Welding Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

Focus Area: Welding

welding engineering student at Montana Tech

The American Welding Society reports that 95 % of the products surrounding you daily have been welded. The products range from the very small, like microelectronics, to the very large, like ocean-going ships, and everything in between, like bicycles, lawn mowers, refrigerators, automobiles, airplanes, and bulldozers.

Interdisciplinary

Welding engineering is highly interdisciplinary. When choosing the materials for fabricating a structure, a welding engineer is a materials engineer who must understand how metals respond to the heat and stresses of welding. In choosing a welding process, the welding engineer must understand the effects of welding parameters on material properties. The welding engineer must also understand how to design a component knowing that welding processes can dramatically change material properties. Furthermore, the welding engineer must know how to nondestructively evaluate weld properties without destroying the part. A welding engineer also serves as an electrical engineer to design, build, and troubleshoot automated welding equipment.

Welding engineers generally cover the areas of welding processes, metallurgy, design, and nondestructive evaluation. Welding processes are very complex. In processes like arc, laser and electron-beam welding, the four states of matter (solid, liquid, gas, and plasma) coexist simultaneously. Some materials, like steel, are easy to weld, while others like titanium are very difficult to weld. Welding engineers must understand all facets of the field in order to produce quality products and processes. Designs that are suitable for welding by a human may not be suitable for welding by a machine. Design for welding is an important and often overlooked consideration.

Structural engineering is a critical and specialized discipline, but since most structures are welded, welding engineers have a hand in this field as well. Since the structures built are subject to environmental degradation in ways that depend on welding, a welding engineer must also understand the basic concepts of corrosion engineering.

After a weldment is completed for new fabrication or repair, the welding engineer must answer the question: “Is this weld fit for its intended purpose?” To answer that question the welding engineer must use nondestructive evaluation techniques, such as visual, dye-penetrant, magnetic particle, ultrasonic, and X-ray imaging to interrogate the quality of a weld.

As you progress in your career, you may decide that you want to focus on and become an expert in a specific area of welding engineering including processes, metallurgy, design, or nondestructive evaluation.

study mechanical engineering with a focus on welding

Research & Development

As our knowledge in all fields of engineering increases, the welding engineer can become involved in research and development to deepen the understanding of what actually happens as a weld is made. Welding engineers can use advanced physics and mathematics to develop models and simulations pertaining to many aspects of welding to gain an understanding of things that can be neither directly observed nor measured.

Welding engineers typically do not weld on a daily basis. In fact, a welding engineer is often involved in removing the welder from the actual point of welding, for example, using robotics. Removing a human welder from the point of welding is difficult because it is difficult to get a machine to mimic the sense and skill of a highly qualify human welder.

How much do you like hands-on work? Traditionally, welding engineers are welders to a greater degree than mechanical engineers are mechanics, or electrical engineers are electricians. Many welding engineers got their start as welders or worked their way through college as welders. This is true even within the upper reaches of the welding research community, where many PhDs began their careers as welders. Within the welding community, this kind of experience is highly valued. Welders in the field are highly skilled and an important part of a successful fabrication project. Being able to understand and communicate with welders is an important engineering skill.

Having the foundation of a mechanical engineering education provides a background in design, materials, mathematics and other basic sciences. This breadth of knowledge allows the welding engineer to communicate with engineers in other specialized disciplines and to understand codes, drawings, economics, and other subjects essential to completing large, expensive projects efficiently.

In Demand

Degreed welding engineers are rare. Few welding engineering programs exist in the US, far fewer than you will find for mechanical, civil, chemical, or materials engineering. A focus on welding within the Mechanical Engineering Program provides the essential elements of welding engineering. Many companies or large projects need engineers with a welding engineering focus.

With the scarcity of degreed welding engineers, a focus in welding engineering can allow an individual to belong to a relatively small technical community. The language spoken is not exactly a secret code, and there are no secret handshakes, but welding engineering is specialized. Most members of the community know each other with a strong social network of welding engineers, reinforced through professional meetings and conferences.