The Basics of Underwater Welding
Types of Underwater Welding
Hyperbaric or Dry Welding
Hyperbaric or Dry welding utilizes similar welding methods as normal surface welding. The difference is the welder and/or the welding tools are enclosed in a “habitat.” Habitats protect the welding environment and keep it dry while work is being completed. Larger underwater welding habitats are used in large projects such as oil rigs are large vessels. These enclosures have continuous air pumped in and filtered out to keep the air breathable for the welders. Usually, there is enough room to fit two or three people inside. Smaller underwater welding habitats can fit over the body or just the welding tool, which creates a more cost-effective way for dry welding.
Wet welding takes place directly in the water. The welding tool is specifically designed to direct the electric current in a safe manner under the water. The electrode is negatively charged, while the weld area creates a positive charge. When the arc forms, electrons from the electrode travel to the weld area and positive ions are produced. This exchange creates a huge amount of heat and energy. This heat mostly goes to the weld area and the rest goes back to the electrode. To keep the weld contained, the electrodes are covered in a thick substance called “flux.” This material goes through a chemical change triggered by the electrode that creates a bubble of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide around the arc. Additional safety measures are in place to keep a safe underwater work environment, such as a knife switch that gives the overall power control to the surface team and extra insulation in all electrical wires.
How to Become an Underwater Welder
To become an underwater welder, students can look forward to several years of training and experience. As a baseline, underwater welders need a high school diploma or GED and to pass a diving exam as well as certifications in surface welding, underwater welding, and additional training in commercial diving. The typical career path for the underwater welder includes extensive experience in surface welding and as many certifications in diving and welding that he or she can find. Many welders who have entered this field have spent thousands of dollars on training and have networked extensively to find the right underwater welding job.
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