Are there alternatives to welding?

To join tubular steel to make strong manual handling and storage equipment, skilled metalworkers weld tubular steel lengths to form strong joints, but is this the only option?

Rivets

Tubular steel can be joined using rivets. While riveting works, welding has many advantages. The rivets add to the weight of the equipment, which is worth remembering given that equipment used to manually move items needs to be strong but light.

Skilled metalworkers create stronger joints than rivets. Welded joints are smoother than rivets. This is important when manufacturing furniture that must look good, as well as being practical.

Welding can be used to weld any part of a structure, whereas riveting requires suitable clearance. Welding is also quicker than riveting and this reduces construction costs. Tubular steel pipes are easier to weld than rivet, plus riveted joints can weaken the structure of the equipment.

Perhaps the only advantage of using rivets is that it takes less skill to get right, but this only means that tubular steel manufacturers need to employ well-trained expert metalworkers.

Fasteners

The fastener process uses lockbolts or other hardware to join tubular steel. A short cylindrical collar and a long-headed pin clamp tubular steel together to form permanent joints that are strong and reliable. Using fasteners is quick and does not take a high level of skill to use. While suitable for many applications, fasteners are not as strong as welding, so it is not the best solution for moving and storage equipment that is used with heavy items.

Glue

There are several adhesives available that can glue metal to metal. Some European motoring manufacturers have used metal adhesives but there is no long-term research on how effective and long-lasting glued joints are.

Glue could be used to join tubular steel to fabricate handling equipment, but there is one major drawback – if a glued joint breaks, it is difficult to repair. A welded joint that fails can be easily welded back together again.

Soldering

Soldering can join two metals together, but it does not form strong joints. Soldering is used in electronics and circuit boards where it can attach electronic components to boards. Solder conducts electricity so is ideal for electronics, but not suitable for manual handling equipment.

Spot welding

Sheet metal can be joined using spot welding where the metal is held between copper electrodes. A large electric current melts the metal to weld the two pieces together. This technique is fine for thin metal, but is not suitable for thicker metal or tubular steel.

The future

Heavy duty material handling and storage equipment need to be strong, durable and lightweight. This is why tubular steel is the ideal material to fabricate equipment with. Most British manufacturers weld the steel together to form strong joints that withstand tension from all directions.

In the future, stronger, quicker and less expensive techniques may be developed to replace welding, but this is unlikely to happen in the near future. Manufactures still rely on welding, but some researchers are looking at developing better ways to weld that make the process quicker without sacrificing joint strength.

Posted by Derek
28th September 2018
Metalworking

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