Understanding Flash Welding for Steel and Other Metals

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Understanding Flash Welding for Steel and Other Metals

flash welding steel metals

There are many processes within the metal and steel world that have several sub-categories within them, and one of the best examples here is welding. Welding can be used in a number of different ways across metal applications, and one welding format that’s worth knowing about in some settings is known as flash welding.

At Wasatch Steel, we offer numerous steel products and services to clients of varying needs — including MIG and other welding equipment products. What exactly is flash welding, how is it done, and what are some of the key steel areas where it’s often utilized? Here’s a simple rundown.

What is Flash Welding?

Also known in some circles as flash butt welding or simply butt welding, flash welding is a type of resistance welding. When we talk about resistance welding, we’re referring to processes where two pieces of metal are joined by passing an electric current between them. The heat that’s produced by the current fuses the metals together, and this is how a weld is created.

For flash welding, the weld is created in a much shorter amount of time than it would be for other types of resistance welding. In fact, the entire process is completed in just a few milliseconds. The welder first clamps the two pieces of metal together at the joint. Next, an electric current is passed between them.

The intense heat that’s produced by the current causes the metals to melt and flow together. Once the weld is complete, the metals will have fused to form a single piece.

Components Required for Flash Welding

For flash welding to be carried out, some simple parts will be required:

  • Power supply: Firstly, you’ll need a power supply that can provide a high level of current. The welder will also need to be able to control the amount of current that’s passed between the two pieces of metal.
  • Transformer: To allow for changes to current, voltage and other factors, a transformer will also be required.
  • Clamps: Finally, two different clamps will be used for the flash welding process. One clamp is the stationary clamp, which holds one of the pieces of metal in place. The other clamp is known as the movable clamp, which moves about on its axis and comes down onto the other piece of metal.

Advantages of Flash Welding

There are a few key advantages that flash welding has over other types of resistance welding processes. Let’s look at a few of the most notable:

  • Limited power required: Especially compared to certain other resistance welding processes, flash welding requires relatively little power to be carried out. Some of this is because the arc itself also produces its own heat, which assists in the welding process.
  • Affordability: Because it requires less power and can be completed in a shorter amount of time, flash welding is generally more affordable than other types of resistance welding.
  • Speed: As we mentioned earlier, one of the most notable advantages of flash welding is its speed. The entire process can be completed in just a few milliseconds, making it much quicker than other types.
  • Different melting temperatures: Another major area of value with flash welding is the fact that it can be used on metals with different melting temperatures. This isn’t always possible with other types of resistance welding, which can make flash welding much more versatile.
  • Clean, strong welds: Finally, flash welding is known to create clean and strong welds. This is because the process doesn’t produce any slag, which can often cause issues with other types of welding.

Possible Downsides of Flash Welding

Now, flash welding isn’t always ideal or perfectly-suited for every job. There are a few possible downsides it also comes with:

  • Possible fire hazards: One potential issue with flash welding is the fact that it can create a fire hazard. This is because the process produces intense heat and sparks, which could potentially cause something to catch fire if the proper precautions aren’t taken.
  • Potential issues with thin metals: In some cases, flash welding may not be ideal for thinner metals. The reason for this is that the heat produced by the process could potentially cause these metals to warp.
  • Metal loss: During the flash welding process, some metal is inevitably lost. This is because the electric current that’s passed between the two pieces of metals causes some to be vaporized.

Applications for Flash Welding

Now that we know a little more about how flash welding works, let’s look at some of the key applications where it’s often used:

  • Automotive industry: The automotive industry is one area where flash welding is commonly used. In particular, it’s often used to weld together exhaust systems and mufflers. But it’s also often seen in major body components, such as doors and fenders.
  • Aerospace industry: The aerospace industry is another sector where flash welding is commonplace. It’s often used in the construction of aircraft wings and fuselages.
  • Steel containers: Whether we’re talking motor frames, transformer tanks, or pressure vessels, steel containers are often put together using flash welding.
  • Tubes and pipes: Tubes and pipes are another area where flash welding is commonly used. This is because the process can create strong welds without adversely affecting the properties of the metals.
  • Production work: Finally, flash welding is often used in production work, such as the construction of conveyor belts and railway tracks.

For more on flash welding, or to learn about any of our other services, contact us today at Wasatch Steel.