The history of joining metals can be dated back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. In the Bronze Age, small gold boxes were made by pressure welding the parts together. In the Iron Age, the Egyptians learned how to weld iron parts together.
The Middle Ages brought forge welding and the development of the art of blacksmithing. To create the bonding of metals, blacksmiths then were using the technique of repeatedly pounding the hot metal. The industry continued to grow during the centuries that followed, but it wasn’t until the 19th century that the welding was developed, as we know it today.
In the year 1800, Sir Humphry Davy discovered that using a battery, you can produce an arc between two electrodes. A few years later, a Russian scientist created a continuous electric arc.
Around 1830s acetylene was discovered, but it didn’t become common practice until seventy years later when a blowtorch was invented.
At the end of the 1800s was created the first electric arc welding method, which was using carbon electrodes.
Also, in the late 1800s, metal electrodes were invented and coated metal electrodes were introduced in the welding industry. These are what we know today as SMAW.
Around the same time, other types of welding, such as resistance, oxyfuel and thermite were also being developed by different scientists.
The first documented use of fusion welding method was in 1881, done by Auguste de Meritens. Using carbon electrodes, he welded together lead battery plates.
The popularity of arc welding continued to grow with such inventions, as electric generators and gas welding and cutting.
During the 1890s carbon arc welding was the most popular welding method. Also, in 1890 C.L. Coffin was awarded a U.S. patent for metal electrode arc welding. About the same time, in Russia, was presented the idea of using the same metal electrode arc method for casting metals into molds.
In the beginning, oxyfuel welding was the most common practice, as it was portable and relatively low cost. However, as the advances in the industry progressed, it lost its popularity in manufacturing applications. With the introduction of metal coverings (flux), the method was replaced with arc welding.
In the early 1900s, oxyacetylene started being applied commercially. In 1907 Lincoln Electric started experimenting with welding machines and introduced their first product in 1912.
Underwater welding was first documented in 1915-1916, but it didn’t fully become developed until 1926.
The years of World War I brought a major surge in welding developments. Welding was used in the production of fighter planes, ships and other. At the end of the war, in 1919, C.J. Holslag invented Alternating Current for use in welding, but it found widespread use only a decade later.
The 1920s brought the introduction of automatic welding with the continuous feed of electrode wire. In the same decade, there were various types of electrodes developed and shielding gas was introduced, as it was found that oxygen and nitrogen cause the molten metal to brittle and become porous. The developed solutions included the use of argon, hydrogen and helium. During the same decade, further technological advances allowed to introduce welding of reactive metals, such as aluminum and magnesium. At the end of the decade, welding symbols were established in the industry.
In the 1930s, stud welding was developed to fasten wood to steel and gained popularity in the shipbuilding and construction industries. National Tube Company developed submerged arc welding. It was commonly used in shipyards and ordnance factories.
In 1937 Willson Products introduced the first modern welding helmet that used a polarized lens. But it wasn’t until 1981 that a Swedish manufacturer introduced the use of an LCD electronic shutter in the helmet that automatically detects the bright light of the arc and darkens. These are what we know today as the auto-darkening helmets.
The 1940s brought the developments in GMAW and GTAW welding processes, allowing to weld non-ferrous metals.
Shielded metal arc welding has found its first use in the 1950s. A flux-coated consumable electrode was used in an atmosphere protected by CO2. In 1957 plasma arc welding was invented, followed by the introduction of electroslag welding.
Other recent advancements in the history of the industry include the breakthrough of electron beam welding with the use of a focused beam of electrons as a heat source and laser beam welding for applications in automotive metalworking.