Common Welding Methods for Aircraft Construction

Welding is a process in which two or more parts may be joined together through the use of high heat, pressure, or a combination of the two. While a significant portion of an aircraft may be conjoined with fasteners, many assemblies are also made possible through the use of welding. Depending upon the parts being fused and the materials present, a number of welding processes may be carried out to produce a rigorous and reliable fusion. In this blog, we will discuss some of the primary welding methods used by aircraft manufacturers for the production of components and structures.

Gas Welding

Gas welding is a common method in which the ends or edges of metal pieces are melted with the use of a powerful flame. By burning acetylene and pure oxygen, temperatures upwards of 6,300 degrees can be reached by the welding flame, ensuring that a molten state is attained. Gas welding was once one of the primary welding methods for many thin metal components, but it has since been superseded by electric welding due to its cost efficiency.

Electric Arc Welding

Electric arc welding is widely used for both manufacturing and repair, and common electric arc welding types include shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, and gas tungsten arc welding.

Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) is the most common welding method of the three, and it is carried out with the use of a metal wire of which is coated with a welding flux. The rod is clamped in an electrode holder, and this allows for high AC or DC current to be induced at a low voltage. When conducting welding, an arc will be produced between the rod and the working metal that has a heat value reaching upwards of 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. This method of welding may be used for the fuselage of an aircraft, most often serving to weld 4130 steel structures.

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW) in a method that utilizes an uncoated wire electrode which is fed through the torch while an inert gas acts as shielding from oxygen. With the use of a power supply that is connected to both the torch and the work, an arc may be produced with sufficient heat to melt the electrode and work. Gas metal arc welding is most commonly used for large volume manufacturing, often being less effective for repairs.

Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is the final electric arc welding method, and it is often used for maintenance and repair as well as excels in welding stainless steel, thick aluminum, and magnesium. While there are multiple GTAW methods of welding, tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is the most popular. With TIG welding, a tungsten rod serves as the electrode so that a high temperature arc can be produced for melting metals. With inert gas streams, oxide formation is mitigated.

Electric Resistance Welding

Electric resistance welding is often used for thin metals, and the two primary methods include spot and seam welding.

With spot welding, two copper electrodes are clamped by the jaws of the machine, and the material is placed between. Holding the working material with pressure, current is then sent through the electrodes and into the working piece. As the resistance of the working piece is higher than the electrodes, spot welding ensures that the piece will melt in accordance to needs.

With seam welding, a continuous weld is created instead of in specific spots. This is often used for the production of fuel tanks and other similar components that need attachment through seams. For the seam welding machine to fuse pieces, it utilizes two copper wheels that operate similarly to the spot welder’s copper electrodes. 

Plasma Arc Welding

Plasma arc welding (PAW) is a method that provides high amounts of precision and control to create high quality welds with the assistance of automated equipment. Plasma arc welding can also be done manually, and in such instances the machine may be operated by an individual similarly to GTAW. To create a weld, the PAW utilizes a non-consumable tungsten electrode placed within a fine-bore copper nozzle and then forms a pilot arc between the electrode and nozzle tip for working on a piece.

Plasma Arc Cutting

With plasma arc cutting, an electrical arc is created and constricted within a nozzle while ionized gas is forced through. The arc then heats the gas, causing a metal to melt while air pressure blows away materials. Such machines are often used for a number of electrically conductive metals, commonly welding aluminum and stainless steel.

With the various methods of welding available, numerous aircraft parts and structures may be produced with ease. At Purchasing Synergy, we serve as a premier online distributor of aircraft components, NSN parts, electrical connectors, and more. Begin the purchasing process today and see why customers choose to rely on Purchasing Synergy for all their operational requirements.


February 15, 2023
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