Arc welding

Arc welding is a welding process that is used to join metal to metal by using electricity to create enough heat to melt metal, and the melted metals when cool result in a binding of the metals. It is a type of welding that uses a welding power supply to create an electric arc between a metal stick ("electrode") and the base material to melt the metals at the point-of-contact. Arc welders can use either direct (DC) or alternating (AC) current, and consumable or non-consumable electrodes.

The welding area is usually protected by some type of shielding gas, vapor, or slag. Arc welding processes may be manual, semi-automatic, or fully automated. First developed in the late part of the 19th century, arc welding became commercially important in shipbuilding during the Second World War. Today it remains an important process for the fabrication of steel structures and vehicles.

Man welding a metal structure in a newly constructed house in Bengaluru, India

Power supplies

Ranger 250 GXT Front
Engine driven welder capable of AC/DC welding.
Welding generator
A diesel powered welding generator (the electric generator is on the left) as used in Indonesia.

To supply the electrical energy necessary for arc welding processes, a number of different power supplies can be used. The most common classification is constant current power supplies and constant voltage power supplies. In arc welding, the voltage is directly related to the length of the arc, and the current is related to the amount of heat input. Constant current power supplies are most often used for manual welding processes such as gas tungsten arc welding and shielded metal arc welding, because they maintain a relatively constant current even as the voltage varies. This is important because in manual welding, it can be difficult to hold the electrode perfectly steady, and as a result, the arc length and thus voltage tend to fluctuate. Constant voltage power supplies hold the voltage constant and vary the current, and as a result, are most often used for automated welding processes such as gas metal arc welding, flux cored arc welding, and submerged arc welding. In these processes, arc length is kept constant, since any fluctuation in the distance between the wire and the base material is quickly rectified by a large change in current. For example, if the wire and the base material get too close, the current will rapidly increase, which in turn causes the heat to increase and the tip of the wire to melt, returning it to its original separation distance.[1]

The direction of current used in arc welding also plays an important role in welding. Consumable electrode processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding generally use direct current, but the electrode can be charged either positively or negatively. In general, the positively charged anode will have a greater heat concentration (around 60%).[2] "Note that for stick welding in general, DC+ polarity is most commonly used. It produces a good bead profile with a higher level of penetration. DC- polarity results in less penetration and a higher electrode melt-off rate. It is sometimes used, for example, on thin sheet metal in an attempt to prevent burn-through."[3] "With few exceptions, electrode-positive (reversed polarity) results in deeper penetration. Electrode-negative (straight polarity) results in faster melt-off of the electrode and, therefore, faster deposition rate."[4] Non-consumable electrode processes, such as gas tungsten arc welding, can use either type of direct current (DC), as well as alternating current (AC). With direct current however, because the electrode only creates the arc and does not provide filler material, a positively charged electrode causes shallow welds, while a negatively charged electrode makes deeper welds.[5] Alternating current rapidly moves between these two, resulting in medium-penetration welds. One disadvantage of AC, the fact that the arc must be re-ignited after every zero crossing, has been addressed with the invention of special power units that produce a square wave pattern instead of the normal sine wave, eliminating low-voltage time after the zero crossings and minimizing the effects of the problem.[6]

Duty cycle is a welding equipment specification which defines the number of minutes, within a 10-minute period, during which a given arc welder can safely be used. For example, an 80 A welder with a 60% duty cycle must be "rested" for at least 4 minutes after 6 minutes of continuous welding.[7] Failure to observe duty cycle limitations could damage the welder. Commercial- or professional-grade welders typically have a 100% duty cycle.

Consumable electrode methods
Shielded metal arc welding

One of the most common types of arc welding is shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), which is also known as manual metal arc welding (MMAW) or stick welding. An electric current is used to strike an arc between the base material and a consumable electrode rod or stick. The electrode rod is made of a material that is compatible with the base material being welded and is covered with a flux that gives off vapors that serve as a shielding gas and provide a layer of slag, both of which protect the weld area from atmospheric contamination. The electrode core itself acts as filler material, making a separate filler unnecessary. The process is very versatile, requiring little operator training and inexpensive equipment. However, weld times are rather slow, since the consumable electrodes must be frequently replaced and because slag, the residue from the flux, must be chipped away after welding.[8] Furthermore, the process is generally limited to welding ferrous materials, though specialty electrodes have made possible the welding of cast iron, nickel, aluminium, copper and other metals. The versatility of the method makes it popular in a number of applications including repair work and construction.[9]

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), commonly called MIG (for metal/inert-gas), is a semi-automatic or automatic welding process with a continuously fed consumable wire acting as both electrode and filler metal, along with an inert or semi-inert shielding gas flowed around the wire to protect the weld site from contamination. Constant voltage, direct current power source is most commonly used with GMAW, but constant current alternating current are used as well. With continuously fed filler electrodes, GMAW offers relatively high welding speeds; however the more complicated equipment reduces convenience and versatility in comparison to the SMAW process. Originally developed for welding aluminium and other non-ferrous materials in the 1940s, GMAW was soon economically applied to steels. Today, GMAW is commonly used in industries such as the automobile industry for its quality, versatility and speed. Because of the need to maintain a stable shroud of shielding gas around the weld site, it can be problematic to use the GMAW process in areas of high air movement such as outdoors.[10]

Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) is a variation of the GMAW technique. FCAW wire is actually a fine metal tube filled with powdered flux materials. An externally supplied shielding gas is sometimes used, but often the flux itself is relied upon to generate the necessary protection from the atmosphere. The process is widely used in construction because of its high welding speed and portability.

Submerged arc welding (SAW) is a high-productivity welding process in which the arc is struck beneath a covering layer of granular flux. This increases arc quality, since contaminants in the atmosphere are blocked by the flux. The slag that forms on the weld generally comes off by itself and, combined with the use of a continuous wire feed, the weld deposition rate is high. Working conditions are much improved over other arc welding processes since the flux hides the arc and no smoke is produced. The process is commonly used in industry, especially for large products.[11] As the arc is not visible, it is typically automated. SAW is only possible in the 1F (flat fillet), 2F (horizontal fillet), and 1G (flat groove) positions.

Non-consumable electrode methods

Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), or tungsten/inert-gas (TIG) welding, is a manual welding process that uses a non-consumable electrode made of tungsten, an inert or semi-inert gas mixture, and a separate filler material. Especially useful for welding thin materials, this method is characterized by a stable arc and high quality welds, but it requires significant operator skill and can only be accomplished at relatively low speeds. It can be used on nearly all weldable metals, though it is most often applied to stainless steel and light metals. It is often used when quality welds are extremely important, such as in bicycle, aircraft and naval applications.[12]

A related process, plasma arc welding, also uses a tungsten electrode but uses plasma gas to make the arc. The arc is more concentrated than the GTAW arc, making transverse control more critical and thus generally restricting the technique to a mechanized process. Because of its stable current, the method can be used on a wider range of material thicknesses than can the GTAW process and is much faster. It can be applied to all of the same materials as GTAW except magnesium; automated welding of stainless steel is one important application of the process. A variation of the process is plasma cutting, an efficient steel cutting process.[13]

Other arc welding processes include atomic hydrogen welding, carbon arc welding, electroslag welding, electrogas welding, and stud arc welding.

Corrosion issues

Some materials, notably high-strength steels, aluminium, and titanium alloys, are susceptible to hydrogen embrittlement. If the electrodes used for welding contain traces of moisture, the water decomposes in the heat of the arc and the liberated hydrogen enters the lattice of the material, causing its brittleness. Stick electrodes for such materials, with special low-hydrogen coating, are delivered in sealed moisture-proof packaging. New electrodes can be used straight from the can, but when moisture absorption may be suspected, they have to be dried by baking (usually at 450 to 550 °C or 840 to 1,020 °F) in a drying oven. Flux used has to be kept dry as well.[14]

Some austenitic stainless steels and nickel-based alloys are prone to intergranular corrosion. When subjected to temperatures around 700 °C (1,300 °F) for too long a time, chromium reacts with carbon in the material, forming chromium carbide and depleting the crystal edges of chromium, impairing their corrosion resistance in a process called sensitization. Such sensitized steel undergoes corrosion in the areas near the welds where the temperature-time was favorable for forming the carbide. This kind of corrosion is often termed weld decay.

Knifeline attack (KLA) is another kind of corrosion affecting welds, impacting steels stabilized by niobium. Niobium and niobium carbide dissolves in steel at very high temperatures. At some cooling regimes, niobium carbide does not precipitate, and the steel then behaves like unstabilized steel, forming chromium carbide instead. This affects only a thin zone several millimeters wide in the very vicinity of the weld, making it difficult to spot and increasing the corrosion speed. Structures made of such steels have to be heated in a whole to about 1,000 °C (1,830 °F), when the chromium carbide dissolves and niobium carbide forms. The cooling rate after this treatment is not important.[15]

Filler metal (electrode material) improperly chosen for the environmental conditions can make them corrosion-sensitive as well. There are also issues of galvanic corrosion if the electrode composition is sufficiently dissimilar to the materials welded, or the materials are dissimilar themselves. Even between different grades of nickel-based stainless steels, corrosion of welded joints can be severe, despite that they rarely undergo galvanic corrosion when mechanically joined.[16]

Safety issues

Welding Safety
Welding safety checklist

Welding can be a dangerous and unhealthy practice without the proper precautions; however, with the use of new technology and proper protection the risks of injury or death associated with welding can be greatly reduced.

Heat, fire, and explosion hazard

Because many common welding procedures involve an open electric arc or flame, the risk of burns from heat and sparks is significant. To prevent them, welders wear protective clothing in the form of heavy leather gloves and protective long sleeve jackets to avoid exposure to extreme heat, flames, and sparks. The use of compressed gases and flames in many welding processes also pose an explosion and fire risk; some common precautions include limiting the amount of oxygen in the air and keeping combustible materials away from the workplace.[17]

Eye damage

Viking Helmet
Auto darkening welding hood with 90×110 mm cartridge and 3.78×1.85 in viewing area

Exposure to the brightness of the weld area leads to a condition called arc eye in which ultraviolet light causes inflammation of the cornea and can burn the retinas of the eyes. Welding goggles and helmets with dark face plates—much darker than those in sunglasses or oxy-fuel goggles—are worn to prevent this exposure. In recent years, new helmet models have been produced featuring a face plate which automatically self-darkens electronically.[18] To protect bystanders, transparent welding curtains often surround the welding area. These curtains, made of a polyvinyl chloride plastic film, shield nearby workers from exposure to the UV light from the electric arc.[19]

Inhaled matter

Welders are also often exposed to dangerous gases and particulate matter. Processes like flux-cored arc welding and shielded metal arc welding produce smoke containing particles of various types of oxides. The size of the particles in question tends to influence the toxicity of the fumes, with smaller particles presenting a greater danger. Additionally, many processes produce various gases (most commonly carbon dioxide and ozone, but others as well) that can prove dangerous if ventilation is inadequate.

Interference with pacemakers

Certain welding machines which use a high frequency alternating current component have been found to affect pacemaker operation when within 2 meters of the power unit and 1 meter of the weld site.[20]


Benardos N.N
Nikolay Benardos

While examples of forge welding go back to the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, arc welding did not come into practice until much later.

In 1800 Sir Humphry Davy discovered the short pulsed electric arcs.[21][22] Independently a Russian physicist Vasily Petrov discovered the continuous electric arc in 1802[22][23][24][25] and subsequently proposed its possible practical applications, including welding.[26] Arc welding was first developed when Nikolai Benardos presented arc welding of metals using a carbon electrode at the International Exposition of Electricity, Paris in 1881, which was patented together with Stanisław Olszewski in 1887.[27] In the same year, French electrical inventor Auguste de Méritens also invented a carbon arc welding method, patented in 1881, which was successfully used for welding lead in the manufacture of lead-acid batteries.[28] The advances in arc welding continued with the invention of metal electrodes in the late 19th century by a Russian, Nikolai Slavyanov (1888), and an American, C. L. Coffin. Around 1900, A. P. Strohmenger released in Britain a coated metal electrode which gave a more stable arc. In 1905 Russian scientist Vladimir Mitkevich proposed the usage of three-phase electric arc for welding. In 1919, alternating current welding was invented by C.J. Holslag but did not become popular for another decade.[29]

Competing welding processes such as resistance welding and oxyfuel welding were developed during this time as well;[30] but both, especially the latter, faced stiff competition from arc welding especially after metal coverings (known as flux) for the electrode, to stabilize the arc and shield the base material from impurities, continued to be developed.[31]

Arc welding part of an anti-tank gun
A young woman arc welding in a munitions factory in Australia in 1943.

During World War I welding started to be used in shipbuilding in Great Britain in place of riveted steel plates. The Americans also became more accepting of the new technology when the process allowed them to repair their ships quickly after a German attack in the New York Harbor at the beginning of the war.[32] Arc welding was first applied to aircraft during the war as well, and some German airplane fuselages were constructed using this process.[33] In 1919, the British shipbuilder Cammell Laird started construction of a merchant ship, the "Fullagar", with an entirely welded hull;[34] she was launched in 1921.[35]

During the 1920s, major advances were made in welding technology, including the 1920 introduction of automatic welding in which electrode wire was continuously fed. Shielding gas became a subject receiving much attention as scientists attempted to protect welds from the effects of oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. Porosity and brittleness were the primary problems and the solutions that developed included the use of hydrogen, argon, and helium as welding atmospheres.[36] During the following decade, further advances allowed for the welding of reactive metals such as aluminum and magnesium. This, in conjunction with developments in automatic welding, alternating current, and fluxes fed a major expansion of arc welding during the 1930s and then during World War II.[37]

During the middle of the century, many new welding methods were invented. Submerged arc welding was invented in 1930 and continues to be popular today. In 1932 a Russian, Konstantin Khrenov successfully implemented the first underwater electric arc welding. Gas tungsten arc welding, after decades of development, was finally perfected in 1941 and gas metal arc welding followed in 1948, allowing for fast welding of non-ferrous materials but requiring expensive shielding gases. Using a consumable electrode and a carbon dioxide atmosphere as a shielding gas, it quickly became the most popular metal arc welding process. In 1957, the flux-cored arc welding process debuted in which the self-shielded wire electrode could be used with automatic equipment, resulting in greatly increased welding speeds. In that same year, plasma arc welding was invented. Electroslag welding was released in 1958 and was followed by its cousin, electrogas welding, in 1961.[38]

See also



  1. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, pp. 246–249
  2. ^ "Welding Metallurgy: Arc Physics and Weld Pool Behaviour" (PDF). Canteach.
  3. ^ "DC vs. AC Polarity for SMAW". Lincoln Electric. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  4. ^ "AC/DC: Understanding Polarity". Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  5. ^ Lincoln Electric 1994, p. 5.4.5
  6. ^ Weman 2003, p. 16
  7. ^ What does welder "duty cycle" mean?
  8. ^ Weman 2003, p. 63
  9. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, p. 103
  10. ^ Lincoln Electric 1994, p. 5.4.3
  11. ^ Weman 2003, p. 68
  12. ^ Weman 2003, p. 31
  13. ^ Weman 2003, pp. 37–38
  14. ^ Drive Off Moisture and Get Better Welds Archived March 15, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ Intergranular Corrosion Archived 2006-04-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ Galvanic Corrosion
  17. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, pp. 52–62
  18. ^
  19. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, pp. 42, 49–51
  20. ^ "Testing of work environments for electromagnetic interference". Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 15 (11 Pt 2): 2016–22. 1992. doi:10.1111/j.1540-8159.1992.tb03013.x. PMID 1279591.
  21. ^ Hertha Ayrton. The Electric Arc, pp. 20 and 94. D. Van Nostrand Co., New York, 1902.
  22. ^ a b Anders, A. (2003). "Tracking down the origin of arc plasma science-II. early continuous discharges". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 31 (5): 1060–9. Bibcode:2003ITPS...31.1060A. doi:10.1109/TPS.2003.815477.
  23. ^ "Дуговой разряд" [electric arc], Большая советская энциклопедия [Great Soviet Encyclopedia] (in Russian)
  24. ^ Lazarev, P.P. (December 1999), "Historical essay on the 200 years of the development of natural sciences in Russia" (Russian), Physics-Uspekhi, 42 (1247): 1351–1361, Bibcode:1999PhyU...42.1247L, doi:10.1070/PU1999v042n12ABEH000750, archived (PDF) from the original on 2009-12-04.
  25. ^ Shea, William R., ed. (1983). Nature mathematized: historical and philosophical case studies in classical modern natural philosophy. Dordrecht: Reidel. p. 282. ISBN 978-90-277-1402-2.
  26. ^ " Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography". Charles Scribner's Sons. 2008. Retrieved 9 October 2014.
  27. ^ "Beginnings of submerged arc welding" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-04.
  28. ^ Houldcroft, P. T. (1973) [1967]. "Chapter 3: Flux-Shielded Arc Welding". Welding Processes. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-521-05341-2.
  29. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, pp. 5–6
  30. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, p. 6
  31. ^ Weman 2003, p. 26
  32. ^ "Weld It!". TIME Magazine. 1941-12-15. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
  33. ^ Lincoln Electric 1994, pp. 1.1–5
  34. ^ Royal Naval & World Events time line
  35. ^ Case Studies on Shipbuilding Archived February 3, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, p. 7
  37. ^ Lincoln Electric 1994, pp. 1.1–6
  38. ^ Cary & Helzer 2005, p. 9


  • Cary, Howard B.; Helzer, Scott C. (2005), Modern Welding Technology, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, ISBN 0-13-113029-3
  • Kalpakjian, Serope; Schmid, Steven R. (2001), Manufacturing Engineering and Technology, Prentice-Hall, ISBN 0-201-36131-0
  • Lincoln Electric (1994), The Procedure Handbook of Arc Welding, Cleveland, Ohio: Lincoln Electric, ISBN 99949-25-82-2
  • Weman, Klas (2003), Welding processes handbook, New York: CRC Press, ISBN 0-8493-1773-8

Further reading

  • ASM International (society) (2003). Trends in Welding Research. Materials Park, Ohio: ASM International. ISBN 0-87170-780-2
  • Blunt, Jane and Nigel C. Balchin (2002). Health and Safety in Welding and Allied Processes. Cambridge: Woodhead. ISBN 1-85573-538-5.
  • Hicks, John (1999). Welded Joint Design. New York: Industrial Press. ISBN 0-8311-3130-6.

External links

  • Arc Flash Awareness video (25:39) from U.S. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Atomic hydrogen welding

Atomic hydrogen welding (AHW) is an arc welding process that uses an arc between two tungsten electrodes in a shielding atmosphere of hydrogen. The process was invented by Irving Langmuir in the course of his studies of atomic hydrogen. The electric arc efficiently breaks up the hydrogen molecules, which later recombine with tremendous release of heat, reaching temperatures from 3400 to 4000 °C. Without the arc, an oxyhydrogen torch can only reach 2800 °C. This is the third-hottest flame after dicyanoacetylene at 4987 °C and cyanogen at 4525 °C. An acetylene torch merely reaches 3300 °C. This device may be called an atomic hydrogen torch, nascent hydrogen torch or Langmuir torch. The process was also known as arc-atom welding.

The heat produced by this torch is sufficient to weld tungsten (3422 °C), the most refractory metal. The presence of hydrogen also acts as a shielding gas, preventing oxidation and contamination by carbon, nitrogen or oxygen, which can severely damage the properties of many metals. It eliminates the need of flux for this purpose.

The arc is maintained independently of the workpiece or parts being welded. The hydrogen gas is normally diatomic (H2), but where the temperatures are over 600 °C (1,100 °F) near the arc, the hydrogen breaks down into its atomic form, absorbing a large amount of heat from the arc. When the hydrogen strikes a relatively cold surface (i.e. the weld zone), it recombines into its diatomic form, releasing the energy associated with the formation of that bond. The energy in AHW can be varied easily by changing the distance between the arc stream and the workpiece surface.

In atomic hydrogen welding, filler metal may or may not be used. In this process, the arc is maintained entirely independent of the work or parts being welded. The work is a part of the electrical circuit only to the extent that a portion of the arc comes in contact with the work, at which time a voltage exists between the work and each electrode.

This process is being replaced by gas metal-arc welding, mainly because of the availability of inexpensive inert gases.

Carbon arc welding

Carbon arc welding (CAW) is a process which produces coalescence of metals by heating them with an arc between a non-consumable carbon (graphite) electrode and the work-piece. It was the first arc-welding process developed but is not used for many applications today, having been replaced by twin-carbon-arc welding and other variations. The purpose of arc welding is to form a bond between separate metals. In carbon-arc welding a carbon electrode is used to produce an electric arc between the electrode and the materials being bonded. This arc produces temperatures in excess of 3,000 °C. At this temperature the separate metals form a bond and become welded together.


An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit (e.g. a semiconductor, an electrolyte, a vacuum or air). The word was coined by William Whewell at the request of the scientist Michael Faraday from two Greek words: elektron, meaning amber (from which the word electricity is derived), and hodos, a way.The electrophore, invented by Johan Wilcke, was an early version of an electrode used to study static electricity.

Electrogas welding

Electrogas welding (EGW) is a continuous vertical position arc welding process developed in 1961, in which an arc is struck between a consumable electrode and the workpiece. A shielding gas is sometimes used, but pressure is not applied. A major difference between EGW and its cousin electroslag welding is that the arc in EGW is not extinguished, instead remains struck throughout the welding process. It is used to make square-groove welds for butt and t-joints, especially in the shipbuilding industry and in the construction of storage tanks.

Flux-cored arc welding

Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW or FCA) is a semi-automatic or automatic arc welding process. FCAW requires a continuously-fed consumable tubular electrode containing a flux and a constant-voltage or, less commonly, a constant-current welding power supply. An externally supplied shielding gas is sometimes used, but often the flux itself is relied upon to generate the necessary protection from the atmosphere, producing both gaseous protection and liquid slag protecting the weld. The process is widely used in construction because of its high welding speed and portability.

FCAW was first developed in the early 1950s as an alternative to shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). The advantage of FCAW over SMAW is that the use of the stick electrodes used in SMAW is unnecessary. This helped FCAW to overcome many of the restrictions associated with SMAW.

Gas metal arc welding

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), sometimes referred to by its subtypes metal inert gas (MIG) welding or metal active gas (MAG) welding, is a welding process in which an electric arc forms between a consumable MIG wire electrode and the workpiece metal(s), which heats the workpiece metal(s), causing them to melt and join. Along with the wire electrode, a shielding gas feeds through the welding gun, which shields the process from contaminants in the air.

The process can be semi-automatic or automatic. A constant voltage, direct current power source is most commonly used with GMAW, but constant current systems, as well as alternating current, can be used. There are four primary methods of metal transfer in GMAW, called globular, short-circuiting, spray, and pulsed-spray, each of which has distinct properties and corresponding advantages and limitations.

Originally developed in the 1940s for welding aluminium and other non-ferrous materials, GMAW was soon applied to steels because it provided faster welding time compared to other welding processes. The cost of inert gas limited its use in steels until several years later, when the use of semi-inert gases such as carbon dioxide became common. Further developments during the 1950s and 1960s gave the process more versatility and as a result, it became a highly used industrial process. Today, GMAW is the most common industrial welding process, preferred for its versatility, speed and the relative ease of adapting the process to robotic automation. Unlike welding processes that do not employ a shielding gas, such as shielded metal arc welding, it is rarely used outdoors or in other areas of moving air. A related process, flux cored arc welding, often does not use a shielding gas, but instead employs an electrode wire that is hollow and filled with flux.

Gas tungsten arc welding

Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is an arc welding process that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area and electrode is protected from oxidation or other atmospheric contamination by an inert shielding gas (argon or helium), and a filler metal is normally used, though some welds, known as autogenous welds, do not require it. A constant-current welding power supply produces electrical energy, which is conducted across the arc through a column of highly ionized gas and metal vapors known as a plasma.

GTAW is most commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. The process grants the operator greater control over the weld than competing processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding, allowing for stronger, higher quality welds. However, GTAW is comparatively more complex and difficult to master, and furthermore, it is significantly slower than most other welding techniques. A related process, plasma arc welding, uses a slightly different welding torch to create a more focused welding arc and as a result is often automated.

Heat-affected zone

The heat-affected zone (HAZ) is the area of base material, either a metal or a thermoplastic, which is not melted but has had its microstructure and properties altered by welding or heat intensive cutting operations. The heat from the welding process and subsequent re-cooling causes this change from the weld interface to the termination of the sensitizing temperature in the base metal. The extent and magnitude of property change depends primarily on the base material, the weld filler metal, and the amount and concentration of heat input by the welding process.

The thermal diffusivity of the base material plays a large role—if the diffusivity is high, the material cooling rate is high and the HAZ is relatively small. Alternatively, a low diffusivity leads to slower cooling and a larger HAZ. The amount of heat input during the welding process also plays an important role as well, as processes like oxyfuel welding use high heat input and increase the size of the HAZ. Processes like laser beam welding and electron beam welding give a highly concentrated, limited amount of heat, resulting in a small HAZ. Arc welding falls between these two extremes, with the individual processes varying somewhat in heat input. To calculate the heat input for arc welding procedures, the following formula is used:

where Q = heat input (kJ/mm), V = voltage (V), I = current (A), and S = welding speed (mm/min). The efficiency is dependent on the welding process used, with shielded metal arc welding having a value of 0.75, gas metal arc welding and submerged arc welding, 0.9, and gas tungsten arc welding, 0.8.

Hyperbaric welding

Hyperbaric welding is the process of welding at elevated pressures, normally underwater. Hyperbaric welding can either take place wet in the water itself or dry inside a specially constructed positive pressure enclosure and hence a dry environment. It is predominantly referred to as "hyperbaric welding" when used in a dry environment, and "underwater welding" when in a wet environment. The applications of hyperbaric welding are diverse—it is often used to repair ships, offshore oil platforms, and pipelines. Steel is the most common material welded.

Dry welding is used in preference to wet underwater welding when high quality welds are required because of the increased control over conditions which can be exerted, such as through application of prior and post weld heat treatments. This improved environmental control leads directly to improved process performance and a generally much higher quality weld than a comparative wet weld. Thus, when a very high quality weld is required, dry hyperbaric welding is normally utilized. Research into using dry hyperbaric welding at depths of up to 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) is ongoing. In general, assuring the integrity of underwater welds can be difficult (but is possible using various nondestructive testing applications), especially for wet underwater welds, because defects are difficult to detect if the defects are beneath the surface of the weld.

Underwater hyperbaric welding was invented by the Russian metallurgist Konstantin Khrenov in 1932.

List of welding processes

This is a list of welding processes, separated into their respective categories. The associated N reference numbers (second column) are specified in ISO 4063 (in the European Union published as EN ISO 4063). Numbers in parentheses are obsolete and were removed from the current (1998) version of ISO 4063. The AWS reference codes of the American Welding Society are commonly used in North America.

Miller Electric

Miller Electric is an arc welding and cutting equipment manufacturing company based in Appleton, Wisconsin. Miller Electric has grown from a one-man operation selling products in northeastern Wisconsin to what is today one of the world's largest manufacturers of arc welding and cutting equipment.

Plasma arc welding

Plasma arc welding (PAW) is an arc welding process similar to gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). The electric arc is formed between an electrode (which is usually but not always made of sintered tungsten) and the workpiece. The key difference from GTAW is that in PAW, by positioning the electrode within the body of the torch, the plasma arc can be separated from the shielding gas envelope. The plasma is then forced through a fine-bore copper nozzle which constricts the arc and the plasma exits the orifice at high velocities (approaching the speed of sound) and a temperature approaching 28,000 °C (50,000 °F) or higher.

Just as oxy-fuel torches can be used for either welding or cutting, so too can plasma torches, which can achieve plasma arc welding or plasma cutting.

Arc plasma is the temporary state of a gas. The gas gets ionized after passage of electric current through it and it becomes a conductor of electricity. In ionized state atoms break into electrons (−) and cations (+) and the system contains a mixture of ions, electrons and highly excited atoms. The degree of ionization may be between 1% and greater than 100% i.e.; double and triple degrees of ionization. Such states exist as more electrons are pulled from their orbits.

The energy of the plasma jet and thus the temperature is dependent upon the electrical power employed to create arc plasma. A typical value of temperature obtained in a plasma jet torch may be of the order of 28000 °C (50000 °F ) against about 5500 °C (10000 °F) in ordinary electric welding arc. Actually all welding arcs are (partially ionized) plasmas, but the one in plasma arc welding is a constricted arc plasma.

Robot welding

Robot welding is the use of mechanized programmable tools (robots), which completely automate a welding process by both performing the weld and handling the part. Processes such as gas metal arc welding, while often automated, are not necessarily equivalent to robot welding, since a human operator sometimes prepares the materials to be welded. Robot welding is commonly used for resistance spot welding and arc welding in high production applications, such as the automotive industry.

Robot welding is a relatively new application of robotics, even though robots were first introduced into US industry during the 1960s. The use of robots in welding did not take off until the 1980s, when the automotive industry began using robots extensively for spot welding. Since then, both the number of robots used in industry and the number of their applications has grown greatly. In 2005, more than 120,000 robots were in use in North American industry, about half of them for welding. Growth is primarily limited by high equipment costs, and the resulting restriction to high-production applications.

Robot arc welding has begun growing quickly just recently, and already it commands about 20% of industrial robot applications. The major components of arc welding robots are the manipulator or the mechanical unit and the controller, which acts as the robot's "brain". The manipulator is what makes the robot move, and the design of these systems can be categorized into several common types, such as SCARA and cartesian coordinate robot, which use different coordinate systems to direct the arms of the machine.

The robot may weld a pre-programmed position, be guided by machine vision, or by a combination of the two methods. However, the many benefits of robotic welding have proven to make it a technology that helps many original equipment manufacturers increase accuracy, repeat-ability, and throughput The technology of signature image processing has been developed since the late 1990s for analyzing electrical data in real time collected from automated, robotic welding, thus enabling the optimization of welds.

Shielded metal arc welding

Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), also known as manual metal arc welding (MMA or MMAW), flux shielded arc welding or informally as stick welding, is a manual arc welding process that uses a consumable electrode covered with a flux to lay the weld.

An electric current, in the form of either alternating current or direct current from a welding power supply, is used to form an electric arc between the electrode and the metals to be joined. The workpiece and the electrode melts forming a pool of molten metal (weld pool) that cools to form a joint. As the weld is laid, the flux coating of the electrode disintegrates, giving off vapors that serve as a shielding gas and providing a layer of slag, both of which protect the weld area from atmospheric contamination.

Because of the versatility of the process and the simplicity of its equipment and operation, shielded metal arc welding is one of the world's first and most popular welding processes. It dominates other welding processes in the maintenance and repair industry, and though flux-cored arc welding is growing in popularity, SMAW continues to be used extensively in the construction of heavy steel structures and in industrial fabrication. The process is used primarily to weld iron and steels (including stainless steel) but aluminium, nickel and copper alloys can also be welded with this method.

Shielding gas

Shielding gases are inert or semi-inert gases that are commonly used in several welding processes, most notably gas metal arc welding and gas tungsten arc welding (GMAW and GTAW, more popularly known as MIG (Metal Inert Gas) and TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas), respectively). Their purpose is to protect the weld area from oxygen, and water vapour. Depending on the materials being welded, these atmospheric gases can reduce the quality of the weld or make the welding more difficult. Other arc welding processes use alternative methods of protecting the weld from the atmosphere as well – shielded metal arc welding, for example, uses an electrode covered in a flux that produces carbon dioxide when consumed, a semi-inert gas that is an acceptable shielding gas for welding steel.

Improper choice of a welding gas can lead to a porous and weak weld, or to excessive spatter; the latter, while not affecting the weld itself, causes loss of productivity due to the labor needed to remove the scattered drops.

Submerged arc welding

Submerged arc welding (SAW) is a common arc welding process. The first patent on the submerged-arc welding (SAW) process was taken out in 1935 and covered an electric arc beneath a bed of granulated flux. Originally developed and patented by Jones, Kennedy and Rothermund, the process requires a continuously fed consumable solid or tubular (metal cored) electrode. The molten weld and the arc zone are protected from atmospheric contamination by being "submerged" under a blanket of granular fusible flux consisting of lime, silica, manganese oxide, calcium fluoride, and other compounds. When molten, the flux becomes conductive, and provides a current path between the electrode and the work. This thick layer of flux completely covers the molten metal thus preventing spatter and sparks as well as suppressing the intense ultraviolet radiation and fumes that are a part of the shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) process.

SAW is normally operated in the automatic or mechanized mode, however, semi-automatic (hand-held) SAW guns with pressurized or gravity flux feed delivery are available. The process is normally limited to the flat or horizontal-fillet welding positions (although horizontal groove position welds have been done with a special arrangement to support the flux). Deposition rates approaching 45 kg/h (100 lb/h) have been reported — this compares to ~5 kg/h (10 lb/h) (max) for shielded metal arc welding. Although currents ranging from 300 to 2000 A are commonly utilized, currents of up to 5000 A have also been used (multiple arcs).

Single or multiple (2 to 5) electrode wire variations of the process exist. SAW strip-cladding utilizes a flat strip electrode (e.g. 60 mm wide x 0.5 mm thick). DC or AC power can be used, and combinations of DC and AC are common on multiple electrode systems. Constant voltage welding power supplies are most commonly used; however, constant current systems in combination with a voltage sensing wire-feeder are available.


Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by using high heat to melt the parts together and allowing them to cool causing fusion. Welding is distinct from lower temperature metal-joining techniques such as brazing and soldering, which do not melt the base metal.

In addition to melting the base metal, a filler material is typically added to the joint to form a pool of molten material (the weld pool) that cools to form a joint that, based on weld configuration (butt, full penetration, fillet, etc.), can be stronger than the base material (parent metal). Pressure may also be used in conjunction with heat, or by itself, to produce a weld. Welding also requires a form of shield to protect the filler metals or melted metals from being contaminated or oxidized.

Many different energy sources can be used for welding, including a gas flame (chemical), an electric arc (electrical), a laser, an electron beam, friction, and ultrasound. While often an industrial process, welding may be performed in many different environments, including in open air, under water, and in outer space. Welding is a hazardous undertaking and precautions are required to avoid burns, electric shock, vision damage, inhalation of poisonous gases and fumes, and exposure to intense ultraviolet radiation.

Until the end of the 19th century, the only welding process was forge welding, which blacksmiths had used for millennia to join iron and steel by heating and hammering. Arc welding and oxy-fuel welding were among the first processes to develop late in the century, and electric resistance welding followed soon after. Welding technology advanced quickly during the early 20th century as the world wars drove the demand for reliable and inexpensive joining methods. Following the wars, several modern welding techniques were developed, including manual methods like shielded metal arc welding, now one of the most popular welding methods, as well as semi-automatic and automatic processes such as gas metal arc welding, submerged arc welding, flux-cored arc welding and electroslag welding. Developments continued with the invention of laser beam welding, electron beam welding, magnetic pulse welding, and friction stir welding in the latter half of the century. Today, the science continues to advance. Robot welding is commonplace in industrial settings, and researchers continue to develop new welding methods and gain greater understanding of weld quality.

Welding helmet

A welding helmet is a type of headgear used when performing certain types of welding to protect the eyes, face and neck from flash burn, ultraviolet light, sparks, infrared light, and heat.

Welding helmets are most commonly used with arc welding processes such as shielded metal arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and gas metal arc welding. They are necessary to prevent arc eye, a painful condition where the cornea is inflamed. Welding helmets can also prevent retina burns, which can lead to a loss of vision. Both conditions are caused by unprotected exposure to the highly concentrated ultraviolet and infrared rays emitted by the welding arc. Ultraviolet emissions from the welding arc can also damage uncovered skin, causing a sunburn-like condition in a relatively short period of welding. In addition to the radiation, gasses or splashes can also be a hazard to the skin and the eyes.The modern welding helmet used today was first introduced in 1937 by Willson Products.Most welding helmets include a window covered with a filter called a lens shade, through which the welder can see to work. In most helmets, the window may be made of tinted glass, tinted plastic, or a variable-density filter made from a pair of polarized lenses.

Welding power supply

A welding power supply is a device that provides an electric current to perform welding. Welding usually requires high current (over 80 amperes) and it can need above 12,000 amperes in spot welding. Low current can also be used; welding two razor blades together at 5 amps with gas tungsten arc welding is a good example. A welding power supply can be as simple as a car battery and as sophisticated as a high-frequency inverter using IGBT technology, with computer control to assist in the welding process.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.