controlled equipment or hand-held devices. They also fill up indentations, seams, and holes of metal products. Welding is the process of joining metal parts permanently by applying heat to melt and fuse joints into a permanent bond.
The welding process is applied in automobile repair and manufacturing, ship building, aerospace applications and other manufacturing activities. The welding process is also used in the construction industry to join steel beams of structures such as bridges and buildings and also join pipes in power plants, refineries, and pipelines.
Welders work in various industries from manufacturing to car racing and the type of industry dictates the type of welding equipment to be used.
The duties of a welder typically comprise:
- Studying specifications, sketches, and blueprints.
- Calculating the dimensions to be welded.
- Inspecting the structures to be welded.
- Monitoring the welding process to avoid overheating.
- Maintaining welding equipment and machinery.
Habits Of Welders
It is an understatement to say that welding is not an easy job. Not only is it difficult, but it is also extremely risky. If one does not do it right, it might harm one physically to the point of permanent injury. Therefore, it is important for the young welders or trainees to instil some good habits so that their career as welders runs smoothly and there is no unfortunate accident. Many welding companies are therefore making sure to train their young and new employees properly so that they form good habits early on and follow them as a way of life through their career as a Welder.
Your Safety is in Your Own Hands
Always remember that only person who has the responsibility to keep you safe is yourself. It is of utmost importance that you protect yourself from the heat and electric sparks produced by the process of welding. It can immediately affect the areas of your eyes and hands. It can damage your skin as well. But its effect on the eyes can be absolutely disastrous. Therefore, it is imperative that you take all the necessary precautions to protect yourself, wear safety glasses, gloves, helmets and so on.
Knowledge of the Metals You are Welding
It is extremely important that you have a full knowledge of the metal that you are welding. You must have a proper knowledge of the properties that constitute the metal you are working on. Proper knowledge will help you take more precautions, as different metals have different reactions when welded. To avoid any kind of accident that may happen as a result of a surprising reaction, you must thoroughly know about the metal you are welding. Metals also behave in different ways after the welding process, if you know about the metal properties, you may have prior arrangements.
Learn to Identify Weld Defects
You must not only pay attention to how you can become an efficient Welder, but you must also learn how to detect if there are any defects in your welding works. The most common welding defect occurs with weld cracks which can be solved with certain processes.
Understanding Filler Materials
For the new employees especially, understanding how to use the filler materials most effectively is of utmost importance. The filler materials are often used to melt and combine two different materials. They are very significant for the whole welding process. Therefore, it is necessary for the welders to understand how different filler materials work and how to use them properly to get the best results. They should learn what technique is to be used for which filler material.
Stick to the Conventional Welding Process
Since, the welding job has certain risk factors, do not even think about naive experiments. Follow the exact process of welding that you have learned from your superiors and do not miss or add one step. Use proper gas flow rate, appropriate fillet materials, proper wires etc to safely execute the job.
The important skills and qualities required to be a competent welder include:
Detail oriented – The welding process is a precision work that requires attention to detail and good eye sight. This minimizes flaws and ensures straight edges of work done.
Manual dexterity – Welders require good eye-hand coordination and steady hands to hold a torch in one place and work with minimal flaws.
Physical strength – Welders require to be in good physical condition so as to lift and move heavy pieces of equipment and machinery. The work also sometimes requires stooping or bending to reach far-to-reach spaces.
Physical stamina – Welding typically involves repetitious movements and long periods of standing. It is essential that welders have the physical stamina to withstand periods of exertions.
Technical skills – The welding equipment used to fuse metal segments together requires technical expertise and know-how for optimal operation.
Welders held on average 397,900 jobs in 2014 with the largest employers of welders being the manufacturing industry, specialty trade contractors, repair and maintenance and merchant wholesalers.
Welders can either work outdoors or indoors and sometimes in confined or small spaces which are designed to contain glare or sparks. When working outdoors, they are typically found on platforms or scaffolds high off the ground. They also tend to work in awkward positions while stooping, bending or standing.
Welders are required to wear safety equipment at all times such as heat resistant gloves, masks with protective lenses, gloves, safety shoes and other equipment to protect against eye injuries, burns, and falling objects due to the hazards they are exposed to.
They also need to work in properly ventilated areas to avoid inhalation of dangerous gases and fine particles as a result of the welding process.
Most manufacturing firms have round-the-clock 8-12 hour shifts thus welders tend to work full time including evenings and weekends. Overtime is also fairly common.
Pay and Job Outlook
The mean annual wage for a welder in May 2016 was $39,390 and $18.94 per hour. The lowest 10% bracket earned less than $26,800 while the highest 10% bracket earned more than $62,100. The highest paying industries were the specialty trade contractors and repair and maintenance.
The projected growth rate for welders is 4% from 2014 to 2024 which reflects the need for welders in the manufacturing process. The basic skills of welding can be applied across different industries making it easy for welders to shift from one industry to another.
How To Become A Welder
To start a career in welding, you need to understand the demands of the job. These demands include excellent eye-hand coordination, physical and mental health, attention to detail and ability to stay focused on repetitive tasks. You also need to be aware of potential dangers and hazards arising on the job such as working with bright lights and noxious fumes.
It’s important to note that you cannot learn welding from a book. Welding is a practical skill that requires on-the-job training to help build the necessary skills.
To get some hands-on experience in welding you can:
- Take an introductory welding course in a tech school to learn the basics of the job and safety measures required then practice as much on your own as possible.
- Practice the first essential skills in welding which involve making tacks i.e. small welds, getting the metal to stick together without clamps and controlling your wire, arc or rod feed accurately as you connect the pieces. Have an experienced welder show you the ropes and guide you as you get started.
- Practice and become experienced with the most common welding techniques by learning to work with flux core welding machines.
Participating in an apprenticeship program is essential to improve your level of accreditation. The more hours you put in as an apprentice, the more you learn and gain experience. Some programs are also able to help with job placement and connect you with potential employers.
The process of advancing in your career is simply acquiring more skills and experience and getting proper certifications. There are different levels of certification for different jobs but the most basic is the AWS certification that constitutes a written exam and a welding test. You will need to keep your certifications up to date.
How to apply for welding jobs
- Apply at different locations to increase your likelihood of success.
- Keep your certification up to date as this can have an effect on your pay for some jobs.
- Research on more specialized jobs and work a variety of jobs to expose you to different skills and opportunities.
Pros and Cons of a Welder
- Skilled welders have good job opportunities and high pay due to the demand for their skills.
- There are opportunities for career advancement and self-employment with experience.
- There are different paths to get into welding such as apprenticeship, formal education or on-the-job training.
- High risk of work place injuries such as burns, toxic gases and muscle strains.
- Long working hours.