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Titanium is considered to be an exotic metal due to its low weight, good strength and corrosion resistance. However, in the past, it was believed that proper titanium welding can be performed only in sealed chambers. It’s a reactive metal that can become contaminated by atmospheric gases. But welding titanium is actually not as difficult as many welders think. You just need to maintain proper gas shielding during welding, the rest is very similar to welding other types of metals.
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Welding Titanium Tips
One of the most important factors in determining a quality titanium weld is the proper preparation of the weld.
- Clean the surface of the titanium to eliminate any impurities and remove any oil, grease or dirt. It’s best to use chemicals specifically designed for titanium. Remember that the cleaner the titanium will be, the stronger your created weld will be.
- To remove the contaminants you can use a steam cleaner or a diluted solution of sodium hydroxide.
- Use a small hot-air blower to ensure that there’s no moisture left on the surface. However, make sure that you don’t use it on any flammable solvents.
- Make sure that all the welding parts are also clean and dry.
- Never use any chlorine-based cleaning solution on titanium.
- Even your hands can be a source of contamination. But keep in mind that rubber gloves can contain chlorine, so instead, opt for plastic or cotton gloves.
- Before striking the arc, make sure that the solvents that you were using to clean the surface have fully evaporated, as they usually have a low flash point.
Once you’ve cleaned the surface and welding materials, the next thing to consider is the atmosphere. As we’ve mentioned above titanium is susceptible to contamination by atmospheric gases. So it’s essential to use shielding gas for welding. The preferred choice of gas is pure argon.
When choosing argon, check that it’s 99,999% pure. If it will be even slightly less pure, it can result in yellow discoloration. Impure gas can also lead to mottling and blue tinting.
Before using the high frequency start, let the argon gas flow for a few seconds. If you’ll see a uniform color, it means that there’s enough shielding to provide even coverage.
One essential difference between welding titanium and other metals is the need for shielding also on the back side of the weld. So the entire area of the weld that is heat affected needs to be purged with argon.
For welding smaller components you can use special flexible enclosures, glove boxes filled with argon. If your parts can’t fit in these flexible enclosures, you can also use special polyethylene purge gas chambers. With the help of a purge monitor, you can check if the chamber has enough argon.
How you finish the weld is equally important. Let the protective argon flow until titanium has cooled to a temperature below 500 degrees F. Any discoloration is a good sign of insufficient shielding.
For most welders, it takes many years of welding experience before they feel they’re skilled enough to attempt the titanium TIG welding process. However, if you set out to learn the skills necessary for welding titanium, you’ll see that it’s not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be. The main points for creating a strong and clean titanium weld every time is using high purity argon gas, having the work area perfectly cleaned, using the gloves box with purges on both sides of the weld for even distribution of argon and lastly, maintaining the shield until the metal has cooled.