Helium Shortage – Rising Welding and Manufacturing Costs?

A summary insight, the U. T. current supply, and some effects to get manufacturers.

During the “world wars” era, the “Federal Helium Reserve” started to stockpile helium for warfare flight applications. However , due to the “Helium Privatization Act of 1996”, they halted refining. The capacity had reached 1 billion cubic meters, and now is definitely slated for depletion in 2015.

The reserve was originally designed for balloons and airships. Now, cryogenics currently consumes at least 25% for medicinal purposes primarily for the cooling of superconducting magnets which is used specifically for MRI (magnetic resonance image) readers. Doctors use them to see very detailed images of the human body. The magnets in the MRI machines require helium to keep them cool. Currently, there are no other options to replace helium for that function it provides to MRI scanning devices.

Other minor uses include space travel, thermo graphic cameras, gasoline leak detection, laser eye plus heart surgery, missile guidance, diving, and wind tunnels. For producers, it is used as a shielding, pressurizing and purge gas for arc welding, specifically GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding. )

Industries such as aerospace and oil & gas find that using GTAW, with helium, offers a more durable and higher quality weld. The down side, as compared with making use of argon gas, is that it’s slower, more complex, and tough to strike a good arc, which makes it difficult for operators to master. This additional time may likely increase the welding costs for manufacturers making use of helium. Estimators may want to soon think about the rising costs to be included whenever estimating their quotes and proposals. On the other hand, for the highly skilled “weld” providers, they can usually weld in half time compared to when argon is used.

“When helium is used, it welds from lower temperature. This enables our welders to complete jobs more quickly – nearly twice as fast. Without the ability to make use of helium, specifically on thick aluminium parts, we would have to turn-away several aerospace work.

Examples of aerospace parts we make:

A bracket for your Navy, where other manufacturers failed using a casting process –the part cracked. Next, when welded making use of argon the weld was too large resulting in distortion (meaning the part lost its alignment), when we used helium in the welding process it was successful.
A hand rail, to get a commercial airline, when 3 some other manufacturers attempted to make a structurally sound part they failed – the rail broke after implementation. AAR Precisions Systems made it successfully — welding the part using helium in the manufacturing process. ”
–Tony Carlisle, Welder, AAR Precisions Techniques

Selecting a shielding gas for welding primarily depends on the type of material to be welded, joint design, and final weld result.
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Argon is most often used for GTAW, and results in a high weld quality and good look. In contrast to argon, helium is used with regard to welding “heavy” sections specifically any time a greater penetration is required. It’s also used to weld thin sections of stainless steel plus non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium (mg), and copper alloys. Frequently, mixes of argon-helium help welders enjoy their combined benefits.

According to Wikipedia and Robert C. Richardson, a helium conservationist, the free market price of helium contributed to a “wasteful” usage (e. g. for helium balloons). Prices in the 2000s had been lowered by the U. S. Congress’ decision to sell off the helium amass by 2015. Robert also suggests, “… the current price needs to be multiplied “by 20” to eliminate excessive losing. “

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