Aluminum is the material of choice for reducing weight while maintaining stability in bicycle or motorcycle frames, truck trailers, rail vehicle profiles, and space travel materials. A beautifully welded aluminum seam is also a real eye-catcher.
Aluminum has become an essential component of modern manufacturing due to its low density and high strength. In addition to all of the benefits, there are some challenges in processing this metal.
Anyone who has ever accidentally burned a hole in an aluminum sheet understands what we mean. Aluminum welding necessitates specialized knowledge and skills. Learn more about what is important for aluminum welding and how to weld aluminum properly in this blog.
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How to Weld Aluminum?
It all comes down to selecting the right welding process when it comes to welding aluminum. There are many tools and methods for welding steel, but aluminum requires its technique and equipment.
- Before beginning the welding process, the welder must thoroughly clean the aluminum. As previously stated, one of the difficulties with aluminum is that it is more prone to impurities. As a result, proper material preparation is critical. Here are some steps to take:
- To remove any oil, grease, or water vapor from the aluminum’s surface, use acetone or a mild alkaline solution such as a strong soap.
- Assemble the welding joint and cover it if you aren’t going to weld it right away. This will keep dirt and grit from clogging the joint.
- Surface oxides should be removed with an aluminum-specific stainless steel wire brush. This can also be accomplished using a strong alkaline or acid. Before welding, always thoroughly rinse and dry the part.
- Keep your aluminum dry and at room temperature at all times. If it hasn’t been welded within a few days, clean the joint again.
Another critical aspect of welding aluminum, or any material for that matter, is safety. Wear goggles, safety glasses, a welding helmet with the appropriate lens shade number to protect your eyes, gloves, and leathers to protect your hands from metal sparks and splatters, proper shoes to protect your feet, and proper fume ventilation to keep welding fumes away from your breathing zone.
Why is Aluminum Welding Difficult?
Aluminum is a common metal used in manufacturing. It’s non-corrosive, lightweight, and visually appealing, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of welds. However, the same characteristics that make aluminum desirable can make it difficult to work with.
So, what is it about aluminum that makes it so difficult to weld? This material is soft and highly sensitive, with a tough oxidized layer protecting it. Aluminum is susceptible to impurities while molten, which can result in porous, weak welds.
Aluminum and its alloys are extremely reactive to oxygen. The metal itself melts at 1,200°F (650°C), while the oxide that protects it melts at 3,700°F (2,037°C). Because the oxide melts at temperatures around 2,500°F (1,370°C) higher than the aluminum itself, the metal must be cleaned before welding can begin.
Aluminum has a smaller window of workability than other metals and is more prone to burn through because of its higher thermal conductivity and lower melting point. This, combined with the difficulty of indicating weld progress and quality, can make aluminum a difficult material to work with.
Methods of Welding Aluminum
If you’re wondering how to weld aluminum, you should know that there are several welding processes available:
One of the most popular welding processes for aluminum is gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding. This welding technique is frequently used by car enthusiasts and professional racing teams.
GTAW requires constant current equipment with AC (alternating current) capabilities and shielding gas made entirely of argon. It does not require mechanical wire feeding, which could cause feed ability issues.
Another common method for aluminum welding is gas metal arc welding (GMAW), also known as metal inert gas (MIG) welding.
This type of welding has higher deposition rates and faster travel speeds than TIG welding, which affects weld quality. It does, however, use a mechanical wire feeding system, which means the welder may need to use a spool gun or push-pull gun to enable wire feeding.
Laser Beam and Electron Beam Welding
Aluminum is frequently welded using beam welding techniques. Because electron beam welding has a very precise heat-affected zone that is easily controlled, it is ideal for aluminum. Laser beam welding produces fast, clean welds and is ideal for materials that crack easily, such as aluminum.
By applying pressure and passing a current through the metal areas being joined, this type of welding joins metals. It can be used for aluminum, but the welder must be aware of the metal’s high thermal and electrical conductivity.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
This welding method could be used to weld aluminum, but it is not recommended. It is sometimes used to repair cast aluminum using constant current equipment and an aluminum electrode with positive polarity.