The history of welding from medieval ages to modern age

Published on 26 November 2021

5 min

Welding, while it seems complex and modern, is a fairly old technology. Of course, in its early years, it wasn’t as sophisticated as it is now. But its earliest traces date all the way back to the Bronze Ages. That’s where the history of welding truly began.

The Bronze Age is termed so as that’s when tools made of alloys of copper and tin came into being. This revolutionised how tools were made. Even the existence of gold boxes in the same time frame is because of welding! So certainly, some knowledge around welding consumables and welding material existed ever since.

From then onwards, the knowledge passed down the different eras and ages. First, the Egyptians learnt about it and then made several ornaments, tools and so on and so forth.

It was only in the Middle Ages that the idea of a designated job-role around the idea of welding came into existence. They were called ‘Blacksmiths’. The primary metal they explored was iron and they might have used other ferrous metals.

The developments in the welding industry were not exponential till the beginning of the 19th century. One can say, the boom for welding had not started. Like most advancements in technology, welding’s advancement was slow for its formative years till the 1800s which is when it gained momentum and hasn’t stopped since! All of it came together to create modern welding technology as we know it.

Here’s an overview of the history of welding starting 1800. The contributions of the Davy cousins are irreplaceable to the history of welding. Sir Humphry Davy invented a tool that helped in producing an arc between carbon electrodes. It was battery operated and was invented in the year 1800. His cousin, Edmund Davy discovered the gas acetylene which set a strong foundation for gas welding and thus became a part of welding consumables and welding materials.

Then, in 1881 Auguste De Meritens, a French Scientist fused two lead plates successfully by leveraging the heat generated from an arc. Carbon arc welding was one of the most common methods around the same time. It was then that C.L. Coffin got a US patent for metal electrode arc welding.

In 1900, the idea of coated metal electrodes was first introduced by Strohmenger. The coating was that of lime and it stabilised the arc greatly. Throughout the 1900s, other welding processes like seam welding, projection welding, and spot welding were developed. The tool, stick electrode, became a widely used tool. With alternating current invented in 1919, its commercial use too started in the 1930s and advanced modern welding technology further.

In 1930, Stud welding was developed and was used widely by the construction industry as well as for the manufacturing of ships. It makes sense, because the New York Navy Yard developed it and alongside, an organisation called National Tube company has started developing smothered arc welding. And then came along submerged arc welding which proved to be more fruitful for ship-building.

In 1948, Battelle Memorial Institute had developed a milestone in the history of welding. This is the process of GTAW of gas shielded metal arc welding. Other important welding techniques like plasma arc welding and electron beam welding were developed in the 1960s by different sources.

The most recent developments in modern welding technology are laser welding (which is pretty cool, we must say) and friction welding processes. Laser welding is typically used for processes that require greater speed than other welding types. They yield very clean small welds with minimal thermal distortion. The entire process of laser welding requires no contact! It can be used in open-air conditions and work really well for high alloy metals. The application of laser welding is not as wide as of now, but it is definitely used as a premium alternative for medical equipment, electronics and jewelry. Laser welding is taking some time to become commercially viable and thus lesser welders use it till date.

The other process that we mentioned, friction stir welding, is a welding process that was invented in Cambridge. The two materials to be welded are welded through frictional heat. This heat is created through a rotating tool in the machine’s joint and is passed on to the welding path. The biggest advantage of this type of welding remains that there is no radiation and fumes, therefore, is preferable for the welder. Along with this, it has proven to be energy-efficient and yields the welding output with little to no heat distortion. Again, due to the new and recent nature of its being, it isn’t as common and will take a while to hit the commercial markets.

Another important mention for the recent technological advancements in welding would be that of Advanced arc welding. Here, with the help of electric heat, two metals are fused. Non-ferrous metals are commonly used for this type of welding. Its common application has been for space vehicles, other vehicles as well as bicycles. These welds tend to be non-corrosive in nature and are highly sustainable. Therefore, other than vehicles, it is used to form canisters for nuclear fuels. 

Now we know that history lessons can be tiring for some people, but it is an essential part of setting a foundation for your knowledge on the subject. It paves way for one to be the expert they want to be. And we hope this article shed light on a broad portion of welding and its history for you.

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