Until the end of the 19th century, the only welding process was forge welding, which blacksmiths had used for millennia to join iron and steel by heating and hammering. Arc welding and oxy-fuel welding were among the first processes to develop late in the century, and electric resistance welding followed soon after. Welding technology advanced quickly during the early 20th century as world wars drove the demand for reliable and inexpensive joining methods. Following the wars, several modern welding techniques were developed, including manual methods like shielded metal arc welding, now one of the most popular welding methods, as well as semi-automatic and automatic processes such as gas metal arc welding, submerged arc welding, flux-cored arc welding and electroslag welding. Developments continued with the invention of laser beam welding, electron beam welding, magnetic pulse welding, and friction stir welding in the latter half of the century. Today, as the science continues to advance, robot welding is commonplace in industrial settings, and researchers continue to develop new welding methods and gain greater understanding of weld quality.
In recent years, in order to minimize labor costs in high production manufacturing, industrial welding has become increasingly more automated, most notably with the use of robots in resistance spot welding (especially in the automotive industry) and in arc welding. In robot welding, mechanized devices both hold the material and perform the weld and at first, spot welding was its most common application, but robotic arc welding increases in popularity as technology advances. Other key areas of research and development include the welding of dissimilar materials (such as steel and aluminum, for example) and new welding processes, such as friction stir, magnetic pulse, conductive heat seam, and laser-hybrid welding. Furthermore, progress is desired in making more specialized methods like laser beam welding practical for more applications, such as in the aerospace and automotive industries. Researchers also hope to better understand the often unpredictable properties of welds, especially microstructure, residual stresses, and a weld's tendency to crack or deform. 2b1af7f3a8