How To Weld Aluminum To Steel: Is It Possible? What Are My Options?
If you’re new to welding, you may be wondering if it’s possible for you to weld aluminum to steel. Welding “like-to-like” metals like steel-to-steel and aluminum-to-aluminum is usually very straightforward. However, when you try to weld together two very different metals like aluminum and steel – such as two components manufactured by tube laser cutting – things can get a little bit more complicated. So, is it possible to weld aluminum to steel? What are your options for doing so? Let’s discuss everything you need to know.
Selecting Welding Wire
When selecting a wire electrode for welding, one will most likely run into an American Welding Society (AWS) filler metal classification. A purchaser who isn’t familiar with the AWS classification system might select the wrong type of wire. If the purchaser is only familiar with gas metal arc welding (GMAW) wire and is attempting to purchase self-shielded flux-cored wire (FCAW-S), confusion may arise about the differences between the two classifications. This too could result in selecting the wrong wire electrode. To help prevent this from happening, we’ve created this welding wire reference guide to remind welders exactly what the different AWS classifications designations mean. We’ve included references for solid wire electrodes, metal-cored wire electrodes, gas-shielded flux-cored electrodes, and self-shielded flux-cored electrodes.
The method you select for welding pipe will depend on the location where the welding is taking place, materials and pipe size.
For welding steel pipes in the open (e.g. pipe installation in trenches), manual arc welding (SMAW) is most common. This technique used is downhill using cellulosic electrodes (also basic electrodes are used for higher strength steel applications). A root pass and a hot pass are followed by the fill passes. The weld is finalized by the top pass. Welding units optimised for downhill welding are utilised.
Welding Smaller Pipes
For small diameter and short length pipes which are free to rotate, the pipe is rotated while the welding torch is held stationary. The processes used are MIG (GMAW) and TIG (GTAW). In the case of TIG welding a wire feeder is necessary. A process cell is best for this type of welding.
Welding Large Pipes
In applications involving larger pipe sizes, welding is generally carried out using the orbital process. MIG is usually employed, but TIG with automatic feed of the filler wire can also be used. Orbital process using closed head welding units is also utilized for applications where smaller pipes cannot be rotated.
There are a number of advanced methods of depositing pipe welds currently in use. These include precisely controlled short circuit transfer for root pass (Miller – Regulated Metal Deposition), optimized pulsed welding (Miller – Pro-Pulse) and high frequency waveform control (Lincoln – Surface Tension Transfer) in order to speed up and improve the quality of the pipe welds.
Red-D-Arc has a wide range of pipe welding equipment for rent including the following:
- Closed head orbital welding units for small pipe diameter
- Orbital TIG welding system for larger pipe diameters
- Orbital MIG welding system
- Process pipe cell with oscillating open arc welding
- TIG and MIG welding power sources suitable for above
- Cutting and bevelling saws for up to 12.75” (325mm) pipe diameter
Have a look at our entire selection of pipe welding equipment which includes pipe cutters and bevelers.
Read more on orbital welding
Metallic parts sometimes fail their intended use at a lower stress than they are designated for.
Various forms of wear such as abrasion, impact, metal to metal contact, heat, and corrosion can compromise the strength of metal pieces. This is where hardfacing comes in. Hardfacing is a technique which can be applied to minimize the damage from these types of wear, helping to prolong the life of metal pieces.
What is hardfacing?
Hardfacing —often called hardsurfacing— is the covering of the metallic part with a wear resistant metal by welding. Alloys which commonly need to be hardfaced include carbon alloy and low alloy steels whose carbon content is lower than 1 %. These include stainless steels, manganese steels, cast iron as well as nickel and copper-based alloys.
Metallic parts sometimes fail their intended use at a lower stress than they are designated for.
Techniques, Materials and Costs
The particular hardfacing technique for a job depends on the geometry of the part and relative cost of the hardfacing method. Costs can vary with the deposition rate of the material.
These cost variations can be summarized as follows:
- Flux cored arc welding (FCAW) 8 to 25 lb/hr
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) 3 to 5 lb/hr
- Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), including both gas-shielded and open arc welding 5 to 12 lb/hr
- Oxyfuel Welding (OFW) 5 to 10 lb/hr
Applied materials commonly include cobalt based alloys such as STELITE, and nickel based materials like chromium carbide alloys. More advanced materials such as complex carbides containing columbium, molybdenum, tungsten, or vanadium can also be used and provide more overall abrasion resistance. They also have a very low friction factor, which can be used in situations involving severe abrasion.
Hardfacing can be applied to both newly manufactured pieces, in order to prevent deterioration, or to strengthen and extend the life of worn pieces currently in use.
Red-D-Arc provides welding machines suitable for hardfacing using techniques including SMAW, FCAW and GMAW.
Importance of Preheating in Welding – Equipment Options
Preheating reduces the risk of cracking in weld metal and heat-affected zone (HAZ) by:
- Lowering the cooling rate of the weld – prevents formation of brittle weld metal/HAZ, allows more time for hydrogen to escape the molten weld.
- Removing moisture (hydrogen source) from the part.
- Reducing shrinkage by lowering the temperature differential.
Preheat or not?
The requirement and level of preheating for steel is determined by the relevant welding code and is dependent on the weld heat input, chemical composition of steel (carbon equivalent), thicknesses, diffusible hydrogen etc. Non-ferrous materials generally require preheat because of their high thermal conductivity.
By guest Blogger Katarzyna K.
Katarzyna has an Msc in Materials Science and has worked in the oil and gas industry in jobs related to hydraulics, welding and the retrofitting of oil rigs.
Stainless steel is used extensively in the petrochemical industry due to its high resistance to severe conditions. When welding inox steels, the smallest details matter and have an impact on weld quality. The following are some tips for stainless steel pipe welding based on my oil rig repair experience:
During an oil rig repair project that involved 2205 duplex stainless steel pipe TIG welding, we could not achieve the required weld properties. Despite using the recommended filler metal with higher nickel content, compared to the base metal, and controlling the interpass temperature, the weld tensile strength was still too low. In order to reach the required weld quality we dug deeper and found a solution – (more…)
“You should give as much consideration to the preparation as you do to the actual welding”
Pipe welding is utilized all around the world in diverse industries. A variety of pipe sizes and material grades are joined to manufacture components of various shapes and lengths – from a few feet to many miles. Even though most pipe welding jobs have custom specifications – there are some fundamental aspects of pipe welding that form a common thread for welders and welding engineers alike in order to achieve high quality welds in pipes.
Selecting The Right Pipe Welding Equipment
Equipment selection is the top requirement for producing good quality pipe welds. The highest priorities when selecting welding equipment for pipeline welding are reliability, consistency, accuracy and process control. It is also critical that the equipment is easy to use and the controls are intuitive. In addition to equipment performance, the work environment also needs to be a key factor for equipment selection. There are pipe welding configurations designed for offshore welding, remote land based pipeline welding, general fabrication shop use and custom configured automated pipe welding systems. Selecting the right one can be a daunting task – it is always good practice to seek expert advice. Be sure to ask about the various options, capabilities and limitations of each system. When welding CRA (Corrosion Resistant Alloy) grades, it is necessary to use weld purging in order to guarantee the corrosion performance of the root run. The importance of this should not be underestimated.
Nevada – The Tesla Gigafactory, which produces lithium-ion batteries for Tesla Motors, will be the second-largest facility (by usable space) in the world, once all construction phases are completed. Staff from our Branch in Sacramento have been on site since ground was first broken in 2014. Red-D-Arc has been working closely with contractors on the project, providing a fleet of welders and generators, expert advice, and ensuring equipment performance and availability.
Our experts regularly consult on large scale construction projects and help solve the challenges around equipment procurement and maintenance faced by engineering project managers. Contact an expert for insights and advice on your next construction project.
A Red-D-Arc customer in Atlanta wanted to increase their capabilities in cutting and fabrication of lighter gauge mild steel (up to 2″ thick) using plasma. With the help of the Red-D-Arc Weld Automation – Cutting Services group they decided to expand their existing cutting rail system and added a brand new Koike MasterGraph Extreme Cutting Machine with Hypertherm’s HPR400xd High Definition Plasma power supply. This dramatically increased their cutting capacity and quality, lowering their overall cost of production for cutting mild steel.
Note: Red-D-Arc cutting services is moving to Airgas sometime in 2017. Details will be available here.
The Red-D-Arc Cutting Services team supplied a complete install including operator training. The local Airgas team supplied and installed all of the regulators and gases for the new plasma cutting system. Airgas will also be supplying the consumables for the plasma cutter. Our cutting table service experts can help you select the right equipment to lowers costs and increase productivity. contact one of our experts to learn more. Red-D-Arc carries portable plasma cutting equipment in a range of sizes. Visit our plasma cutter rentals page to learn more.
Companies involved in the pipe welding industry are always looking for new ways to increase productivity and win more contracts. At Red-D-Arc, our goal is to provide the best possible solutions to address their needs. Staff at our Red-D-Arc Las Vegas branch recently did a demonstration of the Apex 2100 Orbital TIG Welding System. The demonstration was performed on a 6.5 inch piece of carbon steel pipe. The Apex 2100 captures data about the weld in real time and allows the user to monitor, adjust and control the welding parameters throughout the process. A compact, lightweight pendant allows for convenient one handed operation and the simple interface is intuitive and easy for operators to learn. The system is also easy to service and maintain, allowing for maximum up time and onsite maintenance.
Our experts can provide a demonstration of this and many other types of weld automation equipment. Contact us today about the advantages that orbital welding and other welding automation systems can bring to your business.
Read more on orbital welding
Scheduled for completion in July 2016, U.S. Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings, is a fixed roof structure that will be nearly 30 stories tall at its highest point. During construction, the base plates of some of the structural support columns needed to be pre-heated to 400o prior to welding. Traditional heating by flame proved to be difficult. It was determined that induction heating was the right solution to safely and efficiently heat the steel to an exact temperature. Induction heating is the preferred method to address challenges associated with the pre-heating of structural steel because it provides a safe and accurate method of heating the metal to a precise temperature.
Red-D-Arc offers Miller ProHeat 35 Induction Heating Systems (IHS) available for rent, lease and sale. This highly efficient technology uses non-contact heating to induce heat electromagnetically rather than using a heating element in contact with the part.
UPDATE: This project was completed ahead of schedule.
Pierce Metals Inc – a steel fabricator located in Bristol, TN offers structural steel fabrication, miscellaneous/custom steel fabrication, steel stairs, handrails and other steel products to the commercial and industrial sectors.
Pierce reached out to their local Airgas team of Gary Killebrew, Chris Smithand Gary Roberts in search of a solution for cutting flat plate as well as large I-beams, on the same machine.
“This project is an excellent example of the value that Red-D-Arc Cutting Services and Airgas are able to deliver for our customers. There is nothing else like it in the industry.”
Red-D-Arc Cutting Services
Jonathan White – National Sales Manager with Red-D-Arc Cutting Services, together with Airgas Specialists, were able to engineer a complete system, unique to their needs. The system included a full
Hypertherm suite with CNC, drives and plasma, incorporating the latest True Hole® technology from Hypertherm.
Airgas supplied the gases, regulators and customer support while Red-D-Arc Cutting Services supplied the service, technical support and equipment.
Thanks to the exemplary service provided by the Airgas Advanced Fabrication Team and Red-D-Arc Cutting Services, Pierce Metals signed a 5 year gas and consumables contract.
Visit our plasma cutter rentals page to view our selection of portable plasma cutters.
“used extensively in nuclear facilities and underwater operations due to their capacity for robotic setup and operation…”
This versatile series of pipe saws are capable of cutting, 2 inch through 24 inch pipe and solids made from materials including ductile iron, steel, stainless steel, alloys, structural steel pieces and rails. They provided fast, accurate, square faced cold cuts at right angles and can be mounted in any position. Since they are so versatile, the Guillotine Pipe Saws have been used by water and gas companies, nuclear power, petrochemical operations, refineries, and for regular plant maintenance. E.H. Wachs Guillotine saws are completely portable with a rugged design that stands up under demanding conditions. They are compact and easy to operate and require very little maintenance. Precise fingertip controls allow the operator to adjust the speed of the saw blade for optimal results. These pipe saws are used extensively in nuclear facilities and underwater operations due to their capacity for robotic setup and operation. Installation time is less than three minutes. These pipe cutting saws have been adapted for many unique situations and work well under adverse conditions.
Visit Red-D-Arc at the 44th Annual SEAA Convention & Trade Show in Charlotte, NC (Booths 55 & 56) from April 27-29, 2016. The annual Steel Erectors Association of America convention and trade show offers attendee’s the perfect balance between education and fun; providing insightful, educational seminars as well as organized excursions such as golf and fishing.
Stop by the Red-D-Arc Booths (55 & 56) for a chance to win a quick change helmet, fishing pole or a discount on your 1st rental. We will be showcasing a Side Winder Package, Multiprocess Welders and we are having a special promotion on used equipment for SEAA show attendees only, with discounted prices on pre-owned ES275i, EX360, E500, LN25 and various welding cable.
Learn More: 44th Annual SEAA Convention & Trade Show