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Section Topic Page Section Topic Page

1 Introduction 1 6 Metal Transfer 26

A. Short-Arc
2 Base Metals 2 B. Globular Transfer
A. Alloying Elements C. Spray Transfer
B. Carbon Steels D. Pulsed Spray Transfer
C. Alloy Steels
7 Welding High Strength Steels 33
3 Electrical Characteristics 8 A. Select the Proper Filler Metal
A. Power Supply Basics B. Minimize Hydrogen
B. Constant Voltage Power Contamination
Supply Controls C. Control Heat Input
C. Electrical Stick Out D. Use the Correct
D. Constant Voltage Power Technique
Supply Characteristics
1. Slope 8 Technique and Equipment 40
2. Inductance Set-Up
3. Heat Input A. Torch Angle
B. Feed Roll Tension
4 Shielding Gases 14 C. Burnback
A. Shielding Gas Functions D. Arc and Puddle Position
B. Flow Rates E. Vertical Down Welding
C. Gas Losses F. Gaps
G. Crater Filling
5 Electrodes 21 H. Arc Starting
A. Alloying Additions
B. 1. Solid Wire Designations 9 Weld Discontinuities 45
and Chemistry and Problems
B. 2. Metal-Cored Wire A. Lack of Fusion
Designations and Chemistry B. Porosity
C. Flux-Cored “Tubular” Wire C. Burn-Through
Designations D. Undercut
D. Slag and Gas Formation E. Spatter
E. Solidification of the Weld Puddle F. Cracking

10 Conclusion 50


This training program was written to give As you learn more about GMAW, it will
you a better understanding of the MIG become apparent that this is a sophisti-
welding process. MIG is an acronym for cated process. Welders that have used
Metal Inert Gas, which is not technically “stick” welding (Shielded Metal Arc
correct for steels, because shielding gases Welding or SMAW) are sometimes of the
for steels contain an active gas such as opinion that the GMAW process is sim-
oxygen or carbon dioxide. The correct pler; but to deposit a high quality bead
term according to the American Welding requires as much knowledge, or probably
Society (AWS) is Gas Metal Arc Welding more, than the SMAW process. The reason
(GMAW). We will use the correct termi- for this is the number of variables that
nology as defined by the AWS and also affect the arc and the degree of control the
explain the slang used so that you will be operator has over those variables.
familiar with all the terms applicable to
this process. The purpose of this manual is to make you
a better welder by increasing your knowl-
edge of how the GMAW process works. A
more knowledgeable welder can be more
10% productive by working smarter, not harder.
Gas Figure 1 shows why your company is
5.0% interested in your education. Your labor
and overhead account for about 85% of
the cost of depositing weld metal. Any
knowledge you gain from this course not
only helps you, but also helps to make
your company more competitive in a very
tough marketplace. If you should have any
and Labor
question in the future that this manual or
85% your supervisor cannot answer, please free
to have him contact your Praxair regional
engineering staff for further assistance.

Figure 1 –
Breakdown of
welding costs


Base Metals

The two main categories of steel fabricated Unit cell

today are carbon and alloy steels. Carbon (9 iron atoms)
steels basically contain carbon and manga-
nese. Alloy steels contain carbon, manga-
nese, and a variety of other elements to
give the base metal the required proper-
ties. Alloy steels cover a wide range of
materials, such as the stainless and tool

As weight becomes an issue in the trans-

portation industry, there has been a sub-
stitution of high strength low alloy steels Figure 2 – Iron body centered
(HSLA) in applications that previously Cubic Unit Cell
used carbon steels. The higher tensile and
yield strengths allow the cross-sectional than the iron atoms, and they fit into the
area weight of the structural members to open areas between the iron atoms. In
be reduced. The resulting weight reduction carbon steel, manganese is the other
allows better fuel economy and a stiffer alloying element. In the matrix, a small
body in the case of automobiles, or an portion of the iron atoms is replaced by
increase in payload in the case of heavy manganese atoms. The layers above and
trucks. Stainless and tool steels are two below the first layer are arranged identi-
more familiar categories of alloy steels. cally, except that they are shifted on a
This manual will concentrate on the low 45 degree angle to fall into the areas where
alloys such as the “construction steels”, the first layer of balls intersect. Now each
(A514, for example, referred to by USX as ball in the second layer is touching four
their T1 alloys). In order to understand balls in its layer and four balls in the layers
alloy steels, it helps to understand a little directly above and below it. The orderly
bit about the metallurgy involved with the manner in which metals are arranged in
elements added to increase the strength of crystals is one of the reasons that they are
these materials. so strong. When a metal yields, or deforms
plastically, the planes of atoms slip in
Metals are crystals, which mean that the relation to the adjacent planes and at the
atoms are arranged in an ordered matrix. grain boundaries. The only single crystal
An easy way to visualize a metal is to think materials used today are for turbine
of layers of balls with each ball in the layer blades. They are extremely strong due to
touching its four neighbors (see figure 2). the orderliness of the matrix. They are also
The balls represent the iron atoms of the extremely expensive to make.
2 metal. Carbon atoms are much smaller
The steels that are used in fabrication are The carbon forms a compound called iron
actually made up of grains or groups of carbide (Fe3C). The size of the iron carbide
crystals. During welding grains begin to molecule (a molecule is a combination of
grow into the molten puddle from the solid atoms held together to form a compound)
base metal at the edge of the weld. Each is considerably larger than the surrounding
grain continues to grow until it meets iron atoms. When the atomic layers begin
another grain. The area where they meet is to slip, the larger carbide molecule resists
called a grain boundary. In the steels of this slip by “pinning” the layers together
most interest, a lot of the “slip” or shifting due to their difference in size. There is a
of atoms, occurs at these grain boundaries. number of other carbide forming elements
Because of grain boundaries, the actual that work in a similar manner to strength-
strength of these steels is typically 25% to en alloy steels.
50% of the theoretical strength of a single
crystal of iron. The following section lists some of the
elements that are added to steel to yield
When carbon is added to a steel, the the desired properties.
strength of the steel goes up dramatically.

A. Carbon nese oxide (MnO). The manganese also

Alloying As mentioned previously, carbon in steel combines with sulfur to form manganese
Elements forms iron carbide (Fe3C) in the matrix. sulfide (MnS) (these are sometimes known
The larger size of the carbide compound as “stringers” and can cause welding
pins the layers within the metal matrix and problems in certain steels). The reason
makes it much more difficult for the mater- sulfur is detrimental is that it solidifies at
ial to yield. This raises the tensile, yield a low temperature. The liquid sulfur is
strength, and hardness of the steel consid- carried to the grain boundaries and
erably. reduces the strength of the weld. Any
manganese remaining after formation of
Silicon MnO and MnS will form manganese
Silicon is added mainly as a deoxidizer. It carbide (Mn3C) which strengthens and
combines with oxygen to form SiO2. This toughens the matrix. A special category
silicon dioxide, (also known as glass), floats of steel containing greater than 10%
to the surface of the weld puddle in com- manganese, are called “Hadfield steels”
bination with manganese oxide to form the after the metallurgist that discovered them.
brown slag islands seen in the weld surface. Hadfield steels harden very quickly to
Silicon can also be added as an alloying high hardness levels. They are also very
element; this is very beneficial in electrical abrasion resistant. The most common
steels used in transformers. application of these materials is in railroad
crossings or “frogs”. Hadfield steels are
Manganese also used in rock crushers, dredging pumps,
Manganese is used in small amounts in and dippers for power shovels.
most steels to deoxidize, desulfurize, and
improve material properties. The manga-
nese reacts with oxygen and forms manga-
Copper material to resist corrosion; these materials
Copper is added in very small amounts to are known as stainless steels. In chrome
increase the hardness of the steel. Copper plating, a very thin, tight layer of chro-
can also be added to improve the corrosion mium oxide is formed that resists further
resistance of weathering steels such as oxidation. As the layer grows in thickness,
“Cor-Ten”. These materials can be seen in the color begins to change to a straw color,
the unpainted condition on bridges, guard and then to blue. This “bluing” can be seen
rails, and light poles. The copper aids in the on motorcycle exhaust pipes.
formation of a very tight oxide that is not
as prone to flaking as carbon/manganese Nickel
steel; this slows the corrosion rate of the While nickel does not form any carbide in
material. a steel matrix, hardenability, ductility and
toughness are all improved when nickel is
Molybdenum added. Nickel is added to austenitic stain-
Molybdenum is another carbide forming less steels (300 series) in concentrations of
element, and is added to most alloy steels 7-35%. Nickel is also an important element
from .5% to 1.5%. Molybdenum improves found in the materials used for storage
yield strength and resistance to high of cryogenic fluids. An alloy containing
temperature creep (deformation due to 9% nickel is used to fabricate the inner
high temperature and stress). It also helps vessel in liquid nitrogen, argon, and
to maintain the strength of the steel after it oxygen tanks.
undergoes stress relief. Molybdenum is
added to stainless steels to reduce pitting Boron
(highly localized corrosion) in corrosive Boron is added in very small amounts to
environments. increase the hardenability of steels. The
amount added is typically below .01%.
Chromium King pins, used on semi-trailers, are made
Chromium is added to increase the from boron-containing steels.
strength, wear resistance, heat resistance,
corrosion resistance, and hardness of steel. Vanadium
Chromium is also a carbide former, and Vanadium is a strong carbide former, and
forms chromium carbide (Cr3C). In steels, increases the hardenability of the steel.
chromium can also form complex carbides, Vanadium is expensive, so it is usually
Fe2CrC and Cr2FeC. used in percentages of less than .2%.
This element reduces the grain size and
Bearing steels typically contain about increases the toughness of the material.
1% carbon and 1.5% chromium. When Vanadium steels are used to make axles,
chromium levels rise to about 4%, and connecting rods, hand tools, and engine
tungsten and molybdenum are added, tool crankshafts.
steels are the result. These materials are
made into the high speed cutting tools
used in machining. Increasing the chro-
mium level above 12-13% causes the

Titanium Sulfur
Titanium is a strong carbide former that Sulfur, also considered an impurity like
will also form oxides and nitrides. A large phosphorus, is usually specified as a maxi-
use of titanium is to stabilize certain mum allowable concentration. Sulfur in
grades of the stainless steels. Titanium the puddle moves to the grain boundaries
combines with any carbon in the matrix to of the solidifying weld metal because of its
form carbides before chromium carbide low melting temperature. This segregation
precipitation can occur. When chromium in the grain boundaries reduces the
forms carbides, the corrosion resistance of strength of the material. Manganese is
the material will deteriorate. Titanium also added to prevent this as it combines with
helps to reduce grain growth in high the sulfur (Mn + S = MnS) before it can
strength steels, improving strength and react with iron. Certain steels called free
toughness. machining steels, contain up to .3% sulfur;
these alloys are difficult to weld and have
Phosphorus poor strength characteristics.
Phosphorus is generally considered an
impurity in steels; a maximum percentage With this greater understanding of the
is generally listed. Phosphorus tends to alloys that are added to steel, let’s look at
segregate forcing carbon into the sur- carbon and alloy steels.
rounding matrix. This can lead to brittle


B. Carbon steels are categorized as low,

Carbon medium, and high carbon. The main
Steels alloying elements are carbon and manga-
nese. Typical products made of these
three categories of materials are:

Low Carbon Steel 1. Auto frames and bodies

(.005 - .3 C) 2. Auto and truck wheels
3. Structural shapes
(I-beams, channel, angle)

Medium Carbon Steel 1. Machine parts, pins

(.3 - .6 C) 2. Tools

High Carbon Steel 1. Railroad rail

(.6 - 1.0 C) 2. Dies
3. Springs

Carbon is a very powerful alloying element real change in most of the alloys is in
because it forms iron carbide (Fe3C). carbon content. At the right of the chart
Manganese also forms carbides, but has notice that the tensile strength rises rapidly
much less of an effect on strength and as the carbon level is increased with little
hardness. The following chart shows two or no change in the manganese level.
carbon steels from the low, medium, and
high carbon groups. Notice that the only

Table 1 – SAE/AISI Carbon Manganese P (max) S (max) Tensile

Chemical 1008 .08 max .25 - .40 .04 .05 43,000
Compositions of
1018 .14 - .21 .6 - .9 .04 .05 58,000
Carbon Steels and
1040 .36 - .45 .6 - .9 .04 .05 76,000
Tensile Strengths
1050 .47 - .55 .6 - .9 .04 .05 90,000
1070 .64 - .76 .6 - .9 .04 .05 102,000
1090 .89 - 1.4 .6 - .9 .04 .05 122,000

C. Alloy steels are generally classified by there are. The carbon steels, discussed
Alloy alloying additions. There are currently earlier, are in the first classification. There
Steels 38 different classifications of steels that are 15 to 20 different carbon steels avail-
are recognized by both organizations that able, and there are 38 different classifica-
categorize steels (AISI and SAE). The tions listed. Table 2 gives specification
following table is included to give a better numbers and alloy classification.
understanding of how many steel alloys

Table 2 – Specification Classification
Alloy Steel Number
Classification and 10XX Carbon Steels
Specification 11XX Carbon Steels, Resulfurized
Numbers 12XX Carbon Steels, Resulfurized & Rephosphorized
13XX Manganese Steels
2XXX Nickel Steels
31XX Nickel-Chromium Steels
33XX High Nickel-Chromium Steels
40XX Carbon-Molybdenum Steels
41XX Chromium-Molybdenum Steels
43XX Chromium-Nickel-Molybdenum Steels
46XX Nickel-Molybdenum Steels
48XX High Nickel-Molybdenum Steels
50XX Low Chromium Steels
51XX Chromium Steels
52XXX Carbon-Chromium Steels
61XX Chromium-Vanadium Steels
86XX Low Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Steels
92XX Silicon-Manganese Spring Steels
92XX Silicon-Manganese-Chromium Spring Steels
93XX Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Steels
98XX Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Steels
XXBXX Boron Containing Steels
XXBVXX Boron-Vanadium Containing Steels
WX Water-Hardening Steels
SX Shock-Resisting Steels
OX Oil-Hardening Steels
AX Air-Hardening Steels
DX High Carbon-High Chromium Tool Steels
HXX Hot Work Tool Steels
TX High Speed Tungsten Based Tool Steels
MX High Speed Molybdenum Based Tool Steels
LX Special Purpose Tool Steels
FX Carbon-Tungsten Tool Steels
PX Mold Steels
2XX Chromium-Nickel-Manganese Stainless Steels
3XX Chromium-Nickel Stainless Steels
4XX Chromium-Stainless Steels
5XX Low Chromium Heat Resisting Stainless Steels


Electrical Characteristics

A. The power supply (or welding machine) Congress is made of:

Power Supply connected to the torch is basically a big
Basics transformer/rectifier. Its purpose is to SENators And REPresentatives
take high voltage (440v or 220v) and low
current (20-50 amps/leg) AC power and Straight Electrode Negative
transform it to low voltage (16-40v),
high current (80-500 amp) DC power. Reverse Electrode Positive
To change AC to DC, a device called a
rectifier is used. Direct current provides a
much more stable arc. Most GMAW power Almost all GMAW power supplies are
supplies are set-up using a reverse polarity constant voltage machines, where Stick
connection. Reverse polarity is designated Electrode (SMAW) machines are constant
as DCEP, which means Direct Current, current.
Electrode Positive. An easy way to
remember this is:

High Voltage Low Voltage
Low Current High Current


Reverse Polarity - DCEP (DC - Electrode Positive)

Straight Polarity - DCEN (DC - Electrode Negative)

Figure 3 –
Typical GMAW
Power Supply


B. All constant voltage power supplies have supply or on the remote control. Increasing
Constant Voltage at least two operator-adjustable settings: wire feed increases current proportionally
Power Supply current and voltage. Current is set by so that enough current is available to melt
Controls adjusting the wire feed rate; voltage is set the wire and deposit it in the weld pool.
with a voltage adjustment on the power Voltage adjusts the length of the arc.

Some power supplies also provide the

Figure 4 – options of adjustable slope and inductance.
Power Supply The purpose of these controls will be
Adjustments discussed in the section on power supply
characteristics. Figure 4 shows a power
supply with the standard voltage (arc
length) and wire feed speed (current)
A adjustments. This power supply also allows
the operator to change the inductance and

Flat + Steep –

C. Electrical stick out (ESO) is the distance 1. Electrode preheat

Electrical measured from the contact tip in the torch 2. Burning off of drawing lubricants
Stick Out to the workpiece as figure 5 shows. ESO 3. Determination of current level
is very important, and can affect the


Figure 5 –
Measuring Electrical
Stick Out 9
The wire in the GMAW process is called penetration, because as current increases,
an electrode because it conducts electricity. so does the depth of penetration. By using
The current is transferred to the wire in a slightly longer stickout, more weld metal
the contact tip. The energy resulting from can be deposited without burning through
the welding current is distributed to two thinner parts. Increasing ESO makes the
different places in the welding circuit; arc harder to start because less current is
(1) resistance heating of the electrode, available at the arc due to resistance heat-
and (2) penetration into the base metal as ing. As more resistance is put into the
figure 6 shows. The electrode acts like the welding circuit (increased ESO), the effec-
elements in a home toaster. As current tive slope of the system is also increased.
passes through it, resistance heating occurs This also tends to reduce the short-circuit
and its temperature rises. The increased current.
temperature burns off drawing lubricants
used in the manufacturing of the wire. The ESO also affects shielding gas coverage. As
temperature rise also helps make it easier the distance increases from the contact tip
to melt the electrode. This is the reason to the work (also called TWD – tip to work
that deposition rate increases as ESO distance), you reach a point where the
increases. As ESO increases, current is shielding gas cannot effectively blanket the
decreased. This also helps to keep the molten weld puddle. This will be covered
contact tip cooler at higher deposition in more detail in the shielding gas section.
rates. This is a big help in controlling

Current from the power supply

is distributed to:

1. Resistance heating of the

electrode (ESO dependent)
2. Penetration into base metal

Figure 6 –


D. 1. Slope This means that for each increase of

Constant Voltage The characteristics of a power supply are 100 amps, the power supply will produce
Power Supply determined by the components used in its 2 volts less at the same voltage setting.
Characteristics design. The performance of a typical mach- The lower slope line is 6 volts/100 amps,
ine is described by a graph such as figure 7. and is about the maximum slope seen in
Most constant voltage power supplies a constant voltage power supply (steep
without slope adjustment are factory slope). A few machines are still available
preset at about 2 volts/100 amps with continuously adjustable slope; others
(flat slope). have external or internal taps to switch
between slopes. Increasing the slope of a
Figure 7 - power supply to control short-arc welding
Power Supply at low currents is necessary because the
Characteristics short-circuit current is limited. This
Curves reduces the tendency to burn-through on
thinner materials and decreases spatter on
arc starts. This will be explained further in
32 the section on metal transfer.
lat S
30 lope
100 Figure 8 shows a typical 2 volt/100 amp
28 A)
-S slope power supply characteristic curve.

26 CC
-D p
Sl A review of this graph helps to explain
24 ro op
op e
in (6 why the arc changes during welding. As
g V/
22 10
0A an example, select a welding condition of
20 )
27 volts and 250 amps. As welding contin-
ues, if the stickout (ESO) is reduced the
100 150 200 250 300 350 welding conditions change. As that change
Current (Amps)
is made, the spatter level begins to in-
crease. As ESO is decreased, less current
Figure 8 – goes into preheating the wire and more
The Effect of Slope on goes into the arc. Suppose the current
Current and Voltage increases 50 amps, which is easily done
with a small torch movement of about 1/4".
This moves the operating point to the
second point in figure 8; here the voltage
Flat Slope decreases to 26v while the current in-
22 2V/100A
creases to 300 amps. This voltage is at the
21 minimum for spray transfer; this would
account for the slight increase in spatter

20 that is observed. This will be explained in

more detail in Section 6.


225 250 275 300
Current (Amps)
Measuring Actual Welding Voltage measure as high as 5 volts which makes
starting the arc difficult.
Measuring actual welding voltage is a use-
ful way to be certain that the condition is 2. Inductance
within the range specified by the welding
procedure. Hard starts can result from Inductance is an adjustment that is provid-
bad connections in the welding circuit. ed more frequently than slope on CV
The voltage drop due to bad connections power supplies. Inductance is another
increases the slope of the system, and method for controlling the arc. This is done
reduces the available short-circuit current. by controlling the rate at which the weld-
Comparing the voltage at the power ing current reaches the setting selected.
supply terminals and between the feeder Figure 10 shows a plot of inductance vs.
and the work (figure 9) will give the time. The top curve shows what happens
voltage drop due to resistance. It can with no additional inductance and the
current rises as quickly as the power sup-
Figure 9 – ply will allow it to rise. This can result in
Measuring Actual Volt Meter very hot starts or even in the wire explod-
Welding Voltage 27.5 ing at these very high current levels.
Inductance should be kept low for spray
transfer. This produces better arc starting
+ – and more stable arc at high currents. High
inductance settings can make it hard to
A Connect to
initiate the arc because it limits the maxi-
+ terminal on
feeder and work mum short circuit current available for
piece and read this purpose.
V A while welding

Referring again to figure 7, as the elec-

trode first touches the work to strike an
V I Work
arc, the voltage falls from open circuit
Flat + Steep – voltage (40-50v) to 0 arc volts. At 0 volts
(no arc length or a dead short), the power
supply produces the maximum short-
circuit current. For a machine rated at
Figure 10 – 450 amps (at 100% duty cycle) this might
The Effect of Increasing Inductance be 550-600 amps. A 600 amp machine
might produce up to 800 amps during this
initial start. This is more than enough
Least Inductance current to explode the wire and make the
Current (amps)

600 arc difficult to start. If the arc start is too

500 hot, either the slope can be increased or
400 inductance added to reduce the current at
More Inductance
arc initiation. Inductance can be beneficial
when welding with low current short-arc,
Most Inductance as it makes the puddle more fluid and
allows it to better wet the base material.
Time (milliseconds)
3. Heat Input The heat input formula is also used for
when welding high alloy materials, but it
A useful formula often used by welding also helps in understanding the uses of the
engineers is the heat input equation. If power supply characteristic curve.
you have been welding high strength or
corrosion resistant alloys, you may already The heat input formula can assist in pre-
be familiar with this formula. It allows you paring welding procedures where similar
to calculate the amount of heat delivered material thicknesses and joint configura-
to the workpiece. tions are welded. After determining the
The formula is: range of heat inputs that produce an
acceptable weld, the range of heat inputs
can be calculated. This is really helpful in
Amps X Volts X 60
Heat Input = increasing speeds for robotic welding. The
Travel Speed (in/min) required travel speed can be calculated as
wire feed speed (current) and voltage are
Heat input is measured in units of energy/ increased. The formula is also helpful in
unit of length (joules/inch). A joule is a controlling distortion. Conditions that put
unit of energy equal to 1 watt of energy less energy into the metal can be calcu-
into the workpiece per second. While a lated, which reduces distortion.
joule is not a familiar unit of measurement,
there are a lot of uses for the heat input
formula itself.

For example, suppose that welding is done

at the second condition used as an example
in figure 8. That condition was 300 amps
and 26 volts. For this example, say the
travel speed is 10 in/min. This works out
to a heat input of 46,800 joules/in. If we
know that the welding involves bridging
a gap, ESO can be increased to reduce
current and increase voltage while reach-
ing the first condition indicated. That was
250 amps and 27 volts, still at 10 in/min.
The heat input is now 40,500 joules/in. By
increasing ESO (stickout), heat input has
been reduced by almost 15%.


Shielding Gases

At high temperature, all metals commonly has very high moisture content. The
used for fabrication will oxidize in the moisture produces oxygen and hydrogen in
presence of the atmosphere. Every welding the arc environment.
process provides shielding from the atmos-
phere by some method. When welding Submerged-arc welding shields the puddle
steels, we want to exclude oxygen, nitro- by a different method. As the puddle
gen, and moisture from the area above progresses, the intense heat melts the flux
the molten puddle. in the joint area; this forms a slag that
covers the weld and excludes the
In the Oxy-fuel process, the weld pool atmosphere.
is shielded from the atmosphere by the
combustion by-products of carbon monox- GMAW (MIG) and GTAW (TIG) are
ide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2). In both gas shielded processes in which the
stick welding (SMAW), CO and CO2 are shielding gas is provided from an outside
also the shielding gases. The 60XX type of source. No fluxing agents are included in
electrode uses a cellulosic coating, which the filler metal of solid wires.

A. For the purpose of this discussion the As was mentioned earlier, the atmosphere
Shielding Gas GMAW process will be emphasized must be displaced while the puddle is
Functions because it constitutes the greatest portion cooling or oxidation will occur rapidly.
of welding done in industry. A good This appears as a gray surface on the weld
portion of this information is applicable bead. One cause of porosity is the result of
to GTAW too. poor shielding when atmospheric oxygen
combines with carbon in the puddle. As
The major functions of a shielding the weld metal cools, porosity occurs as
gas are to: this carbon monoxide escapes from the
center of the bead. If air is aspirated into
1. Protect the puddle from the atmosphere the shielding gas line through a leak,
2. Provide arc plasma nitrogen and moisture will also contami-
3. Provide oxygen for wetting nate the shielding gas. Nitrogen, while very
(ferrous alloys) soluble in the puddle at high temperatures,
4. Control type of metal transfer will cause porosity as it escapes during
5. Affect arc stability cooling of the weld bead.
6. Control welding costs.

The shielding gas also provides a portion shows. This is accomplished by “ionizing”
of the arc plasma, which transfers the the gas, which frees electrons to transfer
welding current across the gap between the current from the work to the electrode.
the electrode and the work as figure 11 Metallic and argon ions (atoms stripped of
an electron) transfer the positive charge
Figure 11 – across the arc. This explains in part why
Transfer of Current the arc becomes very unstable when a
Across the Arc torch is hooked up using straight polarity
Plasma (DCEN) rather than reverse polarity
(DCEP). In DCEN, the positive current is
trying to remove iron atoms from the plate,
which are much harder to melt than a
small diameter electrode.

In steels (carbon and stainless), oxygen
Fe+ stabilizes the arc and reduces the surface
– tension of the weld metal. Oxygen is
obtained from direct additions of oxygen
Ar+ or carbon dioxide to the shielding gas.
Surface tension, the force that causes
water to bead up on a waxed car surface,
is not desirable when depositing a weld
bead. If pure argon is used instead of a
mixed gas, the bead does not wet out and
appears as though it is sitting on top of the
part surface (convex bead).

Figure 12 shows the basic gases used in

Gas Characteristic Ionization shielding GMAW. The ionization potential
Potential (eV) is the amount of energy (in electron volts)
required to establish an arc. The use of a
Ar Totally Inert (Cool) 15.759
helium rich gas such as Praxair’s HeliStar™
He Totally Inert (Hot) 24.587 A-1025 blend (for short-arc welding of
stainless steel), requires 3-5 volts more
O2 Highly Oxidizing 13.618 than an Ar/CO2 mixture at the same
current. The shielding gas used also has a
CO2 Oxidizing (Dissociates 13.769
pronounced effect on the type of metal
H2 Highly Reducing 13.598 transfer obtained.

Figure 12 –
Gases Used for
GMAW Shielding

There is a “best gas” for almost every Argon/oxygen mixtures are also very
application, but there may be 2 or 3 gases stable, and are used in steel welding
that will do a very reasonable job. Gases applications. Pure carbon dioxide provides
are selected on the basis of performance, a less stable arc plasma, but its additions
availability, cost, and many other variables. to argon can be very beneficial where
Further discussion of gases and metal depth and width of penetration need
transfer is found in section 6. to be controlled. Some shielding gases
also use additions of oxygen and carbon
Stability of the arc plasma is another factor dioxide in one mixture (Praxair's Stargon™
influenced by the shielding gas. Pure argon gas blend).
provides a stable arc, and is used when
welding reactive metals such as aluminum.

B. Once the shielding gas is selected, it is Regulator-flowmeters can vary the inlet
Flow Rates critical to make sure that the flow rate is pressure to the flowmeter. As inlet pres-
within certain limits. For low current short- sure falls when a cylinder gets low, the flow
arc applications, 25-35 scfh (standard cubic rate is actually skewed to a higher reading.
feet per hour) is adequate if ESO is held For example, a regulator-flowmeter,
from 3/8" to 1/2". For high current short- installed in a low pressure line (20 psig),
arc and the spray transfer mode, flow rates showed a flow reading of 70+ scfh, but
need to be increased to the 35-45 scfh the actual flow rate was 15 scfh. The
range. Figure 13 shows the best way to regulator had reduced the pressure in the
measure the flow rate using a torch flowmeter to about 5 psig instead of the
flowmeter. correct design pressure of 50 psig. Flow
rates must be kept in a controlled range so

that the shielding gas column does not
60 become unstable and mixes with air at
40 both low and high flow rates or when
20 forced to flow past an obstruction in the
0 nozzle such as spatter. This type of flow is
• called turbulent (non-axial flow).

30 - 70 scfh
at the nozzle

Figure 13 –
Measuring Actual
Flow Rate

Testing has shown that, the shielding gas shielding gas. The erratic quality of the
column stays in laminar flow from 30 scfh shielding can provide a weld that looks
up to about 70 scfh with a 400 amp gun satisfactory, but can contain subsurface
(using a 5/8" diameter nozzle). Above (honeycomb) porosity. As deposition
70 scfh, the flow becomes turbulent and rates increase, a 35-45 scfh flow rate is still
mixes with air. A cigarette in an ashtray satisfactory unless there are breezes or
can illustrate the difference between drafts. In high deposition MIG welding,
laminar and turbulent flow. The smoke a .045 wire, can be run at 1300 ipm
initially leaves the tip, in a tight orderly (35 lb/hr) at 50-60 scfh with no problems.
laminar flow. A few inches above, the flow Fans and drafts will displace a shielding
becomes turbulent and the smoke mixes gas, and may require increasing flow rates
with the air rapidly as shown in figure 14. to 50-70 scfh. Reducing cup-to-work
This same thing happens with a column of distance can also improve shielding.

Figure 14 –
Laminar and
Turbulent Flow


Flow Air

C. Loss of shielding can cause problems in

Gas Losses GMAW. Inadequate gas coverage can
result in an oxidized surface or porosity.
The first step in troubleshooting what you
think may be a gas loss is the use of a torch
flowmeter. This flowmeter fits over the
nozzle on a torch and measures the actual
flow rate of your shielding gas (figure 13).
Compare the actual reading with that of
the station flowmeter (if used). The two
readings should be very close to each
other. If not, there may be some potential
problem areas.
Threaded Connections are notorious for If the leak is large enough, no amount of
leaking if not properly sealed. A pipeline flow can give a good quality weld. Use a
with shielding gas at 50 psi can leak a lot of liquid leak detector to find any leaks.
expensive gas. It will also allow air to
diffuse in, as figure 15 shows.

O2 Concen
Hose Wall

N2, O2, H2O

Process Air

N2, O2, H2O

Figure 15 –
Hose Wall
Back Diffusion Allows
Air to Leak into a Distance

Pressurized Line

A few shops use quick disconnects for problem by disconnecting the supply hose
their shielding gasses. There are also prime at the wire feeder. Use the torch flow
suspects when investigating leaks. Use a meter to check the flow out of the hose. If
liquid leak detector solution to check the flow meter is correct, check if a leaking
them. If the flow measurement at the torch fitting or if the o-rings in the back of the
indicates a much lower flow than the liner have been damaged (figure 16). These
station flowmeter, find the source of the can be easily replaced, and should be
lightly coated with silicone grease to avoid
Lube O-Ring with silicone damaging them during reinstallation.
grease before installing
Another place where shielding gas flow
can be disrupted is in the diffuser. The gas
diffuser is found at the point where the
contact tip is mounted. Its purpose is to
distribute the gas evenly to produce
laminar flow out of the gas nozzle. If
spatter builds up on the diffuser, it can
clog it and reduce the gas flow enough to
provide poor shielding. If the diffuser is
only partially blocked, the entire gas flow
Figure 16 – may try to exit the holes still open and
O-Rings Seal the Gas create unbalanced turbulent flow. This in
Ports at the Feeder itself will aspirate air into the shielding gas
column and may once again, cause
18 porosity.
Figure 17 – Holding the torch at too small an angle can
Air Aspirated by the also create a venturi effect between the
Venturi Effect can plate and the nozzle. This will also con-
Contaminate the taminate the shielding gas stream with air
Shielding Gas and cause porosity (figure 17).

Some welders clean spatter from nozzles

by lightly tapping the gas cup against
Venturi effect pulls air something which knocks the spatter out.
into the shielding gas This can create a problem by eventually
causing the cable to gooseneck connection
to loosen. When this happens, it is possible
Figure 18 – to lose your gas coverage in the torch
Pressure Correction handle and aspirate air into the shielding
Formula for Flowmeters gas stream.

Example: A flowmeter calibrated at 20 psig One final thing to check is incorrect inlet
on a 50 psig line indicating 40 scfh pressure to the flowmeter. All flowmeters
are calibrated for one specific inlet
Actual Indicated Actual Pressure (psia) pressure, and the actual flow reading will
Flow Rate
= Flow Rate x
Calibration Pressure (psia) be incorrect if the inlet pressure does not
match the calibration pressure. Figure 18
Actual 50 + 14.7 shows what happens when a 20 psig
Flow Rate
= 40 scfh x
20 + 14.7 calibrated flowmeter is attached to a
50 psig line. The actual flow is 26% higher
= 40 x 1.37 = 54.6 scfh than indicated on the flowmeter. The
easiest way to check this is by using a
torch flowmeter, because it is calibrated
for atmospheric pressure at the outlet.

Figure 19 –
Weld Terminology Penetration Patterns
and Penetration The penetration pattern of a weld can be
Measurement examined by cutting and etching the weld
as shown in figure 19. To examine a weld,
cut through it at 90 to the face. The
sample is easiest to prepare when a saw is
Throat used. The cut face is then sanded with

progressively finer sandpaper until a 320
grit paper is reached. An etchant reveals
the penetration pattern. For steels, there
are many different etchants available. For
macro-etching, a mixture of 10% nitric
acid in methanol works well. This etchant
is called nital-10%.
Toe 19
When the etchant is swabbed on the weld rapidly. The cooling is caused by the
area, the different microstructures react at quenching effect of the colder base metal.
different rates. The darkest area will be the By measuring from the face of the weld to
heat-affected zone, or HAZ. This is base the root, we find the effective throat of the
metal that is adjacent to the weld metal. fillet weld as shown in figure 19.
The HAZ has been heated to near the
melting temperature and then cooled very Different gases will change the shape and
depth of the penetration pattern. Oxygen
Figure 20 – additions will reduce the diameter of the
Different Gases plasma, and lead to a deep and narrow
Provide Different penetration pattern as shown in figure 20.
Penetration Patterns This is sometimes called “finger-like”
penetration. Additions of carbon dioxide

C-25 O-5 C-15/C-8 and helium increase the diameter of the

plasma because of their increased thermal
conductivity. This tends to decrease the
effective throat and broaden the penetra-
tion pattern.

Figure 21 shows the penetration patterns

of tubular (flux-cored or metal cored) and
solid wires at the same power (current
and voltage) level. The tubular wires are
made with a solid sheath and filled with a
powder; most of the current is carried by
the sheath. This increases the diameter of
the plasma, and makes for a less penetrat-
Figure 21 – ing or softer arc. Because of the axial metal
Penetration Patterns transfer characteristics in spray transfer
of Solid and Tubular with solid wire, the penetration pattern is
Wires in Spray narrower and deeper than that of a tubular
Transfer wire. Because the power of the two arcs is
the same in the example, the areas melted
in the base metal are equal, but different in
shape. In some welding applications where
Solid Tubular
a solid wire produces burn-through on
thinner parts, a tubular wire may be a good
choice because the larger diameter plasma
spreads the heat over a larger area and
reduces the tendency to burn-through.

Equal Areas


A. Although a welder doesn’t often get the The list shown in figure 22 outlines the
Alloying chance to select a filler material, this elements added to steel and the reasons
Additions section is included for information. for their addition. These are the same
Knowing how wires are alloyed and why, alloying elements that are added to the
can sometimes be helpful when a problem base metals, proportions differ slightly for
arises. We will concentrate on a few carbon filler metals.
steel wires, because they are used in the
biggest portion of GMAW welding. 1. Carbon – The addition of carbon to iron
has a very strong influence on its proper-
Figure 22 – ties. Mild steels, 1010 and 1020 for instance,
Steel Alloying have low carbon contents (0.1 and 0.2%
Additions respectively.) Carbon is a very potent
strengthener, and when added above about
0.3%, requires special welding procedures
Steel is iron that is alloyed with
to keep the material from cracking
Carbon Strength (preheat, interpass and post heat, etc.)
Manganese Deoxidation & Strength Most common wires are low in carbon
Silicon Deoxidation content.

Aluminum Deoxidation
2. Manganese – This element is added for
Zirconium Deoxidation
three reasons: (1) Deoxidation. Manganese
Titanium Deoxidation combines with oxygen in the weld metal
before the carbon does so there is little or
no oxidation of carbon in the weld puddle
to produce carbon monoxide (and cause
Figure 23 – porosity. (2) Desulfurization. Manganese
Deoxidation combines with sulfur to form manganese
Reactions sulfides before the sulfur can segregate to
the grain boundaries and form low melting
Si + 2O -> Si O2
point iron sulfides. Iron sulfides can cause
Mn + O -> MnO
hot cracking in steels. (3) Strengthening.
Manganese remaining after these other
reactions combine with carbon to form
manganese carbides, which strengthen the
C + O -> CO
weld deposit.
C + 2O -> CO2

3. Silicon – This element is mainly added as 4. Aluminum – The main function of this
a deoxidizer. Silicon combines vigorously element is also deoxidation. It is a very
with oxygen in the weld puddle and forms strong deoxidizer and forms aluminum
a silicon dioxide (see figure 23) slag. oxide (Al2O3). A secondary function is that
Beach sand is silicon dioxide. When the of a grain refinement, which produces a
silicon combines with the oxygen, heat is stronger, tougher deposit.
generated because of this oxidation
reaction. This is one reason why a wire 5. Zirconium – This is also a deoxidizer,
higher in silicon will provide a more fluid and is used in only a few wires.
puddle. The brown glassy solid that forms
on the weld deposit is a combination of 6. Titanium – This element is also a
silicon dioxide and manganese oxide. deoxidizer in low carbon steels.

B. With some understanding of why alloy

1. Solid Wire additions are made to low carbon wires,
Designations the compositions of some commonly used
and Chemistry wires are more meaningful. Figure 24

shows the American Welding Society
(AWS) nomenclature used for solid wires.
Table 3 shows the chemistries of the
available ER70S- electrodes.

Electrode Chemistry
Figure 24 – 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
70,000 UTS
AWS Solid Wire 7, 8, 9, 10, G
70 - 120 ksi

Table 3 – AWS Carbon Manganese Silicon Phos. Sulfur Other

ER70S - Wire Electrode (max) (max)
Chemistries Class.
ER70S-2 .07 Max .9 - 1.4 .4 - .7 .025 .035 TI,ZR,AL
ER70S-3 .06 - .15 .9 - 1.4 .45 - .7 .025 .035
ER70S-4 .07 - .15 1.0 - 1.5 .65 - .85 .025 .035
ER70S-5 .07 - .19 .9 - 1.4 .3 - .6 .025 .035 AL
ER70S-6 .07 - .15 1.4 - 1.8 .8 - 1.15 .025 .035
ER70S-7 .07 - .15 1.5 - 2.0 .5 - .8 .025 .035

These wire designations are set by the fourth characters indicate the minimum
AWS, to standardize welding electrodes tensile strength of the weld metal in
and filler metals. The classification system thousand psi’s. An ER70S-X wire would
is based on chemical composition and have a tensile strength of 70,000 psi. The
strength of the deposited weld metal. A fifth character, S, indicates that this is a
typical solid wire designation would be solid wire. The number after the dash
ER70S-3. The E designates a wire can be indicates the composition classification of
used as an electrode, meaning it can carry the alloy. These numbers run from 2 to 7
current. The second character, R, indicates and G. The G classification (stands for
that this alloy is available as rod. Rods are general) indicates a chemistry agreed upon
usually the 36" straight lengths and are by the supplier and purchaser.
used for GTAW (TIG). The third and

B. Since metal-cored wires perform like solid Where the “C” Indicates a “cored” wire
2. Metal-Cored wires during welding, they have recently and the “X” indicates the type of shielding
Wire Designations been included for classification purposes in gas used in qualification of the wire
and Chemistry the AWS specification for solid GMAW (C=100% Carbon Dioxide, M=Mixed
wires, but they follow a classification Gas of 75-80% Ar/balance CO2).
process more like a flux-cored wire than a
solid wire. The two basic wire types are:



C. A second classification document covers current. Notice there is no R, because

Flux-Cored flux cored and wires. An example of the straight lengths of these wires are not
“Tubular” Wire designation for these wires is E70T-X usually practical. The second character is
Designations (see figure 25). As with solid wires, E the tensile strength multiplied by 10,000
designates an electrode that carries psi. The third character is either a “0” or
a “1”. A “0” indicated that the electrode
is for use only in the flat and horizontal
Electrode Tubular welding positions. A “1” indicated that the
electrode is suitable for all position work.
The T in the fourth position designates this

E70T-X as a tubular electrode. The digit after the

dash indicates the type of shielding
required with this wire.

Figure 25 – 70,000 UTS Shielding Type For Example, an

70 - 120 ksi 1,4,5,6,7,8,11,G
AWS Tubular Wire 70 = flat only 1,2,5 - with gas E70T1 = 70,000 tensile, flat position
Classification 71 = all position 3,4,6,7,8, - w/o gas E71T1 = 70,000 tensile, all position

Deoxidation of the weld pool is very S-6 or even an S-2 solid electrode is made.
important in metal joining. There are at To determine the deoxidation potential of
least 5 elements added for deoxidation, a flux-cored wire, the manufacturer’s
each doing a slightly different job. As a literature must be consulted. Flux-cored
general rule, the rustier or more mill- wires contain increasing amounts of
scaled a plate is, the more deoxidation deoxidizers to remove the oxygen being
required from the electrode. The shielding deposited in the weld puddle by the
gas is also a source of oxidation. If a rusty shielding gas and by any mill scale or rust.
plate is welded with a gas of high oxidation Both mill scale and rust are iron oxides
potential, a cleaner deposit would be (FeO- mill scale, and Fe2O3) .
obtained if a change from an S-3 to an S-7,

D. Silicon and manganese are oxidized in the

Slag and Gas molten weld puddle. Silicon forms silicon The SiO2 and the MnO are liquids that
Formation dioxide and manganese forms manganese float to the surface of the puddle. Upon
oxide. These reactions occur to remove the cooling, they are commonly referred to as
oxygen and keep the carbon and iron from slag islands. Higher oxygen contents can
being oxidized. Higher oxidizing potential remove much of the silicon and manganese
gases, such as pure carbon dioxide will so that the oxygen will then begin to
oxidize more of the alloying additions combine with carbon. Carbon monoxide
and produce a deposit of slightly lower and carbon dioxide result, and most of the
strength and toughness. The oxygen in the gas formed is carbon monoxide. The gases
weld puddle will also combine with the will evolve from the molten puddle, but if
carbon to form carbon monoxide if all cooling is rapid and the gas concentration
of the manganese and silicon have been is high gas bubbles will be trapped and
oxidized. Porosity in a weld is usually create porosity. Nitrogen is also soluble
caused by the evolution of carbon mon- in the puddle and will cause porosity if
oxide. The reactions that occur in the shielding is inadequate.
molten puddle are:
▲ ▲ ▲ ▲

Si + O2 SiO2
2Mn + O2 2MnO
2C + O2 2CO
C + O2 CO2


E. Figure 26 shows how a weld puddle cools available for deoxidization (and also
Solidification and solidifies. At the weld puddle to base possibly nitrogen), these gases will be
of the Weld metal interface, crystals begin to grow into pushed to the centerline as the puddle
Puddle the molten weld pool. This is very similar freezes. This causes porosity along the
to the growth of ice crystals on a window solidification line and is known as
seen in time-lapse photography. The centerline porosity. Larger amounts of
crystals are called grains, and where they contamination can cause gross porosity in
meet and stop growing is called the grain the weld and lead to the condition shown
boundary. As the metal solidifies, the in the bottom illustration in figure 26.
solubility of gases decreases greatly. If
there is just slightly more oxygen in the As the weld is finished, the cooling rate
puddle than manganese and silicon at the crater increases because the weld
is losing heat in all directions. This rapid
Figure 26 – cooling rate leaves less time for the gases
Solidification of to leave the puddle, and a hollow gas
a weld cavity can form at the crater.

Calculation of Deposition Rates

A very useful piece of information needed
when calculating the cost of welding is the
deposition rate. The deposition rate is
usually stated in pounds of wire per hour
of weld time. Figure 27 shows the multipli-
ers that can be used to determine deposi-
tion rate for different diameters of solid
wires. The multiplier is a factor that takes
into account the cubic inches of wire per
hour consumed and the density of steel,
to arrive at the rate in pounds per hour.
To calculate the deposition rate of an
Wire Diameter Multiplier .045" diameter wire at 500 ipm wire feed
.030 .012 speed, multiply the 500 ipm times the
.035 .0163 .027 multiplier, and determine a rate of
13.5 lbs/hr of arc-on time. To determine the
.045 .027
actual amount of metal deposited, multiply
.052 .0361
this weight by the duty cycle (% of an hour
.0625 .0521 that the arc is actually on) and the deposi-
tion efficiency of the process.
Example: an .045 wire at 500 ipm
500 ipm x .027 = 13.5 lbs/hour

Figure 27 –
Calculating Deposition
Rates for Solid Electrodes


Metal Transfer

An understanding of metal transfer is very be obtained.” In this section, electrical

helpful when trying to solve a welding characteristics, wires and shielding gases all
problem such as “why is there so much come together. There are four major types
spatter?”, or “how can more penetration of metal transfer that will be discussed.
They are:
Figure 28 – 1. Short-Arc
The Pinch Effect 2. Globular Transfer
Tries to Pinch Off 3. Spray Transfer
the End of the 4. Pulsed Spray Transfer
Figure 28 shows the pinch effect. The pinch
effect is a function of current, and tries to
pinch off the molten tip of the electrode.
Short-Arc Globular Spray
Higher currents and smaller areas increase
The pinch effect is a function of current the pinch effect and give cleaner metal
transfer with less spatter.

A. Short-arc, or short-circuit transfer, is thin material and sheet metal and has been
Short Arc basically a low heat input, low penetration used extensively for out-of-position MIG
process. Currents range from 40-50 amps welding. Short-arc is also a good choice
(.023" wire) up to 250-275 amps (0.052" where bridging gaps is a problem.
diameter wire). Voltage ranges from
14-21v. This process is a good choice on This form of metal transfer is called short-
arc because the wire does electrically short
Figure 29 – to the workpiece. When the wire touches
In Short-Arc Transfer, the base material, the arc goes out, and the
the Electrode Shorts current flowing through the wire begins to
60-120 Times Per rapidly raise the temperature of the wire.
Second As seen in the power supply characteristic
curve, at 0 volts the power supply tries to
produce a maximum current output. When
the wire reaches its melting point, it flows
into the puddle and the arc reignites. This
Current Voltage

shorting takes place very rapidly, from 60

to 120 times per second. Figure 29 shows
the droplet of molten weld metal pinching
off just before the arc reignites in the
26 Time (milliseconds) third illustration.
After adjusting the wire feed to do the job, A power supply that has an inductance
the voltage can be fine-tuned to where the control is easier to use for short-arc
sound from the arc becomes smooth and transfer. As shown in figure 10 adding
very regular. Electrical stick-out must be inductance slows the rate of current rise.
closely controlled as it has a great impact With this available, after wire feed and
on current levels. At the low-end condition voltage are adjusted, inductance should be
of 40-50 amps and 14-15 volts with a .023" increased to the point where the metal
electrode, stick-out should be about 1/4". begins to transfer smoothly. By increasing
With a .035" electrode at 80-90 amps and the inductance, the current rises at a slower
15-16 volts, ESO should be about 3/8". At rate, and is at a lower level when the cycle
the high end of short-arc transfer with a begins again than it would be without the
.045" electrode, current will be at 225-235 inductance in the circuit. Limiting short
amps and 20-22 volts. Because of the high current reduces explosive, harsh metal
current levels, we increase the ESO to transfer. Most short arc welding is done
preheat the electrode and reduce the with .023", .035" or .045" electrodes.
current. The ESO with these conditions Larger wires require too much current
would be in the 5/8"-3/4" range. This for most applications.
method gives a very controllable arc. If
the arc is unstable, the usual cause is that Gases that work well in short-arc
the ESO is too long or voltage is too high. span from C-8 through C-25 mixtures
There should be very little spatter with (Praxair's StarGold™ blends), straight CO2
this process, regardless of shielding gas. and Praxair's Stargon™ gas blend. For
Argon mixtures, however, provide smaller low current applications carbon dioxide
droplets with better gap bridging and arc is sometimes a good choice. The arc is
stability as a result. hotter than with an argon mixture, and
at low current levels, there is not much
To adjust the power supply for short-arc spatter. For increased deposition rates and
transfer, two variables can help, if they travel speeds, C-25, C-15, or C-8 mixtures
are available. The slope on some machines will usually provide better results with
is adjustable, either externally, or with decreased spatter levels. Reducing the
internal taps. Figure 7 shows that the amount of carbon dioxide makes the
steeper curve will limit the maximum puddle less fluid and easier to control.
current that the power supply can deliver, Burn-through is also reduced. On thinner
which is a real benefit when short-arc materials, gases lower in carbon dioxide
welding at low currents on thin materials. content work best by minimizing burn-
If the majority of your work is in the short- through and permitting higher currents
arc range, it is probably worthwhile to and travel speeds. For welding higher
change an internal tap if the machine has alloys, like stainless steel, helium is some-
one. An internal tap isn’t something you times added to the shielding gas to
change for each job. increase heat input at lower deposition


B. Globular transfer is usually not the The arc is continuously moving to the
Globular recommended way to deposit weld metal place where the glob of metal is closest to
Transfer because of the inefficiency of the process. the work, where the minimum voltage is
This type of transfer produces the most required to sustain the arc. This creates the
spatter. Depending on the current range, instability that you see and hear in the arc.
shielding gas, and power supply settings, When the surface tension and the force of
globular transfer can waste 10-15% of the the arc are finally overcome by gravity the
weld metal as spatter. Because of the glob transfers. As the glob of metal hits the
inefficiency of the process, slower travel work, it tends to splash, throwing spatter
speeds or smaller bead sizes result at wire out of the puddle onto the work.
feeds comparable to spray or short-arc
transfer. Globular transfer occurs when voltages
and currents exceed that of the short-arc
When the tip of the wire begins to melt in range. Other than short-arc, this is the
globular transfer as shown in figure 30, it only type of transfer you get with carbon
only shorts to the workpiece occasionally dioxide in the current range used in
due to higher voltages. The inconsistent industry. If you are using gas blends like
cracks and pops you hear are the breaking Praxair's Stargon™ and StarGold™ (Ar/O2
of the short circuits. Unlike short-circuit or Ar/CO2), globular transfer is what you
transfer, an arc is present most of the time, get when voltage or current falls out of the
and the metal begins to form a ball on the spray transfer range. This is where spatter
end of the wire. This ball is held by the develops when a spray arc mixture is used
surface tension and the force of the arc. improperly.

Unstable Arc
High Spatter Levels

Figure 30 –
Globular Transfer
Produces High
Levels of Spatter


C. Spray transfer is a very clean, high effi- Spray transfer can be used on materials as
Spray ciency process. All wire diameters can be thin as 14 and 16 gauge metals with the
Transfer used. For most applications in the 175 amp right wire diameter (.023"). Thicker
to 500 amp range, .035" to 1/16" wires section welding is where spray really gains
work well. When the welding equipment is an advantage, especially in the flat and
set up properly, there is almost no spatter horizontal positions. This type of metal
and 97-98% of the filler weld is deposited transfer can be used out of position but
in the weld puddle (deposition efficiency). wire diameter should be smaller and the
operating conditions less than in the flat
In spray transfer, the tip of the electrode position. All steels (carbon and stainless),
becomes pointed as figure 31 shows. and most other materials, can be GMAW
Because the tip is so small, the current welded in spray transfer.
density (amps/square inch) and the pinch
force are very high. This pinches off metal The gases used for spray are lower in
droplets that are smaller than the diameter active gases (CO2 and O2) than gases for
of the wire. The droplets are accelerated by short-arc and globular transfer. Most con-
the magnetic field, around the arc instead tain from 85-90% argon, and some blends
of transferring by gravity as in globular contain both carbon dioxide and oxygen.
transfer. The small droplets are absorbed Some of the newer gases also contain small
into the weld pool rather than splashing. additions of helium (Praxair's HeliStar™
gas blends) to increase the energy in
the arc.

Droplets smaller
than diameter of

Very low spatter

Minimum voltage
and current

Figure 31 –
Spray Transfer
is a Very High
Efficiency Process

Transition Currents
(Steel and Stainless Steel)
To set a welding system for spray, there are
Figure 32 – minimum voltages and currents required.
Transition Currents Voltages range from 24 v (small diameter
for 95% Ar/5% O2 with Ar/O2 ) to 30 v (hi-deposition with
Shielding Gas He). A good place to start is around
26-27 volts. To estimate what the mini-
mum transition current for spray transfer
would be, multiply the wire diameter (in
.035 x 10,000 = 350/2 = 175 amps thousandths of an inch) by 10,000 and
divide by two as figure 32 shows.
.045 x 10,000 = 450/2 = 225 amps

.052 x 10,000 = 520/2 = 260 amps This approximation is accurate for a

95% Ar/5% O2 shielding gas. If you
.0625 x 10,000 = 625/2 = 312amps
are using a gas with 10% CO 2, a closer
approximation is made by adding the
% CO2 to the transition current calculat-
ed above and tabulated in figure 33. For
example, a .045" wire with C-10 would
produce spray transfer at approximately
Figure 33 – 225 + 10 = 235 amps and about 27 arc volts.
Transition Currents Figures 34 and 35 show the spray transfer
with Various ranges for 95% Ar/5% O2 (figure 34) and
Shielding Gases the short-arc and spray transfer regions
for Ar/8% CO2 (figure 35).

Wire O-5 C-5 C-10 C-15

.035 175 180 185 190

.045 225 230 235 240

.052 260 265 270 275

.0625 320 320 325 330

Figure 34 –
Spray Transfer
Ranges for
.035" and .045"
95% Ar/5% O2 wire with
.035" and .045" 36 O-5 gas
Hiss .045







100 200 300 400

Figure 35 –
Short-Arc and Spray
Transfer Ranges for
.045" wire
Ar/8% CO2 (C-8) with C-8 gas
with 0.35" and 0.45" 40
Hiss .045







100 200 300 400


D. Pulsed spray transfer is a process that Due to its low heat input, pulsed spray is
Pulsed Spray combines the lower heat inputs associated beneficial for out of position work and for
Transfer with short-arc with the clean metal transfer filling gaps. Since it can produce high peak
and good penetration associated with currents, a larger wire can usually be used
spray transfer. A graph of current vs. time at lower deposition rates. A larger wire
(figure 36) shows the shape to be a square (.045 instead of .035) will usually reduce
wave. The current at the top of the square wire costs and reduce wire feeding prob-
wave is called the peak current, and the lems, especially for materials such as
current at the bottom of the square wave is aluminum.
called the background current. The back-
ground current keeps the arc lit, but at Recent research has shown that inverter
very low currents – typically 20-40 amp. pulsed power supplies with very rapid
When the current rises to the peak current, current rise can reduce the fume associ-
one droplet is transferred in spray transfer. ated with higher current GMAW welding.
Because of the small size of the droplet, The fuming is caused by superheating the
spatter is minimized and penetration is molten tip of the wire and causing the
maximized due to the spray transfer. metal to boil. The very rapid current rise
reduces the superheating, leading to the
reduced fume generation rates.

Peak Current

140 Average Current

Background Current

Time (milliseconds)

Figure 36 –
Pulsed Spray
Transfer Produces
Low Heat Inputs
With Very
Clean Transfer


Welding of High Strength Steels

Higher tensile and yield strengths can be the ASTM. The ASME (American Society
achieved by increasing carbon content, of Mechanical Engineers) grades for these
adding alloys, or a combination of both. In alloy steels are ASME SA517, grades B
the section on materials, it was seen that and F.
there are hundreds of different steels
available today. US Steel’s “T1” construc- A comparison will be made between T1
tion alloy will be used as an example of an steel and a carbon steel of comparable
alloy steel. Most of the major steel produc- strength (SAE 1080) in table 4 to look at
ers now make similar High Strength Low the procedures required to weld the two
Alloy (HSLA) steels, which are designated different materials. It is usually easier to
A514 and A517 grades B, Q, H, and F by weld an alloy steel than a carbon steel of
equivalent strength.

Table 4 – 1080 T1 T1A T1B T1C

Mechanical Proper- Tensile 112,000 110,000 110,000 110,000 110,000
ties Comparison of
Yield 61,000 100,000 100,000 100,000 100,000
1080 High Carbon
Elongation 10% 18% 18% 18% 18%
Steel and 4 T1
Construction Alloy %RA* 25% 40% 40% 40% 40%
Steels * Reduction of Area

The tensile strengths of the four materials deform (stretch), and the structural
are all in the 110,000 to 112,000 psi range. members would take a permanent set
Most products are designed using the instead of returning to their original shape.
material’s yield strength; in this case Elongation and reduction in area are
there is a dramatic difference in the yield measures of the ductility of the material.
strengths of the materials. Yield strength is A ductile material will deform instead of
where the material begins to plastically fracture under severe loading.

Table 5 – T1 T1 A T1 B T1 C 1080
Comparison Carbon .1 - .2 .12 - .21 .12 - .21 .14 - .21 .78 - .89
of Chemical
Manganese .6 - 1.0 .7 - 1.0 .95 - 1.3 .95 - 1.3 .6 - .9
Compositions of
Phos (max) .035 .035 .035 .035 .04
1080 and T1 Alloys
of Equal Tensile Sulfur (max) .04 .04 .04 .04 .05
Strengths Silicon .15 - .35 .2 - .35 .2 - .35 .15 - .35
Nickel .7 - 1.0 1.2 - 1.5
Copper .15 - .5
Chrome .4 - .65 .4 -.65 .4 - .65 1.0 - 1.5
Molybdenum .4 -.6 .15 - .25 .2 - .3 .4 - .6
Vanadium .03 -.08 .03 - .08 .03 - .08 .03 - .08
Boron .0005 - .006 .0005 - .005 .0005 - .005
Titanium .01 - .03

Welding of high strength steels is different

than welding low carbon steels. The welder
must pay a lot more attention to detail
when welding high strength steels.

A. If standard T1 steel were to be welded the

Select the tensile strength of the material should be
Proper considered. From table 4 it is seen that the
Filler Metal tensile strength is 110,000 psi. For the
GMAW process, an ER110S-1 electrode
could be used. The 110 indicates a tensile
strength of 110,000 psi. Some manufactur-
ers also develop electrodes that do not
exactly fit in the AWS classifications. These
electrodes can also be used, but a welding
engineer should look at the mechanical
properties to ensure compatibility. If
the FCAW process were to be used, an
E110T5-K3 (Mn-Ni-Cr) or an E110T5-K4
(Mn-Ni-Cr-Mo) would be selected accord-
ing to the mechanical properties required.


B. Molten weld metal is capable of absorb- 3. Moisture

Minimize ing considerable amounts of hydrogen. Moisture can come from surface contami-
Hydrogen Hydrogen in weld metal causes two nants such as rust and mill scale, and it can
Contamination problems, porosity and cracking. Hydrogen be adsorbed on the surface of a clean sheet
can come from a variety of sources, and all of steel. Bringing a piece of high strength
of them can cause problems. Hydrogen is steel inside in the winter will sometimes
normally found in nature as a diatomic cause moisture to condense on the surface.
molecule, H2. For T1, it is recommended that the mate-
rial temperature be at least 70 F before
In the arc, the hydrogen immediately welding begins.
dissociates to monatomic hydrogen (H),
which is the smallest atom known. A single Moisture can also come from the shielding
hydrogen atom is about 1/100,000 the gas if there is a leak in the supply line as
diameter of an iron atom. The hydrogen discussed in the shielding gas section. Air
atoms are very soluble in the weld metal. contains oxygen, nitrogen, and moisture, all
Some of the hydrogen sources are: of which are detrimental to the integrity of
the weld metal.
1. Grease, Oil, Oxidation or Paint on the
Part or Electrode As the puddle freezes, the solubility of
Grease and oil are both hydrocarbons, and hydrogen in the puddle decreases. The
in the heat of the arc (about 10,000ºF), will hydrogen tries to escape from the weld
rapidly dissociate to produce hydrogen, metal by two different mechanisms.
carbon, and other contaminants in the
puddle. The carbon can over-harden the • Porosity Formation
weld metal with possible carbon increases If the concentration of hydrogen in
of .1 to .25%. Hydrogen goes into solution the matrix exceeds its solubility in the
in the weld metal. Some paints are also solidified weld metal, the excess hydro-
hydrocarbon based, leading to the same gen can form bubbles of hydrogen gas.
problems as oil and grease. Mill scale and These bubbles can show up as porosity in
rust can also contain moisture. When an x-ray. At very high concentrations of
the arc heats these materials, the water hydrogen they can cause visible porosity
molecules are dissociated into hydrogen at the face of the weld.
and oxygen. Both of these gases go into
solution in the weld metal and can cause
weld problems such as porosity and

2. Excess Drawing Lubricants

on the Electrode
Drawing lubricants on the wire electrode
can also contain hydrocarbons. When they
are exposed to the arc heat, they dissociate
and contaminate the puddle.

• Slowly Diffuses Out of the Weld Metal hydrogen content is high enough, there
After welding is completed, hydrogen are visible streams of bubbles rising from
continues to rapidly diffuse out of the the coupon. The rest of the diffusible
weld metal. In lab tests for measuring hydrogen will escape within 20 to 30
diffusible hydrogen, the welded coupon days. The remaining hydrogen in the
is quickly inserted in a bath of liquid weld metal is called residual hydrogen,
nitrogen. The sample is then placed in and it can cause cracking problems after
mercury, and the quantity of hydrogen welding.
released is measured over time. If the
During the welding process, the base
Figure 37 – metal in contact with the molten puddle
Hydrogen is Driven was subjected to temperatures very close
Into the HAZ by to the melting temperature of the material.
Stress Gradients In that period, hydrogen atoms also diffuse
into the base metal in what is referred to
as the heat affected zone (HAZ - see
figure 37). The solubility of hydrogen
increases with temperature even when the
metal remains a solid.

The diffusion of the hydrogen into the

base metal in conjunction with the very
rapid cooling rate can lead to underbead
cracking or delayed brittle fracture.


C. To understand the welding of the higher and the HAZ is very important in deter-
Control strength steels, it is necessary to know a mining the properties of the material.
Heat Input little about what happens when steels A familiar microstructure found in metal
solidify. As molten metal cools, it under- files is called martensite. Martensite is
goes a transformation from a phase called very strong, with a tensile strength of
austenite to a number of different struc- 200,000 psi or more, but the microstructure
tures. A low carbon steel like a 1008 grade is very brittle. Martensite can be formed
changes from austenite to ferrite, which is by very rapid cooling of the material. If a
a very soft and ductile microstructure. file is heated to 1300 F - 1400 F and then
Adding slightly more carbon and cooling cooled very slowly, a hole can be drilled in
more slowly forms a microstructure called it. If it is then reheated and quenched in
pearlite, which is ferrite and cementite oil, martensite will reform and the file can
(Fe3C). When carbon and other alloying be used again. There is also an intermedi-
elements are added, the transformation ate microstructure called bainite, between
from austenite is modified to form harder pearlite and martensite, which has proper-
and sometimes more brittle microstruc- ties that fall between the two.
36 tures. The cooling rate of the weld metal
Metallurgists use charts called continuous temperature. The cooling rate of the HAZ
cooling transformation (CCT) diagrams to is much faster than the weld metal because
determine the cooling rates required to the base metal is acting like a quenching
obtain certain microstructures. A CCT medium. This is the reason that the heat
diagram tells what microstructure to input must be controlled during the
expect when cooling occurs at different welding of the high strength steels. For T1,
rates. At the bottom of the chart are three higher heat inputs lead to grain growth in
different scales for air, oil, and water the HAZ, and the strength of the material
quenching. Air cooling produces the is reduced.
slowest cooling rate with a water quench
being the fastest. Welding on a piece of To control the cooling rate, minimum
base metal that has just been brought in preheat and interpass temperatures are
the shop from the yard on a very cold day specified to avoid a brittle crack sensitive
can produce some very rapid cooling rates. HAZ and weld metal.

The reason why a CCT diagram is men- Table 6 below shows the maximum heat
tioned is that weld metal and the heat inputs for T1 for different thicknesses and
affected zone (HAZ) also go through the preheat and interpass temperatures.
same cooling process after welding. The
HAZ is the base metal right next to the
weld metal that almost reached its melting

Table 6 – Preheat and Interpass Temperature ( F)

Maximum 70 150 200 300 400
Thickness 3/16" 27 23 21 17 13
Heat Input
1/4" 36 32 29 24 19
for T1 Steel
in Kilojoules Per 1/2" 70 62 56 47 40
Inch of Weld 3/4" 121 107 99 82 65
1" Any 188 173 126 93
1 1/4" Any Any Any 175 127
1 1/2" Any Any Any Any 165
2" Any Any Any Any Any

The thicker the material is the higher the Any hydrogen in the weld metal will
allowable heat input. Some of the thicker diffuse into the highly strained microstruc-
materials have no maximum heat input ture and could lead to underbead cracking.
because there is sufficient material to Hydrogen in a strained microstructure can
ensure a rapid cooling rate with currently also lead to a problem called delayed
available welding processes. To check brittle fracture. Delayed brittle fracture is
interpass temperature, use a temperature a weld defect that does not show up
indicating crayon 1/2" to 1" away from the immediately. The product can be in service
joint. It is possible to contaminate the weld for a period of time, and then fail at loads
with the temperature stick, and it is the well below the yield strength of the
temperature of the base metal, not the material. Since the hydrogen atom is about
previous pass, that is important. 1/100,000 the size of an iron atom, it can
diffuse through the metal easily. Stress
If the preheat and interpass temperatures gradients in the material cause the hydro-
for T1 steel are compared with those for gen atom to migrate and concentrate in
1080, a real difference is seen. The 1080 areas of high triaxial (3 dimensional)
steel has a carbon equivalent of up to stress. In the matrix, these areas would be
1.03%. The steel with 1% carbon would at the tip of a microcrack, a grain bound-
require preheat and interpass tempera- ary imperfection, or at the base of a
tures of between 600 F and 800 F depend- surface imperfection, such as undercut.
ing on thickness. A post weld heat treat- When the hydrogen concentration reaches
ment at high temperature would also a critical level, the crack grows slightly to
probably be required to prevent cracking. relieve the stress. The diffusion mechanism
Compared to the preheat requirements begins again at the tip of the new crack,
(70 F) in table 6, it is easy to see that T1 and the process repeats itself. As the crack
steel is much easier to weld than the continues to grow, the material resisting
equivalent strength carbon steel. The the load decreases. At some point, rapid
alloying additions in T1 steel undergo crack growth occurs, and there is cata-
transformation to carbides at higher strophic failure.
temperatures than the carbon steels, which
allows the greatly reduced preheat and
interpass temperatures.

For materials that require a slow cooling

rate to avoid cracking, it is also very
important to control preheat and interpass
temperature. A highly strained microstruc-
ture, such as that created by rapid cooling,
is very sensitive to hydrogen.


D. The correct technique incorporates all of When beginning to weld, it is very good
Use the the topics just mentioned, such as control- practice to use the back step technique.
Correct ling hydrogen and watching heat input. The back step technique involves starting
Technique With high strength materials, it is also very to weld 1/4"-3/8" ahead of where the
important to watch torch angle. The ideal beginning of the weld is required, and then
fillet has a flat face and the toes blend into backing up to the beginning. The beginning
the side wall smoothly. No undercut can of a weld usually cools too rapidly because
be tolerated in high strength materials, the base metal has not been preheated
because undercut acts just like a notch to from the heat of the arc. Back stepping
greatly reduce the stress at which the begins to preheat the material, and greatly
component fails. A bolt that fails in the reduces the possibility of lack of fusion
first thread illustrates how undercut can because the material where you strike the
affect weld properties. The thread, just like arc will be re-melted.
undercut, (called a stress riser) is basically
the beginning of a crack. Undercut will Weaving is also not recommended on
also increase the strain in the material higher strength materials. A stringer bead
directly below it and make it more sensi- technique gives better results, and helps
tive to any residual hydrogen that may be control heat input. If heat input were
in the material. calculated using a weaving technique, it
would probably be difficult to control the
maximum heat input due to the slow travel
speeds associated with weaving.


Technique and Equipment Set-Up

Technique is very important when welding burnback, arc and puddle position, vertical
any type of material, and gets more down welds, gaps, crater filling, and arc
important as the material strength in- starting will be discussed here.
creases. Torch angle, feed roll tension,

A. There is a specific amount of energy welded. Because of the elevated tempera-

Torch available from the arc to heat and melt the ture of the base metal, the bead will cool
Angle base metal. Torch angle plays a very more slowly. This allows the face of the
important role in the shape of the bead weld to come to equilibrium and will give a
and the depth of penetration into the base relatively flat face. If a lagging (or drag)
metal as figure 38 shows. A leading (or angle is used, very little of the arc energy
push) angle will use some of the arc energy goes into preheating the base metal, and
to preheat the base metal before it is deeper penetration is the result. Because
of the lack of preheat, the bead will tend to
be convex (humped) because the weld will
cool more quickly. If a line were drawn
between the toes of the weld, the weld
metal above that line is wasted. If a
fracture were to occur, it would start at
the toe of the weld, not through the thick
section. In fatigue service, a humped bead
Lead Angle (Push) Lag Angle (Pull) actually reduces the service life of the
component. The decreased reentry angle
(angle that the bead face makes with the
base metal) tends to raise the stress level
at the toe of the weld. A flat bead face
distributes the stress more evenly across
the joint. A slight drag angle does work
well in a deep groove, and also in the first
pass of a multi-pass weld. As a first pass,
the benefit of increased penetration is
Figure 38 – obtained, but it is critical to be sure to melt
Torch Angle Affects out the toes of the first pass when the cap
Penetration and passes are put in. A lack of fusion at the
Bead Shape toe of the first pass is a defect that will
reduce the service life of the component.


B. Setting feed roll tension is important to pressure on the wire to deform it between
Feed Roll improving consumable life and reducing the feed rolls. Figure 39 shows the shape of
Tension downtime due to feeding problems. How the wire as it leaves a two U-grooved roller
many times have you seen a welder have a setup with excessive pressure. The “fin”
feeding problem “corrected” by increasing will be scraped off as it feeds through the
feed roll pressure? There are two main liner, and will make it more difficult to
types of feed roll designs used for solid feed the wire as the excess material begins
wires, one grooved and one flat roll, or two to clog the liner. Excessive pressure on the
grooved rolls. Increasing feed roll tension feed roll will wear out the feed rolls, plug
on either design can actually put enough up the liners, and usually lead to a burn-
backs at the tip.
Figure 39 –
Feed Roll Tension The best method of adjusting feed roll
Adjustment tension involves running about a foot of
wire out of the gun. Bend the wire 180 to
Too much feed roll pressure deforms the wire form a curved end and run the wire into a
and causes slivers to form
gloved hand. Pull the trigger and slowly
Slivers clog the liner and make the wire harder adjust the feed roll pressure until the wire
to feed
will make the turn and feed smoothly. At
Apply just enough tension that the wire feeds this feed roll pressure, the wire will feed
into a gloved hand and exits at 180 without deforming and the rolls will slip if
you get a burnback instead of “bird nesting”.

C. The burnback control is designed to

Burnback reduce the stick-out at the end of a weld
and keep the wire from sticking in the
puddle. When welding begins, the trigger
Burnback is a timer that controls the ESO on the gun closes the contacts in the
for the start of the next weld
welder, opens the gas solenoid, and starts
the wire feed motor as shown in figure 40.
Wire feed speed

off When you release the trigger at the end of
the weld, the gas solenoid and the contac-
tor can react very quickly. The motor has
the inertia of the armature, the gearbox,
Time and the feed rolls to overcome, so it does
not stop instantly. What a burnback control
Gas on Motor up Motor Gas off
contactor to speed off does is put a timer in the circuit that delays
closed feed the opening of the contactor and the clos-
motor on
ing of the gas solenoid. This allows the
motor to spin down and the wire to con-
tinue to burn off so you don’t have to try
Figure 40 – to start the next weld with too much stick-
The Burnback out. A short stick-out greatly improves
Control Is Essentially the starting of the arc because more
a Timer current is available. 41

D. It is very important to watch the position

Arc and of your puddle in relation to the arc. In
Puddle Position order to get good fusion into both pieces
of base metal, the heat from the arc must
If you get on top be directed onto the base metal (figure 41).
of the puddle, lack If a very large fillet is attempted in one
of fushion and cold-
pass, the tendency is to try to hold the
lap can result
puddle back with the arc. The puddle will
continue to advance, and trying to hold the
puddle back with the arc will lead to in-
complete fusion into the side wall. When
the puddle rolls under the arc, the heat of
the arc is no longer being put into the base
metal, it is going into the puddle. This
increases the temperature of the puddle
and reduces the fusion into the walls. This
Figure 41 – is sometimes called “slugging” the joint.
Stay in Front of the This is a very poor practice and leads to
Puddle with the Arc welds that will fail at well below their
design strength.

E. Vertical down welding (figure 42) can be

Vertical Down done properly, but the weld parameters
Welding Use a drag angle must be set very carefully. The problem
Stay in front of the with vertical down welding is that it is very
puddle easy to get lack of fusion into the side wall.
Use short-arc pulsed spray If you have watched a welder putting in a
or low current spray transfer
vertical down weld and seen the molten
Use a smaller
diameter electrode metal hitting the floor, this is very similar
to “slugging” a joint mentioned before in
that the only path to the floor is between
the arc and the base metal. If the weld
metal is taking this path, the arc energy
cannot be going into the base metal.
Very little A high quality vertical down weld can be
metal should made in either short-arc or spray transfer,
fall past the
but the arc must stay in front of the
puddle. Here is one more place where a
lagging angle is beneficial, because the
Figure 42 – arc force can be used to hold the puddle
Vertical Down in place as it begins to cool.
Welding Can Produce
a High Quality Joint


F. Gaps can cause a lot of problems because Reducing the electrode diameter reduces
Gaps they vary in consistency and also change the current due to the higher resistance
the maximum heat input that the part can of a smaller wire. A .035" (.9mm) wire
handle. A real problem arises on critical will give the same deposition as a .045"
parts where depth of penetration is (1.2 mm) at about 20 amps less because
important, and, therefore, the heat input is of the higher resistance of the smaller
near the upper end of the range that the electrode. Shielding gas mixtures with
part can handle. As soon as a gap appears, lower carbon dioxide contents can also
the heat input must be reduced, or burn- reduce the energy in the arc and make
through will occur. gaps easier to bridge. If a C-25 mixture
is used, try C-8 for more gap tolerance.
The best solution is to fix the parts so the Consider also, changing to short-arc
gaps don’t exist, but, this is usually not transfer if spray is currently used. Short-
possible. In a manual welding operation, arc is a lot better at filling gaps due to the
the solutions are a lot easier than in a reduced heat input. Another very good
robotic operation. A welder is a lot smarter solution is to reduce heat input with the
than a robot, and can quickly adjust use of pulsed spray transfer. Pulsed spray
conditions to reduce heat input. Increasing allows low heat inputs with almost no
the electrical stick-out can reduce the heat spatter, and makes it easier to fill gaps.
input enough in some cases to eliminate
the burn-through. Remember that increas-
ing ESO reduces current and increases
voltage slightly, reducing heat input.

Use short-arc pulsed

spray or low current
spray transfer
Use smaller electrodes
Reduce the CO2 in the
shielding gas
Increase ESO

Figure 43 –
Welding Gaps


G. The crater is the last bit of weld metal to little more time filling in the crater before
Crater freeze at the end of a weld. Due to the ending the weld. This will add a little more
Filling shrinkage that occurs as the weld metal weld metal to increase the reinforcement
cools, the crater will sometimes appear and also put some additional energy into
concave. This can cause problems because the weld to slow the cooling rate. Slowing
it is highly strained weld metal with very the cooling rate will allow more time for
little reinforcement because of the concav- the gases in solution to escape through the
ity. Highly strained weld metal with very face of the weld.
little reinforcement can develop cracks
very easily. Porosity in the crater is also
possible. The solution to this is to spend a

H. Initiating the arc is mainly a function of The current rise begins when the arc starts,
Arc Starting the current available. The biggest cause of is slowed by the additional resistance in
poor arc starting is too much stick-out. the welding circuit. Replacement of the
The extra resistance heats the wire and poor connections will restore arc starting.
reduces the current available for arc Sealing the exposed copper with a liquid
initiation. When the wire has heated electrical tape will prevent oxidation from
enough to soften it buckles and the arc occurring.
goes out. Then the whole process begins
again, leaving little stubs of wire at the At higher current levels, also consider the
start of the weld. slope and inductance setting on the power
supply. A steep slope or high inductance
Another problem seen on a regular basis is setting is designed to limit short-circuit
poor connections on the work and the hot current. If the material to be welded is not
leads. When copper is new, it is bright and too thin, a flat slope and/or minimum
highly conductive. As it ages, the copper inductance will improve the arc starting
surface oxidizes and acts as an insulator. by increasing the rate of current rise.
This resistance causes the cables to get hot
during welding.


Weld Discontinuities and Problems

The AWS defines discontinuities as defect when the component is rendered

interruptions in the typical structure of a unserviceable.
weldment. A discontinuity only becomes a

A. Lack of fusion, is little or no penetration a good chance for lack of fusion. As the
Lack of and tie-in to the base metals, as shown in torch moves back into the puddle, the
Fusion figure 44. This can be caused by many molten metal doesn’t stop and wait. It
different reasons. Some of the common continues to advance, but without the
ones are: benefit of the intense heat of the arc to
melt the base metal. The puddle just lies
1. Torch Not Centered: This concentrates on top of the work instead of fusing to it.
the heat of the arc on only one of the Exaggerated oscillation produces the
pieces. If both pieces to be joined are not same problem.
melted by the arc, the molten puddle will
have a tendency to lie on top of the second 3. Excessive Travel Speed: If the travel
piece without fusing to it. speed is too high, it is possible to not spend
enough time to allow fusion with the base
2. Poor Torch Oscillation: If a welder metal. There is a minimum amount of heat
makes “little circles” with the torch, it is required for every welding joint, because
easier to make a pretty bead, but there is the base metal can cool the puddle very
rapidly after it is deposited.

4. Vertical Down Welding is notorious for

lack of fusion at the toes (where the weld
metal intersects the base metal) and very
little penetration. This lack of fusion can
also occur in flat and horizontal positions
where it is called overlap, or cold lap. Lack
of fusion in vertical down welds is usually
caused by getting on top of the weld
puddle. This prevents the arc from ad-
equately heating the base material to
produce proper fusion. An old slang term
for this defect is fingernailing because if it
is bad enough, you can insert a fingernail
beneath it.
Figure 44 –
Lack of Fusion 45
5. Travel Speed Too Slow: It is similar to thicker sections, where the base metal pulls
improper torch oscillation. The heat from heat out of the puddle very rapidly.
the arc is used to further heat the already
molten puddle and raise its temperature 7. Incorrect Welding Parameters is the
instead melting the base metal. last major cause for lack of fusion. This
category would include all the variables
6. Current Too Low can also cause lack of covered plus incorrect ESO (electrical
fusion. This is usually only a problem on stick out), torch angle wrong, incorrect
shielding gas, etc.

B. Porosity (figure 45) can be a significant Another form of contamination can come
Porosity problem, and not easily solved. The biggest from the base metals. It is against better
causes are probably contamination of the welding practice to weld over paint, mark-
shielding gas, followed by filler metal and er lines, water, rust, oil, and heavy mill
base metal contamination. A leak any- scale. Paint and markers are typically made
where in the distribution system from a of hydrocarbons. The heat from the arc
leaking fitting in the ceiling to a loose hose breaks down these compounds to release
fitting at the feeder will allow gas to leak hydrogen, carbon and other contaminants
out and air to diffuse into the shielding gas. into the weld pool. Mill scale and rust
Molten weld metal holds a lot more can also contain a lot of moisture that is
nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen (from dissociated in the arc to form oxygen and
moisture in the air) than solid metal. As hydrogen. Although this is not such a big
the weld puddle freezes, the gases come problem on low carbon steels, on higher
out of solution and form porosity. alloys it can cause cracking that sometimes
doesn’t show up until the component is in

Additions of higher thermal conductivity

gases (He & CO2) and higher alloy content
wires (ER70S-6, S-7) can help to reduce
porosity. Helium and carbon dioxide
increase the energy being put into the
puddle, so the cooling rate is slower. The
slower cooling rate gives more time for
the gases to leave the puddle instead of
causing porosity. The increased deoxidizer
levels in some wires will also reduce por-
osity if the cause of the porosity is associ-
ated with oxygen levels (not high nitrogen
levels due to gas leaks). These deoxidizers
Figure 45 – will tie up the oxygen and float it to the
Porosity in a surface as liquid oxides that freeze to form
Weld slag islands.

Porosity can also be caused by excessive Barriers must sometimes be put between
tip to work distance. This can create tur- the welding area and an open door. This
bulence in the shielding gas column, can usually be something as simple as a
aspirating oxygen and nitrogen from the welding screen.
atmosphere that then react with the high
temperature weld metal. As mentioned under gas losses, a dirty
torch can cause porosity by blocking and
This also occurs when the torch angle from disturbing the laminar flow of the shielding
vertical is too great. When the torch angle gas. Spatter adherence to the nozzle is an
is too severe, a venturi is set up between obvious culprit, as is spatter on the gas
the gas nozzle and workpiece. This pulls in diffuser.
a great deal of atmospheric air contaminat-
ing the shielding gas. If the operating voltage is too high prob-
lems can occur because the arc will have a
Additional causes of porosity are shielding tendency to wander, especially on fillets.
gas flow too low and shielding gas flow too As the arc seeks the closest point, it can
high. At low rates, the gas cannot exclude disturb the gas column enough to cause
the atmosphere. At high flows, turbulence turbulence and entrain air.
in the gas column causes mixing with the
atmosphere. A further cause of porosity is excessive
torch oscillation. Too much torch oscilla-
Drafts, winds and fans can also cause tion can cause porosity because it is
porosity. All of these sources disturb the possible to either induce turbulence or
shielding gas column and must be con- even run out from under the gas column.
trolled. Sometimes just moving a fan a few
degrees is enough to solve a problem.

C. Burn-through is usually caused by exces-

Burn-Through sive current for the application, as shown
in figure 46. Sometimes an easy solution is
to increase your ESO (electrical stick out.)
This reduces heat input into the part.
Another problem can be that the travel
speed is too low. Traveling too slowly
increases heat input greatly. When possible,
increase the travel speeds and make
multiple passes, if necessary.

Figure 46 –
Burn-Through 47
Incorrect wire diameter is also a cause of Excessive gaps can also be a cause of burn-
burn-through. Reducing the wire diameter through, as every manual welder knows.
allows you to weld at lower currents but at This is easy to forget on robots and mecha-
the same deposition rate with reduced heat nized welds, and sometimes, mysterious
input. One more variable that can cause burn-through occurs because the robot
additional heat is using the incorrect can’t compensate by changing conditions
shielding gas. The shielding gas can be when faced with gaps like a welder can. If
tailored to the application to help control the parts can’t be made to fit better, gaps
the heat input. can be pre-welded or “stringered” with a
short-bead prior to final welding.

D. Undercut (figure 47) has three main

Undercut causes. The first is excessive voltage, which
can cause the arc to wander. The melted
area of the basemetal is too large for the
puddle to flow into and fill the undercut
area. High travel speeds can lead to under-
cut for the same reason. The heat input is
too low to allow the weld metal to flow
and the bead is generally convex. On
horizontal fillets, undercut can be caused
by incorrect torch position. If the torch is
positioned on the vertical leg, there is no
way for the weld metal to flow uphill
against the force of gravity. Repositioning
the torch 1-2 wire diameters out from the
root on the horizontal plate will eliminate
the undercut. Undercut is a very serious
Figure 47 – defect on high strength materials because
Undercut on the it greatly increases the strain in the mater-
Upper Leg of a ial just below the notch and increases its
Fillet Weld sensitivity to hydrogen cracking.


E. Spatter is usually caused by operating In spray transfer, too low a voltage will
Spatter outside acceptable parameters for the also cause spatter. For the same .045"
desired metal transfer mode. For example, diameter electrode and C-8, the mini-
operating in the short arc mode with an mum conditions are about 235 amps and
.045" diameter electrode and a C-8 gas, 27 arc volts. The key here is arc volts. The
the hottest condition would be about power supply may say that it is putting out
223-235 amps and 20 to 21 volts. This is a 32 volts, and there is still spatter. Use a volt
sliding scale, so at 150 amps it might be meter and measure the voltage from the
17 or 18 volts. As the voltage climbs into positive connection at the wire feeder to
the 23-25 volt range the spatter level the work piece while welding. It is possible
increases rapidly because the transfer that there is 100 feet of work leap with two
mode is now globular transfer. frayed, oxidized connections. The 32 volts
at the machine may be only 25 volts at the
arc due to the resistance in the circuit.

F. Cracking (figure 48) in low carbon steels

Cracking is not usually a problem because the
materials are so ductile. In high strength
materials, cracking can be caused by:

High Restraint – A highly restrained part

will not allow the material to move to
relieve the stresses of the weld metal
during cooling. This also leads to local
stresses beyond the yield strength of the
material. A highly restrained joint using
high strength material can require preheat
and interpass temperatures be increased to
slow the cooling rate. Post-weld heat
treating may also be necessary.

Poor Bead Shape – A convex bead will

greatly increase the stress at the toes of the
Figure 48 – weld. The increased thickness of the center
Centerline and of the bead forces the stress into the toes,
Underbead and can rapidly exceed the yield strength
Cracking of the material. A concave bead may not
have the required effective throat to with-
stand the design forces, and crack through
the throat. The optimum fillet shape is a
flat face with the toes blending into the
side walls very smoothly.



Hopefully this course has given you a little

better understanding of the Gas Metal Arc
Welding Process.

With the knowledge you have, and this

booklet to use as a reference, it is hoped
that you’re now a more informed welder
and your job has been made easier. Please
call your local Praxair engineering repre-
sentative with any questions that you have
in the future.

Praxair, Inc.
39 Old Ridgebury Road
Danbury, CT 06810-5113
Tel: 1-800-PRAXAIR
(716) 879-4077
Fax: 1-800-772-9985
(716) 879-2040
The information contained herein is offered
for use by technically qualified personnel at
their discretion and risk, without warranty
of any kind.


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Praxair Technology, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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