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Where can I find technical information about aluminum welding?

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Q - Where can I find technical information that can help me improve my understanding of welding aluminum?  Are there any useful textbooks and/or training programs available on this subject?

This is a fairly common question, usually asked by an individual who is moving into the welding of aluminum for the first time.  Typically, moving from steel fabrication, having heard that welding of aluminum is difficult or different. Apart from being fairly common, it is also a question I like to hear, as it usually indicates that the individual is attempting to prepare for a change in environment, and is, therefore, much more likely to be successful in his venture.

A1 - Useful Textbooks - There are a number of publications available that address the welding of aluminum.  I will suggest two which I believe provide useful information for the fabricator moving to aluminum.

1) The American Welding Society – Welding Handbook Eighth Edition – Volume 3 – Chapter 1, Aluminum and Aluminum Alloys

The first chapter of this ten chapter book is dedicated to aluminum and contains excellent information about aluminum welding.  If you are a member of the AWS, you may have this one already on your shelf.  If you haven’t, you may want to acquire it along with the rest of the set.

2)  The Aluminum Association – Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice – Fourth Edition.

If you are looking for a textbook exclusively dedicated to the practical aspects of welding aluminum, then you should seriously consider acquiring this publication.

The Aluminum Association recently published the fourth edition.  This textbook is perhaps the best-recognized publication, currently in print, that relates exclusively to the welding of aluminum.

I came across a reference in a past edition of the American Welding Society’s “Welding Journal”.  The particular section that attracted my attention was the reference to a book review, performed by Secat Inc., and directed at the latest edition of Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice.

I would like to quote from the independent book review by Secat that I found on their web site. (Start Quote) “To be competitive in the modern industrial world, a structural metal must be readily weldable." So starts The Aluminum Association's flagship publication in the area of joining, which has just been revised and published. The information it contains addresses both the "whys" and "hows" of the important processes that have partly enabled aluminum to achieve its stature as a widely used structural metal.

Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice has traditionally been the "go to" publication for information on joining aluminum. While it is not comprehensive in every aspect of joining, it gathers in one place the key topics. Perhaps the main accomplishment of this publication is its ability to bring together the metallurgical aspects of welding processes on a reasonably theoretical level with the practical elements of actually carrying out those processes in the real world. The book has been edited, revised, and expanded by the Aluminum Association's Technical Committee on Welding and Joining. (End Quote).

The above quote was taken from the initial chapter of the book review.  The remainder continued to provide a fairly comprehensive overview of the entire book’s content.  I considered the book review to be favorable, which was extremely satisfying considering the hours I spent, along with other members of the Aluminum Association’s Technical Committee, writing, reviewing and editing the 4th edition.

Where is this book used?

This publication has become the document that is traditionally provided to students attending aluminum welding seminars and/or aluminum welding training programs.  Many welding engineers and welding educators are using this document as both a technical reference document and as training material for aluminum welding technology.

If you are an engineer, a metal fabricator, a structural designer, a welder, or anyone who is serious about joining aluminum, Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice is a reference that you cannot afford to be without.

Welding Aluminum: Theory and Practice can be ordered from the electronic bookstore at: www.aluminum.org

A2 – Training Programs for Aluminum Welding – Traditionally, there has been limited training in aluminum welding available when compared to that available for welding steel.  The more recent advancement of aluminum into the automotive industry, along with its increased use within the welding fabrication industry in general, has certainly promoted the need for additional training in aluminum welding.  The requirement for welding engineers, technicians, inspectors, supervisors and welders who have experience and technical training in aluminum welding technology has increased.  Where do we find this training?  Unfortunately, you will still find that the typical technical school has little, if any, formal training programs available in aluminum welding, although this situation would appear to be slowly improving.  One method to help promote this change is for manufacturing organizations involved in aluminum welding to exert pressure and provide assistance to their local technical training centers to introduce training in aluminum welding.  There are some well-established training programs available that specialize specifically in aluminum welding technology, and there are a few newcomers to the aluminum welding training scene.  One organization who has been performing both practical and theoretical training in aluminum welding exclusively, for the last 20 years, is AlcoTec Wire Corporation.  Information on their training programs is available through their web site www.alcotec.com

Summary

Because the welding of aluminum is different than welding steel, it is very wise to seek information and/or training in aluminum welding before embarking onto an aluminum welding project for the first time. 

Yes, there is training literature, and there are training courses available for welding aluminum.  However, because aluminum welding is a smaller and more specialized section of the welding industry, there are typically fewer available than that for steel.

Welding Aluminum - Fourth Edition

Fig 1.  Welding Aluminum Theory and Practice – Forth Edition