Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) is a wire-fed process like gas metal arc welding (GMAW/MIG). However, what makes FCAW a unique process is the filler metal. FCAW uses a tubular wire that generates slag during welding. While removing the slag after welding can be inconvenient, the slag is critical for the process to achieve good weld quality and provide unique benefits compared to MIG and other welding processes.
When it is time to select a flux-cored wire for your application, you may find that there is an extensive list of wires to choose from. Selecting the best wire—one that is easy-to-use and produces a high-quality weld deposit with suitable mechanical and chemical properties—requires a basic understanding of the basic wire types and capabilities.
Primary FCAW Wire Types: Self-Shielded and Gas-Shielded
In addition to producing a slag during welding that helps to remove base metal impurities, flux-cored wires generate gases that serve to displace the atmosphere around the molten weld metal. This displacement protects the weld metal from atmospheric gases such as oxygen and nitrogen that can lead to porosity or harm mechanical properties.
Self-Shielded Flux Cored Welding (FCAW-S)
Self-shielded flux-cored wires produce sufficient gaseous shielding, so no assistance (external shielding gas) is required. Self-shielded wires are suitable even in breezy conditions, such as outdoor construction and repairs. Remember that using these wires indoors can be challenging from an environmental health and safety perspective, even when strong ventilation is used.
Some self-shielded wires offer sufficient weld toughness—an ability to absorb energy before fracture—that makes them well-suited for structural fabrication in seismic areas and demand-critical welds on bridges and similar structures.
Of course, flux-cored wires also exist for “light-duty” applications around the house, garage, or farm and ranch. While these wires may not be as tough, they often provide more-than-adequate mechanical properties and are easier to use and available in diameters that complement commercial and light-industrial equipment. In addition to the local welding supply, it is often possible to find these wires at hardware and farm supply stores.
Gas-Shielded Flux Cored (FCAW-G)
Not all flux-cored wires are self-shielded, meaning that an external shielding gas (supplied in cylinders similar to those used when MIG welding) is required to achieve acceptable weld quality; these gas-shielded wires are not capable of providing sufficient atmospheric displacement on their own. The process using these wires is often abbreviated as FCAW-G (for gas-shielded).
The trade-off to needed external shielding gas is that the gas-shielded wires are often much more user friendly than the self-shielded wires while still providing improved tolerance to poor base metal conditions—rust, weldable primer, and mill scale—than MIG welding. FCAW-G is especially popular in the railcar, shipbuilding, and heavy equipment fabrication industries.
Common shielding gases for gas-shielded include 100% carbon dioxide and 75% argon/25% carbon dioxide. 100% carbon dioxide is a lower-cost option that typically offers improved base metal penetration, while the argon/carbon dioxide shielding gases usually provide a smoother arc and reduced weld spatter.
In-Position & All-Position Flux Cored Wires
In certain applications, it is possible to position the work (by hand, sometimes using equipment) so that the weld joint is roughly parallel with the ground. This is known as welding “in position.” Since the effect of gravity is not as detrimental, it is often possible to weld at higher amperages. This translates to improved deposition rates, welding travel speeds, and in many cases, improved welding productivity.
Some flux-cored wires are limited to welding in position only. The slag of these wires tends to freeze slower than those wires that are capable of welding in the flat, horizontal, vertical, and overhead positions, but a slow freezing slag often provides a very smooth weld bead contour and good penetration. Typically, these “flat and horizontal only” wires are available in larger diameters to allow the use of very high currents. A 3/32” wire, for example, is typically used between 350 and 500 amps!
If work cannot be positioned, resulting in weld joints in the vertical and overhead positions, an “all-position” flux cored wire must be used. Here, the slag is designed to freeze quickly to support the molten metal and prevent it from dripping or sagging when reasonable welding parameters are used.
Weld Deposit Composition: So Many FCAW Wires!
Some flux-cored wires are suitable for welding lower-strength carbon steels. In contrast, others are designed for welding higher-strength low alloy (HSLA) steels that derive strength and toughness from elements such as nickel, chromium, and molybdenum, among others. Specialty wire manufacturers even make flux-cored wires designed for welding stainless steels, exotic nickel-based alloys, and tool steel compositions.
Some available alloys are even designed for surfacing instead of joining so that exposed areas of base metals are more abrasion or impact resistant.
Flux-cored arc welding is an expansive process with many wire types: gas-shielded, self-shielded, all-position, in-position, carbon steel, HSLA steel, stainless steel, and more. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of flux-cored wires in the welding marketplace, consider turning to AWS or CWB filler metal specifications. Often, these technical documents have electrode classification systems that help you compare products and descriptions of the intended uses of certain wire classifications.
If you’d prefer to save the reading for another time, don’t hesitate to contact Red-D-Arc. We are a knowledgeable team who can rent you the best equipment and advise on the optimal consumables—such as flux-cored wire—you will need for your flux-cored welding application.
The welding equipment used in pipeline welding is highly varied, as different types of pipelines require different welding techniques. Due to the specific challenges posed by this type of welding and its crucial role in global infrastructure and economy, pipeline welding is considered a distinct profession within the welding industry. Consequently, it necessitates the use of a wide range of specialized tools and equipment to facilitate the safe and efficient joining and repair of pipelines.
Pipeline Welding Challenges
Pipelines are like the veins of our planet, and each region has its own pipeline structures transporting natural gas, oil, water, and other vital infrastructure. Like veins in our bodies, pipelines are scattered everywhere. And very often, they are laid in uninhabited terrain with harsh environments, which makes a pipeline welder’s job a challenge on its own.
Any pipeline failure can lead to dramatic economic and environmental consequences. So, weld quality is crucial for pipeline integrity and environmental safety. Pipe welding is sometimes done manually but often employs automated welding equipment to improve weld quality.
Unlike horizontal plate welding, pipe welding requires making circumferential welds around the joint line. The welding process is far more challenging because you must keep the torch/electrode angle consistent as you travel along the joint. In addition, operators must reposition themselves as they travel around the pipe, which takes time and can put welders in uncomfortable welding positions out in the field. Welder fatigue, harsh environmental conditions, the challenge of maintaining the same arc travel angle, keeping an even joint gap, and many other challenges make pipe welding a complex job that requires specialized welding equipment.
Different Types Of Pipelines
The oil and gas industry primarily relies on pipelines for gathering, processing, and distribution. However, many different pipeline types are involved in these processes, and they all have unique challenges during their production.
There are five main types of pipelines:
- Gathering Pipelines
- Transmission Pipelines
- Distribution Pipelines
- Feeder Pipelines
These pipelines vary in size, primary material, internal pressures, and the types of chemicals and aggressive agents the inside and outside of the pipes are exposed to. As a result, there are varying welding needs depending on the pipeline type you are working with. For example, joining a service distribution pipeline made of copper with a pressure of 6 psi has completely different welding equipment requirements than joining a carbon steel transmission pipeline of up to 42-in diameter with pressures up to 1,200 psi.
Pipeline Welding Equipment
Pipeline welding equipment is highly diverse and specialized for welding pipes of various materials and diameters. In addition, many advanced automated pipe welding solutions exist for different pipe materials and sizes. While manual pipe welding plays a significant role in the pipeline industry, automated equipment provides consistent arc manipulation patterns, speed, voltage, amperage, and work angles.
Besides the welding equipment, joining pipes also requires external and internal clamps, pipe stands, pipe lifting devices, pipe bending equipment, weld testing machines, and various auxiliary equipment. The need for these additional tools depends on the pipeline types and the location where the pipes are joined.
Welders also need to use personal protective equipment (PPE). Besides welding apparel, pipe welders use pancake-style welding helmets to prevent backlight exposure and ensure maximum eye protection from arc radiation, sparks, and spatter. In addition, pancake-style welding helmets are lighter than standard flip-up welding hoods, which reduces fatigue during days with extended hours under the hood.
Welding Power Sources
While a lot of the manual pipe welding is done with the well known E6010 and E7018 stick welding electrodes, the TIG, MIG, and Flux-cored welding processes are also often applied, depending on the pipeline type, material, pipe diameter, and other variables.
Joining pipelines in remote locations is not only challenging for your welding crew but for your equipment as well. Besides exceptional arc stability and built-in features, your welding power source must be made to perform in harsh environments.
For example, the diesel-powered Big Blue Air Pak from Miller is designed for heavy industrial applications and built to be one of the most reliable high-output welders in the world. This powerful unit can output 500A at 100% duty cycle or 600A at 60% duty cycle, allowing your welders to join the thickest of pipes efficiently and with little to no downtime. Its “Arc-Drive” automatically enhances stick welding, especially when welding pipe, by improving arc stability and preventing it from going out. Besides excellent stick welding capabilities, the Big Blue Air Pak includes MIG, FCAW, DC TIG, and submerged arc welding processes. As a result, you can join pipes in the most optimal way for your current job.
Another option is to use dual-output diesel-powered welders like the Dual Maverick 200/200X from Lincoln Electric. This workhorse of a welder can output up to 450A in a single mode or up to 225A in dual mode — it combines two welding machines into one, allowing your pipe welders to work simultaneously on the same pipe. Besides its support for MIG, DC TIG, and stick welding, it also supports arc gouging at up to 450A, allowing you to gouge bad welds quickly. In addition, its Downhill Pipe (CC) mode allows your operators to weld the pipes “downhill” with a more forceful digging arc during the root and hot passes and a softer arc when “stacking the iron” during the fill and cap passes.
Pipe Bevelers and Cutters
Cutting and beveling the pipe remains one of the most challenging aspects of pipe preparation. No matter how skilled your operators are, achieving a consistent bevel angle on the pipe is nearly impossible when manually severing with the torch. On the other hand, pipe fit-up and cut precision must be almost perfect for maximum joint quality and for the weld to pass the inspection.
Pipe bevelers and cutters allow you to accurately prepare the pipe joint quickly and consistently. Depending on the system, they are mounted inside or outside the pipe. An operator can easily position the beveler or a cutter in about five minutes or less and achieve clean cuts and bevel angles, making pipe welding far easier and with a lower chance of weld failure.
Pipe Heating Equipment
Preheating and post-welding heat treatment are often crucial to establishing a sound weld. Pipes made from various high-strength steel grades and alloys have specific preheating temperatures and often must undergo a process of stress relieving through post-welding heat treatment. In addition, the interpass temperature between each consecutive weld is usually provided in the welding specification sheet.
If the pipe joint is not appropriately preheated or the interpass temperature is incorrect, there are higher chances of weld cracking due to brittleness and hydrogen diffusion. Therefore, pipe heating equipment is vital for successful pipe joining.
There are various pipe heating technologies on the market, but most of them are based on induction heating, open flame heating, and ceramic resistance pads. High-quality systems not only provide sufficient pipe heating, but can also log the data and offer very accurate and uniform pipe heating. Unlike traditional open flame heating systems, induction heating systems like the Miller ProHeat 35 don’t cause water vapor condensation and won’t contribute to additional hydrogen buildup in the weld.
Rent Or Lease Pipe Welding Equipment From Red-D-Arc
Pipeline welding is a very diverse field and depending on the types of pipes you need to join, your equipment selection can vary significantly. For example, if you are a fabricator who joins pipes in the shop for your client, you may require completely different equipment than a contractor working on large transmission pipelines in the open and across the states.
Red-D-Arc has a massive fleet of pipeline welding equipment at your disposal. You can rent the necessary tools and avoid purchasing, storage, and maintenance costs. Investing in heavy-duty pipe welding equipment is costly and often doesn’t make financial sense. Many contractors move from job to job. So, it’s more cost-effective to rent and scale in and out with your equipment on an “as-needed basis.”
Contact us today, and our experienced team will help you determine the needed equipment based on the job at hand. Red-D-Arc has over 60,000 units of high-end equipment strategically placed across North America, and we can provide our tools to your job site, regardless of the location and equipment requirements.
Welding is a complex and varied practice, with everything from hobby-level art welding to industrial welding, shipbuilding, and even underwater welding available to skilled tradespeople.
The welding method uses high heat and electric currents, produces spatters of molten metal, and can even cause open flames. While proper welding procedures can minimize many of these risks, there’s always the potential for danger, so adequate safety equipment is essential.
A welding blanket is one piece of safety equipment that can be essential to keep on hand. What is a welding blanket, what is it used for, and what considerations should you give to your selection? Read on to learn more.
What Is a Welding Blanket?
A welding blanket is a large sheet of material the size, shape, and flexibility of a blanket you might put on your bed at home. Unlike a traditional blanket, however, a welding blanket is thick, heavy, and made of heat-resistant, flame-resistant materials, such as fiberglass.
When welding or performing related tasks like plasma cutting, grinding or sandblasting, your work can spray gobbets of hot metal away from a weld pool or cutting surface. These drops of hot metal can be anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 degrees, capable of lighting other materials on fire, burning the operator, and causing all kinds of damage.
The operator will typically be protected by safety equipment such as heavy-duty gloves, a face shield, and a thick jacket that resists burns.
What about the rest of the environment? What if you’re welding in an area with flammable floor surfaces, furniture nearby, a hazardous materials cabinet, or other items nearby that can’t easily be moved but need protection from fire?
A welding blanket protects the environment around the welding operation from the spatter and heat of welding. The blanket can be laid on the floor to protect it from contact with spatter, draped over items like furniture, gas tanks, or other items that need to be protected, or hung up like a curtain to segment off the welding area from the rest of a workshop.
What’s the Difference Between a Welding Blanket and a Fire Blanket?
You may have heard of a fire blanket and even consider it roughly the same.
After all, a welding blanket and a fire blanket are thick and fire-resistant; are they the same?
A welding blanket is a protective screen that stops sparks and spattered molten metal from burning or igniting other surfaces.
A fire blanket is similar and can be used for the same purpose. However, a fire blanket is often used as an emergency tool to smother and extinguish fires that ignite in a disaster. Cutting off a supply of oxygen to a fire douses itself because it cannot continue to burn; this is especially relevant in cases where fires of many different types can occur, and specific fire extinguishers might not be able to extinguish every kind of fire. Fire blankets are suitable for small-scale fires, often in the home, but can also be used as part of an emergency kit in a workshop.
So: a fire blanket can be used as a preventative or a reactive item; a welding blanket is generally only used as a preventive item.
Can you use a welding blanket as a fire blanket or vice versa? Truthfully, only in one direction. Fire blankets are meant to be single-use blankets to extinguish a fire and be discarded. Welding blankets can serve this purpose. Conversely, a fire blanket is not generally heat-resistant enough to be used as a welding blanket.
What Are Welding Blankets Made Of?
One of the most significant considerations when looking into welding blankets is the materials it is made out of; different materials have different levels of durability, fire resistance, material properties, and safety.
For example, one of the best materials for a welding blanket was highly fire-resistant, soft and supple enough to be woven into the fabric, and extremely easy to work with.
However, over time, it was discovered that the material shed extremely cancerous fibers; it is asbestos, and it has since been banned in virtually every situation. Old welding blankets
may still use asbestos and can be floating around in older shops, so be careful to examine any safety equipment you use and eliminate the ones that can cause health issues.
Other materials that can be used to make a welding blanket include:
- Leather. Leather is safe for softer materials (like wood and human skin), can be fire-resistant, and can be very protective against certain kinds of damage. However, leather is also very expensive, quite heavy, deforms under stress, and can be damaged by oils, solvents, and other chemicals.
- Carbon Felt. Felt is a fiber shredded, carbonized, and pressed into a dense material. The resulting material is resistant to temperatures up to around 1,800 degrees, is mostly safe for skin contact, and can easily be cut to size for various purposes. However, it could be more durable and must be replaced frequently.
- Fiberglass. Also known as glass wool, fiberglass has been melted and extruded into thin, flexible strands to be woven into fibers and textiles. It’s commonly used as insulation due to its heat resistance and insulative properties. However, fiberglass can irritate the skin (the glass strands can break, and tiny sharp shards embed in the skin for a pervasive itching rash), so most fiberglass is coated in something like plastic or silicone to help make it safer for the touch.
- Silica. Similar to glass, silica fabric is safer than fiberglass and has a very high level of resistance to heat shrinkage and damage. However, it’s also quite expensive, so it tends only to be used in industrial settings.
- Ceramic. Ceramics are among the most heat-resistant materials known to man while also being very lightweight and safe for humans. Making a ceramic blanket can be difficult, however, and the resulting blankets are quite expensive. As such, ceramic welding blankets are typically only seen in industrial settings where heavy-duty protection is necessary.
- Vermiculite. Vermiculite is a very useful material that expands when heated to form something with a lot of beneficial properties used in everything from gardening to industrial machinery. It’s very heat-resistant for short periods, so it is most often used for welding curtains and other vertical protection where a spark or spatter will hit, bounce off, and fall away rather than settle on the surface. Welding blankets made of vermiculite are usually made of another material that contains vermiculite woven into it.
- Other materials. Acrylics, black slag, and even aluminum fiberglass can all be used as welding blanket materials and can be found for various niche purposes.
Welding blankets may also have an external coating that helps provide further heat-resistant properties. Coatings can include silicone, neoprene, acrylics, ceramics, and graphite.
Different coatings are suitable for different purposes, some better for horizontal usage and others for vertical curtains.
Five Categories of Welding Blankets
Welding blankets can be divided into five categories based on their intended purpose.
The first category is light-duty blankets. These are meant for relatively low-temperature spatter, heat exposure, and temporary exposure for moments. They’re most useful to drape over items that need protection or hang as curtains for temporary protection around a project. However, they aren’t durable against high heat spatter and prolonged exposure, so a flying gobbet of slag can burn through them or fuse to them. They are usually meant to be used a couple of times and then replaced, as well.
The second, among the more common welding blankets, are the medium-duty blankets.
These are usually coated with a more heat-resistant material like graphite and are usually made of fiberglass.
They’ll resist temperatures up to 1,000 degrees and can resist spatter and typical heat exposure. They are, however, still mostly used in the vertical position to segment off a welding project and protect the rest of a shop or environment and are not suitable for horizontal use.
The third is the heavy-duty blankets. These are often made of vermiculite coated in other materials or woven into fiberglass or silica. They can resist temperatures up to 1,800 degrees and offer longer protection with more durability than lighter-duty blankets. They can withstand heavy spatter, lengthy exposure to heat, and droplets of molten metal, so that they can be suitable for horizontal and prolonged use.
The fourth category, which offers even more protection and long-term durability than heavy-duty blankets, is industrial blankets. These can also be larger and more resistant than other blankets and are meant to be used for an extended period without needing replacement.
The fifth and final category is special-use blankets with specific properties and purposes.
For example, some special blankets are made of very soft materials to help prevent abrading or scratching sensitive materials, and others are very insulative, so they can be used to help cool down a project slower than air exposure would.
Related but tertiary are induction heating blankets, which are used to warm up a project before welding.
What to Consider When Choosing a Welding Blanket
There is much to consider when you’re examining different welding blanket options to purchase something for your manufactory, shop, or outside project.
The four main considerations are:
- Price. Obviously, price is always a consideration. Often, the more expensive a blanket is, the more durable, long-lasting, and flexible it will be.
- Position. Most blankets are meant to be hung vertically to offer protection to everything around a project but the floor. More expensive and resistant materials are needed for horizontal usage.
- Handling. Some materials are heavy. Some are thick and stiff and difficult to move. Some are abrasive or irritating to handle. Picking the right balance between protection and usability is critical.
- Additional resistances. If you want your blanket to be resistant to chemicals, oils, water, or other materials like acids, you will have special considerations in addition to pure heat resistance.
For most welders, a fiberglass blanket will do the majority of the work necessary to protect one’s surroundings from a welding project. That, combined with proper safety, like positioning, will be plenty.
Always make sure that, even if you’re creating a protected space with curtains, you have adequate ventilation for your project. Shielding gasses and metal fumes is no joke.
How Do I Properly Care For My Welding Blanket?
Caring for your welding blanket is essential to ensuring its longevity and safety. You’ll need to perform regular maintenance on your welding blanket to do this. Here are some tips for proper care:
- Clean your welding blanket regularly. You can do this by brushing away any dirt or debris that has built up on the surface of the blanket. It’s also essential to vacuum the blanket from time to time to ensure any small particles are removed.
- Check for signs of damage. Regularly inspect your welding blanket for signs of wear and tear, such as rips, tears, or holes. If you notice any damage, you must replace the welding blanket immediately to keep your workspace safe.
- Store your welding blanket properly. When not in use, store your welding blanket in a cool, dry place away from extreme temperatures and direct sunlight. You should also ensure the blanket is not exposed to moisture or dampness.
- Regularly check for loose threads or fraying. Inspecting your welding blanket for any loose threads or fraying that can lead to further damage is essential. If you notice any signs of wear and tear, it’s best to replace the blanket.
How Do I Use a Welding Blanket Safely?
When working with any welding equipment, safety should always be the priority. Welding blankets are no different. There are certain precautions to take to ensure your safety and that of those around you when using a welding blanket.
First and foremost, be sure to wear the appropriate safety gear when working with a welding blanket, such as protective eyewear and gloves. As the sparks from your welding process can be extremely hot and potentially cause serious harm, you should also wear flame-resistant clothing and shoes. Additionally, if the area you’re welding in is extensive or you’ll be working for an extended period, consider wearing a face shield and respirator.
It is also essential to check your welding blanket for any signs of wear and tear before each use; this includes looking for holes, rips, tears, or weak spots that could compromise its effectiveness. If your welding blanket is not in good condition, replace it immediately.
When laying out your welding blanket, be sure to do so in a manner that leaves plenty of space around the welding site; this will help to protect bystanders from sparks and other hot materials. Additionally, pay attention to the type of surface the welding blanket is on; avoid wooden surfaces whenever possible, as they can easily catch fire. If you are working in an area particularly vulnerable to spark damage, consider adding extra layers of protection, such as a heavy canvas sheet or fire retardant material.
Finally, thoroughly inspect your welding blanket once you are done using it. Pay particular attention to any spots that appear burned or discolored due to contact with sparks or molten metal. If any part of your welding blanket is damaged, dispose of it immediately and replace it with a new one.
Following these simple safety measures when using a welding blanket can help ensure your welds are successful and your workspace remains safe.
Do You Need a Welding Blanket?
Maybe! A welding blanket is a protective item used to protect things like furniture, chemical storage cabinets, other equipment, vehicles, or even the floor from being burned, scorched, or spattered with molten metal.
You will need some protection, depending on what you’re doing. Sometimes, welding blankets are the appropriate kind of protection. Other times, you’re better off using an isolated shop configured to itself be resistant to welding. For example, a concrete floor may be scorched by welding, but you may not care enough to protect it. You only need to protect furniture if you have furniture within reach, and so on.
A welding blanket can be essential for shops with multiple purposes, for travel welding, and for many industrial applications. Reviewing your projects to determine if you need such protection is always a good idea.
Do you have additional questions about welding? Are you interested in renting or purchasing welding equipment? Feel free to reach out; the Red-D-Arc team is here to answer any questions you may have and help guide you toward successful welding.
Whether you need small shop tools and equipment, or full industrial turn-key solutions, we’ve got you covered.
Offshore welding equipment requirements in the oil and gas industry are different from those of a small welding shop or a large fabrication line. When working on an offshore oil rig, you want safety, integrity, durability, reliability, and versatility as prime pillars of your welding equipment.
Working with pressurized and flammable materials in an industry where every maintenance and repair interruption creates a profit bottleneck and poses a risk of devastating explosions, requires specialized equipment for all welding tasks.
Pipes and other critical infrastructure on the offshore rigs must be repaired quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, safely. And you cannot achieve this goal with subpar equipment. So, let’s discuss the offshore welding equipment requirements and see how you can benefit from proper equipment selection.
Offshore Welding Conditions
It’s not an overstatement to say that environmental conditions on offshore rigs are brutal. Extreme weather, rough seas, corrosive sea water, and powerful winds require equipment that can reliably perform in the most adverse situations. In addition, welders working on offshore platforms have to repair and install platform elements in noisy, damp, and cramped conditions with extreme weather, making all metalworking tasks more challenging than in most other industries.
Hurricanes and other extreme sea weather events are difficult, if not impossible, to predict. For example, Hurricane “Gustave” swept through the Gulf of Mexico in 2008, damaging more than 130 offshore platforms. Later that year, Hurricane “Ike” produced similar damage. Since it’s welders who repair the damage and keep rigs running smoothly, their personal protective equipment (PPE) and welding tools must be engineered to function even in challenging conditions.
Offshore Welding Equipment
The bulk of offshore welding equipment comes down to welding power sources, diesel generators, induction heating devices, fume extractors, PPE, welding consumables, filler materials, welding automation equipment, and shielding gas for arc welding processes. While you would generally see a similar list of welding equipment for most industries where welding is employed, offshore equipment must meet stringent requirements to perform reliably in harsh conditions.
Personal Protective Equipment
Welders on offshore rigs are at potential risk for electrical burns, eye damage from welding arc, health issues from toxic fumes and gases, exposure to dangerous levels of UV and IR radiation, physical injuries, frostbites, and develop hearing damage due to a noisy work environment.
Offshore welding typically requires working with high-amperage welding machines in less-than-ideal conditions using a shielded metal arc welding process (SMAW). High amperage, coupled with an arc welding process that produces a lot of sparks and welding fumes, requires adequate PPE to combat arc eye injury, like a heavy-duty welding helmet with an appropriate DIN shading level, and fire-resistant welding apparel that can withstand molten slag and metal droplets. In addition, welding respirators may be necessary, along with a welding fume extraction system.
Welding Power Sources
MIG, Flux-cored, TIG, stick, and submerged arc welding power sources for offshore welding can have up to 1500 amps of welding power, be single-process or multi-process units, and work standalone or as a part of multi-operator packs.
Welding on oil rigs means the power source might be exposed to corrosive salt water, harsh moisture-ridden winds, and possibly physical shocks, like bumps and tool hits. These machines must be built to withstand such an environment with rugged bodies made from heavy-gauge stainless steel.
Diesel generators or diesel-powered welders must have extreme-duty protective enclosures to minimize saltwater intrusion. In addition, they should be fuel efficient and produce a low noise level to reduce workers’ distraction and hearing damage. Diesel-powered welders should have excellent cold-starting abilities because offshore platform temperatures can get extremely low. Another significant advantage of diesel-powered welders is the provided auxiliary power for tools, and this benefit is exceptionally useful during post-hurricane repairs.
Stick welding equipment should be equipped with a voltage reduction device (VRD) to prevent electrical shocks to welders. VRD reduces open circuit voltage (OCV) to safe levels before the welding arc is initiated, which minimizes the chances of welder electrocution in cramped, wet, and damp areas.
Offshore rigs require welding everything from rails to heavy construction, pipes, and pressure vessels for barium sulfate and other compounds. The welds on offshore platforms have extremely stringent requirements, which means that the welding equipment must have impeccable arc quality and necessary features to maximize the weld integrity in every application.
Automated Welding Equipment
Automated welding solutions can significantly improve productivity, efficiency, and safety in the oil and gas industry. Weld automation bridges the skills gap and helps you deal with the skilled labor shortage while simultaneously improving your bottom line and weld quality.
Employing automation equipment like welding positioners, manipulators, turning rolls, fit up bed tank rollers, welding cobots, automated submerged arc systems, and other welding automation equipment can drastically cut the production time for pressure vessels, pipes, and other critical elements of offshore oil and gas platforms.
Some of the most critical automation solutions for offshore oil and gas extraction are automated pipe cladding systems. Offshore environments and subsea reservoirs are highly corrosive, and many of the extraction process failures are attributed to pipeline corrosion. The pipelines typically contain aggressive agents like organic acids, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, chlorides, sand, and other chemicals that cause steel pipe corrosion. However, the pipelines can last significantly longer when using automated cladding equipment to bond the corrosion-resistant alloys on the inside of the pipes used in an aggressive offshore environment.
Rent Or Lease From Red-D-Arc
The offshore oil and gas industry has an extensive range of welding needs. Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to accurately predict the scope of welding equipment an offshore rig will need in any given year, especially when you account for hurricanes and other destructive natural events.
Thankfully, welding is so versatile that you can join almost all elements on the oil and gas platforms as long as you have the right equipment. But, it doesn’t always make sense to buy fleets of advanced welding power sources and automation equipment. Instead, many welding businesses rely on rental equipment because it’s difficult to predict the hurricane season and the yearly oil and gas industry requirements.
By renting or leasing your welding equipment, you can scale in and out of the welding job and still keep your contract for the maintenance and repair of rigs and platforms. Red-D-Arc offers welder rentals and welding equipment fleet management services for many industries, and provides extreme-duty performance and reliability, even in the harshest environments.
Red-D-Arc experts have an in-depth understanding of materials, products, and specific job-type needs, and we stand ready to help you prepare for your next offshore season. Contact us today, and our team will work with you closely to develop and implement the solutions you need.
The Red-D-Arc team is excited to bring back BotX Demo Days. The demo day events give people who are curious about cobotic welding technology a chance to get an up-close look at what BotX can do. You’ll also have an opportunity for hands-on experience using the BotX collaborative welding robot so you can see for yourself how easy it is to set up and operate. We’re excited to partner with Airgas, an Air Liquide company, to bring these events to locations across the country.
BotX Demo Day events are currently being scheduled. Stay tuned for more details on upcoming events and follow us on social media for the latest updates on events near you. You can learn more about BotX here.
Want to talk to someone about the BotX collaborative robot now?
Reach out to your Red-D-Arc representative and ask to schedule a demo today.
Weld spatter, resin, smoke, dampering adhesives and other carbonized deposits all have a tendency to build up and contaminate robots and surrounding production equipment in fabrication, automotive and manufacturing spaces. This can lead to misalignment issues, inaccurate welds, increased scrap rates and reduced efficiencies if the equipment is not properly cleaned. Due to its characteristics, dry ice blast cleaning is an ideal application for the cleaning maintenance of robotics, automated weld lines, fixturing, tooling and sophisticated machinery lines requiring specialized cleaning considerations. Some of the benefits of using dry ice blasting include that there is:
- no water/no moisture
- no secondary waste
- no downstream contamination
- no residues(s)/non-corrosive
In addition, the application offers a carbon neutral solution that is non-toxic and more environmentally responsible than some of the alternatives types of cleaning, complementing sustainability models and preventative maintenance plans.
One of those alternatives is a manual cleaning process. This traditional way of cleaning is both unproductive and unsophisticated. It can also:
- be time consuming and labor intensive
- take production equipment offline for a disproportionate period of time, resulting in lost money
- risk damaging equipment and reducing asset life— an important consideration in today’s tight supply chain environment
- tie up maintenance teams and other skilled workers whose time is best spent on more productive activities
Dry ice blasting offers a modern solution to these cleaning and maintenance pain points. Unlike other methods, it allows you to “clean in place” meaning weld lines, fixturing and production equipment can be effectively cleaned online, in-place and with no disassembly, reinstallment or calibration of equipment required. It’s also non-abrasive so when used properly, it will not damage photo eyes, sensory components, cabling, electricals, and other sensitive parts or substrates of the machine. Blast cleaning with dry ice also eliminates misalignment and associated performance issues and only requires a single operator so it is a safer, faster and smarter technique compared to manual cleaning methods.
There’s a lot of use for dry ice blasting technology. It is highly versatile and is suitable to address cleaning requirements on surrounding equipment such as:
- fixturing and tooling
- transfer cases and proximity switches
- electrical components and cabinets
- cabling and ancillary equipment
- weld tables, positioners and trunnion systems
- and most other equipment or components that require cleaning
The Red-D-Arc team of dry ice blasting specialists are positioned nationwide and can tailor a turnkey rental solution that fits the needs of your next maintenance cleaning, deep clean, equipment refurbishment or upcoming shutdown. Download the flyer for additional details about our services and contact information.
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Red-D-Arc’s Orbital Welding and Pipe Product Manager, Lori Kuiper, recently sat down with Jason Becker to record an episode of the Arc Junkies podcast. Arc Junkies is a welding podcast that is on a mission to help, educate and inspire the next generation of welders. Lori was joined by Red-D-Arc’s Welding and Automation Specialist, Bryson Ward. During the conversation, Lori, Bryson and Jason discussed a variety of welding topics and some of the latest trends in the industry. They also delved into Lori’s journey to becoming an expert in the industry and what it takes to build a solid career in welding today.
We’re excited to hear all of the wisdom that Lori and Bryson shared. The episode drops on Monday, February 20 so be sure to check it out. You can listen to Arc Junkies on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Red-D-Arc is excited to announce a new program for in-stock welding equipment. Beginning on March 1, you can choose from select welding equipment packages and lock-in pricing for 36 months.
Welding equipment packages include:
- Equipment guaranteed by Red-D-Arc
- Replacement equipment during repairs
- Option to upgrade equipment over 36-month period
Contact your Red-D-Arc representative to learn more. Hurry while this offer lasts and equipment is in stock.
The Viper65 SYNC® and Python85/105 SYNC® from Red-D-Arc, offers a dramatically simplified platform for Viper65 and Python 85/105 systems. Features include advanced torch communication for automated setup and a single-piece cartridge consumable that streamlines consumable inventory, lowers operating costs, and maximizes performance.
Benefits of Viper and Python SYNC series
Easy to use
- Easy-to-identify single-piece cartridge consumables are color-coded by process to eliminate parts confusion and simplify consumable inventory management
- New SmartSYNC® torches with the Hypertherm cartridge automatically set the correct amperage and operating mode, eliminating setup errors
- Ability to tackle a wide range of jobs with easily interchangeable torch styles and application-specific cartridge consumables for various types of cutting and gouging
- End-of-life detection lets you know when it is time to change your cartridge
- Simplified operation minimizes downtime, troubleshooting, waste, and training time.
- Advanced cartridge consumable design provides up to twice the life for hand cutting, and improved quality over life in mechanized setups compared to standard consumables.
- Each cartridge has been designed to optimize the cutting or gouging process for the best performance possible.
Innovative smart system
- End-of-life detection lets the operator know when it’s time to change the cartridge
- Advanced torch communication for automated process setup
- Time-saving controls directly on the torch allow you to adjust amperage and change the consumable without returning to the power supply
- Access to cartridge data for performance tracking and analyzing usage patterns
- Available cartridge reader accessory pairs with SYNC smartphone app to analyze performance data such as starts, transfers, and arc-on time
- Engineered for rugged, industrial environments
- SpringStart™ technology ensures consistent starting and a more reliable torch
- Drag cutting
- Bevel cutting
- Fine feature cutting
- Flush cutting
- Extended reach cutting
Viper and Python SYNC system options
Professional-grade 20 mm (3/4″) plasma cutter provides automated process set-up and a revolutionary cartridge consumable platform for ease of use and optimized performance. Featuring a wide variety of torches and application capabilities for handheld and mechanized cutting and gouging.
Professional-grade 25 mm (1″) plasma cutter provides automated process set-up and a revolutionary cartridge consumable platform for ease of use and optimized performance. Featuring a wide variety of torches and application capabilities for handheld and mechanized cutting and gouging.
Professional-grade 32 mm (1-1/4″) plasma cutter provides automated process set-up and a revolutionary cartridge consumable platform for ease of use and optimized performance.
Torches and cartridges
Advanced SmartSYNC torch technology
With simple cartridge installation, automated set-up, and RFID technology, SmartSYNC® torches are the smart choice when plasma cutting and gouging. Controls right on the handheld torch make it easy to adjust your amperage and change consumables without returning the power supply.
The Hypertherm cartridge consumable completely eliminates the traditional five-piece consumable stack-up with a single color-coded piece that you simply twist onto your torch. The result is a simplified consumable inventory and maximized performance.
Advanced welding technologies on Lincoln welders from the Power Wave line benefit demanding professionals in almost all welding applications. These machines are feature-rich, built to last, packed with proprietary waveforms, and ready to tackle any welding job at the highest quality.
Learn about Lincoln’s advanced process welders and how innovative waveforms and process control mechanisms can benefit your welding business.
Benefits of Lincoln Electric Advanced Process Welders
Using advanced welding technologies on Lincoln welders improves productivity and provides reliability you can count on. These machines offer advanced multi-process capabilities for GMAW, FCAW, GTAW, and SMAW processes.
The proprietary waveforms and numerous accompanying features ensure you get the most suitable arc for the welding job at hand. But, process standardization using Power Wave Manager and Weld Sequencer combined with CheckPoint Production Monitoring software helps you stay on top of your business and improve production times.
Every Lincoln Power Wave welding power source includes a plethora of waveforms that can make a significant difference. These waveforms are designed to improve filler metal deposition, reduce spatter and welding fumes, increase travel speeds, enhance weld appearance and joint quality, and make out-of-position welding easier.
Advanced process welders allow you to tailor the welding arc to match your welding application perfectly. For example, you can employ Lincoln’s patented STT (Surface Tension Transfer) waveform to simplify open-root pipe welding. The STT eliminates common problems like lack of fusion and burn-through when performing short-circuit MIG welds. The STT root weld face is flat, and the operator can achieve excellent fusion with higher travel speed and less cleaning/prep time.
Lincoln’s patented Pulse-on-Pulse GMAW-PP drastically improves welding thin aluminum. The GMAW-PP can achieve a TIG-like weld appearance thanks to two distinct pulse types. Pulse-on-Pulse improves travel speed and reduces the chance of excessive heat input, making the GMAW-PP process easier to perform.
Many other waveforms are available with Power Wave Lincoln welding machines, like HyperFill, RapidArc, Rapid X, RapidZ, AC-STT, STTBraze, Low Fume Pulse, and Precision Pulse. Each is designed to improve performance and help you get the job done better.
Maximum Process Control
Lincoln’s Power Wave Manager software lets you standardize your fleet’s welding procedures, save and transfer machine settings, configure and select memory slots, modify parameter ranges and enable lockouts. You can easily create memory modules, name them, and specify every setting, like pre-flow, post-flow, crater time, initial WFS, wire run-in, weld trim, and others.
Your operators don’t have to bother with the arc settings. They can just select the specified memory slot on the Power Wave advanced process welders and be ready to weld. For example, if your shop often fabricates certain parts, selecting the memory slot for each weld saves your operator’s time. Instead of re-adjusting the settings every time, they can switch between pre-set settings and weld. As the process manager, you can set and re-adjust their settings and even lock out setting ranges to prevent operators from accidentally burning through or causing other weld defects.
Lincoln’s patented Weld Sequencer software can improve welding performance and weld quality. This visually-aided process control clearly defines each assembly part, including hidden welds. Combining Lincoln’s Power Wave machines with Weld Sequencer and Power Wave Manager makes complex welding jobs far simpler, improves completion time, and reduces assembly errors.
Power Wave welders can work with Lincoln’s CheckPoint production monitoring software. CheckPoint allows complete visibility of your entire welding operation via cloud-based 24/7 access. It doesn’t need any software installation, and you can use it on any device anywhere in the world.
CheckPoint collects weld data like OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness), material consumption, operator’s arc on time, and weld and assembly information. All stakeholders can easily view and track welding productivity and receive notifications and custom alerts. Production monitoring may help you identify bottlenecks, reduce waste, improve weld completion time, and ultimately increase your company’s profitability.
Lincoln Power Wave S350
The Lincoln Power Wave S350 is a portable multi-process welder capable of MIG, flux-cored, stick, and DC TIG welding. Its maximum amperage output of 350A lets you weld thick materials, but the 5A output on the low end allows you to professionally join thin stock too. This versatility combined with low weight makes it a suitable choice for automotive shops, fabrication, and construction site welding jobs.
While compact and relatively lightweight (85 lbs), the Power Wave S350 packs a serious punch. With over 65 optimized waveforms and an IP23 rating, you can make excellent welds in harsh conditions. The Power Wave S350 also includes pulsed TIG welding and Pulse-on-Pulse MIG welding for flawless aluminum welds.
Lincoln Power Wave S500
The Lincoln Power Wave S500 is a more powerful multi-process welder than the S350. However, both share many features like PowerConnect and Tribrid Power Module for automatic input power adjustments and high power efficiency. Additionally, the S500 also supports over 65 optimized waveforms and includes pulsed MIG and TIG welding modes.
But, the Power Wave S500 outputs up to 550A, allowing you to join thicker metal efficiently. The S500 is heavier than S350 but makes an excellent choice for heavy-duty fabrication.
Lincoln Power Wave 355M
The Lincoln Power Wave 355M offers more power than the S300, but it’s more compact and has a lower weight (81.5 lbs) thanks to the state-of-the-art inverter technology. This multi-process welder supports MIG, FCAW, DC TIG, and SMAW processes and includes Lincoln’s proprietary waveforms like Pulse-on-Pulse, Power Mode, STT, and others.
With amperage output up to 425A, the Power Wave 355M provides a great middle ground between the S300 and S500. It’s lightweight, portable, and offers exceptional welding power.
Rent Or Lease Equipment from Red-D-Arc
Red-D-Arc has over 60,000 units and over 70 rental centers strategically placed throughout the USA, Canada, and Mexico, making it the largest rental welding equipment company in North America.
For many reasons, investing in expensive welding equipment may not always be a financially sound decision. Renting or leasing high-end equipment has many benefits, like having the most modern equipment available at a lower price than the purchasing cost. Buying equipment yourself is an investment into a depreciating asset, which may result in lost profits compared to renting or leasing.
Red-D-Arc is ready to help you determine which welding equipment suits your application the best. Contact us for expert assistance today. Our team regularly provides assistance in the welding process and equipment selection.
The semi-automatic wire-fed process known as self-shielded flux cored arc welding (FCAW-S) easily exceeds the efficiency and productivity of manual processes such as stick welding/SMAW. However, the construction, pipe welding, and field fabrication/repair industries have expressed some hesitancy to the widespread adoption of FCAW-S. This hesitancy is largely the result of concerns regarding the durability and performance of the equipment used to feed the wire.
The line of “suitcase” style wire feeders offered by Miller Electric are worth considering, as they have been designed to address industry concerns and provide other value-added features that allow you to confidently implement the high-productivity FCAW-S process.
Suitcase feeders are most often used for field welding. These applications often require frequently relocating the feeder to the joints to be welded. Unlike stationary benchtop feeders, weight is a key consideration in the design and selection of a suitcase-style wire feeder. Miller Electric’s Suitcase X-treme 12VS feeder weighs under 40-lbs without wire, which helps ease the burden of transport.
These feeders are also suitable for applications other than self-shielded flux-cored arc welding. They feature an internal gas solenoid and connections that allow for the use of the external shielding gasses required for gas-shielded flux cored (FCAW-G) or MIG (GMAW) welding. Suitcase-style feeders are popular in large-scale industries such as shipbuilding but are a popular choice in any application where you anticipate moving between the field and shop.
Field welding demands equipment that is resistant to the elements and the nature of the job such as equipment being dragged, dropped, or exposed to sparks. Working out in the field or at an unprotected jobsite leaves room for disruption of the equipment. Mud is common at field sites and often working under a shelter isn’t feasible. However, protecting the wire is critical to consistently producing welds of high quality. The flame-retardant and crush-proof cases of the Miller Suitcase feeders have a gasketed seal to provide complete protection to the wire and feeding mechanism inside. This additional feature makes this equipment both protected and durable for a variety of locations.
Consistent Wire Feeding
Protection from the elements is critical to good weld quality, but so is consistent wire feeding. Problems are minimized by maintaining a good preventative maintenance schedule that addresses worn contact tips and liners before they become a problem. However, the Miller Suitcase wire feeders have design features that can help minimize unexpected downtime due to burn backs and bird nesting. First, this equipment features a wire pressure knob with a scale to help ensure that wire drive roll tension is set consistently and not excessively. Second, the inlet guide of this equipment directs the wire into the feed rolls is designed specifically to help minimize wire drag.
Easy Parameter Adjustment & Simple Operation
Field welding on the job site might involve tackling welds that are significantly different in design or position. Operators could try a “one size fits all” approach to setting welding parameters, assuming the welding procedure allows doing so. However, this can lead to producing welds that are sub-optimal. Sub-optimal welds might require rework due to excessive spatter, less-than-ideal weld profiles, or poor fusion among all the possibilities.
The alternative is walking back and forth between the workpiece and power source each time a new joint is encountered or enlisting the help of a stationary assistant. However, a more productive solution to achieving optimal weld quality is available for rent from Red-D-Arc.
The ArcReach Suitcase 12 wire feeder from Miller Electric features ArcReach technology that allows adjustment of both wire feed speed and voltage at the wire feeder using only the durable power cabling. Conventional equipment only allows adjustment of the wire feed speed at the feeder unless a delicate control cable is used (assuming the equipment possesses the capability).
While wire feed speed is an important adjustment that controls amperage (and depth of penetration), wire feed speed should be adjusted in conjunction with voltage to ensure optimal results. The Miller ArcReach Suitcase 12 wire feeder makes adjustment of weld settings easy thanks to large and bright digital displays and large, accessible, yet protected adjustment knobs.
Wire feeders have had their fair share of critiques over the years. Because of concerns about subpar feeding capabilities and durability, many fabrication and construction job sites hesitate to adopt these machines. However, The wire-fed processes can be significantly faster than the manual processes without a loss in weld quality.
This equipment should not be a barrier to maximizing productivity. The durability, capability, and performance of the Miller Suitcase series of wire feeders help to ensure that your transition into and time spent with the wire-fed processes is as smooth as possible. Contact us today to learn more about the features of each wire feeder to determine which model is best for your application.
TIG (GTAW) welding is not the only process capable of producing high-quality welds on aluminum alloys. The high degree of control that the process provides makes it well-suited to tackling very thin materials, but as material thickness increases, the relatively slow speed of the process becomes more apparent. When ease-of-use and cost-effectiveness are prime considerations in an aluminum welding application, many fabricators choose to implement MIG (GMAW). While the process fundamentals are unchanged from MIG welding steel, MIG welding aluminum requires some specialized equipment and additional care to achieve high-quality results with minimal frustration.
Delivering the Aluminum Wire
Much of the additional care required is focused within the wire delivery system, since the lower columnar strength of aluminum wire makes it susceptible to burn-back and bird’s nesting. MIG welding aluminum typically requires fabricators to choose between “push-pull” or “spool gun” welding torches.
The Push Pull Gun:
- Ideal when the workpiece can be brought within 15-25 feet of the power source
- Advantages: Lighter and more maneuverable; can utilize wire packaging of any size (meaning reduced changeover cost)
- Disadvantages: Reduced forgiveness to compounding issues in the feeding system
- Example: Spoolmatic 30A Spool Gun
The Spool Gun:
- Ideal when the workpiece cannot be brought close to the power source
- Advantages: Improved forgiveness in the wire feeding system
- Disadvantages: Less ergonomic; use is limited to 2# spools (meaning increased changeover cost).
- Example: Miller XR-Aluma-Pro Push-Pull Gun
Regardless of the MIG welding gun being used, it is critical to ensure that the MIG consumables used are properly sized and in good condition. For example, both gun types require contact tips. Ensure that the wire diameter stamped on the contact tip matches the wire diameter being used and that the contact tip is inspected periodically for the formation of a keyhole shape at either end that is an indicator of wear. As the contact tip wears, micro-arcing between the contact tip and wire can lead to costly burn-backs that are prevented by a quick change of consumables.
A typical carbon steel MIG welding setup will typically use steel liners, brass inlet and intermediate wire guides, and either V-groove or V-knurled drive rolls. Users of a push-pull gun will need to go beyond simply changing contact tips. When MIG welding aluminum, it is important to use ALL the following: U-groove drive rolls, Teflon inlet and intermediate wire guides, and Teflon liners. Ensuring that these components are properly installed (and dedicated for aluminum use only) will help to minimize the potential for wire shaving that can cause the liner to become clogged and complicate wire feeding. Likewise, users of bulk wire packaging such as drums should carefully read the drum’s set up instructions and carefully consider the drum placement and conduit routing to help keep the overall “drag” in the system as low as possible.
Selecting Aluminum Welding Parameters
As with welding steel, it is possible to weld aluminum using one of several “transfers” depending on the specific wire feed speed and voltage combinations used.
- Thin materials typically require a short circuit transfer that is the result of low wire feed speed and low voltage. These “low” settings help to minimize penetration to prevent burn-through from occurring. Attempting to use short-circuit on thick material without proper base metal preparation may lead to lack-of-fusion defects.
- Thicker aluminum is best welded using a spray transfer. The higher wire feed speeds and voltages required to achieve the stable spray transfer provides additional penetration. Attempting to use spray transfer on thin aluminum will require significantly higher travel speeds than when welding using short-circuit.
Aluminum & Modern Pulsed Waveforms
“Pulse” is a feature found on many modern power sources where the output of the power source is “pulsed” between a low “background” and high “peak” current. By offering the “best of both worlds”, pulsed waveforms are beneficial when welding a wide range of common aluminum thicknesses. Using thinner material as an example: the “peak” current maintains a stable arc when welding at the “low” settings needed for thin material while the “background” current helps to keep overall heat input low to further minimize the risk of both distortion and burn-through.
Looking through a welder rental supplier’s catalog will reveal that there are many choices to be made when selecting aluminum MIG welding equipment. Consult with these experts to learn which combinations are best for your application; they may even have MIG welding packages which can help to alleviate some guesswork by bundling popular options together.
Before pulling the trigger, make sure to purchase some 100% Argon (or 75% Helium/25% Argon shielding gas for a little extra “punch”), set the flow rate to 35-50 cubic feet per hour, and always remove the oxide layer from the weld zone! With some modern technology and a little knowledge, achieving great results when MIG welding aluminum doesn’t necessarily have to be difficult.
Can you MIG weld mild steel to stainless steel? The short answer is, in most cases, yes and an ER309L filler metal is typically used. However, understanding the nature of stainless steel and MIG is helpful to best tackle this dissimilar-metal joining application. In this article we will discuss how this process is possible and what its applications are.
Why Join Mild Steel to Stainless Steel
Mild steel, as used in this article, refers to a wide range of steel grades/compositions having a relatively low overall alloy composition. On the other hand, stainless steel has a chromium content above 11% so that the surface of the steel forms a protective layer of chromium oxide. The chromium oxide layer provides enhanced corrosion resistance compared to mild steel in many applications. Despite this benefit, there are many applications where you might mix mild steel and stainless steel.
Cost is often the driving force behind the dissimilar joining: stainless steel is significantly more expensive than mild steel. Combining mild steel and carbon steel is one way to control the cost of a component while still ensuring that corrosion resistance is available in key areas. However, dissimilar-metal welding can sometimes be used to better allow components to carry required stresses, and in some cases, do so at a minimal component weight.
An Introduction to MIG
MIG is an acronym that represents Metal Inert Gas welding. MIG is one of many arc welding processes—processes that utilize an electric arc to melt the base metal and filler metal. A defining feature of the process is that it is a “wire-fed process” meaning that a continuously fed wire is used to maintain the electrical arc and provide filler metal into the weld joint. As the acronym suggests, MIG is also defined by the use of a shielding gas having generally inert characteristics that displaces the atmosphere from the weld zone to protect against detrimental reactions.
MIG is a very common process for welding mild steel, welding stainless steel, and welding these two metals to each other. MIG can be used with a range of shielding gasses and wire diameters to fine-tune performance for a wide range of material thicknesses. Because there is no slag, deposition efficiency (the ratio of filler metal consumed versus completed weld weight) is quite high. Because there is limited need for stop/starts and post-weld cleanup, operator factor (time spent welding versus total project time) can be much higher than other processes. These factors combine with the ability to achieve high travel speeds to produce a productive process. If you don’t currently own the equipment needed for MIG welding, welder rentals can be a way for you to become familiar with the process or tackle short-run production with limited investment.
How to Weld Mild Steel to Stainless Steel
Typically, ER309L filler metals are used to join mild steel to stainless steel. ER309L is a filler metal classification that designates:
- That the filler metal can be used as an electrode for MIG or as a rod for TIG
- That the filler metal has a 309 nominal alloy composition
- That the filler metal is a low-carbon variant of the 309 nominal composition
ER309L is an austenitic stainless steel that is high in both chromium and nickel. The presence and quantity of nickel in this alloy helps to form a ductile weld microstructure. ER308/308L is a popular choice for joining 304/304L stainless steel to itself, but attempting to use this alloy for steel to stainless steel instead of ER309L may result in a crack-susceptible microstructure.
Shielding gas selection can influence the ease of welding and the quality of the results. Typically high-argon shielding gasses are used. 98% Argon/2% Oxygen or 98% Argon/2% Carbon Dioxide (CO2) are used for welding thicker materials, since these gasses help to achieve a smooth, stable spray transfer with minimal chemical interaction. Three-component gas mixtures, known as “tri-mixes”, typically consist primarily of helium with varying additions of argon and carbon dioxide. While not required for thin materials, they can offer improved performance when welding using the “short-circuit” mode of transfer commonly employed to help prevent burn-through or weld out of position.
Selecting parameters for steel to stainless steel weld joints is very similar to selecting parameters for welding stainless. The stainless filler metal requires a lower current to melt-off than mild steel filler metal, so expect to utilize lower wire feed speeds than you may be used to. Likewise, the weld pool will be more “sluggish” than when welding using mild steel filler metal, and penetration will be reduced. This means that you may need to use a wider included/bevel angle depending on the application to ensure good root and sidewall fusion. Try to avoid excessive heat input to minimize the risk of sensitization of the stainless steel base metal that can negatively affect corrosion resistance of that base metal.
Be aware that the finished weld is a mixture of alloys; the corrosion resistance of the weld metal will not be equivalent to the stainless steel base metal, and it may be important to locate these dissimilar weld joints away from sources of corrosion in some situations. Also be aware that not all stainless alloys are created equal. Stainless steel can be austenitic, martensitic, or ferritic which provides insight into their microstructure and typical compositions. Austenitic stainless steels—one of the most common types by tonnage—are generally easy to weld, while martensitic and ferritic stainless steels can be more of a challenge.
Contact us today to find the MIG welder that is best suited for the stainless to mild steel welding that you are looking to perform. “Sizing” a machine to your application can help you to get the feature set you need without unneeded expense. Our knowledgeable team can also provide guidance into the world of stainless steel and dissimilar-metal welding to help you select the best consumables, accessories, and knowledge.
Magnesium is a very abundant metal, and it has several properties that make it very useful in specific fabrication applications. It’s the lightest available structural material, even lighter than aluminum and 78% lighter than steel, without sacrificing the strength necessary to maintain structural integrity. It’s very good at sound dampening, can be cast-formed, hot-formed, or machined, and can be recycled easily.
On the other hand, magnesium alloys can have specific issues that are very relevant to welding and fabrication. It has low elasticity, high shrinkage when it solidifies, and high reactivity to chemicals, including oxygen. Perhaps the biggest issue with magnesium alloys is corrosion resistance, which is why many alloys using magnesium take great pains to enhance corrosion resistant properties of the resulting material.
How can you effectively weld magnesium alloys together? Here are a dozen valuable tips and tricks to successfully join pieces of this capricious material.
1: Clean the Surface Properly
Certain kinds of welding don’t need to clean the surface of the material being joined, but when welding magnesium alloys, cleaning is a requirement. Because magnesium can oxidize readily, such materials are generally coated with a thin layer of a protective oil or chrome pickle. This coating prevents oxidation, but it’s also a contaminant that can jeopardize the weld when you work on the pieces of metal.
Some techniques like blast cleaning may not be ideal for magnesium alloy projects as they can introduce contamination into the material that can cause corrosion.
Two options are available for cleaning a magnesium alloy: mechanical cleaning and chemical cleaning.
- Mechanical cleaning means scrubbing or grinding the surface with a wire brush or other tool. Grinding, as well, is generally too harsh on magnesium, so an abrasive cloth or wire brush is used. Since this is somewhat inconsistent and variable, chemical cleaning is usually preferred.
- Chemical cleaning uses solvents such as trichloroethylene, tetrachloride, or perchloroethylene. Use extreme caution when cleaning your alloy; these chemicals are toxic, and their fumes can be hazardous and should only be used in a well-ventilated area away from open flames. Be familiar with your safety equipment and the emergency treatment procedures for these chemicals before using them. Similarly, wear proper protective equipment, including gloves and a mask, to avoid spilling these chemicals on the skin.
Typical chemical cleaning solutions should be rinsed with hot water and dried with air. Remember to clean your filler rod as well!
2: Beware of Fire
Magnesium ignites easily.
Magnesium rods are a common component in survival gear as a quick and easy fire starter. In powder form, magnesium can ignite readily and be very dangerous. Before welding, ensure the dust or filings from any cleaning are cleaned up and removed to avoid fire hazards.
Magnesium fires also burn pretty hot. Water alone is insufficient to douse a flame; use dry sand, powdered soapstone, or graphite-based powders instead. It would be best if you also kept fire blankets and other safety equipment on hand.
Heat and fire are always at the forefront of any welder’s mind. Magnesium materials ignite under sustained heat, so welding should be done quickly to avoid sustaining these temperatures.
3: Pick the Right Welding Process
Because of the risk of oxidation, a shielding gas is required for joining magnesium alloys, even if those alloys include metals that help cut down on corrosion. Several processes can be used, though many are exotic, very limited in use, or require automated machinery rather than hand processes.
- Plasma Arc Welding, a precise but high-heat form of TIG welding that creates a jet of plasma to fuse two surfaces.
- Electron Beam Welding, a process that generates focused beams of electrons to perform the same task as an arc in traditional welding.
- Laser Beam Welding is a computer-controlled form of shielded welding that uses a high-intensity laser beam to focus precise heat to create welds.
- Friction Stir Welding, a process using friction to combine materials, is generally more used for traditional joins and not for repairs.
- Explosion Welding, a high-speed variation on friction welding that uses controlled explosions to force two materials together and fuse them.
- Electromagnetic Welding, a process using ferrous materials to heat up and fuse materials.
- Ultrasonic Welding uses ultrasonic waves to heat and fuse materials.
For the most part, only some of these processes will be commonly used outside of aerospace fabrication.
Instead, many fabricators’ two most common processes are TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding and MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding.
Most of the time, TIG welding is the way to go. MIG can be used if a stronger weld is required, but TIG generally does the job.
All of that said, many welding applications currently use laser welding. Computer-controlled precision, lower energy levels, and extremely fast and precise application all mean that the laser is the best option.
However, this must be controlled with a computer, not by hand.
4: Know When to Weld Magnesium
Different from many other forms of welding, magnesium welding is not often done for structural joining. Instead, most of the time, it is a process used to repair castings; this could be for building up worn metal in a workpiece, fixing inclusions or casting defects, or fixing thermal and vibration cracks in the piece.
Such repairs must hold up to use since casting a replacement is often very expensive.
Welding with magnesium alloys is most commonly used for aerospace, medical, and marine projects. Magnesium alloys are lightweight, strong, and have excellent thermal conductivity, making them a popular choice for these projects. Typical applications of welding with magnesium alloys include parts for aircraft, boats, medical instruments, sporting equipment, and even furniture.
One of the most common applications for welding with magnesium alloys is in aircraft production. Aircraft components must be lightweight and robust to ensure safety, so magnesium alloys are a great choice. Other popular uses for magnesium alloys in the aerospace industry include exhaust, engine, and landing gear components.
In the medical industry, welding with magnesium alloys is often used to create implants and other medical instruments. Magnesium alloys are an excellent choice for this type of application due to their strength and biocompatibility. These metals are also non-toxic, which makes them a perfect choice for medical instruments that may come into contact with sensitive areas of the body.
Magnesium alloys are perfect for boats due to their strength and resistance to corrosion; this makes them ideal for hulls and frames as well as propellers and engine components. The marine industry is also a big user of magnesium alloys for welding projects.
Finally, magnesium alloys are also used in the sporting goods and furniture industries. Magnesium alloys are lightweight and powerful, making them perfect for sporting equipment such as baseball bats, tennis rackets, and golf clubs. They’re also ideal for furniture production as they’re lightweight but still strong enough to support the weight.
5: Pick the Right Filler
Choosing the right filler rod for your magnesium alloy is critical. There’s no officially-designated international code for specifying magnesium alloys; however, the American Society for Testing Materials created a designation system that has seen widespread adoption.
In this system, a series of letters and/or numbers designate the material composition of the alloy.
The first two letters of the code specify the primary alloying elements, including:
We don’t know why some of these are chosen, like Y for Antimony rather than Yttrium. Take it up with the ASTM!
Further, numbers will indicate the composition of these elements in percentages. For example, AZ91 would be a magnesium alloy with around 9% A (aluminum) and 1% Z (zinc); this is a common filler material, as zinc and aluminum are common additions to magnesium to help cut down on their drawbacks. AZ101 is one of the most forgiving fillers for most use cases. Other common fillers include AZ61A, AZ92A, and EZ33A.
Knowing the alloy of the material you’re working on will help you understand which filler to choose for the job. A specific and appropriate filler is always better than a generic filler.
6: Preheat Thick Parts, If Necessary
Magnesium is prone to cracking under thermal stress; this can happen during casting, thermal expansion, and welding around the heat-affected zone. One way to help minimize the risk of cracking, particularly when welding magnesium alloys, is to preheat the materials to around 200-300 degrees C.
This step helps improve the thermal gradient between the immediate work area, the weld pool, and the “cold” metal around it. Otherwise, you risk repairing a crack and creating cracks around the repair in the same way.
The relatively low temperature for preheating is essential because higher heat can reduce the strength of the finished product. When joining two materials of different sizes, pieces above a quarter inch in thickness should also be preheated.
7: Pick the Right Shielding Gas
As mentioned above, one of the biggest issues with using magnesium as a material is its susceptibility to oxidation. The specificity of the filler material means you can’t use a flux-containing material to produce your shielding gas in situ. Instead, external shielding gas must be used.
Generally, your choice will be between argon, helium, or a mixture. Argon is the most common due to its low ionization potential and arc stability, as well as limiting heat input and keeping arc penetration shallow to minimize cracking and inclusions.
Note: While we said flux isn’t usually used, it can be used in thicker materials.
Pure helium is the ideal shielding gas for laser welding but leads to too high heat input in TIG welding.
8: When in Doubt, Use Multiple Passes
Heat management is a huge issue for magnesium welding, which means that you can’t make one deep weld with a deep pool of filler material. Not only do you risk burning through the materials, but the heat gradient also risks cracking or jeopardizing the strength of the area surrounding the joint.
Instead, you want a very shallow pool with a very small bead, with small, precise welds. Clean in between each pass to make sure there are no sources of contamination from the exposed metal oxidizing; this is, again, why laser welding is so common in magnesium welding today.
As far as procedure is concerned, the best option is to create a generous bevel in the area to be repaired or joined, to allow for full penetration while maintaining the shape of the piece within tolerances. For larger repairs or joins, the weld should be created from the center outwards, on either side. A backing plate may be necessary.
9: If Necessary, Heat Treat
While this may not be the welder’s job, magnesium workpieces may need heat treatment to regain their overall strength when a repair is finished.
Heat treating is its own specific process and must be handled properly to ensure uniform strength throughout the finished piece. Without it, the repair could simply be the source of a new point of failure adjacent to it.
10: Use Laser Welding if Possible
Using TIG welding to repair or join magnesium workpieces may have been more commonplace in the past. Still, modern high-precision requirements and extreme tolerances necessary for a finished piece mean that the relative imprecision and risk of inconsistent welds mean that laser welding is generally the best option whenever possible.
While this requires a more complex machine and a different set of skills, many of the same tips apply. You will still need to clean the surfaces properly, beware of the fire risk, and know what the appropriate filler materials are, so many of the same skills are transferable.
11: Leave It to the Pros
Amateur welders typically begin by learning with thick pieces of mild steel and progress into more specific and complex kinds of welding.
Aluminum welding is often considered a difficult kind of welding due to the softness, heat transferability, and risk of burn-through. In many ways, magnesium welding is even more difficult and is not an introductory kind of welding. When in doubt, leave such welding to the pros.
12: Use the Right Equipment
One of the most important elements of proper welding is making sure you have the right equipment on hand to complete the task. Tig welding with magnesium alloys requires specific equipment, which you may not have on hand. If you need the right equipment, we have several options for you.
For example, our welder rentals offer various single- and multi-process welding equipment for rent. If the finished product requires heat treating, we also have heat treating equipment available.
Furthermore, if you want to purchase machinery for yourself instead of renting it, our used equipment sales are a great option.
If you’re looking to learn more about welding in general, feel free to browse the rest of our blog. If you have a specific question that we haven’t answered, you can also reach out to us at any time. Our experts are standing by to assist with questions from beginner to advanced and from small, hobbyist scales all the way up to industrial scales.
No problem is too large or too small; we can weld it all!
Lincoln MIG welders offer many benefits for all welding businesses, no matter how big or small. The MIG welding process is most commonly used for repairs and fabrication. So, it’s wise to consider quality equipment from one of the biggest welding brands in the USA.
Learn how MIG welding works and how your shop can benefit from Lincoln MIG welders. We’ll also discuss different MIG welder models from Lincoln and their unique advantages.
What is MIG Welding And How Does it Work
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), popularly known as MIG welding, is an arc welding process that requires a shielding gas and a solid wire that acts as an electrode and a filler metal.
The automatic wire feeder pushes the wire through the MIG gun and into the welded joint. When the electrically charged wire (from the power source) makes contact with the grounded metal, the resistance to electrical flow melts the wire and the welded material.
The MIG gun also releases the shielding gas through the nozzle as soon as you press the gun’s trigger. The shielding gas protects the joint from the atmosphere to prevent oxidation, porosity, and other weld defects. The most commonly used shielding gas for MIG welding is a mixture of 75% argon and 25% carbon dioxide. But 100% CO2, tri-mix gasses, and other gas mixtures are sometimes required. The gas selection mainly depends on the welded material, costs, and desired weld characteristics.
MIG welding is commonly used as a semi-automatic process, but it’s fully automated in large production facilities. This welding process dominates the welding industry thanks to many advantages like ease of use, fast travel speed, high deposition rate, ability to weld in all positions, low hydrogen content, minimal post-weld cleaning, and practically unlimited electrode length.
You can use the MIG welding process to weld almost all metals with exceptional weld quality. Some welders like the Lincoln Power MIG 350MP can even achieve TIG-like, “stack-of-dimes” weld appearance on aluminum with a modified MIG waveform. But unlike TIG, MIG is far faster and easier to learn.
Why Choose Lincoln MIG Welders
Lincoln Electric is one of the largest welding equipment brands in the world. With over 125 years in the industry, Lincoln serves welders from general and light fabrication to offshore, pipeline, shipbuilding, construction, power generation, and automotive industries.
Using Lincoln MIG welders has many advantages, so let’s name a few and discuss some MIG welder rentals you can get from Red-D-Arc.
Lincoln Arc Technologies
Numerous proprietary arc technologies provide Lincoln power sources with a reliable, stable arc you can count on. The Diamond Core Technology delivers a forgiving arc with low spatter and a wide voltage sweet spot for the set wire feeding speed. It makes welding steel, stainless steel, and aluminum easier, even for out-of-position welding.
More advanced welders like the Power MIG 350MP or Lincoln Power Wave machines offer patented waveform technologies like Pulse-on-Pulse and Power Mode. Specialized arc modes allow you to improve weld quality and productivity in industry-specific applications.
Lincoln MIG welders are tough, durable, and reliable. Featuring potted and trayed PC board protection and industrial cast aluminum drives, even their least costly units offer above-average reliability.
Angled cast aluminum drive systems include split guides for excellent wire support through the entire drive system. The brass-to-brass gun bushings improve electrical current flow, while the input bushing protects the wire from damage. The internal tachometer feedback drive system maintains constant wire feed speed, which results in consistent welds. The wire drive systems may vary according to the Lincoln MIG welder model, but if their welder includes an integrated wire drive, you can count on reliable wire feeding.
Lincoln MIG welders are manufactured at ISO 9001:2000 and 14001:2004 certified facilities. These certificates mean that every Lincoln MIG welder is produced according to international environmental standards with a high-quality management system and a strong customer focus.
Ease of Use
Designed with productivity in mind, Lincoln MIG welders are quick and simple to set up. Featuring infinite adjustability, an easy-to-set wire drive, and provided settings charts, Lincoln MIG machines work well even for novice welders.
More advanced models like the Power MIG 255C and Power MIG 350MP also feature digital displays and Synergic MIG welding (Power MIG 350MP) for easier setup. While features vary between models, all Lincoln welders are relatively easy to use.
Lincoln Power MIG 180C
The Lincoln Power MIG 180C wire feed welder is a lightweight, portable MIG/Flux-cored welder that welds up to 3/16″ thick steel and aluminum. If you use a gasless flux-cored wire, you can weld up to 1/2″ thick steel.
You can deposit filler material quickly and achieve excellent penetration with the wire feeding speed (WFS) of up to 500 IPM. Plus, Diamond Core Technology and infinite voltage and WFS adjustability allow you to fine-tune your welds just right. The Power MIG 180C is designed for light industrial welding and general repairs on auto body and farm work. It’s spool gun compatible (plug and weld), and features a no-hassle tool-less design for polarity switching and wire spool mounting.
Lincoln Power MIG 255c
The Lincoln Power MIG 255C wire feed welder is far more powerful than the MIG 180C. The Power MIG 255C outputs up to 300A with a maximum WFS of 700 IPM, allowing you to weld thick materials faster with a high deposition rate. As a result, you can bridge gaps quicker and achieve excellent penetration.
While heavy at 220 lbs, the Power MIG 255C has a built-in set of wheels for efficient movement. This machine features an industrial wire drive, digital displays, a 115V auxiliary receptacle, and is spool gun ready (up to 3/64″ aluminum wire diameter). The Power MIG 255C is a powerful MIG/Flux-cored welder designed for industrial production, welding shops, maintenance, and repair work.
Lincoln Power MIG 350MP
The Lincoln Power MIG 350MP Push-Pull One-Pack is a heavy-duty multi-process welder that supports MIG, Flux-cored, TIG, and stick welding processes. But, it also includes advanced Lincoln waveforms like Pulse-On-Pulse for double pulsed MIG welding and Power Mode for low voltage application on thin materials.
The Power MIG 350MP also supports standard pulsed MIG for improved performance on thin stock, and you can use Synergic MIG for easier weld adjustments. With up to 350A and 700 WFS, you can employ advanced waveforms to weld thick metal more efficiently than with the MIG 255C. Plus, the Power MIG 350MP has a longer duty cycle than the Power MIG 255C (60% at 300A vs. 250A at 40%). The Power MIG 350MP is an excellent machine for versatile metal fabrication, auto body, and repair jobs.
If your operators must use welding processes other than MIG and FCAW, the Power MIG 350MP has the advantage. But, if you often fabricate or repair aluminum parts, the Power MIG 350MP is among the best MIG welders you can use. Thanks to Pulse-On-Pulse, you can achieve TIG-like welds using an efficient MIG welding process. Plus, the Power MIG 350MP supports a push-pull gun, which is more productive for aluminum welding than a spool gun.
Rent or Lease From Red-D-Arc
Red-D-Arc has a vast rental welding and cutting equipment fleet strategically placed across North America. Sometimes it’s not cost-effective to purchase welding equipment. While Lincoln MIG welders offer excellent quality, it may be more profitable to rent or lease their machines.
Contact us today to get a quote on welder rental rates, or ask our experts to help you choose suitable equipment. Our goal is to provide all of our customers with the right equipment for the job at hand. So, we can help you make the proper welder selection depending on which features are most needed for your application.
TIG/GTAW is great for when you want to make exact, precision welds between metals like mild steel, aluminum, or stainless steel. Whether using a foot pedal, thumb switch, or fixed amperage, TIG welding is often considered to offer more control than other processes, which makes it a great option for those crucial projects.
However, a precision welding process benefits from using the proper equipment. With so many options on the market, it can get overwhelming. But Miller Electric’s industry-leading TIG power sources are a great place to start your search. These powerful and full-featured machines come in a variety of options to meet all your needs. Here are a couple different types of Miller TIG welders.
Miller Dynasty 200 AC/DC TIG Welder
The Dynasty 200 AC/DC TIG Welder is not the largest (highest output) machine in the Miller Electric stable, but it provides more than enough power for a vast array of applications, especially when welding will be done manually and/or using multiple passes. The Dynasty 200 machine provides a maximum of 200 amps of welding output, but 150 amps at 60 percent duty-cycle. Even 150 amps is often more than enough output for novice and expert welders alike. This machine also boasts a small footprint and light weight of only 45 lbs. due to its inverter-based design.
However, don’t expect having to sacrifice capability: this machine is packed with many of the features found on higher-output power sources such as AC output and pulsed waveforms for ease of welding aluminum and thin materials. On-board high-frequency arc starting is useful when welding aluminum, but this feature—as well as Miller’s Lift-Arc technology—is beneficial in minimizing the risk of tungsten inclusion as the result of harsh arc starts.
Miller Syncrowave 350 LX
The Syncrowave 350 LX is a flagship Miller power source; its time-tested rectifier-based design is well-known for its durability, reliability, and longevity. It also offers a little more output than the Dynasty 200: 350 amps at 40 percent duty cycle. But like the smaller counterpart, the Syncrowave 350 LX has a range of features that help to make high-quality welding faster and easier.
In traditional welding, a complex process is used to join two pieces of material (typically metals) using electricity to create a powerful arc that melts those materials, and often a filler material, to join them into one piece.
Traditional arc welding has a lot of benefits but also some drawbacks. It typically leaves a visible lump of material where the base metals were melted and fused, and this can only be cleaned up so much without weakening the weld. It can also be slow for longer or more complex welds. In particular, the weld joint usually requires a lengthy cross-section to make a strong connection.
While this is all fine for many applications – and indeed, arc welding is commonly used in many industries – its drawbacks make it less than ideal for specific situations, specifically when you want to join something with a small profile to a work surface.
Take, for example, the need to attach a bolt to a flat surface. The bolt has a small cross-section, and there’s no room for filler materials if appearances and tolerances are to be maintained.
What’s the solution?
What is Stud Welding?
Stud welding is the practice of joining two pieces of material in a weld, where one of those materials is a “stud.” A stud, or weld stud, is generally a fastener. The project requires that it be connected to the primary work surface or substrate without marring the surface or leaving unsightly or inconvenient weld beads.
Stud welding uses a process to generate a current between the fastener and the base material, creating an arc between the two, near-instantly melting them and fusing them. No filler material is needed, only a little bit of pressure.
One of the most significant advantages of stud welding is its ease of use. Stud welding is nearly an automatic process, similar to a nail gun or a staple gun. While safety protocols must be followed, there’s no need for a steady hand, knowledge of weld beads and patterns, or even concerns about the materials involved. Often, the individual using a stud welder is considered an operator, not a welder.
Another significant advantage is the speed of welding. Welding traditionally around the base of a stud in a Tee Joint would be a long, slow process with a substantial risk of inconsistency or burn-through on thinner materials.
A welding mount would help, especially if it has an auto-rotate function, but that’s not always available. Stud welding, by comparison, takes a fraction of a second to activate and fuse, dramatically speeding up the process. While the savings of half a second doesn’t seem like much, the time savings add up when you need to repeat this stud welding process dozens, hundreds, or thousands of times.
Stud welding is typically used in situations where traditional welding is insufficient or where the opposite surface of the stud cannot or should not be marred by the welding process.
It’s fast, easy, and strong and can join different materials (like aluminum, brass, copper, and steel) to one another without needing filler material.
There are multiple different kinds of stud welding systems available and a range of stud guns to apply to those welding systems. Knowing the difference can help you choose the most useful for your projects.
Stud welding is used in many applications, from HVAC insulation to metal fabrication to bridge building. It is also commonly seen in fabricating electrical enclosures and switch cabinets, vending machines, medical technology, aerospace, military applications, vehicles and shipbuilding, and much more.
Are There Disadvantages to Stud Welding?
The stud welding process is fast, effective, and extremely strong. The point of failure on a stud weld is rarely the weld itself.
It’s also straightforward to do, such that the operators don’t need to be master welders to handle stud welding equipment safely and effectively. All of that said, it’s not a perfect process, and it has a few distinct disadvantages.
One major disadvantage is that it’s not typically best used in high-strength structural steel fabrication, stainless steel, or high alloy steels. It also has a typical upper limit on how large the stud can be.
Additionally, as with all welding processes, safety is an immense concern. Even though stud welding is easy and accessible, and much of the process is handled automatically by the gun, it still requires proper protective equipment, safety equipment, and great care. It is, after all, still using a high enough blast of electricity to melt metal in an instant. Molten metal, heat, radiation, and other considerations are all important.
Stud welding is commonly handled by trained professionals or robotic equipment to mitigate many of these disadvantages, including CNC machines. Automating much of the process will remove the risk of harm from human operators while ensuring consistent, high-quality welds.
Drawn Arc Stud Welding
First, of the two main stud welding processes, drawn arc stud welding is slightly slower than the alternative. It’s also a more complex process, requiring additional parts. In exchange, it’s better for more extensive, thicker materials and heavier materials like steel.
In this process, a stud is positioned in the stud welding gun. It is firmly against the work surface and held in place using spring tension. It is then shrouded by a ferrule, a ceramic shield containing the heat of the arc and the molten metal from the weld when it triggers.
When triggered, the weld gun will lift the fastener from the work surface a predefined distance.
Simultaneously, a brief, controlled electric arc is sent into the materials, creating an arc and extreme heat between the fastener and the surface. The ferrule contains and concentrates the heat and molten material to the area of the weld; this also removes the need for shielding gas.
Once this arc is triggered, the stud gun will release the spring, plunging the stud downwards with a predetermined amount of force, merging the two molten ends of the fused materials.
Instantly, the two materials are joined in a robust and thorough weld. No additional filler or other materials are necessary.
This whole process happens in less than a second, usually on the order of 150-500 milliseconds. The machine is called a stud gun because it fires that quickly. Due to the process involved, drawn arc stud welding is typically performed on more significant and thicker materials, with more leeway and time necessary to properly melt the surface. However, that time is still measured in milliseconds.
Later, in a cleanup process, the ferrule is broken off of the weld, leaving a cleaner and specifically-shaped surface designed by the interior of the ferrule.
In some cases with huge studs, a shielding gas may be used in addition to a ferrule. A variation of drawn arc stud welding is also available, called short cycle stud welding. This variation functions similarly but uses a higher current and a shorter cycle for faster welds. This technique is typically used on materials in an awkward middle size between the sizes best handled with drawn arc stud welding and the smaller sizes best handled by capacitor discharge welding. It’s also used for aluminum stud welding. Shielding gas is also more common for this size of stud welding.
Capacitor Discharge Stud Welding
The second common kind of stud welding is capacitor discharge stud welding. As the name implies, this form of welding uses a high-powered capacitor to store energy, discharging it all at once in a flash that melts the joint’s surface and fuses two materials.
Capacitor discharge studs are typically formed with a special tip that serves as a tiny guide for the precise location of the discharge arc. Like with the alternative form of stud welding, capacitor discharge stud welding uses a spring to push the stud into the molten pool of material, making a smooth, consistent joint.
The process here is straightforward. The capacitor in the stud gun is charged, and a stud is loaded into it. The gun is then positioned and fired, automatically completing the entire process.
The gun operator needs only to load the gun and adequately place it; the machine handles everything else. This method is commonly used in automated machinery because the program can also automatically position and load.
Capacitor discharge stud welding is ideal for smaller-diameter studs and thinner base materials.
Because it happens so fast, most of the heat is limited to the stud, and only a relatively small amount of the base material is melted, reducing any chance of discoloration or marring to the reverse side of the base material.
Variations on Stud Welding
While the two main processes above are common forms of stud welding, the mechanism can also be used in other situations.
A common variation is insulation in HVAC, particularly at industrial scales. In this process, insulation is wrapped around a metal base and must be fixed; this is done using cupped pins, essentially like giant thumbtacks. These pins are the studs used in the welding process, and their tips are the contact point between the base material and the pin itself.
Stud welding processes fuse the two, and a series of such pins are used to fix the insulation in place at regular intervals across a work surface.
An alternative to this process adheres pins to the work surface upon which the insulation is placed, and the welding process applies caps to those pins. Many thermal power plants and industrial furnaces are insulated in this manner.
Sometimes, friction welding can also be used. Friction welding eschews the electric current in favor of mechanical forces. It spins the stud at a high RPM, pressing it against the work surface so that the sheer friction of the two materials heats them up to the melting point, fusing them together. Friction welding is not technically a form of stud welding. However, it does not use the same equipment, is not used for the same purposes, and operates via an entirely different mechanism.
Another variation in stud welding is nut welding. A traditional stud welding process adheres a bolt to a surface, which nuts can then be threaded onto for various fabrication purposes. The opposite process adheres a nut to the base material, into which a bolt can be threaded later.
Since nuts are circular, a different process must be used. This more complex process uses a magnetic field to rotate an arc around the circular cross-section of the nut while shielding gas protects the molten area.
This circular weld pool then receives the nut as it plunges downwards, fusing the two. The center hole can be punched out or bored to accept a bolt.
Variations on Stud Welding Guns
Stud welding guns come in a wide range of capabilities and additional features. Some can be auto-loading, allow for more than one type of welding, or have optional shield gas piping built in. The machine you choose will depend on your needs.
The three main types of stud gun welders are the arc stud gun welder, the capacitor discharge (CD) stud gun welder, and the resistance welding stud gun welder.
- The arc stud gun welder is a portable, low-power machine designed for projects requiring quick and easy spot welding on thin-gauge metals such as aluminum and stainless steel. The power generated by this type of stud welder is suitable for most small welding jobs.
- The capacitor discharge (CD) stud gun welder is a more powerful yet still portable welding machine used for both thin- and thick-gauge materials. This type of stud gun welder is popular because it can create a strong weld without manually adjusting parameters like current or voltage.
- Finally, the resistance welding stud gun welder is the most powerful of all stud gun welders. It creates an exceptionally strong weld that can hold heavy loads for long periods. While this type of stud gun welder is more expensive than the other two types, it is ideal for those who plan to do heavier-duty welding projects.
No matter which type of stud gun welder you choose, it’s important to remember that each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, choosing the style that best suits your needs and budget is essential.
Choosing a Stud Welding Gun
If you’re still determining what you’re likely to need, you can always rent stud welding machines to try them out.
Rental equipment is accessible and inexpensive compared to purchasing equipment outright, though, of course, you need to exercise due caution.
If you have any questions about the stud welding process, the various available equipment, or other general welding forms, feel free to reach out! Whether you comment on this post, please read the rest of our blog or drop us a line directly; we’re always ready to help. We’re equally available for small-time hobbyists, industrial-scale welding operators, and everyone in between. Just let us know!
Consistent delivery of the welding wire is essential to maintaining an efficient welding process. Fortunately, this is easily accomplished by using purpose-built equipment from industry-leading manufacturers—such as Lincoln Electric. Like welding power sources, wire feeders are often specially designed to meet the needs of a target industry or application, including various options of process type, wire type, payoff type and size, durability, portability, connectivity, and more. Here are the different types of Lincoln wire feeders.
Semi-Automatic Wire Feeders
Semi-automatic wire feeders used in the MIG welding process. The welding filler wire is fed to a welding torch by the wire feeder. There are numerous types of semi-automatic wire feeders and each feeder is suited for specific applications.
Integrated Wire Feeders
On commercial and light industrial welding power sources, the wire feeder is integrated directly into the welding power supply. This takes the guesswork out of selecting the most suitable feeder. The smallest power supplies may have limited options as to the size of wire payoff (spools) that can be used. However, these smaller units are portable and not intended for the high productivity and operator factor as their larger counterparts.
Bench wire feeders are typically used with stationary equipment. Weight may not be a consideration if the unit will be stationary atop a welding power source. When this is the case, a dual wire feeder is a favorable option, since it allows wires of different diameters and types to pull from the same power source, greatly reducing changeover time.
Weight must be considered when you want to mount a wire feeder to a boom in order to extend reach while also reducing cable clutter on the floor. For this reason, Lincoln also offers boom wire feeders that separate the wire feed unit from the controls to allow ease of access.
Suitcase Wire Feeders
Suitcase units are typically designed with portability and durability in mind. The enclosure protects the wire in outdoor fabrication environments such as shipbuilding and structural steel construction sites. Suitcase units are available in sizes to accommodate 15-lb or 33-lb spools.
Advanced Process Wire Feeders
Since welding technology has become more sophisticated, and the demand for increased productivity has grown, wire-feeding systems have truly changed the game. For example, suitcase wire feeders have the ability to communicate with the power source to allow voltage to be adjusted at the feeder—as opposed to the power source much farther away. Special models of benchtop and suitcase feeders are also required to harness the additional control set of pulsed waveform capabilities. These models typically feature digital displays with a user interface with menus to navigate control features.
Automatic Wire Feeders
In contrast to semi-automatic wire feeders, automatic wire feeders are designed to be integrated into mechanized or robotic systems. This presents some challenges because the wire feeder may be located some distance from the operator. Automatic wire feeders are also tasked with the most productive of welding processes (SAW or high-amperage GMAW).
Robotic MIG/GMAW Wire Feeders
Robotic welding wire feeders must provide high wire speeds, sufficient torque to pull wire from bulk packaging some distance away, and low weight to mount to a robotic arm. Unlike semi-automatic feeders, robotic wire feeders do not have a readout or voltage adjustment. Instead, these settings are controlled at the robotic teaching pendant integrated with the welding power source. However, many robotic wire feeders have buttons that control wire jog and purge to simplify set-up and maintain the robot’s functionality.
Submerged Arc Welding Wire Feeders
Wire feeders for submerged arc welding are often mounted relatively close to the welding torch. However, they must deliver signals sometimes over great distances. Compared to conventional GMAW/FCAW wire feeders, the drive motors tend to be larger, provide higher torque, and offer lower wire feed speeds. However, some SAW wire feeders are designed for mounting onto a tractor— meaning they cannot be excessively bulky.
Wire Feeders for Welding Aluminum
A spool gun is a great choice for welding aluminum—a delicate wire that requires extra care to achieve proper feeding. Spool guns integrate the wire payoff and wire feeder into the welding torch to reduce the total distance the wire must travel to the contact tip. However, the tradeoff is that spool guns are often comparatively heavy/not ergonomic and are limited to 1-2 lb. wire spools that require frequent changeover in a high-productivity environment.
Spool Guns are an alternative to the combination of a push-pull gun and semi-automatic feeder. Push-pull guns are a popular choice when welders need larger wire payoffs and the workpiece is located some distance from the power source. The gun has a wire feeder built into the handle of the torch, but it’s intended to work alongside the semi-automatic feeder. In this way, using a semi-automatic wire feeder alone helps minimize the risk of birds nesting in wire kinks.
Whether you’re welding aluminum, working with a robot, welding outdoors on a Jobsite, or welding indoors in a production environment, chances are high that a Lincoln wire feeder would make your job easier. Some feeders are designed with ruggedness and simplicity in mind, while others are more focused on harnessing the latest advancements in welding technology. If you aren’t sure which wire feeder is the best fit for you, don’t hesitate to contact us today! Our experts can help you learn about your options so that you can complete your job safely and accurately.