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Welding is Math

Welding is Math

Many may believe welding to be a simple grunt labor job. Granted the job may at times

be dirty but it is anything but simple. The men (and woman) who have chosen this career of

melting metals together often finish the day looking pretty rough but please do not let

appearances fool you into believing this is an intellectually lackluster profession. Welding

requires many mathematical competencies such as a fluid comprehension of measurement, an

understanding and ability to apply real world geometry, and the interpretation of symbols used in

blueprint reading, with out which very little good welding could ever be accomplished.

Additionally, when actually welding, a cognisant adherence of electrode angle to work material

is imperative in successfully achieving a desired weld profile. Welders may make what they are

doing look simple, but in actuality they are balancing so many mathematical considerations

within each movement that can adversely or advantageously effect the end result of their product.

Consequently, one wrong movement or one poor calculation can cause a serious defect in the

integrity of their weld. These welds can hold thousands of pound of pressure at bay and need to

be perfect. It is therefore very important indeed that welders know their math!

While the purpose of this paper is to inform on the complexities of welding and its

relation to mathematics it is also worth noting that the best welders also must posses a vast

amount of stamina, focus and fine precision. Welding in my humble opinion, as a multi-trade

professional, is one of the most difficult trades to master. It is also unfortunately one of the most

dangerous and unhealthy.

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

A welders job begins well before he/she makes sparks fly. Most welders are responsible

for the layout, preparation and fitting of whatever they are going to assemble, all steps that

require mathematical understanding. Mr. Rempel, the Medicine Hat High School welding teacher

was kind enough to sit down and discuss with me the various layout tools students must become

familiar with before they can begin to work on welding projects.

The first, and likely most obvious, is the tape measure. What is worth mentioning about

the tape measure is a welders need to understand both its use in measuring in metric, which we

learn in Canada, and imperial, which is primarily used in the United States. He informed me that

many companies here in Medicine Hat send their products to both countries and that the

blueprints they receive to build said products may come in either form of measurement.

Interestingly, he finds that students generally have an easier time understanding the base 10

metric system tape measures and still often struggle with the fractions involved in reading

imperial tape measures.

There are a variety of tools that welders use to draw straight lines on their materials. A Tsquare is used to draw horizontal lines. When used in conjunction with set square one is able to

produce a variety of angles (as depicted below). These set squares generally come in a 30-6090 right triangle variety (called a 30-60) and the 45-45-90 right triangle variety (45).

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

A chalk line is often used to draw straight lines over longer distances. Two measurements

are taken and marked and then the chalk line is held over both marks and pulled taught. The line

is then snapped and leaves a chalk line from one mark to the other. Often to ensure the chalk line

is accurate on a rectangular or square piece of material welders will square the line. To do this

they will measure 3 feet up the perpendicular outside edge of the material and 4 feet down the

line they just marked. They then take a tape measure and check the distance between both marks.

If they are at exactly 5 feet, they know the line is truly square (90) to the materials outside edge.

This 3-4-5 check is a great application of the Pythagorean theorem, a+b=c!

Lastly Mr. Rempel and I discussed the power and utility the compass give welders.

Compasses are very commonly used when working with pipe or tanks in the oilfield in Alberta.

In a simple use compasses are used to draw the outline of holes needed to bisect and attach cross

members to elaborate piping systems. In more complicated situations compasses are used to do

tasks such as dividing circles into six equal parts by using the radius of the circle in a sequence

around the circumference. This job is commonly used to create flange holes which are used to

connect pipe or tanks together under pressure.

Image Source: 3 http://amsi.org.au/

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

Often welders are not given a specific blueprint to follow for someones design idea. In

this case they must build to accommodate the need that is given. One such common task is

building storage tanks, commonly found on farms and acreages. To begin a welder must ask for

the desired capacity of the storage container and convert that volume into the surface area of

pieces needed to build the desired, usually steel, cylindrical tank. He does this by working

backwards through the equation of rh=v wherein with the desired volume and a chosen tank

length(height) the welder may discern the appropriate radius of the end cap of the cylinder. He

may then use that radius to deduce what length of steel is needed to make the body by using the

formula c=2r where c=circumference of the circle.

Much of the same math on a larger scale is used

in

commercial welder is asked to create something he is

generally given a symbolic representation of the object

Image Source: 4

http://www.handymath.com/

he is being asked to create. This representation generally comes in the form of an engineered

blueprint or a piping and instrumentation diagram/drawing (P&ID). Both use scale and symbols

to represent the construction instructions and welding methods a welder should be able to

interoperate to create the desired product. A blueprint is an accurate scaled down model of the

actual product shown, usually in multiple perspectives. Beside each joint on the drawing there

will be a weld symbol (examples pictured here) that with ought proper understanding may look

like hieroglyphics to a layman. Just like hieroglyphics or even algebraic symbols these pictures

need interpretation but with the necessary knowledge they give the welder important instructions

such as what process to use, what preparation needs doing, what penetration is necessary and

what weld profile to create. P&IDs (pictured here) are even more complicated as at first glance

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

they give no real world representation of what is to be created. Using a combination of symbols

and geometric lines welders are instructed to create complex piping systems. These pictures

indicate information like flow

direction, process pipe sizes,

valves and attached

instrumentation all of which is

crucial to what and how a welder

will create his piping spools

As we can already see, before a

welder begins any actual labour he/she

must be properly educated with many

mathematical principles. Measurement,

involving addition and subtraction of

fractions, is likely important in layout and the use of its marking tools, geometry clearly comes

into play during project designing and symbolic interpretation seems important when

understanding engineered blueprint reading.

Fit-up

Before a welder can begin to weld on a given project he/she must first assemble the

pieces together by tacking them in place. Tacking is done by placing a small spot weld

between the two pieces to be joined. There are many mathematical considerations when fitting

up pieces together. A primary concern generally is the square and levelness of a projects

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

components. An object is squared to its neighbour piece by ensuring that the primary object is

relationally 90 or parallel. This is done often by using a combination of levels and squares.

Secondly a welder must be aware of shrinkage. When welding the arc produces a

temperature of about 6500F at the tip. This amount of heat causes steel to expand in all

directions but only in the areas that are heated. If all areas are not allowed to cool uniformly or if

materials are held in place by something like a vice the welded product is likely to distort. When

working on a large product or an object with multiple joints welders will often skip areas and

work in a pattern that allows for cool down time to avoid shrinkage and distortion. I mention this

during the fit-up section because it is also common for welders to allow room in their fit-up for

shrinkage (pull) when they know they must continue to weld in a specific area for a length of

time. Additionally, welders may at times intentionally weld longer in a particular area to achieve

the shrinkage they desire to fall within engineered or designated parameters. This allows them to

stay within their desired tolerances (upper range specification and lower specification limit) and

stay as straight and square as they are able.

Safety

As I mentioned before welding is dangerous. Welding poses both immediate and long

term safety concerns. Perhaps with fore-knowledge of the math associated with these threats we

could prevent most negative effects and injuries.

someone welding the first thing your going to notice is the light. Welding is VERY bright. This

bright light is called an arc during the welding process. That arc unfortunately gives off radiation.

Ultraviolet light is emitted from in the 200-400 nanometers (nm) wavelength, visible limit emits

at 400 to 700 nm and infrared radiation from 700-1,400 nm. Short term exposure can cause the

eyes to develop what is known as Arc Eye. Symptoms include a gritty painful film on your

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

eyes that you will feel hours after the initial exposure but, while certainly uncomfortable, will

heal over the course of the next few days with no lasting effects. However long term exposure or

repeated exposure can lead to cataracts.

Welders avoid this exposure by using welding

masks and eye protection. The masks are built to suit

the appropriate welding process being done by having

adjustable or removable/replaceable lenses. The lenses

Image Source: 7

https://www.ccohs.ca/

recommended based on the brightness of the different

processes. It should also be noted that the radiation

given off by welding can also, over repetitive

exposure, have negative effects to your skin, initially

manifesting in a sun burn but may progress, in serious cases, to skin cancer. To mitigate this

exposure, welders are encouraged to wear leather boots, coveralls and jackets.

Leather gear actually serves another easily recognizable safety concern; Heat. Welding is

hot. A form of welding called MIG (metal inert gas) welding has been gauged at about 60008000C whereas plasma welding can reach temperatures up to 24,000C. Fortunately, leather is

heat and fire resistant and while welders get hot and sweat a lot, unexposed skin is rarely burnt.

Lastly when concerning safety, we should address weight. Most metal is inherently

heavy. A 1-inch-thick steel plate weighs over 40lbs per square foot. When working with steel it

is absolutely imperative you lift correctly and with the correct amount of assistance, be that a coworker or overhead crane. During my welding career I spent several year building oilfield high

pressure containers called vessels. These vessels were often constructed of steel thicker than 2

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

inches and weighing on average over 5000lbs. Some packages we built weighed well over

20,000lbs! Consequently, a lot

of time was spent designing

plans on how to move these

heavy units (example picture

above of a large vessel being

moved). These plans included

equipment such as high tensile

slings, chains, over head

cranes, boom trucks and

forklifts. Each one of these

lifting instruments had been

stressed tested and had

capacity limits that had to be

considered but added together they were able to lift and move packages that singularly would not

have been possible. Lastly before every lift even began the designated danger area was evacuated

and only necessary personnel who had been involved in the pre-safety planning were allowed in

the immediate area.

Without the mathematical understanding of the dangers of welding people would get hurt.

We know how much material we need between welders and their arc to keep them relatively safe

because of math. We know what capacity our lifting equipment must hold because of math. We

know how far away from a lift area we need to be by calculating the maximum pendulum swing

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

of the crane cables. In the world of welding, and if properly adhered to, math quite literally saves

lives.

How does it work?

To understand welding we need a basic understanding of electricity. Electricity is

produced by the movement of electrons from one atom to another. This flow creates what we call

current. Current is measured in amperes (amps) and it takes the movement of approximately

6,300,000,000,000,000,000 (6.3 quintillion) electrons to create 1 amp. Voltage is the force

needed to move electrons around a circuit; the path current completes. The more voltage applied

to atoms the more electrons are forced around the circuit. Resistance, often created by resistors,

is the unwillingness of atoms to give up their electrons and is measured in Ohms. Voltage,

current(amps) and resistance are proportional in a circuit and can be mathematically expressed as

voltage = current x resistance. This theory explaining electrical resistance is very important in

understanding the arc welding process as it is the resistance created in the space between the

electrode (the filler metal) and the work material that eventually creates the arc (weld point) in

the circuit. As voltage forces electrons toward their only possible path it creates a massive

amount of heat energy at the point of resistance. This energy begins the welding process and

bring metal to a molten state.

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

I discussed with Mr. Rempel what important mathematical considerations welders need to

keep in mind when actually doing a weld and he gave

me several crucial elements. I should explain that we

focused on the most common form of welding, stick

welding (pictured here), whereby the welder is

manually applying a single electrode (filler metal)

slowly to the work piece. He did however state that a

Image Source: 10

http://www.lincolnelectric.com/

The first concept we discussed was angle. Without the proper inclination of electrode to

work piece, 15-30 backhand (whereby the end of the

electrode faces the direction you came from), you run the

risk of losing your protective shielding envelope and

impurities may enter your weld causing failure. Additionally,

in most situations your work angle, the angle in which you

bisect the joint (examples pictured here) you are filling

should be approximately half of the overall angle.

Image Source:

11http://encyclopedia2.

thefreedictionary.com/

Secondly we discussed speed. The speed at which welders move their electrode along the

workpiece has a great effect on their weld profile; the look and characteristics of a weld. The

slower a welder travels the wider the weld profile (bead width) and the greater the build up. This

can be mitigated by what amperage the welder sets his/her machine at. Increasing the amperage

creates more heat and therefore increases deposit speeds, penetration (depth of weld) and further

increases the width of the weld. Decreasing the amperage would do the opposite and can be

important to remember when working with thinner materials.

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

We then briefly discussed the importance of arc length. This is the distance between the

end of the electrode and the work material where the build up of electrons creates heat and

subsequently arcs from one to the other. A welder needs to maintain an equal distance between

the two surfaces for the duration of a weld to ensure his/her weld profile stays consistent. This

length should be approximately equal to the diameter of the end of the electrode being used.

I will conclude by sharing a mathematical welding trick that all new aspiring welders

should find helpful. When first beginning welding one of the most daunting tasks is

remembering what amperage to set your welding machine at for each electrode size. The easiest

way to remember a good starting position is to convert your electrodes fractional size into a

decimal and then remove the decimal point. For example, take a 1/8 electrode (the most common

size) and convert it to .125. A great starting point for a 1/8 electrode is 125 amps! Likely a good

welder will quickly become more comfortable with his welding machine and may find he/she

needs to fine tune his/her settings to produce the perfect weld but having a starting point is

always helpful!

Conclusion

There is virtually no part of welding that does not involve math. With out math welders

would have no blueprints from which to work from. With out math welders could not properly

measure nor fit up anything to be welded. With out math welders would be in great peril of their

safety, and finally and most importantly with out math welders would not be able to even turn on

their mathematically and electronically driven welding machines. Fortunately for us we live in a

world where, whether we recognize it or not, math and the things it has given us are everywhere.

Josh Wells

Welding is Math

Sources:

Before we even strike and arc:

Interview: Henry Rempel, Welding Instructor, Medicine Hat High School, February 9, 2016

http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/p-id-piping-instrumentation-diagram-d_466.html

http://www.weldingtipsandtricks.com/welding-symbol-chart.html

Fit-up:

http://www.lincolnelectric.com/en-ca/support/welding-how-to/Pages/weld-distortion-detail.aspx

Safety:

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/welding/eyes.html

http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2003/EstherDorzin.shtml

https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/safety_haz/welding/ppe.html

http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/steel-plates-weight-d_1561.html

Application:

https://www.millerwelds.com/resources/welding-resources/basic-electricity

http://www.esabna.com/euweb/awtc/lesson1_25.htm

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