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Short communication

Steps toward a new classification of metal transfer

in gas metal arc welding

Danut Iordachescu a,∗ , Luisa Quintino b

a Centro Láser-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, Valencia, km. 7300, Campus Sur U.P.M., 28031 Madrid, Spain
b Instituto Superior Tecnico – STM, Ava Rovisco Pais, 1049-001 Lisboa, Portugal

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: This paper is reviewing the metal transfer according to the progress made in the weld-
Received 27 September 2006 ing sources and techniques development. It critically analysis the actual classification of
Received in revised form the metal transfer in GMA welding, describing the relevant phenomenon and proposing
13 August 2007 improvements, to make the understanding and the work easier in the field of arc welding.
Accepted 22 August 2007 Basic concepts are overviewed and defined or re-defined: fundamental transfer modes, nat-
ural vs. controlled transfer mode, variants vs. variances, mixed vs. combined modes, drop
spray transfer. The new classification is simpler, without loosing the logic of numbering,
Keywords: both from fundamental point of view (the physics of the transfer) and the technological one
Arc welding (the increasing of the values of the welding parameters). It is extremely important for all the
GMAW specialists involved in study, design or industrial applications of the arc welding technolo-
MIG gies to have know–how about the metal transfer and its implications on the process and
MAG weld parameters.
Metal transfer classification © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction important for all the specialists involved in the study,

design or industrial applications of welding technologies
Robotised and automated welding requests closed loop con- to have know–how about the metal transfer modes and its
trol systems, including control units based on process models implications on process parameters and weld characteristics.
(Iordachescu and Quintino, 2004; Quintino and Iordachescu, A determinant contribution in this field is the IIW (Interna-
2003). To create these models are both theoretically and prac- tional Institute of Welding) classification of the metal transfer
tically important, increasing the awareness about the molten modes, which was achieved in SG212 and published by Prof.
metal transfer mode through the electric arc, as this influences Lancaster in 1984 (Lancaster, 1984). The first contribution to
the weld results obtained. this topic is dated 1976 (Anon., as referred by Lancaster, 1984)
Theoretically modelled during the last decades, with and till today adjustments have been introduced as technology
remarkable practical implications (Wang et al., 2003; develops and further understanding of this issue is being gath-
Constantin et al., 2001), the metal transfer through the ered. It was unanimously welcome the initiatives of Norrish,
arc helped to the integrated design of the various flexible respectively, Ponomarev who had contributions to this topic
industrial systems (Dilthey et al., 2004). It is extremely in IIW Annual Assembly in 2003 (Norrish, 2003; Ponomarev

Corresponding author. Tel.: +34 626193415; fax: +34 91 336 55 34/331 69 06.
E-mail addresses: dan, (D. Iordachescu).
0924-0136/$ – see front matter © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
392 j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 2 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 391–397

Fig. 1 – Arc voltage–welding current diagrams illustrating transfer modes categories: (a) IIW classification (Ponomarev et al.,
2003); (b) simply natural transfer modes for a classical welding source (Andersen, 1990); (c) combined natural/controlled
simply diagram (Andersen, 2003) and (d) variant of simply transfer mode categories (Weman, 2003).

et al., 2003). In the last years, debates on this matter were sification of the transfer modes (Table 2 (Lancaster, 1984)) was
brought in the IIW Commission XII and SG 212 by Iordachescu shown. It becomes clear the necessity of revising this clas-
and Quintino (2004), respectively, by Iordachescu, Lucas and sification, based on practical reasons and on improvements
Ponomarev. and to propose a more comprehensive, useful and easy-to-use
Constant interest on the transfer mode has been shown by variant.
the providers of welding sources (Fig. 1a–e). These are classi- Consequently, this paper is meeting the above-mentioned
cal diagrams “transfer modes arc voltage and welding current” needs, as well as reviewing the metal transfer according
and each equipment provider intends to offer a practical tool to the progress made on the welding sources. Respond-
to the user, to guide him for starting a job. Evolution of the ing to the industry demand, the equipment producers
welding process and of the techniques of visualising the elec- introduced innovation in arc welding technologies when
tric arc allowed a clearer understanding of the phenomenon, seeking, for example, lower heat input variants. Practi-
leading to a more detailed description of it and underlining cally, new techniques were invented and these became
the need of a new updated classification. variances, more than variants, which make use of con-
On the other hand, even when standardising (e.g., DIN trolled metal transfer modes, often in the transition
standards, Table 1), not too much coherence with the IIW clas- zones.
j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 2 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 391–397 393

Table 1 – Classification of metal transfer in MIG/MAG, DIN 1010, part 4

Types of arc DIN symbol Droplet size Metal transfer

Dip-transfer arc k Fine Only in short-circuit, regular

Intermediate arc ü Fine to coarse Partly in short-circuit, partly short-circuit-free, irregular
Spray arc s Fine to superfine Short-circuit-free, regular
Globular-transfer arc I Coarse Irregular in short-circuit, partly short-circuit-free
Pulsed arc P Adjustable Short-circuit-free, regular

molten metal, even when using the controlled mode (Dilthey

Table 2 – IIW classification of metal transfer (Lancaster,
1984) and Ulrico, 2000).
Based on the previous amendments proposed in the
Designation of transfer Welding process (examples)
Commission XII and SG212, this paper proposes a revised clas-
sification of the metal transfer in GMA processes (welding,
1. Free flight transfer brazing). Thus, the concept of fundamental transfer modes is
1.1 Globular mainly proposed to feature the new classification (Table 3).
1.1.1 Drop Low-current GMA
Besides this, techniques to achieve these modes, as well
1.1.2 Repelled CO2 shielded GMA
as the related variants and variances may be additionally
1.2 Spray defined. This approach better fits the real transfer modes gen-
1.2.1 Projected Intermediate-current GMA
erated by the modern arc welding sources and processes and
1.2.2 Streaming Medium-current GMA
allows also classifying the transfer of the molten metal based
1.2.3 Rotating High-current GMA
on the physics of the process.
1.3 Explosive SMA (coated electrode)

2. Bridging transfer
2.1 Short-circuiting Short-arc GMA 3. Classifications of the fundamental metal
2.2 Bridging without Welding with filler wire addition transfer modes in GMA processes
3. Slag protected transfer
A metal transfer mode classification structured on the increase
3.1 Flux wall guided SAW
of the current and voltage would be welcomed by most of the
3.2 Other modes SMA, cored wire, electroslag
people active in the field, as it would allow to clearly under-
stand the relation between the process parameters and metal
2. Types of metal transfer mode transfer modes, which are related with arc stability, bead
appearance and bead quality.
Based on the main type of forces playing the key-role on the
Since the very beginning of arc welding, the main factors influ-
detachment of the molten metal from the wire electrode, three
encing the metal transfer mode are the arc voltage and the
main “categories” of fundamental transfer modes may be defined:
welding current. When increasing the values of both these
main technological parameters, the type of transfer is chang-
ing. This was observed when classical AC or DC welding A. Short-circuiting—key-role played by the surface tension
sources were used. The progress made by the welding sources resultant force.
in the last decade radically changed the approach of the trans- B. Globular—key-role played by the gravity resultant force.
fer modes. C. Spray—key-role played by the arc pressure resultant force.
The well-known IIW classification (Quintino and
Iordachescu, 2003) is based on the concept of “natural” To make the proposed classification simpler, only the level
transfer, which characterises the common welding sources. two categories where denominated as fundamental transfer
Nowadays, we talk less about a natural transfer mode, since modes, as shown in Table 3. This makes the classification
different “controlled” transfer modes are preferred and used simpler, without loosing the logic of numbering, both from
in the major applications and in various processes. These fundamental point of view (the physics of the transfer) and
clear “variances” with respect to the “fundamental” transfer the technological one (the increasing of the values of the weld-
modes must be featured, underscoring their place in such ing parameters). Consequently, the six fundamental transfer
classification. modes in the new classification are: A-Short-circuiting, B1-
On the other hand, even when using controlled transfer Globular drop, B2-Globular repelled, C1-Drop spray, C2-Streaming
modes, the solution chosen by the producer of the power and C3-Rotating.
source usually varies, consequently influencing the transfer The actual knowledge in the field of GMAW metal transfer,
mode. These may be “variants”, achieved by/or even different as well as the opinions of the biggest majority of the spe-
techniques for getting a common goal and framing in the same cialists (e.g., those expressed during the debates in the IIW’s
transfer mode category. Commission XII and SG 212) allows us to state that these five
Of course, the welding processes have their particulari- categories cover both the natural and the controlled transfer
ties, which basically influence the type and variant of transfer modes, as defined above (see Chapter 2) and also previously
modes. Even when analysing a single process, factors like (Iordachescu and Quintino, 2004; Norrish, 2003; Ponomarev et
shielding gases may drastically influence the transfer of the al., 2003).
394 j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 2 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 391–397

Table 3 – Proposed classification of metal transfer in GMA processes

Proposed denomination Proposed name Sketch Comment Correspondent in IIW
(fundamental modes) (fundamental modes) classification (Lancaster,

2. Bridging transfer
A Short-circuiting

2.1 Short-circuiting

1. Free flight transfer

B1 Globular Drop

1.1 Globular
1.1.1 Drop

1. Free flight transfer

B2 Globular Repelled CO2 GMAW

1.1 Globular
1.1.2 Repelled

1. Free flight transfer

C1 Drop Spray (projected)

1.2 Spray
1.2.1 Projected or not
applicable, as presented by
Norrish (2003)

1. Free flight transfer

C2 Streaming

1.2 Spray
1.2.2 Streaming

1. Free flight transfer

C3 Rotating

1.2 Spray
1.2.3 Rotating

It may be considered that the drop spray is a fundamental also possible and useful that photos are to be used instead of
transfer mode if its denomination is extended also on the clas- sketches.
sically defined spray projected mode of transfer (Lancaster, 1984). More than this, several practitioners are suggesting associ-
If this name is only used as it was defined by Norrish (2003), it ating diagrams as the ones presented in Fig. 1 with sketches,
looses its relevance. The essential observation is that, in the pictures and/or videos. This may substantially increase the
non-controlled (natural) processes, drop spray as defined by whole level of understanding and knowledge on the metal
Norrish (2003) is unstable, randomly occurring in a very nar- transfer mode in wider environments (students, researchers,
row range of current (Quintino and Allum, 1984), namely the designers, industrial users, etc.), as well as the phenomeno-
transition current zone (see Fig. 2 and Chapter 4). logical approach of the GMA processes. Actually, an annex of
The experience shows that an association with sketches is this classification is needed to detail the variants, variances,
welcome when presenting a transfer mode classification. It is mixed and combined modes, new techniques and special pro-
j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 2 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 391–397 395

Fig. 2 – Natural transfer modes—U(I) diagram with the

existing IIW denominations. Fig. 3 – Fundamental transfer modes—U(I) diagram based
on the new classification.

cesses (cored wire GMAW, A-TIG with feeding metal, etc.). If

such an annex is a CD/DVD, it may contain fully illustrated
transfer processes (videos, photos) for all types of the transfer forced conditions, possible to program using power supplies
modes. where controlled pulse welding is available. The terminology
Besides the fundamental modes, it was already noticed the used in this paper to designate this second case is controlled
variances: mixed modes and combined modes (Ponomarev et transfer modes, these being of two types: simply controlled and
al., 2003). These variances are basically combining different real-time (closed-loop) controlled.
types of fundamental transfer modes. While the mixed modes Short-circuiting transfer mode uses in a very short arc,
randomly involve two or more types of transfer modes, in regularly interrupted by a bridge of molten metal (Table 3),
similar or dissimilar cycles, the combined transfer modes are which obviously generates a short-circuit welding current. The
intentionally obtained by controlling the transfer through the bridge, as well as detachment of the molten metal toward
welding source (Ponomarev et al., 2003). the welding pool are governed mainly by the surface tension
Variants of the fundamental transfer modes are achieved resultant force, which is mainly well-balancing the other influ-
by using special techniques. Since the equipment producers ences.
are seeking for several years welding sources allowing lower Globular drop transfers big drops of molten metal (bigger
and much lower heat input, the main development in terms of than the diameter of the electrode wire), with a reduced fre-
diversity was achieved in the short-circuiting transfer mode. quency (usually, there is just a single drop flying in a certain
Thus, nowadays we can notice at least three important tech- moment). Increasing the welding current, the Globular repelled
niques, leading to specific short-circuiting transfer: transfer mode occurs, characterising the CO2 GMAW; this con-
sists in an upward repelled molten metal big “long” drop, as
- classic GMAW (controlled or not); shown also in the sketches of Table 3. In these last two modes
- STT (surface tension transfer); of transfer, the principal actor is the gravity resultant force,
- CMT (cold metal transfer). which is responsible for well balancing and detachment of the
molten metal from the end of the electrode wire.
When approaching the controlled transfer modes, it is also Drop spray was described by Norrish (2003) as “a unique
important to firstly mention if we are dealing with: phenomenon which occurs in the region of the spray tran-
sition current. . .” (Fig. 2). The metal drop is defined as near
- simply controlled process (open control, without feedback spherical, with a diameter slightly larger than the electrode
loop); wire (20–40%), while the transfer is quite axial, producing low
- real-time controlled process (with feedback closed loop). fume. As proposed in the new classification, Drop spray can
also be extended to the spray projected process, in which the
metal drops are strongly projected against the welding pool,
4. Basics of transfer modes in GMA are clearly successive and have a dimension comparable with
processes the diameter of the electrode wire (±50%). Consequently, this
denomination is now covering both the former drop spray and
The six fundamental transfer modes in GMAW, as illustrated spray projected transfer modes (Fig. 3).
in Fig. 3, occur both when using what is usually called With the increase of the current, when the drops become
“conventional” power supplies with no control over the cur- smaller and more frequent, as a real “shower”, the transfer
rent/voltage pulse’s characteristics and when using a modern becomes Streaming. Finally, at very high values of the welding
controlled welding source. Nevertheless, it is possible to oper- current, the molten metal is purely flowing, but the stream is
ate in controlled mode with the transfer modes occurring in Rotating, due to the strong electromagnetic fields generated by
396 j o u r n a l o f m a t e r i a l s p r o c e s s i n g t e c h n o l o g y 2 0 2 ( 2 0 0 8 ) 391–397

the high values of the current. This description of the six funda- ing in controlled pulse and with inert or mixed shielding gases
mental transfer modes started from the lowest values of current (generating an undesired mixed transfer mode).
and voltage and went to the highest ones, the increasing of
the welding current playing an important role on the type of
the metal transfer (Table 3 and Fig. 3). 5. Conclusions
In case of the spray fundamental category, the main force
governing the transfer of the molten metal is the arc pres- The present paper proposes to add to the recent contributions
sure resultant, which assures the strong projection of the on the transfer mode classification the following:
metal toward the molten pool. When the current increases,
the same increased pressure is responsible for splitting the - identification of a first transition current zone, separating
molten metal in small drops and its strong projection toward the short-circuiting from the globular area; consequently and
the molten pool, as well as for the generation and projection according to the increasing current direction, the already
of the rotating fluid metal stream. observed transition current zone separating the globular
The major areas regarding the fundamental transfer modes from the spray area becomes the second transient current zone;
are separated by the so-called transition current zones, char- the question of the possible existence of other transition
acterised by unstable processes. Firstly, revealed as shown zones arouse;
in Fig. 1a (Ponomarev et al., 2003), the transition area sep- - a new metal transfer mode classification structured both on the
arating the globular and the spray fundamental group areas is increase of the current and voltage and on the physics of the
presented in Fig. 3 as the second transition current (Iordachescu transfer was proposed; it would allow to clearly understand
and Quintino, 2004). In such type of graphical representation, the relation between the process parameters and metal
the transfer mode “drop spray”, contributed in 2003 by Nor- transfer modes, which are related with arc stability, bead
rish (Norrish, 2003), would be located overlapping the second appearance and bead quality;
transient current area (Fig. 2). - the six fundamental transfer modes denominated can be either
It may be assumed that a transition current zone between natural or controlled;
the short-circuiting and the globular areas, the first transi- - basic concepts were explained and proposed to be systemat-
tion current also exists, as shown in Fig. 3 (Iordachescu and ically used in order to unify the description of the transfer
Quintino, 2004). It must be also underlined the importance of processes and their general common understanding: fun-
this first transition current zone. In the natural mode of transfer damental transfer modes, natural vs. controlled transfer mode,
(and the case of non-pulsed controlled when using welding variants vs. variances, mixed vs. combined modes, drop spray
sources with inadequate dynamics (Ponomarev et al., 2003)), transfer;
the short-circuiting and globular drop mode randomly occur - the new classification is simpler and intuitive, fully accessible
inside this transition zone, generating what was defined as and easy to use for all the specialists involved in welding;
mixed transfer modes (Ponomarev et al., 2003). Nevertheless, - a new diagram “transfer modes vs. arc voltage and current inten-
such mixed transfer modes also occur in the second transition cur- sity” was proposed for the fundamental and controlled transfer
rent area, combining spray (mostly drop spray), globular (drop modes;
or repelled) and/or even short-circuiting fundamental modes - based on these suggestions, a new table with the classi-
of transfer. When controlled welding processes are used, pure fication of the metal transfer modes in GMA (MIG-MAG)
short-circuiting or drop spray may be obtained, as well as the processes is proposed.
combined transfer modes (Ponomarev et al., 2003). To charac-
terise these transition areas where controlled transfer modes
occur, ellipses were used (Iordachescu and Quintino, 2004),
overlapping the fundamental transfer modes in the transient
current area, as shown in Fig. 1a (Ponomarev et al., 2003).
Andersen, N.E., 1990. Mig/Mag-Svejsning. A/S ESAB, Denmark,
On the other hand, the fundamental and the controlled modes
pp. 64.
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transfer areas for the fundamental transfer modes, it may be Mathematical modelling for mass transfer’s dynamics
noticed (Fig. 3) that the current and the voltage may present a through the welding arc. In: 4th European Conference On
Welding, Joining and Cutting, Development of Welding and
range of variation in the zones where controlled drop spray or
Allied Processes at the Beginning of the New
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ation may be due to the different ionisation voltages requested May, pp. 577–582.
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In case of processes addressing lowest heat input values, Alloyed Steels. IIW Doc. XII-1630-00. Welding Institute,
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Dilthey, U., Gollnick, J., Pavlyk, V., 2004. Integrative MIG/MAG
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