Yesterday, I officially learned how to weld for Steel Bridge. One of the juniors taught a handful of us MIG and TIG welding at ATLSS. First of all, ATLSS is a giant research facility up on Mountaintop Campus where they are doing a bunch of structural, seismic, concrete, etc experiments. When you walk in the giant garage doors, this is what you see. To the left is a giant wall that they are doing earthquake simulation on to record data about seismic technology. They have huge actuators attached to it that simulate up to a 7.4 magnitude earthquake (I think that’s what he said). That’s the only project that I’m familiar with, but there are a whole bunch of others going on in the building, including some that are in conjunction with other universities (such as Notre Dame and the University of Hawaii). Everyone inside the facility has to wear hard hats and safety goggles, so you know the projects here are intense. Our welding area is on the right side of the building, but it’s not shown in this picture.
Secondly, we were taught two types of welding: MIG and TIG. Sparks fly everywhere(more so with MIG than TIG), so its very important to wear the appropriate attire: welding jacket, gloves, boots, etc. Also, you need to wear the welding mask because it is so bright that if you look directly into it, it will seriously damage your eyes. The next day, it will feel like you have hot sand in your eyes and you will have a constant headache. For Steel Bridge, we will be using mostly MIG. MIG is easier and faster than TIG, but it is not as strong. MIG welding is an abbreviation for Metal Inert Gas Welding. It is considered semi-automatic. This means that the welder still requires skill, but that the MIG welding machine will continuously keep filling the joint being welded. You really only have to worry about the torch, which has a trigger controlling a wire feed, feeding the wire from a spool to the weld joint. Although all you have to do is press the trigger, you still need to know the proper technique to make a good, clean weld. The guy in this picture is doing MIG welding.
Like I said, we were also taught TIG. TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas and requires more skill than MIG. You have a torch, a foot pedal, and a metal rod. The torch is what will supply the heat to melt the metal and the rod. The foot pedal controls the gas and, therefore, the heat. The rod is melted by the torch and added to the joint so that it will actually be welded together. TIG is a lot more difficult to get the hang of because there are more components. The guys to the right are actually members of Steel Bridge. This is a picture of them working on last year’s bridge. The guy in the blue is the one doing the TIG welding. He is holding the torch in his right hand and, if you look closely, you can see that he is holding the metal rod in his left.
Learning how to weld was really fun, but it definitely takes practice and I’m no where near a skilled welder yet. I can’t wait to go back up to ATLSS and practice some more!