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Prevent Arc Blow


When Welding Forward

Fig. 2—Flux concentration behind the welding arc at the start
of joint forces the arc forward while flux concentration ahead
of the arc at the end of the joint forces the arc backward.
Arc blow can cause a number
of welding problems including Arc
excessive spatter, incomplete rection to relieve Work
of arc blow

fusion and porosity. What is squeezing and re-

store the magnet-
arc blow and how can it be ic-field balance,
Fig. 3—Here, arc blow is caused by the welding current
veering away from
prevented? the side of flux returning to the workpiece connection. The resulting
magnetic flux combines with the flux around the elec-
This veering is ob- trode, causing a high-flux concentration at (x) that blows
served as arc blow. the arc away from the workpiece connection.

A rc blow, also called arc wan-

der, occurs in DC arc weld-
ing when the arc stream does
not follow the shortest path between
the electrode and the workpiece and
Arc-Blow Direction
and Joint Location
Fig. 2 illustrates flux squeezing
and distortion at the start and finish
Arc movement due to this effect
combines with movement resulting
from the flux concentration previ-
ously described to give the observed
deflects forward or backward from of a weld joint. At the start, flux lines arc blow. The effect of the returning
the direction of travel or, less fre- concentrate behind the electrode. current may diminish or increase the
quently, to one side. The arc tries to compensate for this arc blow caused by the arc flux. In
Back blow occurs when welding imbalance by moving forward, cre- fact, controlling the direction of re-
toward the workpiece connection, ating forward arc blow. As the elec- turning current is one way to control
the end of a joint or into a corner. trode approaches the end of the arc blow.
Forward blow occurs when welding joint, the lines squeeze ahead of the In Fig. 4a, the workpiece cable
away from the workpiece connec- arc. Again, the arc moves in a direc- connects to the starting end of the
tion, or at the starting end of the tion to relieve squeezing, in this case joint, and the flux created by the re-
joint. It is especially troublesome backward and observed as back turning welding current in the work
when shielded-metal-arc (SMA) blow. At the middle of a joint in two forms behind the arc. The resulting
welding with electrodes that tend to plates of the same width, the mag- arc movement is forward. Near the
produce large slag coverings. In netic field is symmetrical, so no arc end of the joint, however, forward
these cases, forward blow drags the blow occurs. But, if one plate is arc movement diminishes the total
slag or the crater forward and under Arc blow can be one of two types: Fig. 1 shows a the direction of the current. These wider than the other, side blow arc blow by canceling some back
the arc, disrupting the weld. magnetic or thermal. DC current pass- lines of force diminish in intensity in could occur at the midpoint of the blow created by flux concentration
The direction of arc blow can be ing through a direct proportion to their distances weld due to flux squeezing. from the arc at the end of the work-
observed during open-arc welding, Magnetic Arc Blow conductor—ei- Direction from the electrical conductor. Another squeezing phenomenon piece (Fig. 5a).
but not during submerged-arc weld- Magnetic arc blow, responsible ther the welding of flux The lines of force remain circular results from the welding current re- In Fig. 4b, the work cable con-
ing. In this case, direction is deter- for more welding problems than electrode or the in a medium large enough to con- turning back toward the workpiece nects to the finish end of the seam,
mined by the type of weld defect thermal arc blow, results from an plasma stream tain them until they diminish to es- connection within the workpiece. As resulting in back blow, increasing in
produced. unbalanced condition in the mag- between an elec- sentially nothing. But if the medium shown in Fig. 3, electrical current intensity at the finish of the weld.
Back blow is indicated by spatter; netic field surrounding the arc. This trode and a weld changes, from steel plate to air, for passing through the workpiece to Fig. 5b illustrates the combination of
undercut, either continuous or inter- unbalanced condition usually occurs joint. A magnetic Direction example, the circular lines become the workpiece lead may create a squeezed fluxes. A workpiece con-
mittent; a narrow, high bead, usually because the arc is located farther field surrounds of current distorted and tend to concentrate in flux. The heavy line represents the nection at the finish of the weld,
with undercut; an increase in pene- from one end of the weld joint than the conductor; Fig. 1—Current the steel where they encounter less path of the welding current while however, may be needed to reduce
tration; or surface porosity at the fin- the other end and at varying dis- its lines of mag- passing through a resistance. At a boundary between the light lines represent the flux cre- excessive forward blow at the start
ish end of welds on sheetmetal. tances from the workpiece connec- netic force, or conductor sets up a the edges of a steel plate and air, the ated by the current. As the current of the weld. But workpiece-connec-
Forward blow is indicated by a tion. Imbalance also exists due to flux, are repre- magnetic field, rep- lines squeeze and deform. This re- changes direction or turns the corner tion positioning is only moderately
wide bead, irregular in width; a the change in direction of weld cur- sented by con- resented by planes sults in a heavy flux concentration from the arc to the work, a flux con- effective in controlling arc blow.
wavy bead; undercut, usually inter- rent as it flows through the arc and centric circles at of concentric circles behind or ahead of the welding arc. centrates at x, causing arc blow away Other measures should be used to re-
mittent; or a decrease in penetration. into and through the workpiece. right angles to known as flux lines. The arc then tends to move in a di- from the workpiece connection. duce arc blow when welding.
42 MetalForming/May 2001 May 2001/MetalForming 43
Prevent Arc Blow When Welding

Contribute Travel
to Arc Blow (a) (b)

Fig. 4—Flux due to the welding current returning to the workpiece

e aware of the relationship of
B arc blow to weldment fixtur-
ing. Steel fixtures may effect the
connection is behind the arc in (a) and ahead of the arc in (b).

magnetic field around the arc,

and may become magnetized
over time. Usually, fixturing
won’t cause problems when
SMA-welding if weld current Travel
(a) (b)
does not exceed 250 amps. Fix-
tures used with higher currents Fig. 5—In (a), magnetic blow at the finished end of a joint is reduced
and mechanized welding should because the two flux fields tend to offset each other. In (b), the two
be designed to minimize arc- fields combine to cause a strong back blow.
blow-promoting situations.
Here are some fixture-design
Problem Areas produced by magnetic fields in the
Arc blow is especially problemat- material. Hand-held Gauss meters
• Design fixtures for welding ic in the corners of fillet welds and in easily detect and measure these fields.
the longitudinal seam of cylinders weld joints that use deep weld Fields higher than 20 Gauss can
with a minimum of 1-in. clearance preparations. Here, the cause of arc cause arc blow in these nickel steels.
between the supporting beam blow is the same as when welding a
and the work. Use nonmagnetic straight seam—flux concentration Thermal Arc Blow
clamping fingers or workholding and the movement of the arc to re- Thermal arc blow occurs because
bars. Do not attach the workpiece lieve it. Figs. 6 and 7 illustrate where an electric arc requires hot zones on
cable to the copper backup bar— arc blow, when using DC current, is the electrode and workpiece plate to
make the work connection direct- problematic. maintain a continuous flow of cur-
ly to the workpiece. Using low welding current pro- rent in the arc stream. As the elec-
• Fabricate the fixture from duces less arc blow than using high trode advances along the work, the
low-carbon steel to prevent current because a higher current arc tends to lag behind, caused by
buildup of permanent magnet- causes a more intense magnetic reluctance of the arc to move to the
ism in the fixture. field. Usually, serious arc-blow colder plate. The ionized space be-
• Weld toward the closed end problems do not occur when SMA- tween the end of the electrode and
of horn-type fixtures to reduce welding with DC under 250 amps, the hot surface of the molten crater
back blow. although joint fitup and geometry creates a more conductive path than
• Design the fixture long enough play a role. from the electrode to the colder
so that end tabs can be used. The use of AC current markedly
• Do not use a copper strip in-
reduces the likelihood of arc
blow. The rapid reversal of Fig. 6—Arc-
serted in a steel bar for a backing. blow difficul-
The steel part of the backup bar
the AC current induces
eddy currents in the ties abound
will increase arc blow. when high-amp
base metal, and the
• Provide for continuous or fields created by the DC welding in
close clamping of parts to be eddy currents greatly deep-groove joints.
seam welded. Wide, intermittent reduce the strength of Switching to AC current
clamping may cause seams to the magnetic fields that cause can alleviate this.
gap between clamping points, arc blow.
causing arc blow over the gaps. Some materials, such as Fig. 7—Expect consid-
• Do not build into the fixture nine-percent nickel steels, are erable arc blow when
large masses of steel on one side easily magnetized by external placing the inside
of the seam only; counterbalance magnetic fields, such as those fillet using DC
with a similar mass on the oppo- from power lines. These current. Again,
site side of the fixture. materials are difficult to switching to AC
weld due to arc blow current can help.

44 MetalForming/May 2001

Prevent Arc Blow When Welding

ity, can cause arc-blow problems,

especially when two arcs are locat-
(a) (b)
ed close together.
If these two arcs have opposite
polarities (Fig. 8a), magnetic fields
between the arcs cause the arcs to
Arc blow Blow reduced
deflect away from each other. If po-
larity is identical (Fig. 8b), magnetic
Fig. 9—Arc blow (a) may be corrected
fields between
by angling the electrode (b).
the arcs oppose
each other, re-
sulting in a Bead sequence
weaker field be-
tween the arcs
and causing the
arcs to deflect Direction of welding
toward each Weld
b other. both sides
When using Fig. 10—The direction of welding and the sequence of
two arcs, one beads is illustrated for the back-step technique. Note the
may be DC, the tabs on each end of the seam—they should be of the
other AC (Fig. same thickness as the workpiece.
8c). Here, the
AC-arc flux field
completely reverses for each cycle, • Reduce the welding current.
which barely affects the DC field and This may require an arc-speed
results in very little arc blow. reduction.
c When using two AC arcs, a com- • Angle the electrode with the
mon arrangement, arc-blow interfer- work opposite to the direction of arc
Fig. 8—Multiple-arc welding, ence is avoided mainly by phase- blow (Fig. 9).
when the two arcs are located shifting the current of one arc 80 to • Make a heavy tack weld on
close together, may cause mag- 90 deg. from the other arc. With a both ends of the seam; apply fre-
netic arc blow. When the arcs are phase shift, the current and magnet- quent tack welds along the seam, es-
of different polarity (a), the mag- ic fields of one arc reach a maximum pecially if fitup is loose.
netic fields combine to blow arcs when the current and magnetic • Weld toward a heavy tack weld
outward. If the arcs are of the fields of the other arc are at or near or toward a previously made weld.
same polarity (b), magnetic fields minimum, resulting in very little, if • Use a backstep welding tech-
oppose each other and the arcs any, arc blow. nique (Fig. 10).
blow inward. With one arc pow- • Weld away from the workpiece
ered by DC current and the other How to Reduce Arc Blow connection to reduce back blow,
by AC current (c), little or no arc Not all arc blow is detrimental. In and weld toward the workpiece
blow occurs. fact, a small amount helps form the connection to reduce forward blow.
bead shape, control molten slag and • If welding produces heavy slag,
control penetration. But arc blow a small amount of back blow is de-
plate. During manual welding, a must be controlled when it con- sirable, and is attained by welding
small amount of thermal back blow tributes to defects such as undercut, toward the workpiece connection.
due to arc lag is not detrimental, but inconsistent penetration, crooked • Wrap the work cable around
becomes problematic at higher beads, beads of irregular width, the workpiece so that the current re-
welding speeds, as occurring in au- porosity, wavy beads and excessive turning to the power supply passes
tomatic welding. Thermal arc blow spatter. Possible corrective measures through it in such a direction that
sometimes may combine with mag- include the following: the magnetic field setup neutralizes
netic back blow, leading to quality • If DC current is being used with the magnetic field causing the arc
problems. the SMAW process—especially at blow. MF
welding current greater than 250
Arc Blow with amps—change to AC current. Information for this article was
Multiple-Arc Welding • Hold as short an arc as possible supplied by The Lincoln Electric Co.,
Welding with multiple arcs, for to help arc force counteract arc Cleveland, OH; tel. 216/481-8100;
high speed and increased productiv- blow.
46 MetalForming/May 2001