In metalworking, welding and riveting are two of the most commonly used metal-joining methods. A common question to ask is which should I use for my project between welding and riveting? And which is better? In the following article, we shall explore the options regarding these questions and provide some of the unique advantages to each.
Difference Between Welding and Riveting
Despite the fact that welding and riveting are both fabrication methods utilized for metal joinery, they do not have much else in common.
Welding creates a fused joint by melting the metal, whereas in riveting, a mechanical fastener (rivet) is used to join the pieces. In general, welding creates stronger joints compared to riveting; however, the process requires skilled labor and is expensive.
What is Welding?
Welding put into simple terms, makes use of extreme heat produced by an electrical circuit to fuse metals together as one. The heat produced forces the metal to its respective melting points and creates a molten weld pool.
To create a weld, one would then skillfully add external filler material to the molten metal pool. This filler material also melts to a liquid form and bridges the gap between the two metals. Once the filler material has been added, the weld pool of molten metals is allowed to cool to solid form again: voilà! Now you have a very strong, welded joint.
Advantages of Welding
If we compare Welding vs Riveting, welding presents plenty of advantages over riveting, especially when it comes to the strength, durability and flexibility. Welding is an incredibly strong and permanent method of metal joinery that can be utilized on any type of metallic product; bridges, skyscrapers, food processing products, airplanes, and more. Under stress, welding is highly productive and can withstand extreme loads when designed to do so. Also, the process itself is highly flexible.
The welding process can be used upon a variety of materials from stainless steels to titanium, and it is possible to use the method for projects small, large, heavy, light, round, or square. Another especially important factor is that once a metal joint has been welded, the joint is now sealed tight and will not allow any liquid, gas, or solid to pass through its seam. In general, welding is a more diverse, functional, and well-rounded form of metal joinery than riveting.
- Very strong
- Under stress/pressure it is much more durable
- Permanent joining process
- The joint does not leak (liquids, solids, gasses and other substances)
- Flexibility of use upon any structure
- Useful for both thin and thick materials
On the flip side, welding has certain disadvantages compared to riveting.
- It requires skilled workforce.
- Welding defects such as porosity are not easy to inspect and may requires special attention.
- It can be can be dangerous if the correct safety procedures are not followed.
What is Riveting?
A rivet is a mechanical fastener used for riveting. A rivet in appearance is a metal pin, and this pin is made of metal and composed of a head on one end and a cylinder (tail) on the other. In the riveting process, the rivet is passed through the holes in overlapping workpieces, and the end of the rivet is set (bulged) to create a strong joint.
Riveting is an entirely different form of metal joinery when compared to welding.
When the rivet is placed into the hole, it is necessary to deform the tail of the rivet (by using a rivet gun or another special tool) so that it expands and fastens securely into place. This is what fastens the metal together in a semi-permanent bond.
One would continue to repeat the process as necessary along a joint to meet a project’s desired/required strength requirements.
Advantages of Riveting
The main perks of using the riveting method for metal joinery is largely connected to significant economic benefits, a lower skill requirement, and the ability to join thinner/different metals with less difficulty.
The price to rivet metal is significantly lower than welding. For example, a rivet gun (or riveting tool) can be purchased for as low as $5USD, and rivets of good quality are no more than a few cents apiece.
One would simply need to predrill the holes across a metal joint, place the rivet into the rivet gun, place the rivet gun and rivet into the hole and pull the trigger. Now the joint is secure, and the metal is fastened together. When compared to welding, which requires: a TIG or MIG welding machine, protective gas, filler material, protective equipment, significant skill and time, the process of riveting is very straightforward and economical to use.
When you join thin materials (under 0.9mm) and characteristically different materials (like stainless and carbon steel), riveting is much less of a headache than welding. When welding these materials, a lot of skill, patience, and knowledge are required, along with more specialized welding tools.
When riveting thin or different metals, the process is the same level of simplicity as always. We just need to predrill the hole and secure the rivet inside; a very fast, clean and easy process when compared to welding.
- Lower degree of skill is required to create the joint
- Faster process
- Great for joining thin or different metals
- No post welding cleanup
- Semi-permanent (removable)
- Riveting is time-consuming and labor-intensive.
- Require overlapping of the pieces to be joined or need to add extra material (cover plate) in the case of butt joints.
Rivet vs Weld Strength
The question of which joining technique is stronger than the other, riveting or welding, is one that many people have. It’s important to know the difference in order to choose the right technique for the job.
Have you ever noticed the number of rivets on the wings of an aircraft?
Riveting is the preferred method when working with metals such as aluminum that are difficult to weld. It works best for lighter and thin materials; so it would be more appropriate for installing a car bumper than welding. Riveting is often done with a hammer and mechanical squeezer or a rivet gun.
On the other hand, welding can be used on most metals and so it would be appropriate for repairing anything from a motorcycle exhaust pipe to a broken engine block. A properly welded joint has strength equal to or more than the base metal. The problem is, there are more chances of defects in weld joints especially when proper post-welding procedures are not followed.
It is also difficult to inspect and check the welding strength whereas riveting delivers a safe way to joint metals in critical applications such as bridges, construction, shipbuilding, etc.
Which Method is Better for You?
Both welding and riveting are useful and practical methods of joining metals. But which is better suited to your project?
Welding may be better suit to your project if:
- You want to join metal together permanently and securely
- A tightly sealed joint is required (which does not allow liquids, solids or gas to pass through)
- Your project is of high structural importance (eg: a component in a vehicle, a structure that will be under heavy load or even a simple household gate)
- Aesthetics and appearance are of crucial importance
You would use the Riveting method when it is important for you to:
- Save money and time (on a project of lower structural importance)
- You need to be able to disassemble the joint in the future
- Very thin metals are being used for the joint
- Different metals are required to be joined (and strength is not of great importance).
Welding VS Riveting is difficult to compare as there would be situations where one would indefinitely weld over riveting or vice-versa. Our advice is: if in doubt ask a professional, as nobody would want to build a house made of rivets!