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Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs

Michigan Occupational Safety & Health Administration Consultation Education & Training Division Onsite Consultation Abatement Method Advice for:


Note: This handout is not inclusive of all standard rule requirements that apply to rule requirements for Arc Welding Processes


(Rev. 8/05)

OSC-6042 (Rev.


OSC-6042 Arc Welding Processes Welding Process Carbon Arc Welding AWS Designation CAW Electrode Carbon Electrode Shielding Gases None Remarks Earliest Process. No longer commonly employed in industry Common in the field and in small shops. Produces excessive fumes.

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (also known as stick welding)


Consumable Stick Electrode

Some shielding. Gas produced from welding rod.

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding


Non Consumable Tungsten Electrode

Argon most common gas. Helium used for penetrating welds

Relatively clean process

Gas Metal Arc Welding


Consumable Wire Electrode

Argon, CO2, and CO2/Ar are typical

Metal flows across arc from electrode to work piece

Flux Core Arc Welding


Consumable Wire Electrode with Flux Core

External (e.g. CO2) or flux generated gas

Variation of GMAW

Plasma Arc Welding


Non Consumable Tungsten Electrode

Argon and Others

Three principal modes: melt-in, keyhole, and needle arc


Welding Arc Characteristics The most common high-intensity arc is probably the welding arc. These arcs vary in brightness and in ultraviolet radiation content, primarily as a function of arc current, shielding gas, and the metals being welded. There are a variety of different welding arc processes and cutting processes which vary in their ultraviolet and visible light output. The following pages summarize the principal techniques and the standard nomenclature used by the American Welding Society (AWS). Although arc currents vary from approximately 50 amperes up to nearly 1,000 amperes for different processes, there is no one process that covers this entire range of currents. For instance Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) on soft metals such as aluminum may use only 50 amperes; however, a very high-powered plasma cutting (PAC) torch may exceed 1,000 amperes. Arc welding requires a large current, generally of a relatively low voltage after the arc has been struck. The arc is struck between an electrode and the work piece -- the base metal. The electrode may have either a largely non-consumable metallic tip or it may be a consumable rod of carbon or a consumable metal rod or wire. In some processes, a separate wire or rod a welding rod (a rod of filler material that is not an electrode and should not be confused with rod-shaped electrodes used in shielded metal arc welding) may be used to supply filler metal. Welding does not necessarily require the addition of filler metal from a consumable electrode or welding rod. Fusion of two metal surfaces can be produced with only the high temperature of the arc. Some welding process may employ automatic wire feed systems and be totally automated. In other semi-automatic operations, the welder must advance arc along the work piece, but the wire is fed automatically. Many electric arc welding processes make use of a direct current (DC) rather than alternating current. In any direct current arc, the specification of polarity can be very important. If the electrode is a cathode and is negative (dcen), the AWS refers to this as direct current straight polarity, or DCSP. If the welding electrode is an anode or electrode positive (dcep), this is referred to as direct current reverse polarity (DCRP). In the normal DCSP condition, the base metal being bombarded by the electrons is hotter than the electrode and a deep, penetrating weld is produced. In contrast, DCRP produces a wider, shallower weld and the electrode is hotter than the base metal. An ac arc will produce intermediate characteristics of DCRP and DCSP welds since the arc polarity reverses every half cycle. Welding Process Carbon Arc Welding AWS Designation CAW Electrode Carbon Electrode Shielding Gases None Remarks Earliest Process. No longer commonly employed in industry

Carbon-arc welding (CAW) and carbon-arc (CAC) were the first arc welding and cutting processes. They were developed near the close of the nineteenth century. These processes, although uncommon today, are still employed in some special applications. A carbon electrode is typically the cathode and the base metal is the anode. The intense heat of the arc melts the surfaces of the base metal to be joined. Often a separate filler rod (the welding rod) is also used. In air-carbon-arc cutting (AAC), a high-pressure stream of air at about 550 kPa blows away the molten metal through the kerf. The kerf is the slot cut in a metal plate. The carbon electrodes are generally coated with copper to increase current capacity. AAC is one of the more common arc cutting and gouging processes.


Welding Process Shielded Metal Arc Welding (also known as stick welding)

AWS Designation SMAW

Electrode Consumable Stick Electrode

Shielding Gases Some shielding. Gas produced from welding rod.

Remarks Common in the field and in small shops. Produces excessive fumes.

Shielded-Metal-Arc Welding (SMAW) evolved from CAW when it was realized that a consumable electrode eliminating any need for a welding rod, could replace the carbon electrode. To reduce oxidation, the electrode wire is coated with materials such as fluorides, oxides, carbonates, metal alloys, and binders to stabilize the arc, to produce gases to shield the weld from oxygen and atmospheric contaminants, and to introduce metal alloy to weld. SMAW is used principally with nickel and ferrous base metals. The electrodes are typically 2 to 6mm (3/32 to inch) in diameter and are controlled by the welder in a clamptype electrode holder. Because of the rod shape of the electrode, SMAW is sometimes referred to as stick welding. The arc is struck by the welder when he briefly touches the electrode to the work piece and withdraws it to an optimum gap. A very experienced welder can advance the rod and maintain an optimum arc gap that produces a reasonably stable optical emission for short periods of time. But the optical radiation emitted from this type of arc when most welders hold the stick will fluctuate substantially with time. The principal advantage of SMAW is its cost and simplicity. Most arc welding machines found in home and garage use are SMAW machines. Such units often sell for less than $200, although portable, industrial units sell for more than $1,000. The size of the power supplies and cost make SMAW machines the favored units used in pipeline construction, heavy construction, and shipbuilding. Most small power supplies operate between 30A and 250A, although some heavy units may have capabilities of 600A. A shielded metal arc may also be used for cutting at higher currents and slower speeds to permit melt-through. It is then referred to a shielded metal arc cutting (SMAC). This is not a standard cutting process. Welding Process Gas Tungsten Arc Welding AWS Designation GTAW Electrode Non Consumable Tungsten Electrode Shielding Gases Argon most common gas. Helium used for penetrating welds Remarks Relatively clean process

During World War II a dramatically different type of welding process originally called heliarc welding or tungsten-inert-gas (TIG) welding was developed. Now properly termed gas-tungsten-arc welding (GTAW), this process was developed in the aircraft industry to permit effective welding of aluminum and magnesium alloys. GTAW employs a non-consumable tungsten electrode and often a separate welding rod of filler metal. The lack of any flux meant that slag did not have to be removed from the weld as is required in SMAW. An Inert gas shield is provided through a concentric gas nozzle surrounding the electrode. Because of the requirements for compressed gas, a specialized welding gun, and more sophisticated current regulation equipment, this process is found most often in heavy industry. Helium was used predominantly at first (hence the term heliarc), whereas argon is now far more common as the inert gas. Helium, because of its

OSC-6042 higher ionization temperature, produces a hotter arc and is still preferred (despite its high cost) for specialized applications where a deeper penetrating arc is desired. Regardless of the shielding gas used, GTAW is generally regarded as the process which produces the highest quality conventional weld. Gas tungsten arc cutting (GTAC) would probably use the same arc producing equipment as GTAW, but is run to permit burn-through of the bas metal. As in other arc cutting (AC) procedures, the arc is largely buried in the base metal and the optical radiation emitted is thereby greatly reduced. GTAC is not commonly used AC Processes Welding Process Gas Metal Arc Welding AWS Designation GMAW Electrode Consumable Wire Electrode Shielding Gases Argon, CO2, and CO2/Ar are typical Remarks Metal flows across arc from electrode to work piece.

Gas-Metal-Arc welding (GMAW) is one form of metal-inert-gas (MIG) welding. GMAW was an outgrowth of the development of GTAW. As in the GTAW process, an inert shielding gas such as argon, helium, or CO 2 enshrouds the arc, but the GMAW electrode is consumable wire. GMAW is a much faster process than GTAW. Since metal is being transferred from the electrode and deposited in the weld, the nature of this transfer can greatly affect the arc characteristics and resultant weld. Specialized GMAW current modes are used to achieve specific forms of metal transfer. Spray transfer GMAW with an argon-shielded, high-current, DCRP arc produces a fine spray of metal droplets at rates of hundreds per second. In spray transfer there is little apparent sputtering of the arc because of the smooth transfer of metal. This results in a rather stable emission of optical radiation. In the pulsed arc (GMAW-P), the spray of droplets is produced primarily during high-current pulses, although a steady arc sustaining current exists between pulses. In the buried arc process, CO2-rich gas mixtures are used to inhibit spray transfer and crater in the steel with lest optical radiation emitted. The short-circuiting arc (GMAW-S) process for welding thin sections also produces a train of high-current pulses resulting from a controlled short at least every 20 ms. The various GMAW variations probably account for the largest volume of industrial welding. This is surely true if one includes the sister process, FCAW. These two types of MIG welding are considered the most effective of filler-type welding methods. Gas metal arc cutting (GMAC) uses the GMAW welding machine to achieve burn-through, but this is not a common AC process. Welding Process Flux Core Arc Welding AWS Designation FCAW Electrode Consumable Wire Electrode with Flux Core Shielding Gases External (e.g. CO2, or Flux generated gas) Remarks Variation of GMAW

Flux-cored-arc welding (FCAW) is a variation of metal-inert-gas (MIG) welding where the electrode wire is replaced by cored wire a fine electrode tubing filled with flux. The flux may produce the shielding gas (self shielding); however, external gas shielding (often CO 2), as in the GMAW arrangement is frequently used. The power supplies, guns, and electrode feed rolls are essentially the same as those used in GMAW.

OSC-6042 Cored electrodes are most commonly 1.6mm (1/16 inch) in diameter, although electrode diameters of 2.4 mm (3/32 inch) are also used. Welding Process Plasma Arc Welding AWS Designation PAW Electrode Non Consumable Tungsten Electrode Shielding Gases Argon and others Remarks Three principal Modes; Melt-in, Keyhole, and needle arc.

A more recently developed welding process plasma arc welding (PAW) resulted from progress in plasma physics during the 1950s and 1960s. Although requiring more sophisticated and more costly equipment, PAW features a more stable, more concentrated arc that permits faster welds of higher quality than most competing processes. A pilot arc of argon introduced through an orifice inside a nozzle assembly reaches very high temperatures and ionizes a blanket of shielding gases to produce a second, larger plasma. The larger plasma forms the tight, transferred welding arc that exists between a tungsten electrode and the base metal. Welding rod is sometimes used in the GTAW process. PAW techniques are generally of three variations; the melt-in-mode, the keyhole mode for a very penetrating arc, and the needle arc for low currents. The PAW arc, although rich in ultraviolet emission because of its high temperature, does not always emit high levels of optical radiation since it is often buried to a considerable extent in the base metal. Plasma arc cutting (PAC) is a common AC process. At high currents of 600 to 1000 A, PAC is used to cut very thick plate steel in excess of 2 cm in thickness. The elongated high-velocity jet arc that can be achieved in specialized plasma arc cutting nozzles makes this possible. The high-velocity jet forces molten metal through the kerf. Water injection is used to cool the work piece. Sometimes UV absorbing dyes are added to this water. The high noise levels created by the plasma arc have lead to the development of a water muffler that is a shield of flowing water that enshrouds the arc. The PAC power supply can be quite expensive due to the high open-circuit voltages required to maintain a high arc voltage. Gas mixtures for PAC make use of argon with hydrogen or hydrogen with nitrogen. As in other AC processes the arc is largely occluded from view by the base metal. Plasma arc spraying (PSP) a surface treatment process is one process where the intense plasma arc may be completely exposed. This results in exceedingly high levels of ultraviolet and visible radiation in the vicinity of this equipment.


Welding Hazard Index (WHI)* TABLE

Process GTAW GTAW GTAW GTAW GMAW FCAW GMAW GMAW GMAW SMAW PAW PAW * Shielding Gas He Ar Ar He CO2 CO2 Ar Ar He N/A He Ar, H Base Metal ms ms Al Al ms ms ms Al Al ms ms ms WHI (UV) 85 6.3 3.3 6.7 15 6 60 70 40 130 140 50

Representative values based upon actual measurements with good local exhaust ventilation. Arc is not exposed, but largely occluded by the base metal. Varies greatly with welding rod. An extreme case is given.

EXAMPLE: Find t max for a gas-tungsten arc (GTAW) operating at 150 A on aluminum (Argon shielding gas) as viewed at 60 feet. From the Table above the WHI in 3.3. The distance, 60 feet ( 0.3048 m/ft ), is 18.3 m or 1830 cm. Hence by equation 24-5:


= (1000)(1830)/(3.3)(150) = 4.5 X 104s = 750 minutes = 12.5 hours

Obviously there is no UV hazard at this point, but a separate calculation would be required to show if lengthy staring at the arc could be safe.

OSC-6042 At the US Army Environment Hygiene Agency, a welding hazard index (WHI) was developed for different conditions that permit the calculation of a maximal safe duration for bystanders at a given distance from the arc when shields are not feasible (as occasionally occurs in some industrial production lines). This index, however, is not necessary in most operations where the welder is located in a booth. The ultraviolet radiation emitted by an open welding arc normally appears to increase approximately as the square of the arc current. Measured ultraviolet radiation from several types of welding processes permitted the development of a welding hazard index for estimating maximum permissible exposure duration. max = (1000) (r)/(WHI)(1a) r = distance in centimeters 1 a = welding amperage t max = maximum viewing time in seconds (conversion factor feet to cm is feet X 100 X .3048) (TMAX) SAFE TIME EXPOSURE TO ARC WELDING RADIATION AT VARIOUS DISTANCES DURING ANY DAILY WORK PERIOD (SHIFT) Process (AWS Abbrev.) GTAW (He) GTAW (He) GTAW (Ar) GTAW (Ar) GTAW (Ar) GTAW (Ar) GMAW (Ar) GMAW (Ar) GMAW (CO2) GMAW (CO2) GMAW (CO2) SMAW SMAW PAW (Ar) PAW (Ar) Current (A) 100 250 100 250 50 100 150 300 90 150 350 100 200 200 260 Base Metal ms ms ms ms Al Al Al Al ms ms ms ms ms ms ms 5 Feet 27 sec. 4.4 sec. 6.2 min. 59 sec. 47 min. 12 min. 15 sec. 3.7 sec. 3.2 min. 1.2 min. 12.6 sec. 17.9 sec. 4.5 sec. 11.6 sec. 7 sec. 10 Feet 1.8 min. 17.5 sec. 24.6 min. 3.9 min. 3.1 hrs. 47 min. 59 sec. 14.7 sec. 12.8 min. 4.6 min. 50.6 sec. 1.2 min. 18 sec. 47 sec. 27 sec. 20 Feet 7.3 min. 1.9 min 1.6 hrs. 15.7 min. 12.5 hrs. 3.1 hrs. 3.9 min. 59 sec. 51 min. 18.4 min. 3.4 min. 4.8 min. 1.2 min. 3.1 min. 1.8 min. 30 Feet 14.9 min. 2.6 min. 3.7 hrs. 35.4 min. 28.2 hrs. 7 hrs. 8.9 min. 2.2 min. 1.9 hrs. 41.3 min. 7.6 min. 10.7 min. 2.7 min. 7 min. 4.1 min. 40 Feet 29.1 min. 4.6 min. 6.6 hrs. 1 hr. 50 hrs. 12.5 hrs. 15.7 min. 3.9 min. 3.4 hrs. 1.2 hrs. 13.5 min. 19 min. 4.8 min. 12.4 min. 7.3 min. 50 Feet 45.6 min. 7.3 min. 10.2 hrs. 1.6 hrs. 78.2 hrs. 19.6 hrs. 24.5 min. 6.2 min. 5.3 hrs. 1.9 hrs. 21 min. 30 min. 7.5 min 19.4 min. 11.5 min.


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