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Metal-Arc Welding with Covered Electrodes ................................. 3



The Process .........................................................................3

Welding Positions ................................................................4
Functions of the Electrode Coating .....................................5
Types of Electrode Coating .................................................6
Electrode Classification System...........................................9
The Influence of Welding Current .....................................11
Arc Length .........................................................................12
Low Hydrogen Electrodes .................................................14
Deep Penetration Welding ................................................15
Hard Facing .......................................................................15
Gravity Welding .................................................................16

Submerged Arc Welding


The Process .......................................................................18

Materials Joined ................................................................19
Fluxes ................................................................................19
Welding Head Arrangements ............................................19
Operating Variables .......................................................... 20



Welding Current ...............................................20

Arc Voltage .......................................................20
Travel Speed ....................................................21
Electrode Size ..................................................21
Electrode Extension .........................................22
Type of Electrode .............................................22
Width and Depth of Flux ..................................22

Gas-Shielded Metal-Arc Welding.................................................. 25


The Process .......................................................................25

Electrodes ..........................................................................26
Transfer Modes .................................................................27


Spray Transfer ..................................................27

Short Circuit or Dip Transfer ............................28
Semi-short Circuiting Arc ..................................29
Pulsed Arc Spray ..............................................29

Shielding Gases.................................................................29
Operating Variables............................................................32


Arc Voltage .......................................................32

Arc Length ........................................................32
Current ..............................................................32
Travel Speed ....................................................32
Electrode Extension .........................................32
Electrode Size ..................................................33

Advantages and Limitations of the GMAW Process .........33

Cored and Self-Shielded Wires ........................................34


Tungsten Inert Gas Arc Welding .....................................................37


Automatic Welding ...........................................................................39


Electroslag Welding...........................................................................40

The Process .......................................................................40

Welding with Consumable Guides or Nozzles ..................41


Electrogas Welding ...........................................................................43


One Side Welding with Backing.......................................................44


Consumables and Power Sources...................................................47


Care and storage of consumables ....................................47

Power Sources ..................................................................48
Arc Blow ............................................................................49




The Process
Known in the USA as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and elsewhere
as manual metal arc welding (MMA) this welding process is by far the most
widely used, especially for short welds in production, maintenance, repair
and construction in the field (see Figure 1). Welds can be made in areas of
limited access and the equipment is relatively simple, inexpensive and
portable. Welding in any position is possible provided appropriate
electrodes are chosen. The process may be applied to the most commonly
used metals and alloys such as carbon and alloy steels, stainless steels,
copper, nickel and their alloys. It is not suitable for low melting metals such
as Tin, Lead or Zinc or the more oxygen reactive metals such as aluminium,
titanium and zirconium.

Figure 1 Equipment for Manual Metal Arc Welding

MMA welding is a welding process in which fusion of metals is produced by
heat from an electric arc that is maintained between the tip of a flux-coated
electrode and the surface of the base metal in the joint being welded.
The core of the electrode consists of a solid metal rod of drawn or cast
material which conducts the electric current to the arc and provides filler
metal for the joint. The flux coating protects the molten metal from the
atmosphere by forming a slag and a gaseous shield and stabilises the arc.
The slag helps to smooth and shape the weld bead, and has additional
functions, depending on the type of electrode (see Figure 2).

Most electrodes are 220-450 mm long but may be up to 900 mm with core
wire diameters from 1.6 mm to 8.0 mm. The arc is brought about by the
difference in electrical potential (voltage) between the electrode and the
base metal. In practice, the voltage drop across the arc will be from about
16-40 V, with the current set generally within the range 20-550 amps. Open
circuit voltage (OCV), which may be referred to is not that across the arc but
that generated by the machine when no welding is being done and it is
usually 50-100V. When the arc is struck, the voltage drops to the arc
voltage. The power supply can be alternating or direct current and in the
latter case the electrode may be connected positively or negatively.
Generally AC seems to be favoured in the UK while DC is more commonly
employed in the USA.

Figure 2 Manual Metal Arc welding

For flat welding, metal transfer across the arc is attributed to gravity, gas
expansion, electric and magnetic forces and surface tension but in other
positions gravity will work against the other phenomena. The centre of the
arc has a temperature of at least 5000-6000 C, well above the melting point
of any metal.

Welding Positions
The specification of welding positions is important for two reasons. First, the
manufacturer needs to define the positions for which his electrodes are
suitable. Second, the welder's skills and qualifications are to a large extent
determined by the position at which he can produce an acceptable weld.
Thus for example much greater skill is required to weld in an overhead
position as compared with a flat or downhand position.
It should be pointed out that the welding position is not limited by the
process itself but by the size and type of electrode.

There are no absolute definitions of welding positions, but, in principle, such

definitions are all similar, variations arising only from minor differences in
angles. The weld slope may be defined as the angle between the line of the
root of the weld and the horizontal. The weld rotation is defined by drawing
a line from the root of the weld so that it bisects the weld profile and is at
right angles to the weld line. The angle that this line makes with the vertical
is the angle of weld rotation. Intermediate positions not specified may be
referred to as inclined. (See Figure 3 and Table 1).

Figure 3 Welding Positions

Table 1

Welding Positions

Positions for Plates

Vertical up
Vertical down






* Note for fillet welds, horizontal-vertical has the symbol PB and overhead


Functions of the Electrode Coating

The functions of the electrode coating are many and varied but the two of
most significance are:

to provide a gas to shield the arc and prevent excessive atmospheric

contamination of the molten filler metal travelling across the arc;
to improve the smoothness and stability of the arc.

Other important aspects are:


to produce a slag blanket to protect the hot weld metal from the air, to
allow slower cooling and to enhance bead shape and surface
cleanliness of the weld metal;
to provide fluxes, scavengers and deoxidisers to cleanse the weld and
prevent excessive grain growth;
to allow alloying elements to be added to change the composition of
the weld metal.

The use of AC will also affect the demands on the coating since the arc is
extinguished and must be reignited every half cycle. Therefore the arc
atmosphere must contain a suitable ionised gas to make this possible.
Coatings containing iron powder may be used to increase the rate of
deposition and to improve efficiency in the use of arc energy.

Types of Electrode Coating

There are three main classes of electrode coating;
The first, 'Cellulosic', contains a large proportion, up to about 35%, of the
organic compound Cellulose (C 6H10O5)n, together with slag forming items:
principally Rutile, a mineral form of Titanium Dioxide TiO 2. Cellulose is a
naturally occurring constituent of wood which at high temperatures will
dissociate into oxides of carbon and water. In ferrous welding the latter will
react with iron to produce metallic oxide and the gas hydrogen, which to
some extent will be absorbed into the weld. Such coatings will produce a
limited amount of slag and they tend to be restricted to smaller diameters
and may be used for work in all positions.
In the second type of coating, 'Basic', a protective gas is produced by the
dissociation of basic carbonates, mainly Calcium Carbonate CaCO 3, which
at high temperature is converted to Calcium Oxide CaO and Carbon Dioxide
CO2. These coatings usually include some Calcium Fluoride or Fluorspar,
CaF2, to give fluidity to the slag; and they have the advantage that only
small amounts of Hydrogen are generated provided the coating is dry, thus
reducing the absorption of Hydrogen by the weld metal. This type of
electrode is generally used where low hydrogen contents need to be
The third coating type, 'Rutile', is one consisting mainly of Titanium Dioxide
plus various mineral constituents, and a small proportion of Cellulose - up to
about 15%. Protection of the metal as it is passed across the arc is provided

by the dissociation of the Cellulose and the production of large quantities of

slag which will coat the metal droplets as they are transferred.
Metal powders (e.g. iron) may be included in the flux coating to raise the
efficiency of the process and both basic and rutile coating variations of this
type are available. The heavier rutile coatings contain only about 5%
cellulose and as both varieties produce large quantities of molten metal and
slag they are usually restricted to flat (downhand) and horizontal-vertical
fillet welds. Other types of coating are available such as Acid Rutile, Acid
and Oxidising but are, however, little used. Although there may be
considerable differences in the compositions of the electrode cores
depending on the properties desired in the weld, the technique of modifying
composition by including alloying elements in the coating can be of great
Electrode Coatings are summarised in Table 2.
Constituents of the coatings may also include: various clays; silica; oxides
and carbonates of iron, manganese and calcium; aluminium and magnesium
silicates; calcium fluoride, or fluorspar: carbonates and silicates of sodium
and potassium; and ferro-manganese as a deoxidiser.
Coating compositions are described in general terms only, the proportions
of the different ingredients and even the total number present being the
manufacturer's prerogative and his secret. The quality of the product is
determined in the judgement of the purchaser and although there are
undoubted differences between suppliers, equally, there are variations in
the opinions and tastes of individual welders and their employers.
It should be apparent that the coating on the electrode not only has an
important influence on the properties of the resulting weld metal but it will
also be the principle influence on the welding characteristics themselves,
especially affecting such aspects as welding positions.
The functions of the individual constituents in a coating are listed in Table 3.

Table 2

Electrode Coating Characteristics and Normal Applications

Cellulosic (C)

Composition of Covering
Organic material containing
cellulose with some titanium oxide.
Hydrogen releasing.

Basic (B)

Calcium or other basic carbonates

and fluorspar bonded with sodium
or potassium silicates. Medium
coating. Coating compounds
contain little hydrogen. CO2

Basic high
efficiency (BB)

Similar to basic electrode covering

but have additional metallic
materials (e.g. iron powder) in the
covering which raise the efficiency
to 130% and more.

Rutile (R)

Titanium dioxide (rutile) and other

hydrated minerals and/or organic
cellulose materials. Coating
thickness less than 50% of the
core wire diameter.
Similar covering to the previous
rutile electrode but containing, in
addition metallic substances (e.g.
iron powder), which raises the
efficiency to 130% or more.
Coating thickness at least 50%
greater than the core wire diameter.
Oxides and carbonates of iron and
manganese, with deoxidizers such
as ferro-manganese.

Rutile heavy coating


Acid (A)

Acid rutile (AR)

Oxidizing (O)

Any Other Type (S)

Generally a thick coating

containing up to 35% rutile.
Ilmenite (iron oxide) and titanium
oxide is also used.
Iron oxide with or without
manganese oxide and silicates.

Thin, easily removable slag. Rather
high splatter loss. Considerable
envelope of shielding gas. Coarse
ripple on weld surface, deeply
penetrating arc with rapid burn-off
Brown slag easy to remove. Medium
ripple on weld metal, medium
penetration. Fillet profile flat or
convex. Deposited metal has high
resistance to cold cracking because
there is a low hydrogen content in the
weld. Electrodes must be stored
under warm dry conditions and dried
before use.

All classes of mild steel
welding in all positions: a.c.
or d.c. electrode positive.

Generally a thick coating which

produces a fluid slag of large volume
and solidifies in a puffed-up manner,
is full of holes and easily detached.
Smooth weld finish with small ripples.
Good penetration. Weld liable to
solidification cracking if plate
weldability is not good.
A fluid slag with other characteristics
similar to the acid type of covering.

Usually in the flat position

only but can be used in
other positions; a.c. or d.c.

Oxidizing slag so that the weld metal

has a low carbon and manganese
content referred to as dead soft.
Reduction of area and impact values
are lower than for other types of
electrodes. Core wire melts up inside
coating forming a cup so that the
electrode can be used for touchwelding. Low penetration; solid slag
often self-deslagging, with weld of
neat appearance.

d.c. or a.c. supply with

OCV as low as 45V.

Suitable for d.c. (electrode

positive) or a.c. with OCV
of 70V. Used for mild, low
alloy high tensile and
structural steels,
particularly for conditions
of high restraint. For flat,
vertical and overhead
positions, the latter having
a flat deposit.
These electrodes are suitable for welding in the flat and
horizontal/vertical position with a greatly increased rate of metal
deposition. Their high efficiency covering makes them unsuitable for
welding in the vertical and overhead positions. They can be used
either a.c. or d.c. generally with electrode +ve. Efficiency is indicated
by a three-figure digit beginning the additional coding.
Easy to use, with smooth weld finish and medium penetration. High
level of hydrogen in the weld metal limits their use in thick sections or
restrained joints. Suitable for a.c. or d.c. the fast freezing of weld
metal and fluid slag makes them suitable for vertical and overhead
Similar characteristics to rutile electrodes but generally unsuitable for
vertical and overhead welding because of increased slag. Increased
rate of metal deposition. Efficiency is indicated by a three-figure digit
beginning the additional coding.

This category is for any electrode

coverings not included in the
foregoing list. Iron powder
electrodes do not come into this
category but should be indicated by
their efficiency with a three digit

Similar to the acid type of


Table 3

Manual Metal Arc Electrode Flux Constituents and their Functions

Primary Function
Iron Oxide
Slag Former
Arc Stabiliser
Rutile (Titanium Dioxide)
Slag Former
Arc Stabiliser
Magnesia (Magnesium
Fluxing Agent
Calcium Fluoride
Slag Former
Fluxing Agent
Potassium Silicate
Arc Stabiliser
Other Silicates
Slag Formers and
Fluxing Agent
Calcium Carbonate
Gas Former
Arc Stabiliser
Other Carbonates
Gas Formers
Gas Former


Electrode Classification Systems

Electrode specifications are usually prefixed with E followed by several
digits and/or letters and/or chemical symbols.
Covered electrodes for welding carbon and carbon manganese steels
The European system (i.e. EN standards) is principally concerned with the
mechanical properties of deposited weld metal, namely yield and tensile
strengths and impact toughness. Additional information is included in the
classification which relates to the weld metal composition, type of coating,
recommended welding positions, welding current requirements, deposition
efficiency and hydrogen control. (e.g. E4631NiB54H5)
In the American system, electrodes are classified under the American
Welding Society (AWS) specification A 5.1, which is less complicated then
the European system. Essentially it is a four digit number with the prefix E
designating an electrode. The first two digits define the nominal minimum
tensile strength of the deposited metal in thousands of pounds per square
inch (kpsi); for mild steel. these will be 60 or 70. The third digit indicates the
recommended positions (i.e. the digit 1 signifies suitability for all welding
positions, 2 for flat or horizontal fillet welds, and 3 for the flat position only.)
The fourth digit determines the electrical power requirements. The last two
digits together refer to the type of electrode coating as stipulated in the
specification. (e.g. E7018)

Low Alloy Electrodes

Most of the low alloy steel electrode classifications are based on the low
hydrogen or basic type of covering. The composition of the basic covering
makes it possible to add a number of alloying elements to produce a range

of weld metal analyses and strengths. The increased strength of the weld
metal is obtained by the addition of alloying elements, which may be
achieved either through the core wire or via the coating.
The European classifications include the chemical symbols such as Mn, Ni,
Cr, when they are present as alloying additions, together with an indication
of the carbon content, the type of covering, and the hydrogen control if
required. Appropriate mechanical properties are specified including tensile
strength, proof stress, elongation and if required impact tests at various
temperatures. (e.g. ECrMo1LB)
The AWS specification for these electrodes is A5.5 and is very similar to that
for carbon steels described above. The first two, or sometimes three, digits
of the classification reflect the tensile strength of the weld deposit (e.g. 80,
110 etc.). For example the covering of E9016 will be similar to an E7016
electrode although the tensile strength will be 90 kpsi and the covering will
generally contain the alloying elements. (e.g. E9016 - C2)
Electrodes for Alloy and Stainless Steels
The trend for these electrodes is for the weld metal to be at least as high in
alloy content as the base material, and in some instances may be
considerably higher.
The European standard refers to electrodes for Chromium and ChromiumNickel steels, and the classification is indicated by the major alloying
elements of the weld deposit. The first three character sets indicate the
nominal Chromium, Nickel and Molybdenum contents respectively. The
letter L or H is then added for low or high carbon content respectively. Other
chemical symbols such as Mn, Cu, Nb follow if required. Finally appropriate
electrode coating symbols such as B for basic, R for rutile etc. appear. (e.g.
The AWS Specification for these electrodes is A5.4. As before they are
denoted by the prefix E followed by a specification number for the weld
metal deposit. These specification numbers are the same as those of the
AISI series for stainless and alloy steels. (e.g. E316L)
Table 4 gives details of various alloy and stainless steel compositions
relating to the ISO symbol on which the British and European Standards are
based. The AWS equivalents are included.
It will be appreciated that the foregoing descriptions relate only to their
barest essentials. It cannot be emphasised too strongly that when dealing
with Standard Specifications it is important that they are studied in their
official form and their requirements fully understood.


Table 4

Stainless Steel Compositions


Composition of deposited metal

C Max%

Cr %

19.9 L
19.9 Nb
19.9 L Nb
19.12.2 L







19.13.4 L




23.12 L
23.12 Nb
18.8 Mn
25.20 L
25.20 Nb
25.20 C
20.9 Nb






AWS (2)

Ni %

Mo %

E 410
E 430

Nb (1)
Nb (1)

Nb (1)


E 308
E 308L
E 347
E 316
E 316L
E 318

E 317
E 309
Nb (1)

Mn 5-8
E 310
Nb (1)

Nb (1)

E 349

E 312
NB content = min 8xC content and max. 1.2%. part of Nb can be
replaced by Ta.
American Welding Society.



The Influence of Welding Current

Tables are available as guides to the approximate currents to be used with
various types and sizes of electrodes, although the actual values employed
will depend to a great extent on the work to be done. Generally the higher
the current in the range given for a particular electrode size, the deeper the
penetration and the faster the rate of deposition. Too high a current can
lead to spatter and undercutting but too low a current will result in
insufficient penetration and too small a deposit of weld metal. As a rule the
arc voltage will be observed to increase slightly with increase in electrode
Operating requirements are invariably clearly stated by the electrode
manufacturer and these are best adhered to; however, as a guide, Table 5
shows some suggested values.
Table 5

Typical Electrode Currents














The diameter of the electrode to be used will depend on the welding

position, thickness and the type of joint. In the overhead, vertical and
horizontal-vertical positions, owing to the effects of gravity, molten metal
tends to run out of the joint and control by way of smaller molten metal pool
as provided by lower currents and smaller diameter electrodes is necessary.
The welding current may be DC positive or negative, or AC. Some
electrodes may be used with DC or AC, but others will be limited in this
respect. The energy cost is lower when welding with AC but as this
represents only a very minor part of the total welding costs it is unlikely to
be a significant factor when choosing the current type. Generally all
electrodes can be used with DC which provides a steadier arc and smoother
metal transfer than AC. It also produces a good wetting action and a uniform
weld bead shape. It is considered better for vertical and overhead work, and
where a short arc is advantageous. Thin sheet is easier to weld with DC.
However, there is the disadvantage of arc blow where magnetic effects
influence the direction of the arc making it difficult to control, especially
when welding near the edges of ferro magnetic metals using high currents.
(See Section 12). This problem does not arise with AC.
When the electrode is connected to DC negative (American terminology:
DC straight polarity, DCSP) about two thirds of the heat is at the work-piece
which will give deeper penetration. On the other hand if the electrode is
connected to DC positive (US: DC reverse polarity, DCRP) two thirds of the

heat will be at the electrode, thus increasing the electrode melting rate but
reducing penetration.

Arc Length
The arc length is the distance from the molten tip of the electrode core wire
to the surface of the molten weld pool. Proper arc length is important in
obtaining a sound welded joint. Metal transfer from the tip of the electrode
to the weld pool is not a smooth, uniform action, and instantaneous arc
voltage varies as droplets of molten metal are transferred across the arc,
even with constant arc length.
However, any variation in voltage will be minimal when welding is done with
the proper amperage and arc length. The latter requires constant and
consistent electrode feed.
The correct length varies according to the electrode classification, diameter,
and covering composition; it also varies with amperage and welding
position. Arc length increases with increasing electrode diameter and
amperage and as a general rule, it should not exceed the diameter of the
core wire of the electrode. The arc usually is shorter than this for electrodes
with thick coverings, such as iron powder or drag electrodes.
Too short an arc will be erratic and may short circuit during metal transfer.
Too long an arc will lack direction and intensity, which will tend to spatter the
molten metal as it moves from the electrode to the weld. The spatter may
be heavy and deposition efficiency low. Also, the gas and flux generated by
the covering are not as effective in shielding the arc and the weld metal from
air. The poor shielding can cause porosity and contamination of the weld
metal by oxygen or nitrogen, or both and the quality of the weld will be poor.
Control of arc length is largely a matter of welder skill, involving the welder's
knowledge, experience, visual perception and manual dexterity. Although
the arc length does change to some extent with changing conditions certain
fundamental principles can be given as a guide to the proper arc length for
a given set of conditions.
For downhand welding, particularly with heavy electrode coverings, the tip
of the electrode can be dragged lightly along the joint. The arc length, in this
case, is automatically determined by the depth of the cup at the tip of the
electrode and the melting rate of the electrode. For vertical or overhead
welding, the arc length is always gauged by the welder. The proper arc
length, in such cases, is the one that permits the welder to control the size
and motion of the molten weld pool. The same is true for the root passes in
groove and fillet welds.
The various classifications of electrodes have widely different operating
characteristics, including arc length. It is important, therefore, for the welder
to be familiar with the operating characteristics of the types of electrodes he
uses in order to recognise the proper arc length and to know the effect of
different arc lengths. The effect of a long and a short arc on bead
appearance with a mild steel electrode is illustrated (see Figure 4).

Figure 4 Effects of varying current, arc length (arc voltage) and travel
speed illustrated by surfaces and cross-sectional views of shielded
metal-arc welds: left to right - current, arc length and travel speed
normal; current too low; current too high; arc length too short; arc
length too long; travel speed too slow; travel speed too high
Table 6

Influence of Arc Length on Weld Metal Analysis

Arc Type

Long in still air
Long in windy conditions







(Deposition with a normal basic-coated electrode)


Low Hydrogen Electrodes

At high temperatures hydrogen, unlike oxygen and nitrogen, does not form
any compounds with iron and has a high solubility in the austenite phase.
Hydrogen has a lower solubility in steel after transformation at lower
temperatures, on cooling. This hydrogen will cause embrittlement in steel. In
a weld and the surrounding regions the presence of hydrogen will also
increase the tendency to cracking. It is important in all critical structures to
keep hydrogen to a minimum. The problem can be minimised by employing
basic-coated electrodes which have been baked in manufacture and
subsequently kept dry. Here the coating consists of calcium, and other
carbonates, and fluorspar bonded with sodium or potassium silicate. In the
heat of the arc, the carbonates dissociate releasing carbon dioxide which
acts as the shielding gas. To further reduce moisture content they are
frequently baked immediately before use. Low hydrogen electrodes are
normally tested to demonstrate a weld metal hydrogen content of less than
15 cm3/100g of deposited metal.
Table 7 indicates the effect of different coatings and baking temperatures on
hydrogen content of the weld metal.
Table 7

Typical Hydrogen Contents


Coating type

Hydrogen cm3 per 100 g deposited

> 70
> 20
10 - 15
3 - 10

Basic - Dried 100-150C
Basic - Dried 350-450C

A Basic slag is relatively thick and viscous which makes the electrodes
comparatively difficult to use. They can however be employed for welding in
all positions and the weld metal has excellent mechanical properties. Such
electrodes are often used for welding structures exposed to high stresses
and are usually specified when there are requirements for impact values at
low temperatures. Basic, low hydrogen coatings are used for electrodes to
deposit high strength steel weld metal.

Deep Penetration Welding

With common welding practices it may be expected that penetration will be
of the order of 1 mm per 100 amps of current. A deep penetration electrode
is defined in BS 499 as A covered electrode in which the covering aids the
production of a penetrating arc to give a deeper than normal fusion in the
root of the joint. Such electrodes can be used to produce faultless butt
welds in square butt joints which have been set up correctly.
The deep penetration electrodes are sometimes given the classification P,
as in E435P, and have a cellulose type of covering. If using a DC arc the
electrode should be connected to the negative pole so that the maximum
heat goes to the work-piece. For such electrodes an arc voltage of 60-70V
is usual compared with 20-30V for the normal type of electrode. In general
the weld metal will contain a large proportion of melted parent metal and will
therefore have a composition closely related to that of the parent metal.


Hard Facing
MMA welding is a often used for applying surface layers to metals to
improve the resistance to abrasion, impact, corrosion and heat. The
advantage of the method is that the surface can be deposited on a cheaper
base metal to give wear resistance or other qualities, exactly where
required, with great financial savings. Also worn parts can be built up with
substantial reductions in time and replacement costs. Very hard surfaces
are normally required for good abrasion resistance but high hardness
values are usually accompanied by poor resistance to impact. Conversely
good impact resistance is not allied to extreme hardness and it is therefore
necessary to determine which quality is of greater importance.
Similarly consideration must be given to the requirements of corrosion and
heat resistance and to the composition of the base metal, the need for preheating and the possibility of post-welding heat treatment. The Stellite
series of alloys which may be nickel or cobalt based are well known for
hardfacing applications which may include caterpillar tracks, excavator

buckets, railway points, rock crushers etc. Cutting tools for lathes and
milling machines etc. can be made by depositing a layer of high speed tool
steel onto a shank of lower carbon steel.
It will be realised that the parent metal will dilute the deposited metal and to
minimise this effect three hard facing layers should be applied where
possible. The total thickness of the hard facing layers should normally not
exceed about 6 mm and where a thicker deposit is required it should first be
built up with low hydrogen weld metal.

Gravity Welding
This is a simple method for economically welding long fillets in the flat
position using gravity to feed the electrode and to traverse the weld pool
along the joint. An operator can look after two or more machines at any one
time, for example, one on each side of a plate, giving symmetrical welds and
reducing stress and distortion. The electrode holder is mounted on a ballbearing carriage and slides smoothly down a guide bar, the angle of which
can be adjusted to give faster or slower traverse and thus vary the length of
deposit of the electrode and the leg length of the weld (see Figure 5).

Figure 5 Gravity Welding


Electrodes of 700 mm and more in length are available in diameters of 3.5,

4.0, 4.5, 5.0 and 5.5 mm using currents of 220-315 A with rutile, rutile-basic
and acid coatings suitable for various grades of steel.
Gravity welding is generally used for fillets with leg lengths of 5-8 mm, the
lengths being varied by altering the length of deposit per electrode. An AC
power source is used for each unit with an OCV of 60V and arc voltage
about 40V with currents up to 300A. Sources are available for supplying up
to 6 units (3 pairs) manageable by one welding operator and so arranged
that when the current setting for one unit is chosen, the remaining units are
supplied at this value. In general the system is particularly suitable for
welding, for example, long parallel stiffeners on large unit panels, enabling
one operator to make three or four times the deposit length compared with
manual welding. Its main application is in ship building for fillet welding in
the horizontal-vertical position.





The Process
Abbreviated as SAW, this is a welding process where an arc is struck
between a continuous bare wire and the parent plate. The arc, electrode
end and the molten pool are submerged in an agglomerated or fused
powdered flux which turns into a slag in its lower layers when subjected to
the heat of the arc, thus protecting the weld from contamination. The wire
electrode is fed continuously by a feed unit of motor-driven rollers which
usually are voltage-controlled to ensure an arc of constant length. The flux
is fed from a hopper fixed to the welding head, and a tube from the hopper
spreads the flux in a continuous elongated mound in front of the arc along
the line of the intended weld and of sufficient depth to submerge the arc
completely so that there is no spatter, the weld is shielded from the
atmosphere, and there are no ultra-violet or infra-red radiation effects (see
Figure 6). Unmelted flux is reclaimed for use. The use of powdered flux
restricts the process to the flat and horizontal-vertical welding positions.
Submerged arc welding is noted for its ability to employ high weld currents
owing to the properties and functions of the flux. Such currents give deep
penetration and high dilution where twice as much parent metal as wire
electrode is melted. Generally a DC positive current is employed up to
about 1000 amps. At higher currents, AC is often preferred to avoid the
problem of arc blow. Difficulties sometimes arise in ensuring conformity of
the weld with a predetermined line owing to the obscuring effect of the flux.
Where possible, a guide wheel to run in the joint preparation is positioned in
front of the welding head and flux hoppers.
Submerged arc welding is widely used in the fabrication of ships, pressure
vessels, line pipe, railway wagons and anywhere long welds are required. It
can be used to weld thicknesses from 1.5 mm upwards.

Figure 6 Schematic diagram of Submerged Arc Welding



Materials Joined
Submerged arc welding may be used for joining many ferrous and nonferrous metals and alloys and to apply cladding to base metals to improve
wear and corrosion resistance. Electrodes are available producing weld
metal suitable for use with plain carbon steel, special alloy steel, stainless
steel, non-ferrous alloys, mainly Nickel based, and special alloys for
surfacing applications. Combinations of carbon steel electrodes and fluxes
are specified to give the desired properties to the resulting weld metal.
Alloy steels can be welded with alloy steel electrodes using neutral fluxes or
with carbon steel electrodes using fluxes containing the alloying elements.


The fluxes may be defined as granular mineral compounds mixed to various
formulations. The so called fused fluxes are produced when the constituents
are dry mixed and melted in an electric furnace and thereafter granulated by
pouring the molten mixture into water. Subsequently, these particles are
crushed and screened to yield a uniform glass-like product. Such fluxes
have the advantages of homogeneity and they are less hygroscopic than
other types. They allow fines (fine powders) to be removed without changes
in composition and they can easily be recycled through the system. There
are however limitations in composition as some components such as basic
carbonates would be unable to withstand the melting process.
Alternatively, the powdered flux constituents may be bonded by mixing the
dry constituents with Potassium or Sodium Silicate. This wet mixture is then
pelletised, dried, crushed and screened to size. This method has the
advantage that deoxidisers and alloying elements can easily be added to
the flux to adjust the weld metal composition. It will allow a thicker flux layer
when welding and it can be identified by colour coding. Its disadvantages
are that it is generally more hygroscopic, that gas may be evolved from the
slag as it is melted, and there may be changes in weld metal chemical
composition from the segregation of fine particles produced by the
mechanical handling of the granulated flux.


Welding Head Arrangements

There are several variations of machine and automatic submerged arc
welding that will permit higher deposition rates with good control of the weld
bead size and penetration. Various multiple electrode systems that use one
or more power sources with different types of circuit connections are
available. For example, two electrodes can be positioned in tandem so that
their arcs will produce a single molten weld pool. In this configuration, the
arcs may be operated from the same power source by connecting them
either in series or in parallel, or they may be operated from separate power
sources. In the latter case, one system uses a DC source for the lead arc
and an AC source for the trail arc. Another system uses two AC power
sources with an adjustable phase-shift control to adjust the interaction
between the two AC arcs.



Operating Variables
Knowledge and control of the operating variables in submerged arc welding
are essential if high production rates and welds of good quality are to be
obtained consistently (see Figure 7).
These variables, in the approximate order of their importance, are:


Welding current
Type of flux and particle distribution
Welding voltage
Welding speed
Electrode size
Electrode extension
Type of electrode
Width and depth of the layer of flux

Welding Current
Welding current is the most influential variable because it controls the rate
at which the electrode is melted, the depth of penetration, and the amount of
base metal melted. If the current is too high at a given travel speed, the
depth of fusion or penetration will be too great. The resulting weld may
have a tendency to melt through the metal being joined. High current also
leads to waste of electrodes in the form of excess weld metal. This over
welding increases weld shrinkage and usually causes greater distortion. If
the current is too low, inadequate penetration or incomplete fusion may
Some rules to remember concerning welding current are:


Increasing current increases penetration and melting rate.

Excessively high current produces a digging arc; undercut; or a high,
narrow bead.
Excessively low current produces an unstable arc.

Arc Voltage
Arc voltage adjustment varies the length of the arc between the electrode
and the molten weld metal. If the arc voltage increases, the arc length
increases; if the arc voltage decreases, the arc length decreases.
The arc voltage has little effect on the electrode deposition rate which is
determined mainly by the welding current.
The voltage principally
determines the shape of the weld bead cross section and its external


Increasing the arc voltage with constant current and travel speed will:

Produce a flatter and wider bead

Increase flux consumption
Tend to reduce porosity caused by rust or scale on steel.
Help to bridge excessive root opening when fit-up is poor.
Increase pickup of alloying elements from the flux when they are

Excessively high arc voltage will:


Produce a wide bead shape that is subject to solidification

Make slag removal difficult in groove welds.
Produce a concave shaped fillet weld that may be subject to
Increase undercut along the edge(s) of fillet welds.
Over alloy the weld metal, via the flux.

Lowering the arc voltage produces a stiffer arc which improves

penetration in a deep weld groove and resists arc blow. An excessively
low voltage produces a high, narrow bead and causes difficult slag removal
along the bead edges.

Travel Speed
With any combination of welding current and voltage, the effects of
changing the travel speed conform to a general pattern.
If the travel
speed is increased:

Power or heat input per unit length of weld is decreased;

Less filler metal is applied per unit length of weld, and consequently
less excess weld metal;
Penetration decreases.

Thus, the weld bead becomes smaller.


Electrode Size
Electrode size affects the weld bead shape and the depth of penetration at a
given current. Small electrodes are used with semi-automatic equipment to
provide flexibility of movement. They are also used for multiple electrode,
parallel power equipment.


Electrode size also influences the deposition rate. At any given amperage
setting, a small diameter electrode will have a higher current density and a
higher deposition rate of molten metal than a larger diameter electrode.
However, a larger diameter electrode can carry more current than a smaller
electrode, so the larger electrode can ultimately produce a higher deposition
rate at higher amperage. If a desired electrode feed rate is higher (or lower)
than the feed motor can maintain, changing to a larger (or smaller) size
electrode will permit the desired deposition rate.
For a given electrode size, a high current density results in a stiff' arc that
penetrates into the base metal. Conversely, a lower current density in the
same size electrode results in a soft arc that is less penetrating.

Electrode Extension
The electrode extension is the distance the continuous electrode protrudes
beyond the contact tip. At high current densities, resistance heating of the
electrode between the contact tip and the arc can be utilised to increase the
electrode melting rate. The longer the extension, the greater the amount of
heating and the higher the melting rate. This resistance heating is
commonly referred to as I2R heating which when increased will enhance
deposition rates by as much as 25-50%. Such adjustments will limit the
power available at the weld itself resulting in reduced penetration and bead
width. To counteract these effects increases in electrode extension should
be accompanied by appropriate increases in voltage.


Type of Electrode
An electrode with a low electrical conductivity, such as stainless steel, can
with a normal electrode extension experience greater resistance heating.
Thus for the same size electrode and current, the melting rate of a stainless
steel electrode will be higher than that of a carbon steel electrode.


Width and Depth of Flux

The width and depth of the layer of granular flux influence the appearance
and soundness of the finished weld as well as the welding action. If the
granular layer is too deep, the arc is too confined and a rough weld with a
rope-like appearance is likely to result. The gases generated during
welding cannot readily escape, and the surface of the molten weld metal is
irregularly distorted. If the granular layer is too shallow, the arc will not be
entirely submerged in flux. Flashing and spattering will occur. The weld will
have a poor appearance, and it may be porous.


Figure 7 Effect on submerged Arc Operating Variables






The Process
Known in the USA as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) this process can be
further distinguished by the character of the shielding gas: inert or
chemically active. This results in the terms Metal-Arc Inert Gas (MIG) and
Metal-Arc Active Gas (MAG) welding. This process is now in common use
having displaced some of the more traditional manual welding techniques.
In this process, the arc, surrounded by a protective gas, is struck between a
consumable wire electrode and the work.
The process is suitable for welding aluminium, magnesium alloys, plain and
low-alloy steels, stainless and heat-resistant steels, copper and bronze, the
variations being filler wire and type of shielding gas.
The continuous consumable electrode wire is mechanically fed from a spool
to a manually or mechanically controlled gun through a flexible guide tube
by motor-driven rollers of adjustable speed. The rate of burn-off of the
electrode wire must be balanced by the rate of wire feed which determines
the current used.
In addition, a shielding gas or gas mixture is fed to the gun together with
welding current supply, cooling water flow and return (if the gun is water
cooled) and a control cable from the gun switch to control contactors (see
Figures 8 and 9).

Figure 8 Components of gas shielded metal arc welding process


Figure 9 Gas metal arc welding terminology

Pure argon cannot be used as a shielding gas for mild, low-alloy and
stainless steel because of arc instability but now sophisticated gas mixtures
of argon, helium, carbon dioxide and oxygen have greatly increased the
range of the process. Carbon dioxide alone is widely employed as a shield
when welding carbon and low alloy steels. The method has many
applications and its use is likely to increase in the future.

The composition of the electrode and base metal should be as nearly alike
as practicable. In some cases this requirement can be met but in others, to
obtain satisfactory welding and weld metal characteristics, an appreciable
composition change is needed. Deoxidisers and other scavengers are
nearly always added to minimise porosity or to ensure that the presence of
oxygen, hydrogen or nitrogen is neutralised. These gases may be part of
the shielding gas or reach the weld pool from the surrounding atmosphere.
In steel electrodes, deoxidisers may be Mn, Si or Al, in Nickel alloys Ti or Si
and in Copper alloys Ti, Si or P. Their use is especially important with
shielding gases containing oxygen.
Manganese and silicon are used as deoxidisers in many cases in steel but
triple deoxidised wire using aluminium, titanium and zirconium gives highquality welds and is especially suitable for use with CO 2 gas shield.
Generally wire diameters are quite small compared with other types of
welding, ranging from 1.0 mm to 1.6 mm, although up to 3.0 mm or down to
0.5 mm may be used occasionally. The high currents employed in MIG and
MAG welding combined with the small diameter wire result in very high
melting rates varying from about 40 mm/sec up to 340 mm/sec. The wires
must therefore be supplied in long continuous strands, suitably hardened
(stiffened), for non-stop smooth feeding through the equipment. Ferrous
wires are usually coated with copper to provide some corrosion resistance
and to improve electrical contact in the welding equipment.



Transfer Modes


Spray Transfer
In manual metal arc welding, metal is transferred in globules or droplets
from the electrode to work. If the current is increased to the continuously
fed, gas-shielded wire, the rate at which such droplets are projected across
the arc increases and they become smaller in volume and the transfer is
then in the form of a fine spray (see Figure l0a).
The type of gas being used as a shield greatly affects the values of current
at which spray transfer occurs but they are usually more than 200 amps.
Much greater current densities are required with CO 2 than with argon
mixtures to obtain the same droplet rate. The arc is continuous during
operation, arc energy output is high, the rate of deposition of metal is high,
penetration is deep and there is considerable dilution from the parent metal.
If current becomes excessively high, turbulence can be induced in the gas
shield, leading to oxidation, and oxide film entrapment in the weld metal
when welding aluminium. For spray transfer there is a high voltage drop
across the arc (30-45 V) and a high current density in the wire electrode
making the process suitable for thicker sections, mostly in the flat position.
The high currents used produce strong magnetic fields and a very
directional arc. With argon shielding the forces on the droplets are well
balanced during transfer so that they move smoothly from wire to work with
little spatter. With CO2 shielding the forces on the droplet are less balanced
so that the arc is less smooth and spatter tendency is greater.


Spray transfer: arc volts 27-45 V. Shielding gases: argon, argon- 1 or
2% oxygen, argon- 20% CO2, argon- 2% oxygen- 5% CO2. High current and
deposition rate, used for flat welding of thicker sections

Short-circuit or dip transfer: arc volts 15-22 V. Shielding gases as for
spray transfer. Lower heat output and lower deposition rate than spray transfer.
Minimises distortion, low dilution. Used for thinner sections and positional
welding of thicker sections
Figure 10 Types of arc transfer



Short Circuit or Dip Transfer

With lower arc volts (15-22V) and currents usually less than 200 amps,
transfer takes place in globular form but with intermittent short-circuiting of
the arc (see Figure 10b). The wire feed rate must just exceed the burn-off
rate so that the intermittent short-circuiting will occur. When the wire
touches the pool and short-circuits the arc there is a momentary rise of
current, which must be sufficient to make the wire tip molten, a neck is then
formed in it due to magnetic pinch effect and it melts off in the form of a
droplet being sucked into the molten pool aided by surface tension. The arc
is then re-established, gradually reducing in length as the wire feed rate
gains on the burn-off until short-circuiting again occurs. The power source
must supply sufficient current on short-circuit to ensure melt-off or otherwise
the wire will stick in a solidified weld. It must also be able to provide
sufficient voltage immediately after short-circuit to re-establish the arc.
The short-circuit frequency depends upon:

the arc voltage and current

type of shielding gas
diameter of wire
power source characteristics

but will be about 50 to 200 times per second. The heat output of this type of
arc is much less than that of the spray transfer type and makes the process
suitable for the welding of thinner sections and for all positional welding, in
addition to multi-run thicker sections, and it gives much greater welding
speed than metal-arc-welding with covered electrodes on light gauge steel,
for example. Dip transfer has the lowest weld metal dilution value of all the
arc processes. However, welds may be more prone to lack of fusion defects,
particularly when CO2 is used as the gas shield.
In order to keep stable welding conditions with a low voltage arc (17-20 V)
which is being rapidly short-circuited, the power source must have the right
characteristics. If the short-circuit current is low the electrode will freeze to
the plate when welding with low currents and voltages. If the short-circuit
current is too high a hole may be formed in the plate or excessive spatter
may occur due to scattering of the arc pool when the arc is re-established.
The power supply must fulfil the following conditions:

During short-circuit the current must increase enough to melt the wire
tip but not so much that it causes spatter when the arc is reestablished.


The inductance of the circuit must store enough energy during the
short-circuit to help to start the arc again and assist in maintaining it
during the decay of voltage and current



Semi-short Circuiting Arc

In between the spray transfer and dip transfer ranges is an intermediate
range in which the frequency of droplet transfer is approaching that of spray
yet at the same time short-circuiting is taking place, but is of very short
duration. This semi-short circuiting arc has certain applications, as for
example the automatic welding of medium-thickness steel plate with CO 2 as
the shielding gas.


Pulsed Arc Spray

This system allows all-position welding at higher energy levels than short
circuit transfer. The power source provides two current levels, a steady
background level too low to produce spray transfer and a pulsed peak
current which is superimposed on the background at regular intervals. The
pulsed peak is well above the transition current and usually one drop of
metal is transferred during each pulse. The combination of two current
levels produces a steady arc with axial spray transfer at currents below
those required for conventional spray arc welding.


Shielding Gases
As oxygen and CO2 are not inert gases the term Metal-Arc Inert Gas (MIG)
is not applicable when either of these gases is mixed with Argon, or CO 2 is
used on its own. The term Metal-Arc Active Gas (MAG) should be used in
these cases, if greater distinction is required than that provided by the
general term Gas-Shielded Metal-Arc Welding.
Argon is used as a shielding gas because it is chemically inert and forms
no compounds. It is especially useful in welding non-ferrous metals and
alloys but in welding steel it exhibits an uneven negative pole at the work
piece, (the electrode being positive) to give an irregular weld profile.
Argon plus 1% or 2% oxygen gives a higher arc temperature and the
oxygen acts as a wetting agent to the molten pool making it more fluid
and stabilising the arc.
Helium is sometimes added to mixed gases. Its presence increases the
arc voltage and consequent heat input. Mixing it with Argon, Oxygen or
CO2 controls the pool temperature, increases wetting and stabilises the
Carbon Dioxide CO2 has the advantage of being the cheapest shielding
gas and it can be used for welding both alloy and plain carbon steels up
to 0.4%C. There is some dissociation of CO 2 in the arc producing carbon
monoxide and oxygen which requires the filler wire to be adequately
deoxidised to prevent porosity. Some wires rely solely on Mn and Si for
this deoxidation. Others include the more efficient elements Al, Ti and Zr
in varying proportions. Generally the arc is less smooth with CO 2 than
with Ar-CO2 and Ar-O2. The arc conditions are more critical and there is
more spatter.
Argon plus 5% CO2 or Argon + 20% CO2 for steel improves the wetting
action, reduces surface tension and makes the pool more fluid. Both

mixtures are excellent with spray or dip transfer, they give a smoother
less critical arc than pure CO 2 and reduce spatter; but naturally they are
more expensive than pure CO2.
Recommended gases and gas mixture for various metals and alloys are
shown in Table 8 below:
Metal Type
Carbon and lowalloy steels

Gas Shield

For dip transfer, and spray transfer spatter
problems. Use deoxidized wire.
For dip or spray transfer
Minimum spatter


For dip and spray transfer

Spray transfer. High impact properties.


For pulsed arc and thin sections.

Stainless Steels

its alloys


Ar-5%CO2 - 2%O2
75%He 23.5%Ar

Spray transfer
High quality dip transfer. For thin sections
and positional work.

75%He - 24%Ar 1%O2

Good profile.


Stable with little spatter

Hotter arc, less pre-heat, more spatter
Stable arc, high heat input. Good
penetration. Recommended for
thicknesses above 16 mm.

75% He - 25%Ar
Magnesium and
its alloys
Copper and its







75% He 25%Ar

Stable arc
Hotter arc. Less porosity.
For sections up to 9.5 mm thickness

75% He 25%Ar

For medium and heavy sections. High heat



Sections up to 9.5 mm thickness Pulsed

High heat input less cracking in thicker
sections of 9% Ni
Stable arc
Stable arc with less cracking risk
Very reactive metals. High purity shielding
gases are essential.

70% Ar 30%He
25% Ar 75%He
70% Ar 30%He
High purity argon

02 increases the wetting action.



Operating Variables


Arc Voltage
It is easier to set and maintain welding conditions with a constant voltage
power source (see Power Sources chapter) which will permit little variation
of voltage or arc length during welding. These are predetermined to a large
extent by the shielding gas and the metal to be welded. Such voltage
adjustments are usually incorporated into the welding machine in which the
amperage is controlled by the wire feed speed. Within the limits of these
conditions it may be expected that increase in voltage will tend to flatten the
weld bead and increase the width of the fusion zone. Decrease in voltage
will result in a narrower weld bead with a higher reinforcement and deeper
penetration. Excessively high voltage may cause porosity, spatter and
undercutting whereas excessively low voltage may cause porosity and
overlap at the weld edges.


Arc Length
An increase in arc length, that is the distance from the electrode tip to the
work, will cause an increase of arc voltage and vice-versa. In practice any
such changes would be instantly corrected by the constant voltage supply


If all other variables are held constant, welding current varies with the wire
speed or melting rate. At lower amperage ranges the relationship is nearly
linear but in the upper ranges this ceases to be so largely due to resistance
heating of the electrode stick out beyond the contact tube. Generally,
increase in welding current alone will (a)


Increase the depth and width of the weld penetration.

Increase deposition rate.
Increase the size of the weld bead.

Travel Speed
A decrease in speed will increase the deposit of the filler metal per unit
length producing a large shallow weld pool. The welding arc impinges on
this pool rather than the base metal as it advances. This limits penetration
but gives a wide weld bead. Increase in speed will reduce the thermal
energy transmitted to the base metal and melting is therefore slowed and
restricted to the surface. Thus both penetration and bead width are



Electrode Extension
Electrode extension is the distance between the last point of electrical
contact and the tip of the electrode (see Figure 9). As this distance
increases so does the electrical resistance of the electrode extension and
the consequent increase in resistance heating causes the electrode
temperature to rise. Thus less welding current is required to melt the
electrode at a given feed rate.

3 5.6

Electrode Size
Each electrode diameter of a given composition has a usable current range.
The welding current range is limited by undesirable effects, such as the
absence of wetting at very low values, and also spatter, porosity, and poor
bead appearance with excessively high values.
The electrode melting rate is a function of current density. If two wires of
different diameters are operated at the same current, the smaller will have
the higher melting rate and deposit larger quantities of molten metal.
Penetration is also a function of current density. For example, a 1 mm
diameter electrode will produce deeper penetration than a 1.5 mm diameter
electrode when it is used at identical current. However, the weld bead
profile will be wider with the larger electrode. The reverse is also true when
a small weld bead profile is specified. Since smaller diameter wires are
more costly on a weight basis, for each application there is a wire size that
will give minimum cost welds. Cored wires give a greater deposition rate as
a result of increased current density.


Advantages and Limitations of the GMAW Process


The continuous electrode wire feed allows greater continuity of

welding than with Manual Metal-Arc Welding with covered electrodes.
This alone leads to high weld metal deposition rates. The latter is
further increased by the higher arc efficiency of the process, and
because there is little or no slag to be removed.


Welding is possible in all positions which is not the case with

Submerged Arc welding.


Deeper penetration is possible than with Manual Metal Arc welding.



Welding equipment is more costly, complex and less portable than that
used for Manual Metal Arc welding.


Access to the welding location can be restricted by the shape of the

welding gun and its attached feed tubes and cables.


Outside applications are limited as the shielding gas can be disrupted

even by low speed winds.


Weld metal cooling rates are higher owing to the absence of slag,
affecting the metallurgical and mechanical properties of the weld.

This GMAW process has not displaced Submerged Arc and electroslag
methods for welding thick steel sections but complements them. It offers the
most competitive method for repetition welding and thicknesses up to 75
mm can be joined in steel using fully automatic heads.

Cored and Self-Shielded Wires

Solid wires are limited in use by composition. Unlike MMA consumables
where alloy variation can be made in changes to the flux coating, the
composition of solid wires is fixed. In the past this problem restricted the use
of GMAW welding.
With GMAW equipment flux-cored wires are becoming increasingly popular
for welding ferrous metals as they can combine the productivity of
continuous welding with the metallurgical benefits derived from using a flux.
Flux-cored arc welding offers two major process variations that differ in the
method used to shield the arc and weld pool from atmospheric
contamination (oxygen and nitrogen). One type, self-shielded, protects the
molten metal to some extent through the decomposition and vaporisation of
the flux core by the heat of the arc. The other type, gas shielded, makes
use of a protective gas flow in addition to the flux core action to shield the
arc and the weld pool. With both methods, the electrode core material
provides a relatively thin slag covering to protect the solidifying weld metal.
In the gas shielded method, the shielding gas (usually, but not exclusively,
carbon dioxide) protects the molten metal from the oxygen and nitrogen of
the air by forming an envelope around the arc and over the weld pool (see
Figure 11). Little need exists for denitrification of the weld metal because
nitrogen from the air is mostly excluded. Although most of the air is
excluded, some oxygen is present in the protective atmosphere. It may be
present as an additive to argon or from dissociation of CO 2 to form carbon
monoxide and oxygen. The compositions of the electrodes are designed to
tolerate small amounts of oxygen in the shielding gas. Thus, flux-cored
electrodes are normally designed specifically either to be self-shielding or
for use with gas shielding.
In the self-shielded method, (see Figure 12) although some shielding is
obtained from vaporised flux ingredients there is greater need for the

addition of deoxidizing and denitrifying constituents to the filler metal and

flux. This explains why self-shielded electrodes can operate in the strong
air currents frequently encountered when welding outdoors.

Figure 11 Gas Shielded Flux Cored Arc Welding

Figure 12 Self Shielded Flux Cored Arc Welding


The self-shielded method is used with long electrode extensions (20-95

mm) which tend to produce shallow weld beads whereas the gas-shielded
method with electrode extensions 19-38 mm is suited to the production of
narrow deeply penetrating welds. The process may be used to weld plain
carbon and low alloy steels and stainless steels. Cored wires may contain
proportions of metal powder to improve deposition rates. Such wires may
be Argon/20% CO2 gas shielded with the electrode DC negative to give a
smooth arc with little spatter. Cored wires of all types can usually be
applied to welding in all positions.
A major advantage of cored over solid wires is the ability to change the weld
metal composition by alloy additions to the flux. This has therefore provided
a variety of consumable compositions on a scale similar to SMAW (MMA).




Known in the USA as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), TIG welding is a
process where melting is produced by heating with an arc struck between a
non-consumable tungsten electrode and the work-piece. Inert shielding of
the electrode and weld zone is necessary to prevent oxidation of the
tungsten electrode (see Figure 13). Filler metal may or may not be needed.
Tungsten is used because its melting point is 3370C, well above any other
common metal.

Figure 13 Gas Tungsten Arc Welding

The TIG process is very good for joining thin base metals and as the
electrode is not consumed, fusion alone, without the addition of a filler
metal, may be employed if desired. It is suitable for almost all metals but is
not generally used for those with low melting points such as Lead and Tin.
The method is especially useful in welding the reactive metals with very
stable oxides such as Aluminium, Magnesium, Titanium and Zirconium. A
very high quality weld is normally produced and it is often used for joining
very expensive metals and for critical service uses.


Process limitations are:


It is slower than most other arc welding processes.


Tungsten may contaminate the weld to give inclusions.


Inert gases are expensive, usually being Argon or Helium, or a mixture

of the two.

For these reasons TIG welding is generally not competitive with other
methods for welding heavier gauges of metal.
TIG welding can be markedly affected by variations in current, voltage and
power source characteristics. The most important aspects are:

Generally the best welding results are obtained with DC electrode



Fusion is hindered by refractory oxides such as those of Aluminium or

Magnesium but these can be removed by using AC or DC electrode


With a DC positively connected electrode, heat is concentrated at the

anode or positive terminal and therefore a positive electrode needs to
be of greater diameter than one connected negatively so that the extra
heat is dissipated.


The current carrying capacity of a positive electrode is about one tenth

that of a negative one and it is therefore limited to welding sheet metal.

Common applications for the TIG process include welding longitudinal

seams in thin walled pressure pipes and tubes on continuous forming mills
usually in alloy and stainless steel without filler metals. Also, using filler
metals, in producing heavier gauge pipe and tubing for the chemical,
petroleum and power generating industries and in the aircraft industry for
airframes, jet engines and rocket motor cases.
It is convenient here to compare once again the American terminology. DC
negative is known as Direct Current Straight Polarity (DCSP) and DC
positive as Direct Current Reverse Polarity (DCRP).



There has been a great increase in the number of automatic processes
designed to speed up welding production. Automatic welding gives high
rates of metal deposition because high currents from 400 to more than 2000
amps can be used, compared with the normal limit of about 600 amps with
manual arc welding. Automatic arc control gives uniformly good weld quality
and finish and the high heat input reduces distortion and the number of runs
for a given plate thickness is reduced. Twin welding heads still further
reduce welding time and when used, for example, one on each side of a
plate being fillet welded, distortion is reduced. The welding head may be:

Fixed with the work arranged to move beneath it.


Mounted on a boom and column which can either be of the positioning

type in which the work moves or the boom can traverse at welding
speed over the fixed work.


Gantry mounted so that it can traverse over the stationary work.


Self propelled on a motor-driven carriage.


Mounted in the 'hand' of a robot.

The processes, namely TIG, MIG and CO 2 (gas shielded metal arc) with
their modifications, are extensively used fully automatically. Heads are now
available which, by changing simple components, enable one item of
equipment to be used for MIG (inert gas), CO 2 and tubular wire, and
submerged arc processes.





The Process
As the thickness of the metal to be welded increases, multi-pass techniques
become less economical. Even the use of automatic welding with high
current and large weld beads in the flat position, can give a weld pool so
large that it runs ahead of the electrode out of control resulting in
inadequate fusion. The difficulties with large weld beads can be overcome
by turning the plates into the vertical position and arranging the gap
between them so that the welding process becomes akin to continuous
Developed in Russia, the Electroslag process is used for butt welding steel
sections usually above 60 mm in thickness although plates down to 10 mm
thick have been welded. The sections to be joined are fixed in the vertical
position and the part of the joint line where welding is to commence, is
enclosed with water-cooled copper plates or dams which serve to confine
the molten weld metal and slag between the edges of the plates (see Figure
14). The dams are pressed tightly against each side of the joint to prevent
leakage. There may be one or more electrode wires depending upon the
thickness of the section and they are fed continuously from spools. The
self-adjusting arc is struck on to a starting plate beneath a coating of
powder flux which is melted in about half a minute. The arc becomes
extinguished and the current is then transferred, not as an arc but through
the liquid slag, which gives the same order of voltage drop as would occur
across the arc. Further melting results from resistance heating of the liquid

Figure 14 Principle of electroslag or vertical submerged melt welding


During welding some slag is lost in forming a skin between the molten metal
and the copper dams, and a flow of flux powder, carefully metered to avoid
disturbing the welding conditions, is fed in to match the consumption. The
vertical traverse may be obtained by mounting the welding head on a
carriage which is motor-driven and travels up a rack on a vertical column in
alignment with the joint to be welded. The rate of travel is controlled so that
the electrode nozzle and copper dams are kept in the correct position
relative to the molten pool. Since the electrode is at right angles to the pool,
variations in fit-up are not troublesome. For thick sections the electrode is
oscillated across the molten pool, or more than one electrode is used. The
gap between the plates is generally between 20 and 40 mm. Welding
speeds are usually l metre per hour or faster. The welds produced are
generally free from slag inclusions, porosity and cracks, although too high a
welding speed can cause centre line cracking. The process is rapid,
preparation costs are reduced, and there is no de-slagging. Cored wires
containing deoxidizers and alloying elements can be used when required.
Preparation of the faces to be welded is not critical and a flame cut surface
is quite acceptable. The slag temperature is about 1900C internally.
An AC or DC positive power source in the range 300-750 A is suitable, such
as is used for automatic processes. Open circuit voltage is of the order of
70 -80 V, with arc voltages of 30-50 V, higher with AC than DC.

Welding With Consumable Guides Or Nozzles

Consumable guide welding is a simplified version of the electroslag process
for welding thick plate in the vertical or near vertical position, for joints of
limited length: usually up to 2 m. The gap between plates is 25-30 mm, but
when welding thicknesses less than 20 mm the restriction on the minimum
gap being so as to ensure that the guide tube does not touch the plate
edges and there is sufficient space for insulating wedges if these are
needed to position the guide tube. Water-cooled copper shoes act as dams
to confine the molten metal, and give it the required weld profile. As with
electroslag welding the current passes through molten slag and generates
enough heat to melt the electrode end, the guide tube and edges of the
parts being joined ensuring a good fusion weld (see Figure 15).


Figure 15 Consumable guide layout showing water-cooled dams

If a plain uncoated guide tube is used, flux is added to cover the electrode
and guide end before welding commences. Otherwise, the process is
started and operated in a similar manner to normal electroslag welding.
Although there is no arc present after the starting phase of the process, the
slag surface of the molten pool should be viewed through dark glasses (as
in gas cutting) because of its brightness.
The equipment for welding is considerably simpler than that for normal
electroslag welding, chiefly because the welding head and wire feed
mechanism do not need to be moved up the joint as the weld is made. It is
possible to weld where there is access from one side only, or indeed where
there is a permanent backing bar on both sides of the joint. It is cheaper and
more adaptable than other similar processes, faster than metal-arc welding
of thick plate, joint preparation is cheaper, uniform heat distribution through
the joint reduces distortion problems, and there are no spatter losses.



In its mechanical aspects and its application to welding practice, electrogas
welding resembles conventional electroslag welding, from which it was
developed. Electrically, electrogas welding differs from electroslag welding
in two ways:

The heat is produced by an electric arc and not by the electrical

resistance of a slag, and


Only direct current can be used, whereas either alternating or direct

current can be used for electroslag welding.

Figure 16 Electrogas Welding

The equipment used for electrogas welding (see Figure 16) closely
resembles that for conventional electroslag welding. Therefore, a change
from one process to the other requires only a change from shielding gas to
flux, or from flux to shielding gas (80% Argon + 20% carbon dioxide). Thus
selection between processes is based on cost and application
requirements, not on capital expenditure. The system is capable of greater
welding speeds than the electroslag method and it can be stopped and
restarted more easily. Flux cored electrodes are sometimes employed.
For work from 18-75 mm thickness, the electrogas and conventional
electroslag systems are closely competitive. However, for sections thicker
than 75 mm electroslag welding is usually more practical. It is widely used
in ship building and the site fabrication of storage tanks.




When butt joints are to be made the problem arises of obtaining an
absolutely sound weld throughout the thickness. If the gap between the butt
faces is too narrow it will be insufficiently penetrated whereas if it is too wide
it will be impossible to bridge during the welding operation. The problem
can be solved to some extent in V-butt joints by using a root or stringer run
which effectively seals the gap and provides a base for subsequent weld
metal. Such a procedure however requires a very accurate preparation and
fit up of the joint before welding and this is not always possible, nor can the
standard of such a root run be guaranteed completely. This problem can be
solved by welding from both sides which after the first pass necessitates the
back of the weld being cleaned and chipped before a second weld is
applied to that side. This second weld is often arranged to be the final or
sealing weld.
The cost of back chipping and making a sealing run has become very high
especially in recent years so that it is desirable to weld plates and large
cylinders with runs from one side only. To achieve this a temporary backing
can be used, with which an acceptable under-bead profile is also obtained
even when fit-up and alignment are not good. The essential purposes of the
backing are to provide a base on which the first layer of weld is deposited
and to prevent the escape of molten metal through the root. Consideration
of the welded structure during the design stage can do much to relieve this
necessity, since it is often possible to arrange for joints and reinforcing
members to coincide and for the latter to act as built in backing bars.
Otherwise a backing strip should be made of metallurgically compatible
material and if it does not interfere with the operation of the structure it may
be left in place. Alternatively it must be removed. Figure 17a shows some
simple joints, some with backing, others such as fillet and lap joints which by
their design provide their own backing.
A backing weld onto a single groove at the back of the joint may sometimes
be adequate when applied by a different welding process, e.g. TIG, which
may remove the need for back chipping although some protection against
oxidation may be necessary by gas purging. The deposited metal must
naturally be the same as the weld proper.
Copper backing bars may also be employed but they should be of a
sufficient mass to avoid fusion or be water cooled. They may be grooved or
profiled to give the weld a desirable contour. Granular fluxes or an
appropriate refractory powder can act as backing given a suitable support.


Figure 17(a)

Types of butt welds

Ceramic tile backing may also be used for slag forming welded processes
and can be applied to vertical and horizontal vertical butt joints (see Figure
17b). The recess in the tile allows the slag to form below the under-bead
and it can be stripped off after removal of the adherent aluminium foil.

Figure 17(b)

Ceramic tile backing strip

Fibreglass backing strip consisting of four to six layers of closely woven

flexible material gives good support to the root run and is usually employed
with a copper or aluminium backing bar. Large structures, such as ships,
employing submerged arc welding sometimes use a backing of sintered
silica sand about 600 mm long by 50 mm wide and 10 mm thick reinforced
with steel wires. It has fibreglass tape fitted to its upper surface to support
the root and adhesive at the outer edges for attachment. Additionally an
aluminium support may be used if necessary (see Figure 17c).


Figure 17(c) Fibreglass tape covered backing strip

Backing systems can be applied to butt welding in all positions and are
widely used not only for flat welds where large pools of molten metal are
formed, but also for example, in circumferential pipe welds and long vertical
welds in ship building. They can be employed with any of the metal-arc
processes, with TIG welding and even with electrogas and electroslag
(consumable guide) welding.




Storage And Care Of Consumables

In storage, the main enemies of electrodes and fluxes are mechanical
damage and moisture. Careless handling of covered electrodes, such as
those used for manual metal-arc welding, can lead to removal of areas of
the flux cover and such affected materials should not be used for welding.
Similarly, exposure to excessive amounts of moisture can lead to rusting of
the core wire with a lifting of the flux coating. This also requires the
electrodes to be discarded.
The flux covering on modern electrodes tends to be porous and will absorb
moisture to some extent depending on the atmospheric humidity. Electrode
coverings of the cellulose type can absorb an appreciable quantity of
moisture with little effect on their properties. They should not be over dried
or charring of the coating may result. Mineral coated electrodes do not
naturally absorb so much moisture and can be dried out if damp. The
electrodes should be well spaced out in an oven and subjected to a
temperature of about 110C for 10-60 minutes depending on their size.
Cellulose type electrodes will require only about 15 minutes to dry.
Low hydrogen electrodes are specially designed to contain relatively little in
the way of hydrogen containing compounds including moisture. They need
to be kept in a dry, heated, well ventilated store at about 12C above the
external air temperature. Where necessary they should be oven-dried
before use, at temperatures ranging from 150-450C, depending on the
permissible hydrogen content of the weld and the manufacturer's
recommendations. Some modern electrodes are vacuum packed and
generally need no further drying if used within a specified time of opening.
Care must also be given to fluxes supplied for submerged arc welding
which, although they may be dry when packaged, may be exposed to high
humidity in store. In such cases they should be dried in accordance with
the manufacturer's recommendations before use, or porosity or cracking
may result.
Ferrous wire coils supplied as continuous feeding electrodes are usually
copper coated. This provides some corrosion resistance, ensures good
electrical contacts and helps in smooth feeding.
Rust and mechanical damage should be avoided in such products as they
will both interrupt smooth feeding of the electrode. Rust will be detrimental
to weld quality generally, and to equipment condition in the case of GMAW.
Contamination by carbon containing materials such as oil, grease, paint and
drawing lubricants is especially harmful with ferrous metals. Here carbon
pick-up in the weld metal can cause a marked and usually undesirable
change in properties. Such contaminants may also result in hydrogen being
absorbed in the weld pool.
In general it is a wise welder who studies and follows the manufacturer's
recommendations for consumables.


Power Sources
In arc welding it is principally the current which determines the amount of
heat generated and this controls the melting of the electrode and parent
metal and also such factors as penetration and bead shape and size.
Voltage and arc length are however more or less interchangeable factors
with increasing voltage leading to increasing arc length and vice-versa.
There are two methods of automatic arc control (1)

Constant voltage known as the self-adjusting arc.


Drooping characteristic or controlled arc (constant current)

Constant Voltage DC Supply

Power can be supplied from a welding generator with level characteristic or
from a three-phase or one-phase transformer and rectifier arranged to give
output voltages of approximately 14-50 V and ranges of current according to
the output of the unit.
The voltage-current characteristic curve, which should be flat or level in a
true constant voltage supply, is usually designed to have a slight droop (see
Figure 18a).

Figure 18 (a) & (b)

Volt-ampere curves of constant voltage and
drooping characteristic sources
This unit will maintain an almost constant arc voltage irrespective of the
current flowing. The wire feed motor has an adjustable speed control with
which the wire feed must be pre-set for a given welding operation. Once
pre-set the motor feeds the wire to the arc at constant speed. For the arc to
function correctly the rate of wire feed must be exactly balanced by the
burn-off rate to keep the arc length constant. Suppose the normal arc
length is that with voltage VM indicated at M in diagram (a), and the current
for this length is IM amperes. If the arc shortens (manually or due to slight
variation in motor speed) to S (the voltage is now V S) the current now
increases to IS, increasing the burn-off rate, and the arc is lengthened to M.

Similarly if the arc lengthens to L, current decreases to I L and burn-off rate

decreases. and the arc shortens to M.
Drooping Characteristic DC Supply (Constant Current)
With this system the DC supply is obtained from a welding generator with a
drooping characteristic or more usually from a transformer-rectifier unit. The
characteristic curve of this type of supply (see Figure 18b) shows that the
voltage falls considerably as the current increases, hence the name. If
normal arc length M has voltage V M and if the arc length increases to L, the
voltage increases substantially to VL. If the arc is shortened the constant
current which is often given to this type of supply. In continuously fed
systems the variations in voltage due to changing arc length are fed through
control gear to the wire feed motor, the speed of which is thus varied so as
to keep a constant arc length, the motor speeding up as the arc lengthens
and slowing down as the arc shortens. With this arrangement, therefore, the
welding current must be selected for given welding conditions and the
control circuits are more complicated than those for the constant voltage
The constant voltage type of generation is commonly provided for
continuously fed systems such as MIG/MAG, submerged arc, flux cored,
electroslag and electrogas. This self-regulating ability will ensure a
constant arc length for the processes. The constant amp method is
employed in MMA and TIG processes and may be used for some
submerged arc applications but these will require control mechanisms to
monitor motor and consequently electrode feed speed.

Arc Blow
High currents such as those used in submerged arc welding may cause the
phenomenon known as arc blow. Direct current flowing in a circuit produces
a magnetic field around the conductors and such a field can cause
deflection of the arc. Arc blow becomes progressively more uncontrollable
with a noisy, wavering arc and heavy spatter especially when approaching
the edges of the work or welding in enclosed corners. Arc blow does not
occur with AC owing to the constant reversal of current cancelling out the
Sometimes arc blow is very difficult to eliminate and possible remedies
include changing the angle of the electrode when deflection begins,
changing the position of the welding return connection, welding in a different
direction, wrapping the welding cable in a few turns around the work if
possible, or if particularly troublesome using smaller gauge electrodes and
a greater number of runs. A reduction of voltage may also relieve the