The Evolution of TIG Welding
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is a type of arc welding; as with other types of arc welding, the basic principle is that an electric power supply is used to create an electric arc between the electrode and the metals being melted down in the weld. The electrode in the rod is made from the rare metal tungsten and cooled and protected by an inert gas, usually argon.
A TIG welder holds a metal torch in one hand while using the other to feed filler metal into the arc. The process is used for precise welds in aluminum, stainless steel, and other materials; to avoid overheating the metals, the amperage running through the welding machine to the torch can be adjusted by a foot or fingertip controller.
History of TIG Welding
TIG welding was created during the 1940s by a welder named Russell Meredith who worked for Northrop Aircraft Corporation in Southern California. He created the technique because the methods of the day were inadequate for welds on aluminum and magnesium alloys. It was an enormous success and gave American industry the ability to build ships, airplanes, and other products faster than ever before in human history. President Roosevelt even bragged about the process in a letter to Winston Churchill.
The patent for the process was purchased by the Linde Division of Union Carbide, and the company developed and sold various torches, parts, and consumables for the technique until the 1960s and 1970s when their patents on the process and TIG-related tools expired. Linde torches used helium.
A number of companies began marketing TIG torches and accessories, but the leader was CK Worldwide, a firm located in Seattle that worked closely with aerospace giant Boeing. CK solved a number of application problems in the development of their products, and CK torches, gas-saver kits, and tungsten grinders became the choice of many involved in the manufacturing of airplanes.
Another industry leader during the post-Linde era was Weldcraft. Located in Southern California, the firm specialized in making repairs on torches that had been sent to scrap by companies including Hughes and Rockwell. Weldcraft technicians would burn off the plastic coating of torches to get at the damaged tungsten beneath. Then repairs were made, and the torch was resealed in a silicon-based material. The result was a new and more reliable type of tool that was less likely to fail as a result of too much electricity running through the arc.
The TIG welding machine
The first machines were developed by Linde when they owned the patent to the TIG process. These behemoths weighed hundreds of pounds, but machines became smaller over time. In the 1970s the Miller corporation introduced the square waveform feature that allowed for better control of amperage while working from a welding machine. Printed circuit boards were the next big development in the field and gave a TIG welder the ability to make even more precise adjustments.
In conclusion, the developments of this technique and the TIG welding machine were major achievements in American industry from World War Two to today. The process and its tools will doubtless be improved on further in the future as industry advances.