Being good at working with your hands is a skill set that every good welder needs. Likewise, having strong math capabilities is another required skill set, albeit one that sometimes gets overshadowed by the manual talent involved. Welders, however, rely on math every day to carry out the welding operations expected of them as accurately as possible.
Anyone entering the field of welding should be aware that there is a fair amount of math involved. But, a student welder shouldn’t fret: The math involved is typically basic in nature, such as converting fractions to decimals, understanding simple formulas and a doing a bit of geometry. These math skills will come in handy for everything from measuring materials and areas to effectively ordering materials.
Degree of difficulty
Pretty much any welding degree program includes courses to bring welders up to speed on their math skills. And this is no exception for the associate’s degree in Occupational Studies in Welding Technology program provided by the Tulsa Welding School. The school, which was founded in 1949, offers a full curriculum for those interested in a career in welding.
That curriculum includes an online course for welding beginners and professionals who want to learn or reacquaint themselves with the basic principles behind many of the measurements and calculations used in the welding industry. Additionally, math instruction can be found peppered across the school’s entire curriculum, addressed in all applicable classes.
Welders need a basic understanding of measurements so that they can accurately size, cut and fit materials in place. Making accurate measurements is imperative to the success of the welding operation. When accurate measurements are made the first time, welders can quickly move on to the next job and rework is reduced.
For some welding jobs, measurements might be in metric units, so it is helpful to be familiar with millimeters and centimeters as well as inches.
More often than not, measurements involve fractions and decimals, meaning that welders need to be able to convert fractions to decimals and vice versa. Fractions and decimals have several applications in welding. Fractions are used when working with welding seams and penetration depths. A welder also needs a general knowledge of fractions and decimals to read and understand blueprints and schematics.
The right angle
The parts and projects that welders work on come in all shapes and sizes, so forming joints and creating angles are an important part of welding. Picture a steel table that requires perfect right angles to have a sturdy base. Or imagine a high-performance track bicycle that features aggressive angles for efficient riding.
With those applications and so many others in mind, welders need to know several basic principles of geometry to work with angles and circumference. In doing so, they can form accurate joints, measure and create angles, and find the correct proportions of a circle.
Also, welders should have a beginning understanding of some trigonometry operations such as sine, cosine and tangent. Trigonometry helps in several areas of welding, particularly in calculating angles and the length of each side of a shape being replicated.
For those that might be a tad intimidated by the idea of dealing with trigonometry equations, it’s good to know that the more advanced math capabilities aren’t required for entry-level welders. Higher levels of math knowledge, however, will make a welder more attractive when it comes to hiring and promotions.
Furthermore, welders who might not be ready to put some of the more complicated equations to memory can rely on “cheat sheets” that come in the form of pocket-sized books. Although many experienced welders don’t rely on them, they can be helpful when needed.
An example of when those instances may arise includes the need to calculate volume and area, which are also components of geometry and trigonometry. These include calculating required pounds of steel to reinforce a joint effectively; estimating the required materials for a project; determining the amount of materials needed to fit in a certain size area; and finding the theoretical strength of a weld.
Whether the equations have been memorized or gleaned from crib notes, a welder needs to know how to use the measurement and drafting tools required to make these calculations.
Finally, a good welder is familiar with some formulas used in welding. These formulas allow the welder to carry out several operations, such as calculating shapes and volume, determining the pressure and volume of gases, and figuring out how temperature changes will affect pressure.
Understanding formulas not only means knowing how to use them in calculations, it means looking at a formula and knowing what it means. These formulas can also be included in the various pocket-sized booklets that some welders carry.
More you know
Learning and using some basic math helps prevent the welder from wasting welding supplies and materials – and time. And naturally, these skills are a must for a welder who wants to master welding. So, while some welders might not relish the idea of brushing up on their math capabilities, it may be all that is keeping then from career advancement.
For example, Tulsa Welding School’s 14-month associate’s degree program features completion of professional welder program coursework in preparation for more in-depth welding studies. It allows the welder to train for a career as a welding quality assurance and quality control welding inspector.