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What is your weld telling you?

Monday, August 1, 2016 - 07:00
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As materials used in new vehicle construction keep advancing, welding equipment and repair techniques must also evolve.  For example, how many of us had heard of ER5554 aluminum wire until Ford rolled out the new F-150?  Or thought of MIG brazing for structural repairs like Honda specifies in certain situations for their 1500 MPa parts?  Or really understood the difference of Pulse MIG welding?

You may be thinking…aluminum and silicon bronze MIG welding aren’t new.  They’ve been around for decades. So why are they suddenly drawing so much attention?  First, advanced materials have become more prevalent.  Now being used in higher volume vehicles, everyone will likely come in contact with them at some point. Second, a shift in use from primarily cosmetic to structural applications means proper repair procedures are now critical. Finally, because just like the equipment the technician must also be willing to adapt.

Visually inspecting the weld

MIG/MAG welding in general requires much more skill than spot welding because of the human factor. The angle of the torch, how quickly and in which direction you move your hand, the distance from the work piece, temperature, weld settings, speed movement, etc. all affect the weld.  Standard MAG welding of mild steel is pretty forgiving where the newer materials are not. The technique required is quite different and the “this is the way I’ve always done it” attitude is not going to work.

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Watching a skilled welder is like observing an artist or a professional golfer. The process appears effortless and under complete control. Generally that ease comes from lots of practice. For the rest of us, who are not welding regularly, it can be a frustrating struggle when results are not as expected. You start thinking through it “Is the problem the machine, did I set something wrong, is this wire bad, or the gas?  Is it me? What am I doing differently?”  With so many variables, it can be difficult to identify how to begin troubleshooting a problem. Watching the arc and listening to the sound may give some ideas but the process is so quick that it is difficult.  Examining the completed weld is an excellent indication of what is happening and where to begin.

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