Women in Welding

Women in Welding

Welding – the act of joining two pieces of metal in a permanent bond – has long been a male-dominated career. According to the American Welding Society, only about 5 percent of welding personnel are female, but that number may be growing.

More than ever before, women are breaking in to the welding trade. And it’s not just the “she-shed ideas” crowd looking for a new hobby. Women see the benefits of a career that provides steady work and good pay – and which does not require a college degree. 

In spite of popular conception, welding is not always a tough, dirty or dangerous job. Not all welding takes place outdoors or at great heights. In fact, welding is a creative skill, like art. Building something you can hold in your hand is satisfying work, and can be more gratifying than pushing paper or sitting behind a computer eight hours a day.

Great Need = Great Opportunity

On the employer’s side, there is a huge NEED for women in welding – and it’s not just to rack up diversity points. Manufacturing industry leaders, government statisticians, and CTE educators all agree that a wide gap exists between the number of open positions and the number of workers with the necessary skills to fill them. 

The American Welding Society (AWS) predicts there will be a shortage of over 450,000 skilled welders by 2022.  This follows along with a general “skills gap” in technical industries as older, more experienced employees retire, taking their knowledge with them. 

The crumbling infrastructure in the US requires repairs and replacement, and with promise of government funding, employment projections for welding jobs are positive – there is a shortage of welders. And because welding often must be done on-site, these jobs are not likely to be exported overseas. With all these factors in play, and more women being trained in welding every day, the US will continue to see more female welders building airplanes and working on bridges, highways and oil pipelines.

Women Wanna Weld

Getting women in the welding business hasn’t been easy in the past but now new initiatives are being pursued. There are exclusive classes for women, many taught by female instructors. Also, there are now several high profile women who have brought more attention (and great skill!) to the welding industry. One of those women is Jessi Combs, a television and off-road racing star who got her start in an automotive fabrication training program at Wyoming Tech (click here for more about Jessi’s career). 

In the past few years, Jessi has been joined by other women making a name and a career for themselves in welding and metal fabrication. It turns out there’s a large community of women welders on Instagram, following YouTube star Barbie the Welder, and Samantha Farr, who founded the Detroit non-profit Women Who Weld, and many others.

What You Should Know

Most welding careers don’t require a four-year college degree, but you do need training, either through a high school cooperative education program, privately owned welding school, a vocational-technical school, or a local community college. Manufacturing companies and unions also offer paid apprenticeships.

To help pay for training, you can apply for specific scholarships for women in welding, as well as a number of general scholarships through the American Welding Society (AWS), and other groups. Organizations like Women Who Weld, offer free or low-cost workshops, programs and classes for women taught by female instructors. Community colleges often offer welding classes and community metal shops like LA’s Molten Metal Works have both classes and open shop hours to practice.

Other organizations that are specifically tailored to teach women how to weld include:

According to Samantha Farr, sexual harassment of women in the welding field can still be an issue, though with more women entering the field and the awareness generated by the #MeToo movement, this should decrease. Women Who Weld teaches students how to respond to harassment, report & document incidents, and protect themselves. 

Welding is a skill that can take you many places – building construction, metal art sculpture, furniture manufacturing, welding inspection, training & education, auto repair – even working on the Space Shuttle for NASA! You can use welding as a way to finance college without debt. And as you develop your welding skill and gain specialty certifications, your take-home pay can dramatically increase.

Like Jessi, Barbie, and Samantha, women also can use welding skills as a jump-off point to many other careers, such as educator, business owner, project manager, or welding engineer. A career in welding is a great place for women!
Contact Industrial Metal Supply for all your welding equipment and supplies. Visit us online or at one of our six locations in Southern California and Arizona.


When to Use Welding Clamps and Welding Magnets

When to Use Welding Clamps and Welding Magnets

You only have so many hands and sometimes to achieve that perfect weld you need help. That’s where welding magnets and clamps come in to play. They can be used to create inside and outside corners as they can hold metal (tube and sheet) at a variety of different angles.

Magnets are useful when you need to get a tack weld started or when you need to solder a couple thin pieces of sheet metal. They can hold pipes in place for soldering and they are also good for doing layout work to prepare for all types of fabrication.

Small to large projects and various metal shapes require different types of clamps and magnets. Here are some ideas to add to your metal shop tools list:

Standard 4-in-1 clamp

Secure a piece of sheet metal to a welding table, or turn it into a pipe clamp with the V-Pad accessory. Add an extender block and reverse the clamp arm to create a spreader for laying out and welding metal cross-pieces. Use one or more extender blocks to create a step-over clamp for stepping over obstacles such as I-beams.

Adjust-O Magnets

Setting up and holding two pieces of metal in place for tack welding can be difficult, but if the metal is ferromagnetic (attracted to magnets), these handy magnets make it a snap. The secret is in the flip of a switch. Start by laying the Adjust-O magnet on the horizontal piece. Next, line up the cross piece using either the 90° or the 45° edge. Once both pieces are aligned, flip the magnet switch to lock them in place.

The Adjust-O Dual Switch makes the process even more fool-proof. Once the first piece is in place, turn on the first magnet to lock it to that piece. Next, align the cross piece using the 90° or the 45° edge. Once it’s in position, switch on the second magnet to secure it. Reverse the switch to release the magnet when the job is complete. Adjust-O magnets feature 150 pounds of magnetic force and precision machined flat and V surfaces to securely hold both flats or rounds.

Sheet Metal Magnets

These strong magnets with plastic handles makes placing, moving, and removing magnets fast and easy. They hold sheet metal and automotive metal panels firmly in place to allow better access for cutting, tack welding, painting, etc. The magnets are made with rare earth metals for superior gripping power and the replaceable rubber pads provide friction for better handling of large, heavy workpieces. NOTE: Magnets must be removed before completing the weld.

Snake Magnets. This set of two flat magnetic pads with an 18″ cable that holds two workpieces at odd angles. Metallic cable can bend and twist in any direction. Set includes a spring clamp that can replace one magnet head and hold small tools, acting as a “third hand.” NOTE: Magnets must be removed before completing the weld.

Ground Hog Clamp. When performing metal arc welding, the Ground Hog clamps onto the metal surface being welded, creating a contact point that allows complete transfer of the electrical current in a full circuit. The clamp controls the electrical current by isolating the contact surface and the welding cable connection. The result is reduced power consumption and a smooth, continuous arc with no fade or heat transfer.

IMS stocks metal working tools for all levels of expertise, including hand tools and power tools, and an extensive variety of magnets and clamps, depending on your specific need. Some of the many options we stock include C-clamps, tube clamps, standard squares, and bolt-on or clamp-on bench vises.

Visit us online for all your welding supplies, or drop by one of our six convenient locations in Southern California and Arizona.


Generation Z Characteristics

The Future of Metal Fabrication: Gen Z

In just a few short years, the sheet metal fabrication industry has been rejuvenated, in part due to exciting new technologies like automation and the industrial internet of things (IIOT), 5-axis machining, co-bots, and robotic welding. 

While in the short term, the rise of industrial robots is projected by the consultancy firm Oxford Economics to result in a loss of 20 million manufacturing jobs by 2030, the firm notes that some of these lost jobs will be replaced by new ones requiring a new set of highly technical skills. Meanwhile, demographic changes are causing a dramatic loss in experienced employees, resulting in a “Skills Gap” in the industry. 

But on the horizon, the next cohort of tech-savvy young people to follow the Millennials, called Generation Z, may be a perfect fix to fill in the gap.

Generation Z Characteristics

According to the Pew Research Center, the Millennial generation consists of anyone born between 1981 and 1996, while the next group, Gen Z, covers those born in 1997 or later (date ranges sometimes vary). The influential factors affecting Millennials in their growing years included the rise of the internet, increased immigration, the 9/11 attack on the U.S., the birth of the smartphone, and a world-wide economic recession. 

As these factors appeared over time, Millennials adapted along with the culture. But by the time Gen Z came on the scene, 24-hour social connectivity through wifi and the mobile web fully permeated their daily lives. This makes the latest generation of young people the most tech savvy of all – even more so than their slightly older siblings.

A 2019 Brazilian study by Deloitte found that Gen Zers are more open even than Millennials to a variety of people and groups, and are more willing to engage in dialog to solve conflicts. In the increasingly global manufacturing industry, the ability to understand and accept people from many different backgrounds is essential to successful operations.

The study also found that Gen Zers place a high value on individuality. They seem willing to experiment with a range of identities, and prefer to avoid labels. These characteristics may make it easier for more Gen Z women to find their way into traditionally male occupations, including metal fabrication.

Changes in the way schools teach have created a generation that is very comfortable with team projects and online self-learning. Both these methods of gathering knowledge and solving problems will serve Gen Z well in the 21st century workplace.

Generation Z Career Expectations

How will today’s high-tech culture affect career aspirations for Gen Z? According to the Brazilian study, definite differences are emerging between Millennials and Gen Z. Though both groups grew up during periods of dramatic social change, Gen Z was deeply marked by the Great Recession. From childhood, they watched their parents struggle with unemployment and underemployment, and the resulting emotional and financial strains. As a result, the latest generation is looking for a more stable, financially comfortable life.

A McKinsey survey found that 56 percent of Gen Z versus 52 percent of Millennials seeks to earn a high salary and be wealthy. The newest generation wants the stability of having a “real job,” versus the Millennials’ affinity for freelance or the part-time gig economy. And fifty-two percent of Gen Z, versus 49 percent of Millennials, want to own their own home. Manufacturing jobs are some of the most stable and high-paying jobs available, which should make them attractive to Gen Z.

The Future of Metal Fabrication

As true digital natives, Gen Z members come fully immersed in the world of video controllers, tablets and smart phones – the same types of graphics interfaces used to control the most advanced metal fabrication equipment. Because of this, their ability to program and operate robotic manufacturing equipment and to translate 3D computer designs into metal components should be unsurpassed.

Their comfort with global connectivity through social media and internet gaming should allow them to shine in the integrated digital factories of Industry 4.0. And their inclusivity will allow Gen Z employees to feel completely at ease in the multicultural workplace of advanced metal fabrication. Manufacturers who seek out members of this generation will benefit greatly in the years to come.

Industrial Metal Supply Company is your one-stop-shop for all things metal! Visit one of our six convenient locations today.


best metals for welding

Best Metals for Welding

The best metals for welding depend on the project design and budget, the skill and experience of the welder, and the welding process to be used. Almost any metal can be welded, but some are easier than others for creating a high-quality, defect-free weld.

Some types of metal require special equipment, such as a vacuum or gas chamber, limits on heat exposure, or pre- and post-welding heat treatment. Some perform better with different types of welding, whether stick, TIG, or MIG. Choosing the right electrode and filler material for the base metal and following prescribed welding procedures is essential. Each specific situation depends on the base metal’s chemical makeup.

Low Carbon Steel

Also known as mild steel, low carbon steel contains a very small percentage of carbon (less than 0.3%) and up to about 0.4% manganese (AISI 1018 steel). This commonly used steel is very ductile, due to its low carbon content. High ductility means high weldability because it reduces the chance of brittleness in the heat affected zone (HAZ), which can lead to hydrogen cracking. Low carbon steel can be welded using almost any type of equipment and is one of the best metals for welding.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel can be quite weldable, depending on the grade. Ferritic and austenitic stainless steels can be welded fairly easily, but not martensitic stainless types, which tend to crack. Stainless steel tends to warp under high heat, which can affect the shape and strength of the final workpiece. Another issue is that the chromium in stainless will combine with carbon during the welding process, leaving the piece more susceptible to rust without its chromium oxide protective layer. To prevent this problem, don’t heat the workpiece above the recommended temperature, or choose a low-carbon stainless grade.

Aluminum

Creating a defect-free weld in aluminum is different than welding steel, but can be done by following the prescribed guidelines. Choosing the proper grade is important, as some types are much easier than others to weld. Because of aluminum’s high thermal conductivity, heat is transferred away from the weld very quickly. Equipment with a higher welding current may be required to supply the necessary heat. As it cools, aluminum shrinks significantly more than steel, so special care must be taken to prevent craters and cracking. Finally, the natural aluminum oxide coating on the base metal can add contaminants, and should be removed prior to welding to avoid porosity in the weld.

Other Metal Types

Other metals, including magnesium, copper, cast iron, titanium and superalloys such as Inconel, can be welded. These will typically require special equipment and expert skill, making them less weldable for traditional job shops and hobbyists.

Industrial Metal Supply is your one-stop shop in the Southwest for all things metal. Visit our catalog for a wide selection of metal products, including steel, stainless steel, and aluminum, as well as all the machines, supplies, and accessories you need for welding.


Which Metals Can Be Welded and Why?

Weldability is everything. Metals with a high weldability are easier to weld and retain a higher weld quality than other metals, so it’s important to study these factors before choosing materials for a project.

Once you’ve narrowed down your selection to a few metals, the next step is to determine which welding process you’d like to use. Some methods require more skill than others, such as TIG welding — and these will affect which metals are at your disposal. For example, the ideal metals for MIG welding are carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum, all for different reasons.

The main parameters that determine a metal’s weldability include the electrode material, cooling rate, shielding gases, and welding speed. Every metal is unique. To a certain extent, all metals can be welded, but there are clear advantages and disadvantages to each.

Stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), is one of the most common welding methods out there. To get started, you’ll need a welding machine, a proper electrode (we recommend DCEP for DC welding), a safety helmet, clamps to hold the joints together, and your welding metal of choice. With this method, you are melting a metal rod with a special flux coating that prevents oxygen contamination — hence the “shielded metal” name. Stick welding can be used to weld steel, iron, aluminum, copper, and nickel.

Unlike stick welding, gas metal arc welding (or GMAW) does not have a coating over the electrode rod. Instead, the welding gun disperses a shielding gas that protects against contaminants. It’s the most common industrial welding process today, and can be used for steel, cast iron, magnesium, and many other metals.

Ultimately, there is no clear-cut answer when deciding which metals and welding methods to use. It’s best to figure out which metals are best suited (and most cost-effective) for your project, and then decide on a welding style that can be performed with your skill set.


Types of Welding

Arc welding has a number of distinct styles, each with its own approach to binding multiple metals together via a metal electrode. Below, we’ve showcased four of the most popular welding methods, with their unique advantages and disadvantages.

MIG

Invented in the 1940s for welding non-ferrous materials, MIG used to stand for “metal inert gas”, because the welding gun would disperse an inert gas to prevent atmosphere contamination. Today, the process has incorporated carbon dioxide instead of inert gas, so it is officially known as gas metal arc welding (or GMAW). Many people still call it MIG, however. MIG welders can use globular, short-circuiting, spray, and pulse-spray methods to create an electric arc between their electrode wire and multiple metal joints. It’s the most common industrial welding process today, though it is not recommended for outdoor use (due to unpredictable air).

TIG

Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is a more difficult process to master, but it gives the user more power and control over the final weld. Instead of wielding a metal alloy electrode, this method uses a non-consumable tungsten version with an inert shielding gas. Depending on the weld being performed, a filler metal may also be used. TIG requires serious coordination with both hands, so it’s not recommended for beginner welders.

Flux

Next, flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) harnesses a continuously fed electrode tube with a cleaning agent (called a flux) and a constant power supply. Typically, the flux provides enough protection from atmospheric contamination, but sometimes an additional shielding gas is used. The main advantage over other arc welding methods is the elimination of stick electrodes, which makes welding faster and more portable.

Stick

Finally, shielded metal arc welding (SMAW, or stick) is an extremely popular method for construction and repairs. Coated with a flux, an electrode rod is melted to form an electric arc between multiple metal pieces. As the electrode is used, the flux changes into shielding vapor and slag, both of which serve as protection against contaminants. Stick welding requires less equipment than many other welding methods, and is excellent for stainless steel and iron.