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Plan ahead

Taking the proper steps before welding proves beneficial for the overall process

Before a welder strikes that first arc, there are a few critical items to address. As seasoned welders know, following proper pre -weld procedures has a monumental impact on the outcome of a project and the integrity of the metal. Whether crafting project plans, inspecting and cleaning the material, or constructing template jigs, pre-weld activities must be completed before fully diving into a project.

Common pre-weld activities include surface preparation and deburring.

Therefore, it’s imperative for a fabrication shop to ensure that its welders and the materials to be welded are prepared, organized and ready to go before the welding process begins. In the end, if preliminary actions are not taken at the conception of a project, it could ultimately go up in flames, leaving behind costly mistakes.

Deburr and clean

The preparation required before welding is just as important as the welding process itself. Depending on the project, getting through the list of items that need to be checked off before beginning the welding can take longer than laying down the actual welds. There’s initial deburring that needs to be completed and, of course, metal surfaces must be clean and free of rust and other contaminants. Jigs must be constructed and, for some welds, beveling and grinding must be carried out before picking up the torch.

Deburring is oftentimes one of the first steps to take when prepping for a weld job. It’s an essential part of the process as it removes the sharp shards of metal burrs found on the material. But deburring requires some extra legwork, as well. It starts by inspecting the material upon delivery, which is then sorted into respective categories, such as “needs deburring” and “ready to weld.”

Without the deburring process, there is a greater risk of cuts or injuries to those handling the material and when burrs remain on a piece of material, there is a stronger potential for the material not binding together properly during welding. Not only do burrs pose an operational issue, but they can pose an aesthetic one as well, leading to a visual impression of poor quality material and welding execution.

In addition to deburring, a proper cleaning regiment must be taken to achieve a successful weld. Choosing the wrong cleaners can be just as detrimental to the material as impurities or burrs. It is best to use acetone or lacquer thinners to clean the metal surface without leaving an oil residue.

Beyond deburring and cleaning, it’s also important to assess the nature of the welding project to determine if template jigs are required. Template jigs help stabilize the workpiece during the welding process and allow for a tighter, more accurate fit. This helps prevent any unnecessary material loss during the process, along with improving overall cost effectiveness due to wasting less material.

Team time

As with most things in life, having a plan in place is critical to a welding project’s success; pre-planning is also critical in terms of the time it takes to complete a project. Understandably, taking the proper steps in the beginning allows for faster run times during production. This is especially true when more than one person is involved in a project.

Before a welder ever picks up a welding torch, there are several weld prep activities to address.

Think of the variety of experience levels on the shop floor – anywhere from first day on the job to 20 years in the industry. Because processes and techniques can vary quite a bit from welder to welder, taking the time to compile a consistent plan as a team before starting helps to ensure consistency and a better quality insurance program. This technique creates an assembly line approach rather than it being every worker for themselves.

Having a clear approach and allowing for the complete team to participate in the creation of plans allows for the best outcome. It would be a shame to let all the higher level welders keep the information and knowledge that they have accumulated over the years to themselves. On the other end, experienced welders have not been in a welding class in years, if not decades, and new technologies and techniques are coming out every day.

Trading these old and new techniques is a huge advantage. This collaboration method should be used at all levels of a company to create further well-rounded teams and community. If everyone is working together to achieve a common goal, it can improve the quality of the work and is only beneficial to team morale.

Best practices

When it comes to weld prep, cutting corners here or there might speed up the time it takes to get to the actual welding, but overall, it just increases production time. Breezing through tasks like cleaning the material’s surface might seems like a no-brainer, but when the material isn’t free from debris or when plans aren’t fully fleshed out, additional time is inevitably needed go back and fix the problem. Less time is spent if weld prep is completed with care at the beginning of the project – as early as when materials are first delivered.

If material inspections are skipped over, the desired aesthetic could be impacted. Furthermore, the structural integrity of a piece could be affected, which could result in dangerous working conditions. Cutting corners can also compromise the weld itself. If there are air pockets or debris in the weld, it can affect the strength of the weld and weaken the structural integrity of the weld. Welding is the piece of the project that is holding everything together, so clearly, it’s not a place where compromises should be made.

Saws, deburring tools and grinders are all on the list of items needed to complete a checklist prior to welding.

Deburring and surface cleaning are obvious weld prep activities, but thoroughly reviewing drawings and materials prior to production is just as important. Taking this step ensures that the plan is in place and everyone is on the same page. This allows the first production run to be used as a time to share the “dos” and “don’ts” of the project with the team for efficiency and accuracy.

Another equally important best practice is inspecting the materials for end squareness. End squareness provides a more compatible fit, which in turn leads to a higher quality weld, fewer delays and improved structural integrity.

Safety should also top the list of weld prep activities. At Fabricated Products Group, a custom fabricator and machine job shop, proper weld prep and setup includes health and safety assurances, such as setting up exhaust fans and fume extractors. Fume extractors need to be set up in the correct location with the appropriate ventilation to realize their full benefits. And, with permissible exposure limit requirements, fume extractors are a valuable tool to stay within those regulations. Fume extractor hoods are ideal for a target weld or controlled weld and can be moved to the specific job location.

While taking preparative measures before embarking on a welding project is not required, it is definitely recommended. It improves the overall flow of the fabrication process, protects the structural integrity of the project and is just a more cost-effective strategy.

Fabricated Products Group

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