Underwater Welding is a specialized form of welding that is used to weld underwater. It is a high-tech process and requires a great deal of skill and precision. The process is employed in a wide variety of applications such as shipbuilding and repair to bridge building and underwater construction. Underwater welders go through rigorous training that ensures the highest quality possible and the welds remain watertight. It is a complex task that requires specialized training and equipment due to the harsh environment underwater. In this article, read all about the various aspects of underwater welding in detail.
- What is Underwater Welding?
- Underwater Welding Principle
- Underwater Welding Equipment
- Type of Underwater Welding
- Underwater Welding Schools
- Underwater Welding Qualifications
- Welding vs Underwater Welding
- Underwater Welding Benefits
- Occupation’s Typical Hazards
- Underwater Welding Employment Areas
- Underwater Welding Job Types
- Underwater Welder Salary Trends
What is Underwater Welding?
This is a process of joining two metal pieces underwater using specialized welding techniques and equipment. The process can be divided into wet welding and dry welding. Wet welding involves welding in direct contact with water. Dry welding involves welding in a sealed chamber or habitat with controlled environmental conditions. It is also known as submerged arc welding, wet welding, or hyperbaric welding.
Underwater Welding Principle
The welding process begins with the preparation of the work area. It includes cleaning the weld surface, de-scaling and de-rusting any affected surfaces, and setting up any necessary buoyancy devices. Next, the welder uses a combination of wet and dry welding techniques to perform the welding job.
The welding process involves an arc being created between the two metals, which is then sealed with a filler material and flux. The process is typically done in a specialized chamber or in a pressurized environment. Further, the welds are inspected for any defects before the work is completed.
1. For Wet Welding
The welder uses a shielded arc welding machine to perform the weld. The machine uses an electrical current that passes through a submerged electrode to generate an electric arc, which melts the metal at the weld joint. A cover gas is also applied to the weld in order to protect against any contamination from the seawater.
2. For Dry Welding
The welder uses a portable gas torch instead of the arc welding machine. The torch produces a high-temperature flame which results in melting the metal at the joint. Dry welding is mostly used for smaller jobs that require more precision.
Underwater Welding Equipment
Some of the essential equipment used are as follows-
1. Welding Torch
A welding torch directs the heat from the electric arc to the metal being welded. The welding torch is specially designed to prevent water from entering the torch and extinguishing the arc.
2. Welding Electrodes
They create an electric arc, that produces heat and melts the metal, and performs welding. The most commonly used electrodes are coated electrodes. They have a waterproof coating and prevent water from affecting the welding process.
3. Welding Machine
They must be specifically designed for use in a water environment. The machine must be waterproof and have a low-voltage control system. It prevents electrical shock to the welder.
4. Welding Cables
They connect the welding machine to the welding torch and electrodes. The cables are coated with insulation to prevent electrical shocks and corrosion.
5. Welding Goggles
They are essential to protect the welder’s eyes from the bright light produced by the electric arc. So, must use proper welding gear (PPE).
6. Cleaning Tools
They clean metal surfaces before welding to remove any dirt, rust, or other contaminants. The tools include grinders and wire brushes.
7. Diving Equipment
They are masks, diving suits, regulators, and oxygen tanks. The suit must be designed to protect the welder from the cold water and prevents them from sinking.
8. Inspection Equipment
After welding, the welders must check the quality of the weld by using a variety of inspection tools, such as X-ray machines and ultrasonic testing equipment.
Type of Underwater Welding
It is used to join metal surfaces together in both fresh and salt water. The following are some of the welding types–
1. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)
It utilizes an electrode that is shielded by a flux coating. Stick welding is used to repair pipelines, ships, docks, and other submerged structures.
2. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)
The welding type uses a tungsten electrode that produces an arc to heat the weld area. Most commonly, this welding method is used in offshore oil rigs and pipeline repair. On the one hand, GTAW produces a higher quality weld than SMAW, but it requires the welder to be more precise.
3. Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)
In some cases, FCAW is also used for welding works. This welding type does not require the use of external shielding gas. It produces higher deposition rates than both GTAW and SMAW. Although it produces better-quality welds than SMAW, it is more difficult to use in certain positions.
4. Underwater Wet Welding
This one is also an option for certain projects. The welding process uses a specially designed torch filled with water or oil to protect the weld from oxidation and contamination. It also produces good-quality welds and is suitable for joining materials that cannot be joined using dry welding techniques.
5. Thermit Welding
This welding type is sometimes used for welding projects in the water. The process involves pouring molten thermit steel alloy into a gap between two metal components. Then allowing it to cool and form a strong bond. This welding also produces very strong welds and is a better option for a variety of materials. But it is used typically only for larger projects due to the long time-consuming components of preparing a process for welding.
6. PAW, HAW, CAG
Other underwater welding types are plasma arc welding (PAW), carbon arc gouging (CAG), and helium-arc welding (HAW). They are employed in certain welding projects.
Underwater Welding Schools
The top 5 underwater welding schools in the United States are as follows-
1. CDA Technical Institute (Jacksonville, Florida) provides welding training and commercial diving. It offers a 20-week program that consists of welding techniques, underwater cutting, and inspection.
2. Divers Institute of Technology (Seattle, Washington) offers commercial diving and welding. It provides a comprehensive 900-hour program that covers welding techniques, underwater cutting, and inspection.
3. International Diving Institute (Charleston, South Carolina) offers welding and commercial diving. It offers a 20-week program that covers welding techniques, underwater cutting, and inspection.
4. Santa Barbara City College (Santa Barbara, California) provides welding and commercial diving. It offers a 1-year program that includes both classroom and hands-on training in welding techniques and underwater cutting.
5. The Ocean Corporation (Houston, Texas) is a renowned school for welding and commercial diving. It offers a 7-month program that includes both classroom and hands-on training.
Underwater Welding Qualifications
The certain qualifications to become an underwater welder are as follows-
1. Underwater Welding Training Completion – Community colleges, vocational schools, and specialized training centers offer welding training programs for underwater works. They last for several months and consist of both practical training and classroom instructions for underwater welding techniques.
2. Diver Certification – Underwater welders must be certified divers from a recognized diver training organization, such as the International Diving Schools Association (IDSA), the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), and the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI).
3. Welding Certification – Certification from a recognized apex body such as the American Welding Society (AWS) is a must.
4. Work Experience – Candidates must have some underwater welding work experience, gained through internships or apprenticeships.
5. Physical Fitness – The work nature requires physical fitness and stamina. So, candidates must undergo a medical examination and ensure they are fit for diving.
6. Safety Training – Safety training is required to ensure that divers and other workers are protected from hazards associated with working in an underwater environment.
Welding and Underwater Welding Differences
Obviously, both welding and underwater welding are similar in the sense that they involve joining two pieces of metal together with heat. However, there are certain differences between the two welding processes.
1. Dry/Wet Environment
It is not the same as traditional welding because it takes place in a water environment and usually involves pressure welding. The water pressure can create hazardous conditions that regular welders do not typically encounter.
2. Training Requirements
This demands welders to be trained in a pressurized environment using specialized equipment, including a welding rod, welding helmet, and special tools. Traditional welding still requires safety equipment but less than underwater.
3. Special Preparation
It also requires special preparation before welding such as pressure testing. Also, ensure safety while working underwater such as wearing protective gear, proper air supply, and monitoring for any leaks.
Benefits of Underwater Welding
This is a cost-effective underwater weld-way. The advantages are as follows-
1. Offer Extra Safety
It offers safety since it is done in a contained environment. So, the risk of electrical shocks or fires is greatly reduced. The welding type also eliminates the need for working with hazardous gases, like acetylene and oxygen.
2. Time-Saving Repairs
It provides time-saving repairs. It can repair small sections quickly and easily instead of replacing large sections of pipe or metal structures. Underwater welders have to replace fewer materials and can repair much faster.
3. Cost-Effective Method
This allows for quick repairs without the need to replace large sections of pipe or metal structures. Thus, it can save on labor costs due to quicker repairs.
4. Control/High Accuracy
It provides a higher level of accuracy and control than traditional welding types. Welders can precisely manipulate the material to ensure an effective and secure weld.
Typical Hazards of this Occupation
Some of the typical hazards associated with this welding type are as follows-
1. Electrocution – As the welding types use electricity, it can be deadly if it comes into contact with the surrounding water. So, it is crucial to have proper safety procedures in place to prevent electrocution.
2. Drowning – Working in an underwater environment may cause a risk of drowning if they are trapped or their equipment malfunctions. So, keep essential safety gear at hand, including air supply, and emergency procedures in place.
3. Less Visibility – The work is often performed in muddy (murky) water and causes unclear vision while working. So, have proper lighting and visibility equipment.
4. Explosions – The welding type can create hydrogen gas, and if accumulates, and can cause an explosion. So. Keep adequate ventilation and gas monitoring systems in place.
5. Decompression Sickness (bends) – Welders can face decompression sickness if working a long time in depths. Therefore, follow proper decompression procedures to prevent this.
6. Physical Injuries – The welding equipment and working environment can cause physical injuries such as burns, cuts, and scrapes. So, always wear protective gear.
7. Marine Life – It is home to a variety of marine life including sharks and other potentially dangerous animals. So, be aware of the local wildlife and take precautions to prevent encounters with these animals.
Underwater Welding Employment Areas
It offers a variety of employment opportunities such as-
1. Marine Salvage (for salvage sunken ships or other equipment)
2. Military (for maintenance and repair of submarines and other underwater equipment)
3. Offshore Oil/Gas Industry (for repairing and maintaining pipelines, drilling rigs, and other equipment)
4. Shipbuilding/Repair (for shipyards to repair and maintain ships and other vessels)
5. Underwater Construction (for constructing dams, bridges, and other structures)
6. Public Utilities (for maintaining and repairing water hydroelectric power plants, treatment plants, and other infrastructure)
7. Scientific Research (for scientific research expeditions to help maintain and repair equipment used in underwater research)
Underwater Welding Job Types
It offers a range of job types–
- Hyperbaric Welder
- Inspection Diver
- Topside Welder
- Underwater Cutting Specialist
- Welding instructor
- Wet Welder
Underwater Welder Salary Trends
The salary for an underwater welder is not the same in all places in the United States. The factors like certification, experience, and location affect it. An underwater welder earns an hourly salary ($25 to $70), a monthly salary ($4,000 to $11,200), and a yearly salary ($50,000 to $135,000). The given figures are estimates and can vary depending on factors such as employer type, job duties, and underwater welders’ demand in a particular area.
Underwater welding is a specialized field that involves welding and cutting in an underwater environment. The welding type is used in a variety of industries for manufacturing, repairing, maintaining, and scientific research. The above-mentioned information on underwater welding is a comprehensive guide for students, welders, and other professionals working in the industry.