Building something with your own hands can be a really rewarding experience. But welding two things together and calling it a day is not as easy as one might imagine, especially for a beginner. Glass is one of those things that can be made into beautiful, functional, and artistic pieces. So, if you ever wondered: can I weld glass, this guide is for you.
You can sort of weld glass at home by using a torch. The way to do this is by heating the edges to very high temperatures till they become syrup-like. Then hold the two pieces together till they cool down. But this process can make the glass brittle and prone to breaking.
This method is not that useful when it comes to industrial uses. Traditionally, ovens were used to heat the glass and blow it into different shapes. While this process is very artisanal, it is now not that viable for industries. However, with the invention of laser techniques, doing it is a little bit easier these days. Keep reading to learn more!
Why Welding Glass Is Challenging?
For beginners and also more experienced people, welding glass can be challenging. There are some characteristics of glass that make it a little bit tricky. Notice I mentioned it is a little bit tricky. So, it is not something completely impossible or something you cannot learn.
Because light passes through a non-absorbing material, glass is generally difficult to weld. It can also become tricky if the pulses of light themselves have relatively low peak power.
However, different techniques and processes have been developed by manufacturers to work with glass welding. They use high-tech lasers! Yes, lasers. These lasers rely on material absorption and can cause the glass to appear black since it absorbs light.
There is a problem with it, though. This process is causing the top surface to absorb faster. And it can also start to melt more quickly. This makes it quite challenging to target specific areas. All these things together make welding glass a bit tricky.
Can You Weld Glass?
Here is the thing: when you think of welding, it typically involves one of the many popular welding techniques. If you want to weld glass at home or by yourself, you can do it by just heating the edges of the two pieces together.
By heating the edges, those sides will start to slightly melt and become lightly goo-like. If you put them together and hold them there till it cools, you should have two pieces that are joined together.
The problem with this is that when you heat it to such high temperatures, its integrity can be compromised. That is not something you would want. You make the glasses much more brittle, and that means they are more prone to breaking. This is definitely a big no-no.
Heating it to around 815 Celsius should do the trick. The best way to ensure you keep some of the integrity is to target specific small areas.
This solution is not that viable when it comes to industrial uses, though. For industrial and professional applications, you would need something more reliable. And frankly, something much more reliable.
In the past, there were some traditional ways glass was formed. Even so, those techniques are not the best for industrial processes. Let’s check what glassworks used to do back in the day.
How Glass Was Handled Back In The Day?
If you have ever been to a glass factory, you would know that their glass is worked with by softening the pieces. Glassmakers would use highly heated ovens. The heat will soften the glass pieces, and then they will become malleable and easier to work with.
Then a skilled worker would fuse two pieces of glass. This is not the only way glass is stuck together. Another process is just using a really strong adhesive. Glass to glass bonding can be achieved by using bonding agents. You need to use the right kind of adhesive though, otherwise, it will not work.
Matching the material’s properties with the characteristics of the adhesive is crucial. If there is a mismatch, it can be disastrous. The bonding agent might lose its strength with a change in temperature or pressure.
Glassworkers still use the oven cooking method to produce glass. But the time needed for the process limits this process to different sorts of industrial applications.
Welding Glass With FCPA Technique
One of the most common processes for welding glass is by using the FCPA technique. It uses short pulses of laser that have an extremely high peak power. FCPA lasers can be trained on the interfaces of two transparent things.
It can also be trained on one transparent material and a dissimilar substrate. This can be used to target specific areas of the glass when welding. This is superior to other absorption methods because they are incapable of doing it.
The benefits of the FCPA are quite a lot. Although there are some disadvantages, with FCPA welding you can weld very selective and precise pieces on a smaller scale if you need to. Different areas can be welded onto a semiconductor.
Using Fusion Techniques For Glass Welding
The fusion technique really is one of the most promising ways to join glass together. This technique can be used to weld glass efficiently and also in a more cost-effective way. The process allows for two different pieces of glass to be joined together.
That makes it operate as a single piece of glass. There will be tons of use cases for this method. And a lot of industries will benefit from it.
Applications Of Fusion Welding Glass
When it comes down to it all, the practical applications matter the most. Where, how, and when can it be used? The benefits are also very important. Fortunately, this process of glass joining has a lot of promise, as I just mentioned.
One of the best benefits is that it allows for safer encapsulation for sensitive materials. In other welding techniques, there can be a lot of unintended and surprising effects from the high temperatures and chemical substances.
With this method, you do not need to worry about anything like that. The use of super short laser pulses eliminates the need for adhesives, substrates, and multiple layers. You also have the benefit of using less energy.
And when something uses less energy, it automatically becomes less expensive and better for the environment.
Benefits For Biomedical Industry
Researcher Jorma Vihinen at the Tampere University of Technology agrees that this method will have a lot of presence in the biomedical industry. You will see the rise of new applications quite rapidly, especially in the human medicine sector.
When it comes to the biomedical industry, glass, in general, is very suitable and sought after. They are pretty suitable for their distinct properties. One of the biggest things is that glass is neutral. This makes it widely compatible with body fluids.
So, when it is implanted in the human body, immunological rejection does not happen. If there was any sort of immunological rejection, the doctors would need to remove the implant altogether.
Then there is the aspect of longevity. Glass has a long lifespan. It can stay in landfills for several hundred years. This property makes it quite attractive for doctors to use glass for biomedical purposes.
You do not need to deal with wear and tear. And unlike other methods, the fusion technique does not use any substrate or adhesive. That is another plus for sure.
Thirdly, glass is transparent to RF (radio frequencies). This allows them to transfer energy or data through an encapsulated device. This is not possible in the case of titanium packaged applications and devices.
Manufacturing Industry Benefits
The fusion process for glass welding will give some much-needed flexibility to the manufacturing industry, especially the electronics industry. Our smartphones and handheld devices keep shrinking in size.
This process will help in the manufacturing of these devices to match consumer demands for more portable and powerful devices. Advancements in this field will help the miniaturization of these devices further into the future.
Breakthroughs In Welding Glass To Metal
This is a cool bit. Throughout history, it was commonly accepted that metal could only be welded to metal. However, scientists and researchers have found a revolutionary new way to weld glass and metal.
The laser welding process can be used to weld metal to glass as well. This is quite an advancement compared to what has been done all this time. Usually, these two materials use an adhesive to stick together.
The different thermal properties were the main challenge of welding glass to metal. Glass and metals contract and expand at very different rates. So, there was very little that could have been done in the way of welding these two together – other than using industrial strength adhesive, of course.
When you heat the metal, it expands. The same goes for glass. But since the rates are different, if the glass is melted onto the metal, when the metal eventually cools down and contracts, it will shatter the glass.
For the same reason, even the adhesive method is not that reliable. The glass and metal will move from the position where the adhesive was put on and tested. This will cause the bond to degrade over time.
But the researchers from Heriot-Watt University found a ground-breaking way to do it. The gist of the process is pretty similar. Ultrafast laser systems will create tiny plasma inside the materials. Then the metal and glass can be fused.
This new technique allows metal and glass to be welded without breaking the glass. Thanks to this technique, the glass was able to handle very tough conditions.
Repairing Broken Glass
One of the most common reasons someone might ask the question: can I weld glass is when they want to repair a broken piece of glass. In some cases, some types of glass can be repaired. Welding might not be the best solution for everything, though.
If you are a homeowner and dropped your favorite glass bowl and broke it, using adhesive or epoxy might be your best bet here. I do not think it would be worth it for you to go through the trouble of heating the glass pieces and trying to join them together.
Keep in mind that whether you can use adhesive depends on a couple of things. Firstly, the type of break. If the break is somewhat even and a clean break, the adhesive might work. Then again, make sure you get the right kind of adhesive.
You can visit your local hardware store to buy common glass adhesive. This option is much easier for most people when it comes to repairing broken glass compared to fixing it by welding.
Of course, you can not just use epoxy or adhesive on all kinds of glass pieces. For scientific equipment, you do not want anything else interfering. In those cases, the welding method can be an option.
But then again, you need to compare the pros and cons here. Is it worth the effort of going through the trouble of welding a piece of fiddly glass together? Is it not much quicker and less hassle to just buy a replacement?
However, it is entirely up to you. Trying to weld glass by yourself can be a cool little way to learn a new skill and do something interesting.
When the break is not a clean one, I would insist that you do not try to repair it by yourself. It can be very difficult to handle the pieces. There is also the chance of you cutting yourself. In that case, you might need some professional help or replace it with a brand new one.
Some Safety Precautions You Should Not Ignore
Okay, you decided to join the two glass pieces together. You’ve got your tools ready. But wait, there are some safety precautions you need to take before you start. Making sure all sorts of safety precautions are covered will give you that extra peace of mind that nothing will go drastically wrong. Safety should always be the first priority. Here are the things to consider:
Always Wear The Right Gear
Whether you are trying to join two glass pieces together at home or at work, always make sure to wear the right safety equipment. This is the best thing you can do for your safety. If you are doing it at home, chances are you are not going to actually “weld” the glass.
You might use a burner to heat the two pieces and join them together. For this, you need to make sure you have thick gloves on. The last thing you want to do is burn your hands. Other things, like masks, are also very important. Eye protection is a must as well.
Have A Stable Working Surface
You also need to have a very stable working surface. This is true in any situation when you are working with tools. And when you are working with something that can hurt you, like glass and welding equipment/torches, a stable surface is even more important.
If you need some sort of clamp to hold the two pieces together, then get one of those. You should be able to buy them easily from a hardware store.
Keep The Area Well Ventilated
Whenever there is any kind of welding or burning, there will be fumes. You do not want to breathe this stuff in. Make sure to keep the place well ventilated. This is also why I recommend you wear appropriate masks too.
A well-ventilated place will keep the air circulating, and you will not suffocate on the fumes. So, do yourself a favor and keep your lungs healthy.
Know Your Expertise And Limits
Sometimes it is easy to get carried away in the excitement of trying something new. But I urge you to be self-aware of your expertise and limits. Trying out new projects is fine. But do not underestimate it.
If something seems too difficult, it is best to take a step back and do some more research. You should go into this thing with more knowledge and skill. Besides, sometimes it is just best to hand it over to a professional. You can always learn from them the first time and try it yourself later on.
Hope that answers your question: can I weld glass? You can use a torch to burn and slightly melt the edges till they become syrup-like. Then press them together to help them attach.
As I mentioned before, keep in mind that this process might make the glass brittle and prone to breaking. When it comes to industrial applications, glass welding is a completely different beast.
Companies and manufacturers use different high-tech laser techniques to weld glass together. There have been new and ground-breaking techniques invented to help industries like electronics manufacturing and the biomedical field.