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International Congress on Advances in Welding Science and Technology for

Construction, Energy and Transportation Systems (AWST - 2011)

24-25 October 2011, Antalya, Turkey

Recent Developments in Stainless Steel Cored Wires

J. M. Bonnel
Welding Alloys Group, Welding Alloys France, 68320 Holtzwihr, France

Stainless steel cored wires have existed for almost fifty
years, but have only really taken off in the last twenty.
The present state of evolution of stainless steel cored
wires is highlighted by the appearance of the latest
editions of EN ISO 17633 and AWS A-5.22 standards.
These standards, if not exhaustive, nonetheless include
almost as many filler metal compositions as their
counterparts for coated electrodes or solid wires.
Interesting advances and innovations have been made in
all alloy classes: not only the well-known martensitic,
ferritic, austenitic and austeno-ferritic stainless steels,
but also special types for dissimilar welding as well as
compositions designed for high temperature service.
Stainless steel cored wires are commonly chosen
nowadays for cladding and for joining [1]-[4]. They are
used in applications involving corrosion resistance and
those involving service at elevated or cryogenic
temperatures, applications that are far beyond the scope
of low alloy steels.
Stainless steel cored wires are available with or without
slag, for welding in all positions, with or without
shielding gas. Products designed for submerged arc
welding are also available.
This presentation highlights some recent advances in
slag systems and core ingredients. These innovations
have had a positive impact on the ability to exploit the
productivity of stainless flux cored wires in areas where
these consumables were previously forbidden or simply
unsuitable. Practical applications are also described.
Keywords: FCAW, welding processes, stainless steel,
cladding, corrosion, slag system, heat-resisting

1. Introduction
Austenitic stainless steel flux cored wires have been used
in Europe since the beginning of the eighties. At that
time, products on offer consisted mainly of wires for
welding in the flat and horizontal positions with an
external active shielding gas. Only very common
compositions were available.
Since then, the choice has greatly evolved, not only as
regards the variety of compositions available but also
with the emergence and the optimization of slag systems
allowing improvements in productivity, quality and
welder comfort.

The flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) technique has

advantages that make it an interesting complement to
other common welding processes such as shielded metal
arc welding, gas metal arc welding with solid wire or
submerged arc welding and cladding with solid wire or

Figure 1. Cross sections on 1.2 mm stainless steel flux-cored wires

The two main application fields for stainless steel cored

wires are joining and cladding. In both cases, they
present specific and useful characteristics. Hardfacing
and cladding overlap when martensitic stainless steels
are chosen for surfacing. In this case numerous
proprietary compositions are available to cope with
specific wear mechanisms and to meet the demands of
the end users.
Stainless steel cored wires are used today for cryogenic
and high temperature applications, and for the corrosion
resistance conferred by their composition and weld
soundness. They are also used for dissimilar welds and
cladding jobs in all positions.

2. Stainless Steel Cored Wires Welding

Processes and Core Types
The EN ISO 4063 edition 2011 [4] standard for stainless
steel cored wires mentions seven processes (Table 1)
where cored wires are used. It is important to
differentiate clearly between these processes to realize
the benefits that welding with stainless steel cored wires
can offer.

Table 1. Cored wires - EN ISO 4063 edition 2011 Numbering of

the welding processes

3.2. Process 125. Submerged arc welding with cored

Stainless steel cored wires for submerged arc welding
are essentially filled with metallic ingredients, though
some basic mineral additions may be added to improve
mechanical characteristics, weld metal toughness in
The interest of stainless steel cored wires for submerged
arc welding is explained not only by the possibility of
depositing special compositions, but also by clear quality
advantages, flexibility of use and productivity.[5]

3.1. Process 114. Open arc welding.

The most common self-shielded (open arc) stainless steel
wires are the martensitic or martensitic-ferritic grades
used for hardfacing steel mill rolls or other parts
requiring mechanical strength, hardness and moderate
corrosion resistance.

The advantages of the tubular wire route may be

summarised as follows:
- Increased productivity
- Less warping of welded structures on account of
increased linear advance speeds
- Attractive weldability, very good slag detachment
even at the root of the joint, neat beads with no adhering
- Flexibility: tubular SAW wire is weldable over a wide
parameter range. It is therefore possible to weld a root
pass at low current (e.g. 250 A for 2.4 mm) and
continue with the filling passes using the same wire at
higher deposit rates (e. g. 450 A for 2.4 mm)
- Logistical advantage: a single diameter covers all

Figure 2. Open arc hardfacing with CHROMECORE 414N-O wire

Open arc stainless steel wires are also available for many
austenitic grades. Some of these wires are approved for
assembly work and their mechanical properties give no
cause for complaint compared with gas-shielded wires.
This solution is interesting when the use of an external
gas protection is impractical or uneconomic

Figure 4. Digester - Base metal S. Steel A240 TP 304L

Submerged arc welding with EC308L wire

Figure 3. Open arc cladding with TRI S 309L-O, E309LT0-3 wire

Figure 6. Digester - Base metal S. Steel A240 TP 304L
Submerged arc weld detail

International Congress on Advances in Welding Science and Technology for

Construction, Energy and Transportation Systems (AWST - 2011)
24-25 October 2011, Antalya, Turkey
3.3. Processes 133 and 138. Welding with metal cored
Metal-cored wires may contain minor quantities of slagforming additions. Their filling contains at least 95 % of
metallic elements. A key advantage of metal-cored wires
is the possibility of offering alloys which cannot easily
be manufactured as solid wires. [6]

and weld bead appearance. However, experience shows

that with cored wires, as distinct from GMAW with solid
wires, pure argon (process 133) is frequently the best
choice to obtain the cleanest weld appearance and the
best weld quality without impairing arc stability. Argon
is recommended with most fully austenitic metal cored
wires, with superduplex metal cored wires and in some
cases with standard austenitic compositions.
3.4. Processes 132 and 136. Welding with flux cored
Processes 132 and 136 relate to flux-cored wires. Three
slag types are possible: rutile slow freezing, rutile fast
freezing and basic. [1]- [6]
Rutile slow freezing slag (process 136)

Figure 7. Fillet weld in PB-2F position on thin gauge plate with

metal cored wire EC316L.

The arc characteristics peculiar to the tubular

construction of metal-cored wires offer other advantages
as well. Compared with solid wires, when used at the
same welding current, the higher current density flowing
through the sheath of a metal-cored wire brings on a
quicker transition to spray-arc conditions, giving better
penetration, better wetting and less risk of weld defects.
Deposit efficiency is comparable to that of solid wires,
and deposit rates are often superior at a given diameter,
stick out and current.

Figure 8. Butt weld in PA-1G position on amagnetic stainless

steel Material Number 1.3964 with metal cored wire TUBE S
21 16 5N-G

Pulsed arc welding allows stainless steel metal-cored

wires to be used for positional work though at modest
parameters when compared with all-positional flux cored
wires. With pulsed arc welding, it must be remembered
that the requirements for metal-cored wire are slightly
different from those for solid wire. As cored wires vary
more widely in electrical and physical characteristics
than solid wires, pre-programmed synergic parameters
optimised for one brand may not work so well for
another and some fine tuning of the parameters may be
needed. [1], [2], [6]
A slightly active gas such as M12 with or without helium
(process 138) is often preferred to favour arc stability

The flux in tubular wire is designed to function in almost

the same way as that on stick electrodes. The melting
point, viscosity and surface tension properties of the slag
are optimised for welding in the flat and horizontal

Figure 9. Typical application for stainless steel flux-cored wire

with slow freezing slag: horizontal fillet welding

The slow-freezing slag and the presence of arc stabilisers

confer several advantages: [1], [2]
- Ease of use: of all the arguments used for flux cored
wire, ease of use is the least convincing in print and
perhaps the most convincing on the shop floor
- Very pleasing arc characteristics, no spatter
- Smooth clean bead with fine ripple but with no silicate
surface layer, comparable to that of a high efficiency
stainless steel stick electrode, but without interruptions
for electrode changes
- Self-detaching slag (or close to it), giving useful time
savings during weld finishing

- Wide tolerance of parameter settings that allows the

weld quality to be maintained quite easily, even if the
operator uses different parameters to those prescribed.
- Wetting characteristics and safe penetration profile
allow the welders to use faster travel speeds than with
solid wires, and to get the most attractive bead
appearance without using complex gas mixtures and
sophisticated power sources.

Basic slag (processes 136 and 132)

Basic flux cored wires are characterized by a coarse
droplet metal transfer and a slightly convex fillet weld.
The slag consists mainly of fluorides and oxides of
alkaline earth metals. They were first used was for
assembly and cladding work on martensitic stainless
steels because this slag system gives tough and ductile
welds. [7]

Flat position stainless steel flux cored wires can be a

very productive, high quality substitute for GMAW and
SMAW consumables. They are often used for welding
vessels in the chemical, petrochemical, shipbuilding and
food industries. Base material thickness should be at
least 3 mm thick to benefit fully from their advantages.
They are especially recommended for fillet welds and
are often a good choice too for the filling and capping
layers on butt joint welds.
Rutile fast freezing slag (process 136)
The slag system used in flux cored wires for downhand
welding can be modified to obtain fast freezing. This
gives a slag which contains the weld pool well, allowing
welding in any position with almost the same parameter

Figure 10. Dissimilar weld SA 240-304H / SA516gr70

with TETRA V 309L-G, position PC/2G

Transfer by spray-arc assures excellent penetration,

particularly in the vertical-up position where the
productivity of this family is greatest. Excellent results
are also obtained in the overhead, horizontal-vertical and
vertical-down positions.
Compared to other manual arc welding processes, allpositional FCAW can provide significant productivity
benefits, enabling considerable cost savings to be made
during fabrication.
Rutile all-positional stainless steel wires provide
excellent operability and the capability of producing
high quality welds in all positions, including on
Active gases with a carbon dioxide content of at least 8
% are required for joining applications when welding
with rutile cored stainless steel wires. The amount of
CO2 in the shielding gas has no significant influence on
the all-weld metal analysis.

Figure 11. PB-2F fillet weld on AISI 310 Typical convex shape of
basic flux cored wire.

As with stick electrodes, a basic slag system is

favourable for controlling hot cracking in stainless steel
weld metals undergoing a primary austenitic
solidification. Some of these austenitic stainless steel
types operate at temperatures exceeding 600C. The
absence of bismuth mineral additives (which reduce
creep resistance) is a further reason for selecting basic
flux cored wires. This slag system also improves the
toughness of duplex and especially superduplex filler
metals, without too serious an effect on weldability and
slag detachment.
Basic flux cored wires are usually used with mixed gases
of the M21 type (that contain at least 15 % CO2)
according to EN ISO 14715. [8]
Pure argon shielding (process 132) is a possible choice
for high alloy pure austenitic grades.
Table 2. Cored wires for GMAW, FCAW and SAW

3.4. Processes 143. TIG welding with tubular wire

Flux cored GTAW rods are specifically designed for root
pass welding on pipe when an inert gas backing purge is
either not possible or not desirable. It is applicable to the
standard 300 series, stabilised or not. [9]

International Congress on Advances in Welding Science and Technology for

Construction, Energy and Transportation Systems (AWST - 2011)
24-25 October 2011, Antalya, Turkey
The classification according to system A remains
mainly based on EN 12073 and accordingly, it does not
explicitly mention corresponding tubular wires for
submerged-arc welding.

Figure 12. Stainless steel pipe welding Root pas without backing
Left: front side Right: reverse side

4. Classification Systems for Stainless Steel

Cored Wires
4.1. International and European standards. [10]
EN ISO 17633 is devoted to cored arc welding wires
with or without gas protection for stainless and heatresisting steels. It replaced the former EN 12073
standard in 2006 and has been thoroughly revised
recently, a new edition of the standard being released in
December 2010.
As in its first edition, EN ISO 17633 edition 2010
recognizes that there globally two different approaches
to classifying a given stainless steel cored wire i.e.
European (EN ISO 17633-A) and American (EN ISO
17633-B). Both approaches are permitted, in order to
suit particular market needs.
Table 3 illustrates an example of wire classification
according to EN ISO 17633-A & B (2010)
Table 3. Example of classification according to EN ISO 17633

However, cored wires welded submerged arc can

logically be classified under EN ISO 17633-A by using
the symbol N (tubular cored electrodes without a gas
shield.). For example, a metal cored wire used for
submerged arc welding and depositing a 19% chromium
- 9% nickel - low carbon weld metal, and satisfying the
mechanical and all other requirements is classified T 19
9 L M N 3 according to EN ISO 17633-A.
4.2. American standards [11]
The most recent AWS A-5.22 and ASME II C SFA-5.22
specifications (released in 2011) classify flux-cored
wires (whether self- or gas-shielded) together with
metal-cored or composite wires (whether for use with
gas or flux protection). Metal cored wires still currently
classified in A 5.9 will be deleted from the next revision
of that specification.
In ASME II C SFA-5.22 / AWS A-5.22, the letter E
at the beginning of each classification designation stands
for electrode. The three or four digit number such as
316L designates the chemical composition. These
numbers generally follow the pattern of the AISI
numbering system for heat- and corrosion-resisting
steels. The letter T indicates that the product is a flux
cored electrode or rod. The 1 or 0 following the T
indicates the recommended position of operation, 1
standing for all position and 0 for flat and horizontal
The analysis ranges specified are required for
undiluted weld metal using a specified protective gas.
For most flux cored stainless steel wires this is either a
gas mixture (Ar / 20 - 25 % CO2) symbol 4, or pure
CO2 symbol 1. For example, the classification for an
all positional 316L cored wire, used with a SG-AC-20 /
SG-AC-25 (EN ISO 14175 M21) gas mixture is:
According to the ASME II C SFA-5.22 / AWS A-5.22
code, rutile cored and basic cored wires have an identical
Specific analyses are also given for self-shielding
stainless steel wires, because weld metal deposited
without shielding gas is richer in nitrogen, absorbed
from the atmosphere.
Stainless steel metal-cored wire classifications are based
on those of solid wires of corresponding cast analysis.
In the designations of metal-cored stainless steel wires,
the prefix ER is replaced by the prefix EC (C indicating
a composite wire). For metal-cored wires the analysis
specified is that of undiluted weld metal. Welding Alloys

provides all-weld metal composition under argon

It is worth noting that mechanical properties are a
requirement for the classification of metal cored wires
according to EN ISO 17633-A and-B but not according
to AWS A 5.22 / ASME II C SFA-5.22.

5. Recent Stainless Steel Cored Wire

Development work on the part of cored wire
manufacturers has been much in evidence, supporting
the continuous increase in consumption of these
products. The main development axes can be
summarized as follows:
5.1. Continuous improvement in welder appeal and
welder comfort on all wire types

5.2 Bismuth-free rutile slag systems [11], [12]

Most stainless steel weldments are put into service in the
as welded condition. During their service life
temperatures do not exceed 400C. However, in the
power generation and process industries, austenitic
stainless steels, may operate at temperatures exceeding
500C for long periods of time. In other applications,
welds are annealed (castings) or undergo long postweld
heat treatments (cladding and weld overlay). Bismuth is
added to rutile flux- cored wires in order to improve slag
release, so most wires contain from 0.01 to 0.03 % (100 300 ppm) bismuth. Such products should not be used for
service at temperatures above 400C or when an
annealing treatment is carried out after welding. In such
cases, stainless steel flux cored wires providing no more
than 0.002 % Bi in the weld metal should be specified
(ASME II C SFA-5.22 2011a).
Bismuth free stainless steel cored wires are now
available for most chemical compositions.

Efforts are made to enlarge the parameter box in order to

optimise ease of use and achieve full benefits of the
potential deposition rates and the versatility of the
As regards the parameter box, for a given voltage a
range of wire feed speeds and amperages is acceptable.
The minimum and maximum amperage for each
individual voltage setting are defined by the following
- Arc force: when the arc becomes too weak it cannot be
directed as it should, resulting in a risk of lack of fusion
- Arc smoothness: spatter free, quiet and stable
- Ease of use: allows the welder to work at the given
parameters for a long time
- Weld bead shape, wetting and appearance

Figure 14. Bismuth free rutile cored wire class 21 10 N TETRA V

Courtesy Welders N.V.

5.3. Basic flux cored wires

Basic slag systems are well adapted to specific grades
and / or for elevated mechanical properties as mentioned
earlier. This is illustrated by the success of heat resisting
types such as 310, 309HT, 308H or corrosion resistant
superduplex grades with impact toughness exceeding 40
J at - 50C. [13]

Figure 13. Applicable parameter box for two different brands

E308LT0-4 / T 19 9L R flux cored wires
Figure 15. Basic flux cored wire on AISI 310, T 25 20 B type.
Solution annealed condition
Courtesy Welders N.V.

International Congress on Advances in Welding Science and Technology for

Construction, Energy and Transportation Systems (AWST - 2011)
24-25 October 2011, Antalya, Turkey
5.4. Tailored cored wires for single layer or multiple
layer cladding
The cored wire processes are elegant solutions for
cladding and weld overlay on areas that cannot be
surfaced by strip cladding and where stick electrodes
were formerly used. [14]. An advantage of cored wire
processes is their predictable dilution levels, very similar
to those achieved with the SMAW process, as
highlighted by ISO/TR 17671 [15]. This standard
mentions dilution rates for a series of welding processes.

5.5. Implementation of the available product range

A range of analyses comparable to that of the SMAW
and GMAW processes is being produced today: virtually
all compositions possible for stick-electrodes are also
feasible for cored wires. This is reflected by ASME /
AWS and EN ISO standards that now take into account
an exhaustive series of stainless steel weld metal
analyses including martensitic/ferritic, austenitic, fully
austenitic and duplex types as well as stainless steel
analyses tailored for use at high temperatures or for
dissimilar welding.

Table 4. Process dilutions according to ISO/TR 17671 Annex A

Table 5. Stainless steel cored wire availability

Compositions are numerous and adaptable. This makes it

possible to achieve tailored clad compositions with or
without extra requirements (e.g. overalloying to
compensate for dilution).

Figure 16. 317L clad restoring.


Table 5 is for guidance only. Chemical compositions for

ASME-AWS / EN ISO overlap but are not identical.
As illustrated, compositions not listed in the EN ISO
standard can be classified, particularly in EN ISO 17633A, by using the prefix Z prior to the symbols of the main
constituents of all weld metal.

Figure 17. 347 single layer cladding.

TETRA S 743-G before and after machining

In the US code, there is less clarity - or at least a

different approach - , compositions not specified, being
described as ECT (flux-cored) or ECG (metal cored)

5.6. Stainless steel cored wires for submerged arc




For austenitic or duplex stainless steel compositions, at a

given wire diameter, deposit rates for submerged arc
welding using cored wires are at least 50 % greater than
for solid wires.
Weld bead shapes are easier to adjust, less weld
preparation is required, fewer layers are necessary to
complete the joint, less flux is consumed and there is less
downtime and distortion.





Figures 18 & 19. Left:Submerged arc welding with EC316L wire.

Right: Macrography illlustrating bead shaping possibilities and

6. Conclusions
Different processes are possible for welding stainless
steel with cored wire. For a comparable slag system, the
quality achieved is generally the same as with SMAW
electrodes. As for productivity, it is at least as good as
with solid wires with additional advantages of versatility,
ease of use, quality and compositional possibilities.
Stainless steel cored wires are often a good choice for
use in combination with other processes or when
problems or performance limitations arise.




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