Although tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is commonly practiced for pipeline and pipe welding, it can be used among various industries to provide welds made from specialized materials. As fillers are not necessary for TIG welds, the process works by creating a welding arc formed between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the component being welded. Suitable for manual welding, mechanized welding, and welding robot applications, a TIG welder must consist of the following: a power source, grounding cable, welding torch, and a shield gas tank or gas network interface. As TIG welding requires a skilled hand, we will be discussing the proper technique required for TIG welding, and its applications among the aviation industry.
Employed for its ability to meet most demands required for welding aircraft parts, TIG welding is versatile and can be used during maintenance, repairs, and overhaul procedures. Considered the most prominent form of joining metals outside the use of fasteners, TIG welds can be used for 4130 steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium welds, and parts made from materials once considered unweldable such as magnesium.
Components made from magnesium alloys are light in weight, but durable, making parts of this variety an optimal solution for crafting helicopter parts. Particularly used to construct transmission cases and gearboxes, these cases were typically thought to be irreparable, leaving them to be scrapped, and replaced. However, because of the advent of TIG welding, these parts can now be sent off for direct repairs, saving individuals upwards of 90% on what they would have paid for new items.
Once made to function with an inert gas like helium, modern TIG welders have evolved to incorporate a tungsten rod, further increasing operational techniques upon application. Often designed to be used with several welding techniques, TIG welders are available with the ability to incorporate alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). When working with a TIG welder running DC current, materials which can be welded include mild steels, stainless steel, and titanium. Welds created with DC current are also greatly considered when work must be done along an aircraft's fuselage. On the other hand, when working with titanium components, TIG welding can be done to fill and blend areas of damage. This includes repairs to turbine engine compressors and stator blades, those of which are subject to prolonged periods of vibration, extreme heat, and foreign object debris (FOD). An ubiquitous material among aircraft, parts made from stainless steel can be easily removed and replaced for quick repairs without prolonged downtime.
In regard to items made from low carbon steel, such as engine mounts and parts constructing piston engines, TIG welding is the only method capable of repairing such materials to avoid engine overhaul. Beneficial to one’s technique, if a weld were to need additional precision, a liquid cooling unit may also be applied to a TIG welder to increase an individual’s control over welds. Considering that aircraft can be quite costly, especially during the inevitable event that a part breaks down and requires repair, TIG welding provides cost saving solutions to otherwise costly alternatives.
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