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Selecting electrodes, shielding gas, and filler metal for
The right choices make the best welds When weld quality is most important, gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) is the preferred welding process for stainless steel, low alloy steel, maraging steel, nickel, cobalt, titanium, aluminum, copper, and magnesium. GTAW is popular because of its versatility---it can be used in all positions and produces clean weld deposits, avoiding grinding and post-weld finishing. It can also be applied by manual, semiautomatic, mechanized or fully automatic methods. Industries that most typically use GTAW include industrial piping, nuclear power facilities, shipbuilding, aerospace, transportation, pressure vessels, boilers, heat exchangers, food grade processing equipment, etc. The variety of GTAW applications makes the appropriate selection of electrodes, shielding gas, and filler metal crucial for its success. GTAW uses an electrode that is considered to be nonconsumable, plus a filler metal rod if any is needed. Filler metal may or may not be needed, depending on the specific welding application. The shielding gas is important for GTAW because it is necessary to shield the electrode and molten weld puddle from the surrounding atmosphere. Electrodes GTAW uses an electrode that is considered to be nonconsumable. These electrodes are made of tungsten or tungsten alloys that melt in the range of 6,170 degrees Fahrenheit (3,410 degrees Celsius), the highest melting point of all metals. It is virtually impossible to melt a tungsten electrode during welding, provided the electrode is used within its current-carrying capacity range with the proper inert shielding gas. Tungsten retains its hardness, even at red heat temperature. There are several types of GTAW electrodes. These are made of pure tungsten or alloyed with thoria, zirconia, ceria, lanthana, or a combination of oxides. The welding electrodes are classified by chemical composition and are identified by colored markings in the form of bands, dots, etc., on the surface of the electrode. Tungsten electrodes usually come in lengths of 3 to 24 inches (76 to 610 millimeters), with 7-inch being most common, and in diameters from .01 inch (0.25 millimeters) to 1/4-inch (6.4 millimeters). Pure tungsten electrodes are generally used on applications with alternating current (AC). They have a moderate current-carrying capacity and a low contamination resistance, but provide good arc stability with conventional AC. These are identified by a green marking. The tungsten electrodes alloyed with 1% (yellow marking) or 2% (red marking) thoria have several advantages over pure tungsten electrodes, with both direct current (DC) and some AC applications. These electrodes have higher current-carrying capacities, longer life, higher electron emissivity, and greater contamination resistance. Thoriated tungsten electrodes also provide easier arc starting and a more stable arc.


For the best results. Abbreviations used with electrodes are as follows: F= Electrode T = Tungsten L = Lanthanum Zr = Zirconia G = Rare-earth The EWLs (black marking) electrodes contain lanthanum oxide and are very similar to the ceriated tungsten electrodes. The characteristics most desirable for shielding purposes are chemical inertness and an ability to produce smooth arc action at high current densities.Ceriated tungsten electrodes (orange marking) contain cerium oxide and exhibit a reduced rate of vaporization or burn-off. Additions of hydrogen and nitrogen can be used for special applications. which means they do not form compounds with other elements. Argon and helium are both inert. which is preferred for the welding of aluminum and magnesium. Titanium and zirconium have a very low tolerance to impurities in the shielding gas. 4. The EWG (gray marking) electrodes contain an unspecified addition of oxides (rare earth or others) that affect the characteristics of the arc. as compared with pure tungsten electrodes. Gas purity may have a considerable effect on welding. helium. Argon has several advantages over helium: 1. welding grade gas with a rating of 99. Depending on the volume of use. . This gas can be purchased at much lower prices in the bulk liquid form compared to the compressed gas form and is the most widely used type of shielding gas for GTAW. and only the very purest should ever be used. Their welding characteristics generally fall between those of pure and thoriated tungsten. or a mixture of argon and helium are the most widely used shielding gases for GTAW. 2. 3. EWZr (brown marking) electrodes contain a small amount of zirconium oxide. Inert shielding gas is used because it protects the tungsten electrode and the molten weld metal from contamination. Quieter and smoother arc action. Lower arc voltage for current settings and arc lengths. which is particularly good on thin metals.99+ percent should be used. Shielding Gases Argon. Argon Argon is a heavy gas that is obtained from the atmosphere by the liquidization of air. but have a higher resistance to contamination. Easier arc starting. Good cleaning action. argon may be supplied as a compressed gas or as a liquid.

Produces higher arc voltages for given current settings and arc lengths. Combinations of argon and helium are widely used for automatic welding. and when porosity is a problem. Welds better at higher speeds 4. a more uniform weld bead. This gas mixture is not completely inert. or low-alloy steels. Common mixtures of these gases by volume are 75% helium/25% argon or 80% helium/20% argon. and higher travel speeds. Better resistance to cross-drafts. Better weld puddle control in the overhead and vertical positions. Gives better coverage in vertical and overhead positions 5. Penetrates more deeply due to higher heat input 6. it leaves the welding area more quickly and requires higher flow rates for adequate coverage. 6. Lower cost and more availability. 7. Another disadvantage is that it is more expensive and less available than argon. which is particularly good on thicker metals and metals with high conductivity 3. plain carbon. A variety of mixtures is available. argon-hydrogen mixtures are used when no other shielding gas can prevent porosity. The purposes of argon-hydrogen mixtures are to increase the welding heat and help control the weld bead profile. Helium does have several advantages over argon shielding gas: 1. Generates a smaller heat-affected zone ((HAZ)) 2. It may be distributed as a liquid. 8. Argon-Hydrogen Mixtures Mixtures of argon and hydrogen are often used when welding metals such as austenitic stainless steel. Helium Helium is a light gas that is obtained by separation from natural gas. INCONEL®. Austenitic stainless steel can be welded with argon-hydrogen mixtures with the hydrogen percentage up . Tends to flatten out the root pass of the weld bead when used as a backing gas Argon-Helium Mixtures Argon-helium mixtures are used for applications that require better control of argon and deeper penetration of helium. Argon-hydrogen mixtures should not be used for welding aluminum. 9. The argon-hydrogen mixtures give the weld puddle better wetting action. Better for welding dissimilar metals.5. In some cases. and MONEL®. Since helium is lighter than air. but is most often used as compressed gas in cylinders. Lower flow rates (argon is heavier than air and helium) are required for good shielding.

nitrogen can also be applied as shielding gas. to about 1/4 inch (6. thermal conductivity. Filler metals are often similar. The tensile strength. resulting in the need for various filler metals. However. In this system. Deoxidizers are sometimes added to the filler metals to provide better weld soundness. Since GTAW filler rods are typically chosen on the basis of chemical composition. they are classified according to their chemical composition. An example of a classification is an ER4043 aluminum welding rod. Nitrogen Although rarely used. Classification AWS developed the classification system for filler metal used with GTAW. The choice of a filler metal for a given application depends on the suitability for the intended application. making nitrogen ideal for welding copper and copper alloys. impact toughness. Filler metals are generally produced with closer control on chemistry. but a filler rod is added directly to the weld puddle generally without electricity running through it. and for copper and copper alloys.7-84. Filler Metals GTAW is used to weld a wide variety of metals.020 inches (. Selecting the proper filler metal depends primarily on the chemical composition of the base metal being welded.4 millimeters) for high current welding and surfacing. designations for filler metal wires consist of the letters ER (E=electrode. the argon-hydrogen mixture is 95 to 98% argon with the remaining balance being hydrogen. typically though. Other nonferrous metals and stainless steels are classified in a similar way. electrical conductivity. purity.519-92. It produces higher currents because of the higher voltage nitrogen generates. and weld appearance needed for a specific weldment are important considerations. to AWS A5. The diameters of filler wire range from about . Sizing Filler wires come in either straight cut lengths that are usually 36 inches (914 millimeters) long for manual welding. Magnesium classifications can be found by referring to AWS A. Selection of Filler Metal . although not necessarily identical. The efficiency of heat transfer is higher than that of either helium or argon.14-89 for chemical compositions of filler wire and rods used for welding nickel and nickel alloys. and quality than are base metals. nitrogen will reduce arc stability and contaminate electrodes because it is not an inert gas. If thoriated electrodes are used.50 millimeters) for delicate or fine work. The difference between an electrode and a rod is that an electrode carries welding current and the metal is transferred across the arc. to the base metal being welded. Refer to AWS A5. Carbon and low-alloy steel welding rods differ in that they are classified according to mechanical properties and chemical 15%. The ER indicates that the wire can be used as either an electrode or a filler wire and the 4043 indicates the chemical composition. nitrogen causes negligible contamination. or in continuous spooled wire for mechanized welding. corrosion resistance. R=rod) and an alloy number in most cases.

and filler metal will help ensure the best weld in a safe and cost-effective manner. 3. Base Metal Strength Properties. and nonferrous metals. Scientific analysis can be conducted with spectrograph or eddy current units. When weldments are subjected to severe service conditions such as low temperatures. A filler metal is chosen to match the tensile strength of the base metal. a magnetic check. flame tests. Identifing the base metal is absolutely required to select the proper filler metal. Thickness and Shape of Base Metal Weldments. The chemical composition of the base metal must be known. This may include thick sections or complex shapes that may require maximum ductility to avoid weld cracking. ductility. This is usually most important with steels. or color match are important considerations. and impact resistance properties should be used. Matching the chemical composition is not as important for mild steels as it is for low-alloy steels. If the type of base metal is not known. . Close matching of the filler metal to the base metal is needed when corrosion resistance. Filler metal types that give best ductility are recommended. toughness. weight. tests can be done based on appearance. shielding gas. high temperatures. Selecting the proper filler metal for a specific application is quite involved but is based on the following factors: 1. 4. and chemistry tests.The type of metal being welded and the specific mechanical and chemical properties desired are the major factors in determining the choice of a filler metal. creep strength. or shock loading. fracture tests. Proper selection of electrodes. GTAW will remain a popular process because of the variety of its applications. a filler metal that closely matches the base metal composition. 2. Service Conditions and/or Specifications. chisel tests. spark tests. stainless steels. Base Metal Composition.