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What Parts of an Aircraft Use Welding?

While welding has a long rooted history dating back to the Bronze Age, it was not until the 19th century in which modern welding procedures were invented. With many new welding techniques, industrial manufacturing was revolutionized and multiple structures and components began to rely on such methods. World War I saw many new uses of welding, including some of the first instances of welding being used to construct aircraft. While many aircraft primarily rely on a variety of fasteners and methods to maintain a rigid structure, welding still plays a major role in the construction of multiple aircraft parts.

Put simply, welding refers to the conjoining of metals through melting or hammering materials together until they are united. With modern equipment, welding is made easy and can be done across the world. While there are many types of welding, a few of the commonly used methods for aerospace include gas metal arc welding (GMAR), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), flash welding, and friction welding. Depending on the method of aircraft welding used, various equipment and gas spring may be utilized to successfully conjoin components.

Gas metal arc welding is one of the most commonly used welding processes due to its relatively low cost and flexibility, though it is not the most common for the aeronautics industry due to sometimes resulting in poor mechanical properties with the large size of the heat source. Despite this, gas metal arc welding has been used for the Saturn V rocket’s fuel and oxidizer tank, as well as is used for producing the vanes of the Patriot missile.

Gas tungsten arc welding features a more intense heat source as compared to GMAW, thus making it better at producing welds with less distortion. In regards to modern commercial aircraft, a majority of the ducting and turbine aircraft parts utilize GTAW methods to weld together components. GTAW is also beneficial for other components including jet assy exhaust housings, heat exchanger cores, and louvres.

Flash welding is a process in which the conjoining of metals is achieved through a short arc and pressure being applied on the component. Due to its method of conjoining metals, the welds are able to remain as strong as the base material. With flash welding, aluminum and temperature resistant alloys may be joined without the need for special surface preparation or shielding gas. Within the aerospace industry, flash welding is most often used to join rings for jet engines and aluminum landing gear.

With friction welding, metal components are attached to one another through mechanical deformation, rather than through meting. Because of this, the final product can feature unions that are as strong as the base material through preventing the formation of melting-solidification defects. This type of aircraft welding is most often used for parts that have relatively simple cross sections, such as the turbine shaft and case components. This method may also be used to create a weld assembly for aluminum landing gear components as well. Looking towards the future, friction welding may also be used for engines in new fighter aircraft as well.           

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