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Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is a welding process which joins metals by heating the metals to their melting point with an electric arc. The arc is between a continuous, consumable electrode wire and the metal being welded. The arc is shielded from contaminants in the atmosphere by a shielding gas.

GMAW can be done in three different ways:

Semiautomatic Welding - equipment controls only the electrode wire feeding. Movement of welding gun is controlled by hand. This may be called hand-held welding. Machine Welding - uses a gun that is connected to a manipulator of some kind (not hand-held). An operator has to constantly set and adjust controls that move the manipulator. Automatic Welding - uses equipment which welds without the constant adjusting of controls by a welder or operator. On some equipment, automatic sensing devices control the correct gun alignment in a weld joint.

Basic equipment for a typical GMAW semiautomatic setup:

Welding Power Source - provides welding power. Wire Feeders (Constant Speed And Voltage-Sensing) - controls supply of wire to welding gun. Constant Speed Feeder - Used only with a constant voltage (CV) power source. This type of feeder has a control cable that will connect to the power source. The control cable supplies power to the feeder and allows the capability of remote voltage control with certain power source/feeder combinations. The wire feed speed (WFS) is set on the feeder and will always be constant for a given preset value. Voltage-Sensing Feeder - Can be used with either a constant voltage (CV) or constant current (CC) - direct current (DC) power source. This type of feeder is

powered off of the arc voltage and does not have a control cord. When set to (CV), the feeder is similar to a constant speed feeder. When set to (CC), the wire feed speed depends on the voltage present. The feeder

changes the wire feed speed as the voltage changes. A voltage sensing feeder does not have the capability of remote voltage control. Supply of Electrode Wire. Welding Gun - delivers electrode wire and shielding gas to the weld puddle. Shielding Gas Cylinder - provides a supply of shielding gas to the arc.


-The term modes of transfer is used to describe the process by which the wire electrode is melted and deposited into the puddle. The most common way to classify metal transfer is according to the size, frequency, and characteristics of the metal drops being transferred. There are four modes of metal transfer: 1. Short Circuit Transfer 2. Globular Transfer 3. Spray Transfer 4. Pulsed-Spray Transfer The stability of the welding arc and the metallurgical changes in the electrode wire are dependent on the mode of transfer. Welding procedures are categorized according to the mode of transfer.


Short circuit transfer gets its name from the welding wire actually "short circuiting" (touching) the base metal many times per second. When the welding gun trigger is pressed, the electrode wire feeds continuously from the wire feeder, through the gun, and to the arc area, shortcircuiting to the base metal, exploding and establishing an arc. While welding, this cycle can repeat itself between 20 and as much as 250 times per second.

An average welding condition would have between 90 and 150 short circuits per second. The number of short circuits per second will depend upon such things as the welding machine's volt/ampere slope and inductance settings, the diameter of wire being used and the wire feed speed (WFS) that is set on the wire feeder. The faster the wire feed speed, the more short circuits per second and also an increase in amperage. The sequence of events in the SCMT is shown in Figure 1 at A the electrode has come out of the guns contact tube and touched, or "short circuited" to the base metal. There is no arc, and current is flowing through the electrode wire and base metal. In B, the heat of the current flow is causing a magnetic field to envelope the electrode wire. The properties of the electrode wire have difficulty conducting all the current flowing through the electrode wire. The resistance increases in the electrode wire causing it to heat, melt, and "neck down." At C the electrode wire separates from the weld puddle, creating an arc. A small portion of electrode wire is deposited, which becomes part of the weld puddle or pool. At D the arc length, and load

voltage are both at maximum. The heat of the arc is changing the shape of the weld puddle and the end of the electrode. It is "wetting out" the puddle (flattening it) and also increasing the diameter of the tip of the electrode wire. At E, the wire feed speed has overcome the heat of the arc, and the wire approaches the base metal again. Notice how the weld puddle has flattened out while the arc is "on." At F, the arc is again

off as at A because the wire is touching the base metal again, and the short circuit cycle starts again. This short circuit cycle takes place 90 to over 200 times per second.

Mechanics Of Short Circuiting Transfer With short circuit metal transfer, wire feed speeds, voltages, and deposition rates are usually lower than with other types of metal transfer. Short circuit metal transfer is a very versatile transfer, which allows welding in all positions on all metal thicknesses. Limitations of short circuit transfer may include: 1. A relatively low deposition rate 2. Lack of fusion on thicker metals 3. More spatter Each mode of metal transfer has a particular sound. Short circuit transfer is usually a crackling (bacon frying) sound.


A globular transfer for GMAW is often referred to as the state of transfer between shortcircuiting and spray arc transfer. Large "globs" of weld metal transfer across the arc in a gravity transfer. The droplets are usually larger than the electrode wire. Although the electrode wire is pinched off at the arc, globular transfer does not achieve a true spray transfer. Globular is a more unstable transfer, with a less smooth weld bead appearance.

Globular transfer can, in many cases, yield more spatter. Since spatter is waste, it is not a desirable side effect of globular transfer. Globular transfer can also cause cold lapping or incomplete fusion due to the large metal droplets splashing metal out of the puddle. Globular transfer is often a high voltage, high amperage, high wire feed speed transfer, and is the result of using CO2 shielding gas (or 75% AR-25% CO2) with parameters higher than the short-circuiting range. One popular use of globular transfer is a mild steel electrode wire and CO2 shielding gas. This combination yields good penetration, and the CO2 shielding gas is less expensive than many mixed gases. Some welders may refer to welding with 100% CO2 or 75% Argon and 25% CO2 gases as being spray transfer, but technically at about 22 volts and higher, it is always a globular transfer. Also, production applications often find success using 75% Argon and 25% CO2 at amperages and voltages above short circuit transfer, but below spray arc transfer. An example is fillet welds on 1/4-inch mild steel, flat position using .035" wire at 350 IPM and 25 volts. The

arc sounds and looks like a short circuit, but is actually a modified spray or could also be called globular transfer.

Limitations of globular transfer include: 1. The presence of spatter 2. A less desirable weld appearance than spray or pulsed spray transfers 3. Welding limited to flat position and horizontal fillet welds only 4. Welding limited to metal 1/8" or thicker


A spray transfer "sprays" a stream of tiny molten droplets across the arc, from the electrode wire to the base metal. These molten droplets are usually smaller than the diameter of the unmelted electrode wire. The arc is said to be "on" all of the time, once an arc is established. The spray transfer uses relatively high voltage (24 volts or higher depending upon the type of shielding gas), wire feed speed and amperage values, compared to short circuit transfer. Because of the high voltage, wire feed speed and amperage, there is a resulting high current density. The high current density produces high metal deposition rates. The high degree of heat in the spray arc weld puddle makes for a larger weld puddle that is more fluid than the weld puddle for short circuit transfer. Because of this heat and the size of the weld puddle, spray transfer is somewhat limited in welding positions. The heat and size of the weld puddle also limits spray transfer to material 1/8" or thicker. Welding steel with spray transfer is usually done in the flat position, and the horizontal

fillet weld position. Horizontal position spray arc welds are lap and T- joint fillet welds. Because of the higher heat input, spray arc transfer is normally used on thicker metals. The high heat input could cause excessive melt-thru on thinner metals. To achieve a true spray transfer, an argon-rich shielding gas must be used. Usually a gas mixture of over 80% argon is used, with the remainder being a gas that gives special metal transfer characteristics, such as oxygen or CO2 or a combination of oxygen and CO2.

Advantages of spray arc transfer include: 1. High deposition 2. Good fusion and penetration 3. Good bead appearance 4. Capability of using large diameter wires 5. Presence of very little (if any) spatter

Limitations of spray arc transfer include: 1. Used only on material 1/8" and thicker (hand held) 2. Limited to flat and horizontal fillet weld position (except for some spray transfer on aluminum) 3. Good fit-up is always required as there is no open root capability When proper parameters are used, the spray arc transfer produces a characteristic humming or buzzing sound.


In pulse spray transfer (GMAW-P) the welding power sources pulse control pulses the welding output with high peak currents (amperage) which are set at levels which will cause the transfer to go into a spray. The background current (amperage) is set at a level that will maintain the arc, but is too low for any metal transfer to occur. Because there is no metal transfer during the background portion of the cycle, the weld puddle gets a chance to freeze slightly. This is unlike a

spray transfer, where drops of molten metal are continuously transferred. This fasterfreezing weld puddle is what allows the pulsed-spray transfer to be used forthinner metals, and for better control on out-of-position work. GMAW-P often allows for larger wire sizes tobe used on varied metal thicknesses. This is especially helpful for feeding aluminum wires through conventional(push vs push/pull) type gun assemblies.Pulsed-spray transfer is often used to provide all-position welding on both light and heavy gauge metal thicknesses.A conventional spray arc type transfer could "roll out" of the weld puddle when welding out-of-position,or burn through could occur on thin metals. The pulse-spray transfer can help avoid this by producing the low average current.

TRAVEL SPEED Another factor that can influence welding results is travel speed. This is the rate at which a welder or automatic control moves the welding gun (and arc) along a weld joint. It is measured in inches per minute (IPM) or mm/sec. Many welders, once they have become familiar with the GMAW process, determine the correct travel speed by judging the puddle size and keeping the arc on the leading edge of the puddle. The faster travel speed associated with GMAW compared to SMAW may take a beginning welder some time to adjust to. Travel speed is just as important as any of the other welding parameters. In

reference to travel speed (and economy), faster welding speeds can be obtained using the push technique in some situations. For a fillet weld, as an example, a push technique tends to produce a flatter, wider weld. Thus a faster travel speed can be used with a push technique to get the same leg size as a slower travel speed with a drag angle. Manual travel speeds are, of course, limited to a welder's ability to control the weld puddle. Most travel speeds for various joints are well below 40 inches per minute. It is generally agreed that at a travel speed of 40 inches per minute (IPM) and above, the welder's eye has a difficult time focusing on the arc area.

COMMON PROBLEM 1. Weld Metal Porosity Porosity Problem #1: Improper Surface Conditions The most common cause of weld porosity is an improper surface condition of the metal. For example, oil, rust, paint or grease on the base metal may prevent proper weld penetration and hence lead to porosity. Welding processes that generate a slag such as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) or Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) tend to tolerate surface contaminates better than GMAW since components found within the slag help to clean the metals surface. In GMAW, the only contamination protection is provided by the elements which are alloyed into the wire. Remedies To control porosity, use a deoxidizer within the wire such as silicon, manganese or trace amounts of aluminum, zirconium or titanium. Wire chemistry can be determined by referring to the American Welding Society (AWS) wire classification system. Test the various types of wire available to find the right chemistry for a given application. To start, try the most common wire type, ER70S-3 (Lincoln L50) which contains 0.9-1.4 percent manganese and 0.45-0.75 percent silicon. If porosity is still present in the finished weld, increase the amount of silicon and manganese found in the wire by switching to an ER70S-4 (Lincoln L54) or an ER70S-6 which has the highest levels of silicon (0.8 -1.15 percent) and manganese (1.4-1.8 percent). Some operators prefer to use a triple deoxidizer such as ER70S-2 (Lincoln L52) which contains aluminum, zirconium or titanium in

addition to the silicon and manganese. In addition to changing the wire, further prevent porosity by cleaning the surface of the metal with a grinder or chemical solvents (such as a degreaser.) A word of caution though if using solvents, be certain not to use a chlorinated degreaser such as trichlorethylene near the welding arc -- the fume may react with the arc and produce toxic gases.

Porosity Problem #2: Gas Coverage The second leading cause of porosity in welds is a problem with the shielding gas coverage. The GMAW process relies on the shielding gas to physically protect the weld puddle from the air and to act as an arc stabilizer. If the shielding gas is disturbed, there is a potential that air could contaminate the weld puddle and lead to porosity. Remedies Shielding gas flow varies depending on wire size, amperage, transfer mode and wind speed. Typical gas flow should be approximately 30-40 cubic feet per hour. Using a flow meter, check that the shielding gas flow is set properly. There are a variety of flow meters on the market today ranging from simple dial gauges to ball flows all the way up to sophisticated, computerized models. Some operators mistakenly think that a pressure regulator is all that is needed, but the pressure meter will not set flow. A pure carbon dioxide shielding gas requires the use of special flow meters designed specifically for carbon dioxide. These special flow meters are not affected by the frosting that may occur as the carbon dioxide changes from liquid form to a gas. If high winds are blowing the shielding gas away from the puddle, it may be necessary to erect wind screens. According to the AWS Structural Welding Code, it is advisable not to GMA weld when wind speeds are greater than 5 mph. Indoors, ventilation systems may hamper gas coverage. In this case, redirect air flow away from the puddle. If fume extraction is necessary, use equipment designed specifically for this purpose such as MAGNUM Extraction Guns from Lincoln Electric -- they will remove the fume, but not

disturb the shielding gas. A turbulent flow of gas as it exits the gun may also lead to porosity problems. Ideally, the gas will lay over the weld puddle much like a blanket. Turbulent gas flow can be caused by too high a flow, an excessive amount of spatter inside the gun nozzle, or spatter build-up in the gas diffuser. Other possible causes of insufficient gas flow may be damaged guns, cables, gas lines, hoses or loose gas fittings. These damaged accessories may create what is referred to as a venturi effect where air is sucked in through these openings and flow is reduced. Lastly, welding with a drag or backhand technique can lead to gas coverage problems. Try to weld with a push or forehand technique which lays the gas blanket out ahead of the arc and lets the gas settle into the joint.

Porosity Problem#3: Base Metal Properties Another cause of weld porosity may be attributed simply to the chemistry of the base metal. For instance, the base metal may be extremely high in sulfur content.

Remedy Unfortunately, if the problem with porosity lies within the base metal properties, there is not much that can be done. The best solution is to use a different grade of steel or switch to a slag-generating welding process. 2. Improper Weld Bead Profile If operators are experiencing a convex-shaped or concave-shaped bead, this may indicate a problem with heat input or technique. Improper Bead Problem #1: Insufficient Heat Input A convex or ropy bead indicates that the settings being used are too cold for the thickness of the material being welded. In other words, there is insufficient heat in the weld to enable it to penetrate into the base metal.

Remedies To correct a problem with running too cold, an operator must first determine if the

amperage is proper for the thickness of the material. Charts are available from the major manufacturers, including Lincoln Electric, that provide guidelines on amperage use under varying conditions. If the amperage is determined to be high enough, check the voltage. Voltage that is too low usually is accompanied by another telltale sign of a problem: a high amount of spatter. On the other hand, if voltage is too high, the operator will have problems controlling the process and the weld will have a tendency to undercut. One way to check if the voltage is set properly is to test it by listening. A properly running arc will have a certain sound. For instance, in short arc transfer at low amperages, an arc should have a steady buzz. At high amperages using spray arc transfer, the arc will make a crackling sound. The arc sound can also indicate problems -- a steady hiss will indicate that voltage is too high and the operator is prone to undercut; while a loud, raspy sound may indicate voltage that is too low.

Improper Bead Problem #2: Technique A concave or convex-shaped bead may also be caused by using an improper welding technique. For example, a push or forehand technique tends to create a flatter bead shape than a pull or backhand technique. Remedy For best bead shapes, it is recommended to use a push angle of 5-10 degrees. Improper Bead Problem #3: Inadequate Work Cable Problems with the work cable can result in inadequate voltage available at the arc. Evidence of a work cable problem would be improper bead shape or a hot work cable. Remedy Work cables have a tendency to overheat if they are too small or excessively worn. In replacing the cable, consult a chart to determine size based on length and current being used. The higher the current and longer the distance, the larger the cable needed. 3. Lack of Fusion If the consumable has improperly adhered to the base metal, a lack of fusion may occur. Improper fusion creates a weak, low quality weld and may ultimately lead to structural problems in the finished product.

Lack of Fusion Problem: Cold Lapping in the Short Arc Transfer Process In short arc transfer, the wire directly touches the weld pool and a short circuit in the system causes the end of the wire to melt and detach a droplet. This shorting happens 40 to 200 times per second. Fusion problems may occur when the metal in the weld pool is melted, but there is not enough energy left to fuse it to the base plate. In these cases, the weld will have a good appearance, but none of the metal has actually been joined together. Since lack of fusion is difficult to detect visually, it must be checked by dye-penetrant, ultrasonic or bend testing. Remedies: To guarantee correct fusion, ensure that voltage and amperage are set correctly. If the operator is still having problems after making those adjustments, it may require a change in the welding technique. For example, changing to a flux-cored wire or using the spray arc transfer method instead. In spray arc transfer, the arc never goes out so cold lapping and lack of fusion are not issues. Spray arc welding takes place at amperages high enough to melt the end of the wire and propel the droplet across the arc into the weld puddle.

4. Faulty Wire Delivery Faulty Wire Delivery Problem #1: Contact Tip There is a tendency among operators to use oversized tips, which can lead to contact problems, inconsistencies in the arc, porosity and poor bead shape. Remedies: First, make sure that the contact tip in the gun is in working order and sized appropriately to the wire being used. Visually inspect the tip and if it is wearing out (becoming eggshaped), it will need to be replaced. Faulty Wire Delivery Problem #2: Gun Liner A gun liner, like the contact tip, must be sized to the wire being fed through it. It also needs to be cleaned or replaced when wire is not being fed smoothly. Remedy: To clean the liner, blow it out with low-pressure compressed air from the contact tip end, or replace the liner. Faulty Wire Delivery Problem #3: Worn Out Gun

Inside the gun are very fine strands of copper wire that will eventually break and wear out with time. Remedy: If the gun becomes extremely hot during use in one particular area, that is an indication that there is internal damage and it will need to be replaced. In addition, be certain that the gun is large enough for the application. Operators like to use small guns since they are easy on the hand, but if the gun is too small for the application, it will overheat.

Faulty Wire Delivery Problem #4: Drive Roll Drive rolls on the wire feeder periodically wear out and need to be replaced. Remedies: There are usually visual indications of wear on the grooves of the rolls if replacement is necessary. Also, make sure that the drive roll tension is set properly. To check tension, disconnect the welding input cable from the feeder or switch to the cold feed option. Feed the wire and pinch it as it exits the gun with the thumb and forefinger. If the wire can be stopped by pinching, more drive roll tension is needed. The optimum tension will be indicated by feeding that is not stopped while pinching the wire. If the drive roll tension is too high, it may deform the wire leading to birdnesting (tangling) and a burn back (when the arc climbs the wire and fuses the wire to the contact tip.) Make sure that the drive rolls and the guide tube are as close together as possible. Next, check the path from where the wire leaves the reel to where it enters the drive rolls. The wire must line up with the incoming guide tubes so there is no scrapping of the wire as it goes through the tube. On some wire feeders, the wire spool position is adjustable -- align it so that it makes a straight path into the tube. Faulty Wire Delivery Problem #5: Wire Coming Off Reel and Tangling Some wire feeding problems occur because the inertia from the wire reel causes it to coast after the gun trigger is released.

Remedy: If the reel continues to coast, the wire on the reel will loosen and the wire may come off or become tangled. Most wire feeding systems have an adjustable brake on the wire reel. The brake tension should be set so that the reel does not coast. ADVANTAGES The advantages of Gas metal arc welding (GMAW): The GMAW process is versatile, rapid and economical Higher deposition rates than Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) Less operator skill required Long welds can be made without starts and stops Minimal post weld cleaning is required The GMAW process can be automated