Light bulbs. Bikes. Bridges. Wind turbines. Diverse in scale and function; common in their production. Whether giant structures built to withstand harsh conditions or small intricate devices made with surgical precision, they all rely on welding and joining technology. And as this century-old process continues to transition to a digitalised one, its (easily overlooked) importance in our daily lives is only set to increase.
A changing art form
Traditionally, welding was a craft to be mastered. An art form passed on from expert to apprentice. It required specific training to learn and practice the skills, which then had to be regularly refreshed. Today, however, like many similar industries, welding is being shaken up and restructured by innovation and modernisation. Processes that were previously carried out by hand and judged by the human eye are gradually being turned over to computer programs and robots. “Dirty, dark and dangerous has long been replaced by cool, clever and clean,” says Frank Steller, Head of Market Development for Manufacturing Industries at Linde Germany.
In fact, as the classic practice of welding melts down, it is remoulding into a much broader field known as joining technology. Joining specialists carry out a hugely diverse mix of joining processes, including gluing and mechanical joining. They also work with design technology such as additive manufacturing (3D printing). “Additive manufacturing is currently experiencing a boom similar to that which we saw when laser technology was first introduced,” Mr. Steller explains. The options, both in terms of materials and processes, are only set to increase.