Oxygen in fuel gas welding and cutting

- May 27, 2020-

Pure oxygen, instead of air, is used to increase the flame temperature to allow localized melting of the workpiece material.

During the early 20th century, before the development and availability of coated arc welding electrodes in the late 1920s that were capable of making sound welds in steel, oxy-acetylene welding was the only process capable of making welds of exceptionally high quality in virtually all metals in commercial use at the time. These included not only carbon steel but also alloy steels, cast iron, aluminium, and magnesium. In recent decades it has been superseded in almost all industrial uses by various arc welding methods offering greater speed and, in the case of gas tungsten arc welding, the capability of welding very reactive metals such as titanium. Oxy-acetylene welding is still used for metal-based artwork and in smaller home-based shops, as well as situations where accessing electricity (e.g., via an extension cord or portable generator) would present difficulties. The oxy-acetylene (and other oxy-fuel gas mixtures) welding torch remains a mainstay heat source for manual brazing and braze welding, as well as metal forming, preparation, and localized heat treating. In addition, oxy-fuel cutting is still widely used, both in heavy industry and light industrial and repair operations.

In oxy-fuel welding, a welding torch is used to weld metals. Welding metal results when two pieces are heated to a temperature that produces a shared pool of molten metal. The molten pool is generally supplied with additional metal called filler. Filler material selection depends upon the metals to be welded.

Oxy-fuel torches are or have been used for:

  • Heating metal: in automotive and other industries for the purposes of loosening seized fasteners.

  • Neutral flame is used for joining and cutting of all ferrous and non ferrous metals except brass.

  • Depositing metal to build up a surface, as in hardfacing.

  • Also, oxy-hydrogen flames are used:

    • in stone working for "flaming" where the stone is heated and a top layer crackles and breaks. A steel circular brush is attached to an angle grinder and used to remove the first layer leaving behind a bumpy surface similar to hammered bronze.

    • in the glass industry for "fire polishing".

    • in jewelry production for "water welding" using a water torch (an oxyhydrogen torch whose gas supply is generated immediately by electrolysis of water).

    • in automotive repair, removing a seized bolt.

    • formerly, to heat lumps of quicklime to obtain a bright white light called limelight, in theatres or optical ("magic") lanterns.

    • formerly, in platinum works, as platinum is fusible only in the oxyhydrogen flame and in an electric furnace.

In short, oxy-fuel equipment is quite versatile, not only because it is preferred for some sorts of iron or steel welding but also because it lends itself to brazing, braze-welding, metal heating (for annealing or tempering, bending or forming), rust or scale removal, the loosening of corroded nuts and bolts, and is a ubiquitous means of cutting ferrous metals.