Choosing the right metal fabrication partner can be a confusing and difficult task. One of the most important qualifications to look for is whether the company is experienced to perform the necessary work and employs certified welders.
Two common certifications in the metal fabrication and welding industry are AWS welding and NAVSEA welding. While there are similarities, some metal fabrication facilities may require both, especially if they wish to perform work for the U.S. Department of Defense.
The American Welding Society (AWS) provides standards and certifications with a suite of welding codes for different materials and applications, and applies to anything being welded. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) is more targeted, reserved for welding on the U.S. Navy’s fleet of ships, combat vessels, and submarines for the defense industry. While both the AWS and NAVSEA certifications have some overlap, they are two separate entities with their own unique requirements.
The AWS Certified Welder program is open to all welders and is a performance-based test. There are no required prerequisites or certifications prior to testing. The welder’s work will be examined by an AWS certified weld inspector (CWI). To become a CWI requires extensive training and experience, including 480 hours of classroom training, passing of three difficult exams, and several years of experience based on a welder’s educational background.
For example, to become a CWI, someone with a high school diploma needs five years of experience in addition to the classroom training and exams, whereas someone with no high school diploma requires nine years of experience. Those with college diplomas in engineering or welding technology can become a CWI with fewer years of experience.
NAVSEA requires additional steps and doesn’t recognize AWS-certified weld inspectors on their own merit. To become NAVSEA certified, an employer must provide a training program that is approved by a U.S. Navy NAVSEA Level III Test Examiner and the customer. This training program includes a written examination, a visual acuity test, and a demonstration of welding skills. NAVSEA requires 240 hours of experience and 24 hours of training.
The Level III examiner will audit the metal fabrication company to ensure they have all the necessary written procedures and documentation in place. This documentation must include detailed information on welder training, how procedures are qualified, how internal inspectors are qualified, and how weld inspections, processes, and more are performed. Once this qualifying step is completed, a metal fabricator can be awarded the work and would be provided with a list of compliance requirements for the project.
The process of certifying NAVSEA welders and developing necessary documentation may take several months and possibly years, depending on the number of revisions and welder qualifications being sought. Here at Fox Valley Metal-Tech, we’ve acquired approximately 150 weld procedure qualifications and have 25 welders that have anywhere from one to 30 qualifications, including manual and robotic TIG welding processes on steel, stainless steel, copper-nickel, aluminum, titanium, and more. The large number and types of NAVSEA qualifications are considered significant achievements in the industry.
To become AWS certified, welders must be able to pass a test for TIG welding, MIG welding, stick welding, wire wheel welding, and other processes. For most critical use metal fabrication, either TIG or MIG welding will be used, not spot welding.
Welders can also be certified for brazing, laser welding, plasma welding, soldering, and other techniques. Individuals can earn an AWS professional certification for welding-related disciplines, including:
AWS certifications don’t just apply to individuals. A company can also become an official AWS Certified Welding Fabricator (CWF), meaning they can be trusted to produce products that meet quality and best practice standards. Fox Valley Metal-Tech is a CWF and has several in-house CWIs to help streamline operations and ensure the highest quality.
NAVSEA requirements will vary for different components. For example, qualifications for a ship’s structure will be very stringent, whereas machinery or noncritical equipment such as desks, cabinets, and ventilation will have fewer requirements.
Metal fabrication subcontractors are governed by different NAVSEA standards, most commonly including:
What ultimately matters, however, is what’s called out in the contract. AWS standards may be allowed for non-critical applications on a Navy vessel. The contract and PO will specify what to build and how to build it, any necessary procedures, how to inspect it, and more. A large amount of supporting documentation and objective quality evidence needs to be submitted to show that every aspect of the requirements are fulfilled.
Knowing that a metal fabrication company has completed the rigorous stipulations for AWS and NAVSEA certifications demonstrates that they have the knowledge, skills, resources, and dedication necessary to meet most any requirement for welder workmanship. They understand the aspects of weld inspections and can identify potential defects and how to bring them into conformance.
Whether or not your project requires AWS or NAVSEA certification, it’s reassuring to know that the metal fabrication company is capable and qualified to meet high demands and tight tolerances for critical applications.
Specifying whether your project requires AWS or NAVSEA certification is just one item that needs to be outlined on a metal fabrication request for quote (RFQ). Be sure to download our helpful RFQ checklist to ensure you’re not overlooking any other details.
You can be assured that Fox Valley Metal-Tech has gone through the rigorous training, inspections, and other certification requirements of both AWS and NAVSEA to deliver outstanding quality and results. Contact their team of experts today to talk through your next project.