Reducing Impact of Welding on the Environment

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by Ashok Rai – Consultant Weldwell

Since the early 2000s, ‘Sustainability’ has become a trending term due to the growing demand to care for the environment
and its resources. All industries, including welding, have seen a rise in the importance of the sustainability idea. Warming of
the Earth’s surface and troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) in the presence of water vapour, carbon dioxide,
methane, and other specific gases in the air is called the “Greenhouse Ef ect”. Of these gases known as ’Greenhouse Gases’,
water vapour has the greatest impact. Although, the greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but its effects can
be amplified by the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as a result of human activity. Each industry can
contribute to lessen the consequences of climate change and protect the earth for future generations by lowering emissions and
waste.

The Environmental Impact of Welding

Undeniably welding is one of the most crucial processes adopted in modern fabrication. The environment may be significantly
impacted by conventional welding. Traditionally welding practices involve fusing of two metals using heat and energy. The
high temperatures during the welding process vaporize various substances in the arc that condense and oxidize in contact with
the air, forming fumes. As a byproduct, it also releases several toxic emissions including both minute and nano pollutants, as
well as several toxic gases like carbon monoxide, ozone, and nitrogen oxides. In addition, factors such as surface coatings,
filler metal, and welding type determine the amount and kind of generated particles and gases. Thus, welding can cause
considerable air pollution, threatening human health and the earth’s ecosystems. It is thus important to adopt steps reducing
the impact for the future of our planet and the sustainability of the
industry.

Embracing Eco-friendly Welding Techniques

One solution to reducethe environmental impact of welding is embracing eco-friendly techniques. Depending on the project in question, there areseveral welding processes welders can choose between — some require less energy, and others produce less waste.

⮚ Friction Stir welding (FSW) – A solid-state welding technique that produces less pollution because it doesn’t require
fillers or flux
⮚ Magnetic pulse welding (MPW) – A solid-state welding technique that produces less pollution because it doesn’t
require fillers or flux
⮚ Dif usive welding – A process that uses heat and pressure to create a strong bond without using flux
⮚ Laser welding – A non-contact process that uses a high-powered laser light to melt metals and weld them together
⮚ Other techniques- like laser arc hybrid welding and gas metal arc welding, are also known to offer certain eco-friendly
benefits.

These solid-state welding techniques can help the environment as they produce fewer dangerous fumes, don’t require filler
gases, and use less energy. However, these processes are not ideal for every construction project and some of them are still in
developmental stage.

Mitigating environmental effects of Welding

to high energy consumption, toxic greenhouse gas emissions, and excessive waste levels, among others. It is possible to
reduce significantly the carbon footprint and environmental impact of welding techniques and build more sustainable
construction practices by making minor changes to processes and equipment.

  • Select Optimum Process: Use methods and tools that lessen the negative effects of welding operations on the environment and
    preserve natural resources are preferred. Use the welding process producing fewer fumes. Of the two most common methods,
    for the environment, GTAW produces fewer fumes than GMAW, including lower ozone and nitrogen oxides, therefore being
    more environmentally friendly. MIG/MAG welding, which involve an endless consumable electrode, thus avoiding waste of
    leftover welded electrodes, is preferred for continuous welding
    applications.
  •  Energy-Ef icient Welding Systems: The modern age offers a plethora of advanced welding systems designed with energy efficiency at   their core, leading to reduced costs and a smaller carbon footprint.
  •  Using Automation: Simple mechanized welding table or full robotic, automatic welding systems, are much more sustainable than human operators welding by hand, even when the same process is used. Primarily, it’s all about speed and accuracy, wherein a robot can be
    programmed to execute one weld extremely effectively, with as little time spent in operation, as little fumes generated, as little
    energy consumed, and as little room for error as possible. * Using Recyclable Material: Improper practices, meanwhile,
    lead to significant waste of precious materials and gases, which are in short supply. This waste, in turn, when not disposed ofthe right way, can significantly harm the environment.
  •  Switch to Eco-Friendly Consumables: The use of eco-friendly welding materials like water-based fluxes or electrode coatings can reduce environmental impact greatly. These materials help reduce the fumes generated and waste produced during the welding process. The welding consumables are produced in a more ecological way, characterized by a very low CO2 footprint.
  •  Innovate Welding Techniques: Different welding techniques generate different amounts and kinds of pollutants, so selection of technique has an impact on environmental impact. Some of the steps that can be adopted to institute environment-friendly welding practices are: (a ) Optimise Parameters
    (b) Adjust the Welder Settings
    ( c ) Choose the Shielding Gas Carefully
    (d) Clean the metal before Welding
    ( e) Use fume extractor Summary

Summary:

Many negative effects of the conventional welding processes can be mitigated through adoption of innovative welding
techniques.