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Job knowledge17:

Welding Equipment
Equipment for TIG Welding
Job Knowledge for Welders No. 6 describes the TIG welding process. Using an inert
gas shield instead of a slag to protect the weldpool, this technology is a highly
attractive alternative to gas and manual metal arc welding and has played a major
role in the acceptance of high quality welding in critical applications.
Essential equipment
In TIG, the arc is formed between the end of a small
diameter tungsten electrode and the workpiece. The main
equipment components are:
power source
backing system
protective equipment
Power source
The power source for TIG welding can be either DC or AC but in both the output is
termed a drooping, or constant current, characteristic; the arc voltage / welding
current relationship delivers a constant current for a given power source setting.
If the arc voltage is slightly increased or decreased, there will be very little change in
welding current. In manual welding, it can accommodate the welder's natural
variations in arc length and, in the event of the electrode touching the work, an
excessively high current will not be drawn which could fuse the electrode to the
The arc is usually started by HF (High Frequency) sparks which ionise the gap
between the electrode and the workpiece. HF generates airborne and line
transmitted interference, so care must be taken to avoid interference with control
systems and instruments near welding equipment. When welding is carried out in
sensitive areas, a non-HF technique, touch starting or 'lift arc', can be used. The
electrode can be short circuited to the workpiece, but the current will only flow
when the electrode is lifted off the surface. There is, therefore, little risk of the
electrode fusing to the workpiece surface and forming tungsten inclusions in the
weld metal. For high quality applications, using HF is preferred.
DC power source
DC power produces a concentrated arc with most of the heat in the workpiece, so
this power source is generally used for welding. However, the arc with its cathode
roots on the electrode (DC electrode negative polarity), results in little cleaning of
the workpiece surface. Care must be taken to clean the surface prior to welding and
to ensure that there is an efficient gas shield.
Transistor and inverter power sources are being used increasingly for TIG welding.
The advantages are:

the smaller size makes them easily transported
arc ignition is easier
special operating features, e.g. current pulsing, are readily included
the output can be pre-programmed for mechanised operations
The greater stability of these power sources allows very low currents to be used
particularly for micro-TIG welding and largely replaced the plasma process for micro-
welding operations.
AC power source
For materials such as aluminium, which has a tenacious oxide film on the surface, AC
power must be employed. By switching between positive and negative polarity, the
periods of electrode positive will remove the oxide and clean the surface.
The figure shows current and voltage waveforms for (sine wave) AC TIG welding.
Disadvantages of conventional, sine wave AC compared with DC are:
the arc is more diffuse
HF is required to reignite the arc at
each current reversal
excessive heating of the electrode
makes it impossible to maintain a
tapered point and the end becomes
Square wave AC, or switched DC, power
sources are particularly attractive for
welding aluminium.
By switching between polarities, arc
reignition is made easier so that the HF can
be reduced or eliminated. The ability to
imbalance the waveform to vary the
proportion of positive to negative polarity is important by determining the relative
amount of heat generated in the workpiece and the electrode.
To weld the root run, the power source is operated with the greater amount of
positive polarity to put the maximum heat into the workpiece.
For filler runs a greater proportion of negative polarity should be used to minimise
heating of the electrode. By using 90% negative polarity, it is possible to maintain
a pointed electrode. A balanced position (50% electrode positive and negative
polarities) is preferable for welding heavily oxidised aluminium.
There is a wide range of torch designs for welding, according to the application.
Designs which have the on/off switch and current control in the handle are often
preferred to foot controls. Specialised torches are available for mechanised
applications, e.g. orbital and bore welding of pipes.

For DC current, the electrode is tungsten with between 2 and 5% thoria to aid arc
initiation. The electrode tip is ground to an angle of 600 to 900 for manual welding,
irrespective of the electrode diameter. For mechanised applications as the tip angle
determines the shape of the arc and influences the penetration profile of the weld
pool, attention must be paid to consistency in grinding the tip and checking its
condition between welds.
For AC current, the electrode is either pure tungsten or tungsten with a small
amount (up to 0.5%) of zirconia to aid arc reignition and to reduce electrode
erosion. The tip normally assumes a spherical profile due to the heat generated in
the electrode during the electrode positive half cycle.
Gas shielding
A gas lens should be fitted within the torch nozzle, to ensure laminar gas flow. This
will improve gas protection for sensitive welding operations like welding vertical,
corner and edge joints and on curved surfaces.
Backing system
When welding high integrity components, a shielding gas is used to protect the
underside of the weld pool and weld bead from oxidation. To reduce the amount of
gas consumed, a localised gas shroud for sheet, dams or plugs for tubular
components is used. As little as 5% air can result in a poor weld bead profile and
may reduce corrosion resistance in materials like stainless steel. With gas backing
systems in pipe welding, pre-weld purge time depends on the diameter and length of
the pipe. The flow rate/purge time is set to ensure at least five volume changes
before welding.
Stick on tapes and ceramic backing bars are also used to protect and support the
weld bead. In manual stainless steel welding, a flux-cored wire instead of a solid
wire can be used in the root run. This protects the underbead from oxidation
without the need for gas backing.
A pre-placed insert can be used to improve the uniformity of the root penetration. Its
main use is to prevent suck-back in an autogenous weld, especially in the overhead
position. The use of an insert does not make welding any easier and skill is still
required to avoid problems of incomplete root fusion and uneven root penetration.
Protective equipment
A slightly darker glass should be used in the head or hand shield than that used for
MMA welding.

Recommended shade number of filter for TIG welding:
Shade number Welding current A
9 less than 20
10 20 to 40
11 40 to 100
12 100 to 175
13 175 to 250
14 250 to 400

The article was prepared by Bill Lucas.
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