Many of our New Rosies stress the importance of knowing your craft well, of doing your job to the best of your abilities, and getting as much education as you can in order to succeed at your welding job. Many also mention that TIG/GTAW welding is a good route for women welders because it is “clean” and requires dexterity and patience—two things women are particularly good at. I would add that welding titanium (or other specialty metals) would be good skill to add to your resume. Titanium welding is popular in the aerospace and defense industries, power generation, marine industries, processing plants, and even bicycle manufacturing. And, if you can weld titanium, you can make some good coin.
A lot of welders think titanium is difficult to weld, but really, like anything else, it takes knowledge and practice. Titanium is referred to as a reactive metal because it does not take kindly to contamination, and in fact, a contaminated Titanium weld can actually become brittle (something you definitely don’t want heading down a rough trail in a mountain bike).
Titanium is desirable because it is strong and lightweight, and resists corrosion, but the welder must take care to weld it correctly.
The first step to welding titanium is to make sure your fab shop is clean. You don’t necessarily need a hi-tech white clean room, and you won’t need to wear little paper booties, but the area where you will be welding should be as free of moisture, dust, grease and any other contaminants as you can attain. You’ll also want to be free of air drafts– turbulent air can draw in oxygen, which ruin your weld. Some people use purge chambers which enclose your weld area.
You’ll also want to make sure your joint surfaces are smooth and clean. You can use a stainless steel brush, but make sure it’s one reserved only for your titanium welding, otherwise you’ll get cross contamination, and don’t use a steel file, sandpaper, or steel wool, which can leave particles in your base metal. Also you can clean your base metal with denatured alcohol and a lint-free rag.
I mentioned air drafts because oxygen contamination is one of the most common reasons for sub-standard titanium welds, so you’ll need to protect the front and often the back side of your weld until the temperature of your weld zone drops below 800° F (427° C). Generally, you’ll use argon for your shield gas and you’ll want to make sure your gas is from a trusted source and that all the leads and fittings have been tested. Same with your TIG/GTAW torch: make sure all your fittings fit and that your torch insulators and o-rings offer a proper seal. And finally, you’ll want a super large nozzle with a gas lens or gas flow straightener, or a Large Gas Saver nozzle and you’ll want to adjust your flow rate for good coverage and no turbulence.
Some folks make their own shield cups**, and while that may be fine if you’re noodling around in your own shop, in a more professional application you may want to use trailing and auxiliary shields that are highly engineered for consistent performance. This is especially important in an automated application, or any welding process that requires consistency and repeatability.
If you’re welding tube and pipe you’ll need to make sure you provide shield gas on the back side. There are several products to help you with your back purging: inflatable bladders, water soluble purge dams, purge film, specialty tapes, purge gaskets… Arc-Zone carries a wide range of products to help you out, including oxygen sensors so you’ll know if your purge is successful.
As with any specialized welding process, practice will be your friend… share your tips for successful titanium welding, and let us know if you have questions– here at Arc-Zone we’d love to help you out!
OTHER RESOURCES ONLINE:
From our friends at Miller: “Titanium 101: Best TIG (GTA) Welding Practices“
From the folks at Weldcraft: “TIG Weld Titanium Tubing with Confidence”
Over on YouTube:
**Rody Walter of Groovy Cycleworks’ Video on How to Fabricate a Custom Titanium Welding Cup
**Mr. TIG on how to weld titanium (note the hand-made taped gas shield)