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The electric arc

An electric arc is formed when an electric current passes between two electrodes
separated by a short distance from each other. In arc welding one electrode is
the welding rod or wire, while the other is the metal to be welded . The electrode
and plate are connected to the supply, one to the + ve pole and one to the ve
pole. The arc is started by momentarily touching the electrode on to the plate
and then withdrawing it to about 3 to 4 mm from the plate. When the electrode
touches the plate, a current flows, and as it is withdrawn from the plate the
current continues to flow in the form of a ' spark' across the very small gap first
formed. This causes the air gap to become ionized or made conducting, and as a
result the current is able to flow across the gap, even when it is quite wide, in the
form of an arc. The electrode must always be touched on to the plate before the
arc can be started, since the smallest air gap will not conduct a current (at the
voltages used in welding) unless the air gap is first ionized or made conducting.
The arc is generated by electrons (small negatively charged particles) flowing
from the - ve to the + ve pole and the electrical energy is changed in the arc into
heat and light. Approximately two-thirds of the heat is developed near the + ve
pole, which burns into the form of a crater, the temperature near the crater
being about 6000-7000C, while the remaining third is developed near to the
ve pole. As a result an electrode connected to the + pole will burn away 50%
faster than if connected to the - ve pole. For this reason it is usual to connect
medium-coated electrodes and bare rods to the ve pole, so that they will not
burn away too quickly. Heavily coated rods are connected to the +ve pole
because, due to the extra heat required to melt the heavy coating, they burn
more slowly than the other types of rods when carrying the same current. The
thicker the electrode used, the more heat is required to melt it, and thus the
more current is required. The welding current may vary from 20 to 600 A in
manual metal arc welding.

Types of Welding Currents The three different types of current used for
welding are alternating current (AC), direct-current electrode negative (DCEN),
and directcurrent electrode positive (DCEP). The terms DCEN and DCEP have
replaced the former terms direct-current straight polarity (DCSP) and directcurrent reverse polarity (DCRP). DCEN and DCSP are the same currents, and
DCEP and DCRP are the same currents. Some electrodes can be used with only
one type of current. Others can be used with two or more types of current. Each
welding current has a different effect on the weld.
In direct-current electrode negative, the electrode is negative, and the work is
positive, Figure 3-6. The electrons are leaving the electrode and traveling
across the arc to the surface of the metal being welded. This results in
approximately one-third of the welding heat on the electrode and two-thirds on
the metal being welded.

Consequently, DCSP results in deep penetrating, narrow welds, but with higher
workpiece heat input.
DCEN welding current produces a high electrode melting rate.
In direct-current electrode positive, the electrode is positive, and the work is
negative, Figure 3-7. The electrons are leaving the surface of the metal being
welded and traveling across the arc to the electrode. This results in
approximately two-thirds of the welding heat on the electrode and one-third on
the metal being welded.
In DCRP, on the other hand, the heating effect of the electrons is on the tungsten
electrode rather than on the workpiece. Consequently, larger watercooled
electrode holders are required, shallow welds are produced, and workpiece heat
input can be kept low. This operating mode is good for welding thin sections or
heat-sensitive metals and alloys. This mode also results in a scrubbing action on
the workpiece by the large positive ions that strike its surface, removing oxide
and cleaning the surface. This mode is thus preferred for welding metals and
alloys that oxidize easily, such as aluminum or magnesium.
The DCSP mode is much more common with nonconsumable electrode arc
processes than the DCRP mode.
In alternating current, the electrons change direction every 1/120 of a second so
that the electrode and work alternate from anode to cathode, Figure 3-8. The
positive side of an electrode arc is called the anode, and the negative side is
called the cathode. The rapid reversal of the current flow causes the welding
heat to be evenly distributed on both the work and the electrodethat is, half on
the work and half on the electrode. The even heating gives the weld bead a
balance between penetration and buildup, Figure 3-9.
Arc blow
We have seen that whenever a current flows in a conductor a magnetic field is
formed around the conductor. Since the arc stream is also a flow of current, it
would be expected that a magnetic field would exist around it, and that this is so
can be shown by bringing a magnet near the arc. It is seen that the arc is blown
to one side by the magnet, due to the interaction of its field with that of the
magnet (just as two wires carrying a current will attract each other if the current
flows in the same direction in each, or repel if the currents are in opposite
directions), and the arc may even be extinguished if the field due to the magnet
is strong enough. When welding, particularly with d.c, it is sometimes found that
the arc tends to wander and becomes rather uncontrollable, as though it was
being blown to and fro. This is known as arc blow and is experienced most when
using currents above 200 or below 40 A, though it may be quite troublesome,
especially when welding in corners, in between this range. It is due to the

interaction of the magnetic field of the arc stream with the magnetic fields set up
by the currents in the metal of the work or supply cables.
At the conclusion of a weld small particles or globules of metal may sometimes
be observed scattered around the vicinity of the weld along its length. This is
known as 'spatter' and may occur through:
(1) Arc blow making the arc uncontrollable.
(2) The use of too long an arc or too high an arc voltage.
(3) The use of an excessive current.
The latter is the most frequent cause. Spatter may also be caused by bubbles of
gas becoming entrapped in the molten globules of metal, expanding with great
violence and projecting the small drops of metal outside the arc stream, or by
the magnetic pinch effect, by the magnetic fields set up, and thus the globules of
metal getting projected outside the arc stream.
Spatter can be reduced by controlling the arc correctly, by varying current and
voltage, and by preventing arc blow.
Open Circuit Voltage
Open circuit voltage is the voltage at the electrode before striking an arc (with no
current being drawn). The open circuit voltage is much like the higher surge of
pressure you might observe when a water hose nozzle is first opened, Figure 311A and B. It is easy to see that the

initial pressure from the garden hose was higher than the pressure of the
continuous flow of water. The open circuit voltage is usually between 50 V and 80
V. The higher the open circuit voltage, the easier it is to strike an arc because of
the initial higher voltage pressure.
Operating Voltage
Operating, welding, or closed circuit voltage is the voltage at the arc during
welding. Operating voltage is much like the water pressure observed as the
water hose is being used, Figure 3-11C. The operating voltage will vary with arc
length, type of electrode being used, and type of current, and polarity. The
welding voltage will be between 17 V and 40 V.
Arc characteristics
When the arc operates in a stable manner , the voltage and current are related.
It can be seen from the following graph that the arc doesnot follow ohms law.

The arc voltage varies only slightly over a widw range of currents.
The slope of the curve depends on

Metals involved
Arc atmosphere
Arc length

Volt- Ampere Characteristics for Welding

There are two methods of automatic arc control:
(1) Drooping characteristic or controlled arc (constant current, CC).
(2) Constant voltage or potential, known as the self-adjusting arc(CV).
(1) Drooping characteristic or controlled arc (constant current, CC).
Let us consider arc characteristics for four arc lengths between tungsten and
copper electrodes in argon atmosphere.

From this ata we can plot a relation between arc-length and arc-voltage .
Suppose a welder uses GTA welding process to weld copper sheets and makes a
current setting of 150A. The arc-characteristics show that for a 2mm arc to be
operating stable , the voltage should be 15V. This value of arc voltage will be
maintained as long as the power source delivers 150A and the welder mai tains
an arc length of 2mm. This is practically not feasible during manual welding
operation as the arc length may change , and consequently the voltage will rise
or fall accordingly and the operating point will ,therfore shift from one
chracteristics to another. For arc to remain stable , the power supply unit must
allow the voltage to vary while keeping the current subsatntially constant. Power
sources of this type volt ampere output are known as drooping
characteristic units or constant current machines.

If the arc characteristics and power-source characteristics are plotted on one

graph their intersection gives the working voltage and current. Let us consider
the example of welding copper with GTAW process using 150A ,15V and 2mm
arc length. If the arc length changes to 3mm, the voltage increases to 16.5 V but
current falls to 143 A. ( Power input increased to + 4.8%) . Conversely if the arc
length is decreased to 1 mm the voltage falls to 13.3V and current increases to
156A.(Power input reduced by - 7.8%). As the manual arc welder makes a weld ,
as a result of hand movements the power input remains within 8 % of the preset

In SMAW process the situation is similar with an additional requirement on the

part of the welder to match the electrode feed rate with the burn-off rate. So in
manual metal arc welding (SMAW) the consistancy of weld depends on the skill of
the operator in judging the arc length and adjusting the electrode feed rate.
Thus, for a consumable electrode arc welding process, electrode melting or burnoff rate and metal deposition rate would remain fairly constant with slight
changes in arc length. So a less skilled welder can do do good welding.
Constant current power sources are routinely used for manual SMAW and GTAW.
(2) Constant voltage or potential, known as the self-adjusting arc(CV).
CV power supplies are attractive for constantly fed continuous electrode
processes such as GMAW, FCAW, or SAW, to maintain near-constant arc length.
Here the situation is different , the voltage setting of the power source and not
the welder controls the arc length.
In GMAW , the feed wire diameter is usually very small and the burn-off rates are
far higher than in SMAW ,and they vary much more with current. A small
variation in current causes signifivant changes in burn-off rate . Thus we should
have a power source which can accomodate these large changes in the burn-off
rates. For a small change in voltage , there should be a large change in current.
These power sources have a flat volt ampere characteristics.

Consider an arc operating at 300A ,35V (point A in figure) .If the arc length
increases voltage rises to point B. This causes significant decrease in current,
giving lower burn-off rate. Arc length is immediatly adjusted as the electrode tip
in this situation will approach weld pool ,and the arc length shortens. When this
happens the current increases and the burn-off matches with wire feed rate. The
system returns to equilibrium.
Conversely , if the arc shortens , the voltage falls , the current rises , burn-off
rate increases , wire melts faster than it is being fed into the area , arc length
increases continously till it reaches the preset value. This is called selfadjustment of the arc.
Types of Power Sources
Two types of electrical devices can be used to produce the low-voltage, highamperage current combination that arc welding requires. One type uses electric
motors or internal combustion engines to drive alternators or generators. The
other type uses step-down transformers. Because transformer-type welding
machines are quieter, are more energy efficient, require less maintenance, and
are less expensive, they are now the industry standards. However, enginepowered generators are still widely used for portable welding.
Transformer-Type Welding Machines A welding transformer uses the
alternating current (AC) supplied to the welding shop at a high voltage to
produce the low voltage welding power. The heart of these welders is the stepdown transformer. All transformers have the following three major components:

Primary coilthe winding attached to the incoming electrical power

Secondary coilthe winding that has the electrical current induced and is
connected to the welding lead and work leads
Coremade of laminated sheets of steel and used to concentrate the
magnetic field produced in the primary winding into the secondary winding,

As electrons flow through a wire, they produce a magnetic field around the wire.
If the wire is wound into a coil, the weak magnetic field of each wire is
concentrated to produce a much stronger central magnetic force. Because the
current being used is alternating or reversing each 1/120 of a second, the
magnetic field is constantly being built and allowed to collapse. By placing a
second or secondary winding of wire in the magnetic field produced by the first
or primary winding, a current will be induced in the secondary winding. The
placing of an iron core in the center of these coils will increase the concentration
of the magnetic field, Figure 3-17.

A transformer with more turns of wire in the primary winding than in the
secondary winding is known as a step-down transformer. A step-down
transformer takes a high-voltage, low-amperage current and changes it into a
low-voltage, high-amperage current. Except for some power lost by heat within a
transformer, the power (watts) into a transformer equals the power (watts) out
because the volts and amperes are mutually increased and decreased.
A transformer welder is a step-down transformer. It takes the high line voltage
(110 V, 220 V, 440 V, etc.) and low-amperage current (30 A, 50 A, 60 A, etc.) and
changes it into 17 V to 45 V at 190 A to 590 A.
Generator- and Alternator- Type Welders
Generators and alternators both produce welding electricity from a mechanical
power source. Both devices have an armature that rotates and a stator that is
stationary. As a wire moves through a magnetic force field, electrons in the wire
are made to move, producing electricity.
In an alternator, magnetic lines of force rotate inside a coil of wire, Figure 3-27.
An alternator can produce AC only. In a generator, a coil of wire rotates inside a
magnetic field. A generator produces DC. It is possible for alternators to use
diodes to change the AC to DC for welding. In generators, the welding current is
produced on the armature and is picked up with brushes, Figure 3-28. In
alternators, the welding current is produced on the stator, and only the small
current for the electromagnetic force field goes across the brushes. Therefore,
the brushes in an alternator are smaller and last longer. Alternators can be
smaller in size and lighter in weight than generators and still produce the same
amount of power.

Engine-driven generators and alternators may run at the welding speed all the
time, or they may have an option that reduces their speed to an idle when
welding stops. This option saves fuel and reduces wear on the welding machine.
To strike an arc when using this type of welder, stick the electrode to the work for
a second. When you hear the welding machine (welder) pick up speed, remove
the electrode from the work and strike an arc. In general, the voltage and
amperage are too low to start a weld, so shorting the electrode to the work
should not cause the electrode to stick. A timer can be set to control the length
of time that the welder maintains speed after the arc is broken. The time should
be set long enough to change electrodes without losing speed. Portable welders
often have 110-volt or 220-volt plug outlets, which can be used to run grinders,
drills, lights, and other equipment. The power provided may be AC or DC. If DC is
provided, only equipment with brush-type motors or tungsten lightbulbs can be

Converting AC to DC
Alternating welding current can be converted to direct current by using a series
of rectifiers. A rectifier allows current to flow in one direction only.
If one rectifier is added, the welding power appears as shown in Figure 3-31. It
would be difficult to weld with pulsating power such as this. A series of rectifiers,
known as a bridge rectifier, can modify the alternating current so that it appears
as shown in Figure 3-32.
Rectifiers become hot as they change AC to DC. They must be attached to a heat
sink and cooled by having air blown over them. The heat produced by a rectifier
reduces the power efficiency of the welding machine. Notice that at the same
dial settings for AC and DC, the DC is at a lower amperage. The difference in
amperage (power) is due to heat lost in the rectifiers. The loss in power makes
operation with AC more efficient and less expensive compared to DC.
Duty Cycle
Welding machines produce internal heat at the same time they produce the
welding current. Except for automatic welding machines, welders are rarely used
every minute for long periods of time. The welder must take time to change
electrodes, change positions, or change parts. Shielded metal arc welding never
continues for long periods of time.
The duty cycle is the percentage of time a welding machine can be used
continuously. A 60% duty cycle means that out of any 10 minutes, the machine
can be used for a total of 6 minutes at the maximum rated current. When
providing power at this level, it must be cooled off for 4 minutes out of every 10
minutes. The duty cycle increases as the amperage is lowered and decreases for
higher amperages. Most welding machines weld at a 60% rate or less. Therefore,

most manufacturers list the amperage rating for a 60% duty cycle on the
nameplate that is attached to the machine.
Heating and cooling are essential and integral components of almost all welding
processes and tend to produce metallurgical changes that are often undesirable.
In fusion welding, the heat is sufficient to melt some of the base metal, and this
is often followed by a rapid cooling. Thermal effects tend to be most pronounced
for this type of welding, but they also exist to a lesser degree in processes where
the heatingcooling cycle is less severe. If the thermal effects are properly
considered, adverse results can usually be avoided or minimized, and excellent
service performance can be obtained. If they are overlooked, however, the
results can be disastrous.
In fusion welding, a pool of molten metal is created, with the molten metal
coming from either the parent plate alone (autogenous welding) or a mixture
of parent and filler material.Figure 30-10 shows a butt weld between plates of
material A and material B. A backing strip of material C is used with filler metal
of material D. In this situation, the molten pool is actually a complex alloy of all
four materials.The molten material is held in place by a metal mold formed by
the surrounding solids. Since the molten pool is usually small compared to the
surrounding metal, fusion welding can often be viewed as a small metal casting
in a large metal mold.The resultant structure and its properties can be best
understood by first analyzing the casting and then considering the effects of the
associated heat on the adjacent base material.

The pool of molten metal created by fusion welding is prone to all of the
problems and defects associated with metal casting, such as gas porosity,
inclusions, blowholes, cracks, and shrinkage. Since the amount of molten metal
is usually small compared to the total mass of the workpiece, rapid solidification
and rapid cooling of the solidified metal are quite common. Associated with these
conditions may be the entrapment of dissolved gases, chemical segregation,
grain size variation, grain shape problems, and orientation effects.
Adjacent to the fusion zone, and wholly within the base material, is the everpresent and generally undesirable heat-affected zone (HAZ). In this region,

the parent metal has not melted but has been subjected to elevated
temperatures for a brief period of time. Since the temperature and its duration
vary widely with location, fusion welding might be more appropriately described
as a metal casting in a metal mold, coupled with an abnormal and widely
varying heat treatment.The adjacent metal may experience sufficient heat to
bring about structure and property changes, such as phase transformations,
recrystallization, grain growth, precipitation or precipitate coarsening,
embrittlement, or even cracking.The variation in thermal history can produce a
variety of microstructures and a range of properties. In steels, the structures can
range from hard, brittle martensite all the way through coarse pearlite and
Because of its altered structure, the heat-affected zone may no longer possess
the desirable properties of the parent material, and since it was not melted, it
cannot assume the properties of the solidified weld metal. Consequently, this is
often the weakest area in the as-welded joint. Except where there are obvious
defects in the weld deposit, most welding failures originate in the heat-affected
zone.This region extends outward from the weld to the location where the base
metal has experienced too little heat to be affected or altered by the welding
process. Figure 30-13 presents a schematic of a fusion weld in steel, using
standard terminology for the various regions and interfaces. Part of the heataffected zone has been heated above the A1 transformation temperature and
could assume a totally new structure through phase transformation.The lower
temperature portion of the heat-affected zone (peak temperatures below the A1
value) can experience diffusion-induced changes within the original structure.

Types of joints
There are five basic types of joints for bringing two parts together for joining. The
five joint types are not limited to welding; they apply to otherjoining and
fastening techniques as well.

With reference to Figure, the five joint types can be defined as follows:
(a) Butt joint : In this joint type, the parts lie in the same plane and are joined at
their edges.
(b) Corner joint : The parts in a corner joint form a right angle and are joined at
the corner of the angle.
(c) Lap joint : This joint type consists of two overlapping parts.
(d) Tee joint : In the tee joint, one part is perpendicular to the other in the
approximate shape of the letter T.
(e) Edgejoint : The parts in an edge joint are parallel with at least one of their
edges in common, and the joint is made at the common edge(s).
Types of Welds
Each of the preceding joints can be made by welding. It is appropriate to
distinguish between the joint type and the way in which it is welded-the weld
type. Differences among weld types are in geometry (joint type} and welding

A fillet weldis used to fill in the edges of plates created by corner, lap, and
teejoints, as in Figure 30.3. Filler metal is used to provide a cross section
approximately the shape of 'a right triangle. It is the most common weld type in
arc and oxyfuel welding because it
requires minimum edge preparation-the basic square edges of the parts are
used. Fillet
welds can be single or double (i.e., welded on one side or both) and can be
or intermittent (i.e., welded along the entire length of the joint or with unwelded
along the length).