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Technical Can you spot weld aluminum in United States?

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by Shakedown St., Apr 6, 2018.

  1. Shakedown St.
    Joined: Sep 15, 2017
    Posts: 128

    Shakedown St.
    from Boston, MA

    I had a good conversion with the owner of our shop. He told me that you cannot spot weld aluminum in the United States because it requires too much power for our grid to handle, but you can in Europe. Is this true?
  2. aircap
    Joined: Mar 10, 2011
    Posts: 1,604


    Gee..... I remember doing some spot welding on the job about 20 years ago and we seem to be going strong.
  3. gimpyshotrods
    Joined: May 20, 2009
    Posts: 18,458


    Damn. I didn't get the memo.

    I have done it, on several jobs, over the years.
  4. Shakedown St.
    Joined: Sep 15, 2017
    Posts: 128

    Shakedown St.
    from Boston, MA

    Does it require three phase power?

  5. Joe King
    Joined: Oct 8, 2004
    Posts: 993

    Joe King

  6. junkman8888
    Joined: Jan 28, 2009
    Posts: 620


    Worked for an aircraft manufacturer for a number of years, all the tig and spot welding was done by two ladies, real pros. One of the things I learned about spot welding aluminum is no matter how meticulous you are in prep every once in a while you'd hit the pedal and the spot weld would blow out spraying molten metal everywhere, sounded just like a shot gun going off. So the answer is yes, we spot weld aluminum in America.
    Baron and Shakedown St. like this.
  7. Shakedown St.
    Joined: Sep 15, 2017
    Posts: 128

    Shakedown St.
    from Boston, MA

    Okay I think I've got it. According to this article it requires three phase power. Three phase is the standard in Europe, single phase is the standard outlet in the United States. That may be the reason it is less popular, why we more tend to rivet aluminum here.
  8. Blue One
    Joined: Feb 6, 2010
    Posts: 11,140

    Blue One
    from Alberta

    o_O Reading comprehension problems?
    That article doesn’t say anything like that at all.

    And 3 phase power is a standard industrial power supply all over the US.

    Single phase is residential.
    XxMikexX, 49ratfink, OahuEli and 5 others like this.
  9. Hell, we used to smelt aluminum here in the US, and you'd be hard-pressed to name another industry that was more power-usage-intensive than that. Most of the smelters left, but it was usually because the power costs got too high. Of course, that grid capacity has been re-tasked since they left, but it was there at the time.

    It may be that his local utility prohibits him from using certain type of electrical equipment or localized grid limits. Commercial/industrial users can have hoops to jump through in their agreement for service that a residential customer will never even hear about.
    Hnstray and Shakedown St. like this.
  10. Shakedown St.
    Joined: Sep 15, 2017
    Posts: 128

    Shakedown St.
    from Boston, MA

    hfh, scrap metal 48 and Sporty45 like this.
  11. Shakedown St.
    Joined: Sep 15, 2017
    Posts: 128

    Shakedown St.
    from Boston, MA

    You'll be hard pressed to find any outlet in my shop that will run three phase. Only three phase outlets I ever run into, are to run air compressors. I own zero welders that require that kind of power. Three phase is industrial and residential standard in Europe, they have much broader access.

    I had to get my ICAR certification updated so that I can weld aluminum, and they were teaching that you cannot spot weld it. He told me that is why they rivet aluminum panels on cars at shops and airplanes, because lack of access to three phase power on our power grid.

    On Monday I will bring it up again to get a better answer. Just showing where I got my info, not the one who said it.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
    Sporty45 likes this.
  12. Gofannon
    Joined: Feb 8, 2007
    Posts: 684


    I think the problem is aluminium is highly conductive, less resistance so no heat is generated, therefore more power is needed. You can cheat by putting a scrap of steel each side of the aluminium panels to be welded. The steel increases resistance and breaks away after welding. I've done this a couple of times with my ancient single phase spot welder.
    zzford likes this.
  13. Three phase is far more common than you think. You'll find it nearly everywhere, with the only single-phase grid you'll usually find being branches into residential or remote rural areas. I live at the end of nowhere, and there's three phase only a few miles away. I could have it at my house if I wanted, all I have to do is pay to have lines ran, although the cost-per-foot to do this would require me to win the lottery. Of course, you'll need a three-phase panel, a three-phase service (with it's attendant transformers) and you'll now be paying commercial rates. Most industrial parks have three phase, but the builders will sometimes cheap out and install single phase to the individual units.

    If you need three phase and don't have it, it's your fault; all it takes is money. A 150 amp load isn't squat for a correctly-sized commercial service.
    zzford and Blue One like this.
  14. finn
    Joined: Jan 25, 2006
    Posts: 825


    What process does Ford use for building their aluminum body pickups?

    Pretty sure it’s not bubble gum.
  15. redoxide
    Joined: Jul 7, 2002
    Posts: 615

    from Scotland

    YES, you can spot weld ali with single phase spot welder.. but thereis a trick to it and its easy . Take 2 pieces of 22g stainless steel put one piece either side of the ali that your spot welding, and run the heat through the sandwich, your done, you will have a strong spot weld holding the two pieces of ali together, Now all you have to do is go to work and impress your boss :)
    Dont ask me how it works, its obviously physics..

    dang just saw someone else uses this method ... ah well youll kow were not talking crap .. it works well ..
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  16. wvenfield
    Joined: Nov 23, 2006
    Posts: 5,348


    The HAMB is turning more like Facebook all the time.
    Boryca, Tim_with_a_T, H380 and 11 others like this.
  17. At 21 years old there's lots left to learn about this world. They can only teach so much within 4 walls and your childhood home of 4 walls shouldn't let much of the world in. Getting out in the mix of things will expose one to how things really work. For every 10 electricians you may ever need at home or school 1 will be able to wire and do industrial work. Most could tell you at least tell you something about 3phase power even if it's just that they don't do that work.

    You can find 3ph power anywhere there is industrial business and most commercial establishments. You can make your own 3 phase power easily however it's not the most efficient use of power. There's lots of industrial equipment for sale relatively cheap because it requires 3ph power. Building a "rotary phase converter" should be part of the 8th grade science curriculum. Simply Spinning an electrical motor will create electricity, using a single phase motor connected to power to spin a 3phase motor will create 3phase electricity.
    And wherever there is 3phase power there is also 1phase.

    You should be able to verify your sources before accepting what they say. That article seems like it was written by someone who doesn't know but parroted other sources.
    captain scarlet and Blue One like this.
  18. '51 Norm
    Joined: Dec 6, 2010
    Posts: 744

    '51 Norm
    from colorado

    Not sure about spot welding aluminum but I have been melting aluminum in a single phase electric kiln in my garage all week.
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2018
  19. Jerrybigbird
    Joined: Oct 10, 2015
    Posts: 178

    from Montana

    I have a little welding shop with single phase but a lot of the farmers around me have 3 phase for irrigation... I live in rural montana and 3 phase is pretty common
  20. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 5,768


    I got a real good deal on a floor model drill press (free). The only problem is that the motor was three phase and I only have single phase in my shop. I investigated my alternatives (changing motors, rotary converters, etc.), and ended up using a solid state phase converter. A friend in the business gave me one (I think they sell for about $80 new). It's a little box about 2" X 3" X 6". I installed it and it works fine. It has the additional capabilities of "soft-start", "soft-stop", speed control and reversing the rotation (I haven't figured out how to use that yet, mainly because I don't need it). It has one big disadvantage; it looses a lot of power in the conversion. The literature says they loose about 1/3 of the total power in the conversion process. It seems like more than that to me. It hasn't been a problem because that is a big mutha' and 1/2 of it is more than I need and I am very happy with it so far.
  21. Terrible80
    Joined: Oct 1, 2010
    Posts: 783


    T.J. Snow makes and rebuilds spot welders . Give them a call and ask.

    Sent from my LG-TP450 using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
  22. Tim
    Joined: Mar 2, 2001
    Posts: 12,801

    from KCMO

    Yeah somebody’s blowing wind up your skirt man that’s bull shit. The article says it needs phase three, your instructor says it’s rare, it’s super not rare even a little. Myth busted.
    WiredSpider likes this.
  23. F-ONE
    Joined: Mar 27, 2008
    Posts: 2,830

    from Alabama

    My first job as a teenager was working at a rural machine shop. It was on single phase power. I will explain like the owner explained it to me .......
    You see that big motor we start when we power up? As long as that big motor is spinning, all these machines think they are on three phase.
  24. Texas57
    Joined: Oct 21, 2012
    Posts: 3,345

    1. 1952-59 Ford Social Group

    A few things not mentioned about 3 phase. We bought a house last year, (built in 1957, perfect for my '57 Ford) and I was trying to figure out what I needed to install outlets for my 220 single phase compressor and mig. What I was finding in the well wired garage was a bit different than I was use to. Aside from (4) 30 amp 120 outlets, I found an unused panel with a 60 amp breaker. I was baffled by the additional wire feeding the breaker, turns out it was 220 3 phase. When inquiring on the forums about it, someone told me to verify that, check to see how many transformers were on the telephone pole feeding my house and how many wires feeding the house from the pole. Two transformers instead of the traditional one, and 4 wires instead of the normal 3. Turns out our A/C was 3 phase (as is my neighbor's), and they had run that 3 phase to the garage.
    A little research discovered it is a simple task to transform 3 phase to single, but the possible downside is the wire gauge used in supplying 3 phase is a lower capacity gauge than what normally supplies single phase.
    The electricians here can feel free to correct anything I've said.
  25. We had 2 huge spot welders at work, probably went for scrap when we sold the facility. Similar to the one in the link. I used to write the spot welding profiles for them. We'd develop what worked, do pull tests and put them into production. Aluminum and stainless steel were most of what we did.

    It had to be around 1988 and I still don't see how it was pulled off since we ran 3 shifts. Someone opened the locked cabinets, cut the locks off, and stole the electrodes. These were at least 3" diameter solid copper and over 2' long.

    I visited a shop locally, they were doing hush kits for commercial jet engines. They had a few of those welders set up, NC controlled. All fixtured up to do a series of welds joining rings of stainless steel, probably some high-alloy Inconel.
  26. woodiewagon46
    Joined: Mar 14, 2013
    Posts: 1,916

    from New York

    There are many sections in my area that have 3 phase, 480 volt. Most industrial areas are wired this way. I happen to live on Long Island about 10 miles from Grumman, Fairchild and several other aviation factories. These factories were booming in WW II. All the machinery was 3 phase 480. Of course you can spot weld aluminum in the USA, who makes up this crap?
  27. Engine man
    Joined: Jan 30, 2011
    Posts: 3,476

    Engine man
    from Wisconsin

    Did anyone notice the information about the author?
    About the Author

    Allan Robinson has written numerous articles for various health and fitness sites. Robinson also has 15 years of experience as a software engineer and has extensive accreditation in software engineering. He holds a bachelor's degree with majors in biology and mathematics.

    Seems very qualified to write about welding.:rolleyes:
    Almost all welding is done with dc current and the ac is rectified to dc. Most industries in the US use 3 phase current.

    Spot welding to me means resistance spot welding with a machine like this that clamps the metal together and joins it by flowing a high amount of current in a short time;
    Aluminum is trickier to resistance weld as the current has to be applied for a very short time
    '51 Norm and john worden like this.
    Joined: Jun 3, 2005
    Posts: 8,236


    My old shop was built in 49. I have 600 amp 3PH in there, and I'm surrounded by residential homes too. It is rural for the most part and there's other commercial properties within a 1/2 mile so...

    When you said ICAR cert that tells all. I don't want to sound like I'm shitting on education and certs. We need em for all the right reasons, but I think any education should instill how to think just as much as what to think. Certs like this and their teachings will have an element of FUTURE LIABILITY concerns as you probably already know. Again, not shitting on educations, but knowing things from many angles can really broaden one's personal knowledge and ability. FWIW, good for you bringing it up. Sounds like you pay attention and are sincere about learning. Best of luck to ya...;)

    quick edit: good catch Engine man. It's no wonder the info seemed a bit off knowing that. Double good for you Shakedown.
    DdoubleD and fauj like this.
  29. Maybe this shop owner would be happier in Europe.
  30. I knew he didn't know.
    Cherry picked a wiki

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