History and Evolution of Welding Processes, Part 1

history evolution welding processes

At RBR Machine, we’re proud to serve as your one-stop shop for all CNC machining, EDM manufacturing and related needs. We specialize in a variety of CNC milling and turning processes, and another of our popular machining areas is our welding shop.

While modern welding is a detailed, versatile process that can be carried out in several distinct ways, did you realize that the theme of welding goes back hundreds of years? Our professionals hold not only a firm grasp of modern welding techniques and processes, but also an appreciation for the history behind these processes and how welding has evolved over the years. This two-part blog will detail the history of the welding process, from hundreds of years in the past up to today’s latest developments – plus what the future might hold for the welding world.

Pre-1800s

If you want to get technical, welding in some form or another has been around since ancient civilizations were still on the earth. The Bronze Age offers us our earliest such example: Small gold boxes were made during this period through a primitive pressure welding process that molded joints together.

During the Iron Age, Egyptians and others in Mediterranean cultures learned how to weld iron together. They made their own blacksmithing tools for this and even instigated this entire industry, primarily using hammers to accomplish the process.

Major 1800s Developments

Only in the 19th century did we begin to see some of the earliest developments that would lead to modern welding. A few seminal events that took place during the 1800s include:

  • 1800: Sir Humphry Davy of England is credited with producing the first arc between two carbon electrodes, using a battery to achieve this.
  • 1836: Edmund Davy, also of England, discovers acetylene, the first major step toward arc lighting.
  • Mid 1800s (year unknown): During the mid-19th century, the electric generator was invented and arc lighting became a viable option.
  • 1880: Auguste De Meritens, of France, used arc heating to join lead plates for storage batteries. In 1885 and 1887, students of Meritens secured British and American patents for early electrode holders, which would eventually give way to carbon arc welding.
  • 1890: CL Coffin of Detroit was ordered the first US arc welding patent using a metal electrode.

Early 1900s

The early 1900s saw a real explosion of these and other technologies. Coated metal and stick electrodes became viable welding methods, and resistance welding also began to be developed. In 1903, a German scientist invented thermite welding, which was initially used for welding railroad rails.

By the middle of the 1910s, it was clear welding was an industry here to stay in the US. Immediately after World War I, in 1919, the American Welding Society was founded as a nonprofit organization meant to further the interests of the entire industry.

For more on the history of the welding process, or to learn about any of our welding shop or other engineering and machining areas, speak to the staff at RBR Machine today.