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Welding is a method of manipulating metal that is beneficial to a variety of industries. Whether you’re in the construction, automotive, or aircraft industry, welding can benefit your operations. However, there are many different types of welding methods. Furthermore, the types of metal you can use with each welding method varies due to a number of factors.
To help you learn about finding the right parts for the job, we’ll breakdown common types of metal used in welding and their properties. You can’t just grab a piece of metal and begin working away at it with a MIG torch. You have to tackle each task with immense knowledge, preparation, and most importantly, a purpose.
Aluminum is a popular welding option thanks to its lightweight nature, strong corrosion-resistance, ability to conduct electricity, and relative ease of use once you learn the ropes. This metal is typically used in TIG welding applications, though MIG welding and plasma cutting are also viable options. You’ll commonly find aluminum for welding purposes alloyed with other metals, including magnesium, copper, silicon, and zinc.
Due to the different properties of these metals, being mindful of factors like their specific melting points is key. One of the most important considerations when it comes to welding with aluminum is the grade.
Aluminum alloys come in a variety of grades, and the ones that are suitable for welding include 1XXX, 3XXX, 5XXX, and 6XXX. 4XXX is a popular filler metal option when used in tandem with some other grades, but not all, such as 5XXX. In certain conditions, other grades can be effectively welded, but the aforementioned grades are the easiest and most common options for such tasks.
Some grades, like 5XXX, are suitable for heavy-duty applications, while other grades like 1XXX and 3XXX are better for smaller-scale use. As you can see, using aluminum isn’t as easy using the first type you find. However, if you take the time to learn the best type of aluminum for the task at hand, it can be an incredibly beneficial material for your project.
Cast iron isn’t the easiest type of metal to weld, but it can be useful due to its hardness. The reason cast iron has that special level of hardness is thanks to the carbon content within it. However, as we’ll get into later in this list, that higher carbon content is going to make the cast iron more vulnerable to cracking while you work on it.
Cast iron is best used with experts in the industry due to the very specific pre-heating measures you have to take to prevent cracking from occurring. If you’re in need of metal that’s easy to weld and is both ductile and malleable, cast iron isn’t the right choice for you.
Copper is another easy-to-use metal for stick welding applications that comes with many beneficial properties. This metal has impressive thermal and electrical conductivity, as well as resistance against corrosion and wear. Copper comes in three common forms: oxygen-free, oxygen-bearing, and phosphorus deoxidized.
For welding purposes, stick to oxygen-free copper. Likewise, be wary of using copper alloys. The reason for this is that copper alloys will often come at the expense of the benefits of copper. For instance, if you’re working with copper/zinc alloy, you won’t have the thermal and electrical conductivity of pure copper.
However, the introduction of zinc can make the copper stronger, so it’s a give-and-take situation. While it can be tough figuring out the right type of copper to use with your specific needs, learning the ins and outs of this material will help it become a much clearer, simpler process. For your first-time using copper for welding, try to stick to pure copper until you become more knowledgeable on the subject.
This popular welding material is frequently alloyed with other metals like chromium to boost its corrosion resistance. Just like there are various types of aluminum and copper, there are various types of stainless steel you must consider. When shopping for stainless steel, you can choose from austenitic, ferritic, and martensitic options.
Austenitic and ferritic are the most weldable of the three options, whereas martensitic is tougher to work with. The reason for martensitic being the least weldable option is due to the amount of carbon it contains. The presence of carbon makes martensitic stainless steel more susceptible to cracking while you work on it.
Austenitic, on the other hand, is a class of stainless steel that does contain carbon, which can cause issues such as intergranular corrosion, but it’s easier to avoid. When you’re shopping for this type of stainless steel, be sure you’re using a grade that comes with lower carbon content and higher amounts of titanium. Of all the types of stainless steel, ferritic is the most weldable option on the market. Thanks to the lower levels of chromium and carbon, you can worry less about issues like cracking or intergranular corrosion from happening.
Steel is arguably the most versatile metal for welding, especially if you’re using low-carbon steel. It can be effectively used with essentially any type of welding method, as long as you take the time to properly clean it prior to working with it. One of the most notable benefits of welding steel is the ductility it provides, making it very easy to deform while still retaining its quality.
Now that you’re more familiar with some of the most common types of metal used in welding and their properties, pairing them with the right project and, most importantly, the right welding method should be a bit easier. That being said, the key to a good weld is more than just pairing the right metal with the right method.
Two of the biggest factors of a good weld is proper handling by the welder and the use of high-quality gear. Luckily, finding high-quality gear from reliable suppliers is easier and more cost-effective than you might think. Visit Welding for Less to find the best prices on a MIG welding gun, as well as a bevy of PPE, welding machines, and more.