Also found in: Dictionary, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
arc welding[′ärk ‚weld·iŋ]
A welding process utilizing the concentrated heat of an electric arc to join metal by fusion of the parent metal and the addition of metal to the joint usually provided by a consumable electrode (see illustration). Electric current for the welding arc may be either direct or alternating, depending upon the material to be welded and the characteristics of the electrode used. The current source may be a rotating generator, rectifier, or transformer and must have transient and static volt-ampere characteristics designed for arc stability and weld performance.
There are three basic welding methods: manual, semiautomatic, and automatic. Manual welding is the oldest method, and though its proportion of the total welding market diminishes yearly, it is still the most common. Here an operator takes an electrode, clamped in a hand-held electrode holder, and manually guides the electrode along the joint as the weld is made. Usually the electrode is consumable; as the tip is consumed, the operator manually adjusts the position of the electrode to maintain a constant arc length.
Semiautomatic welding is becoming the most popular welding method. The electrode is usually a long length of small-diameter bare wire, usually in coil form, which the welding operator manually positions and advances along the weld joint. The consumable electrode is normally motor-driven at a preselected speed through the nozzle of a hand-held welding gun or torch.
Automatic welding is very similar to semiautomatic welding, except that the electrode is automatically positioned and advanced along the prescribed weld joint. Either the work may advance below the welding head or the mechanized head may move along the weld joint.
There are, in addition to the three basic welding methods, many welding processes which may be common to one or more of these methods. A few of the more common are described below.
Carbon-electrode arc welding is in limited use for welding ferrous and nonferrous metals. Normally, the arc is held between the carbon electrode and the work. The carbon arc serves as a source of intense heat and simply fuses the base materials together, or filler material may be added from a separate source.
Shielded metal arc welding is the most widely used arc-welding process. A coated stick electrode is consumed during the welding operation, and therefore provides its own filler metal. The electrode coating burns in the intense heat of the arc and forms a blanket of gas and slag that completely shields the arc and weld puddle from the atmosphere. Its use is generally confined to the manual welding method.
Submerged-melt arc welding uses a consumable bare metal wire as the electrode, and a granular fusible flux over the work completely submerges the arc. This process is particularly adapted to welding heavy work in the flat position. High-quality welds are produced at greater speed with this method because as much as five times greater current density is used. Automatic or semiautomatic wire feed and control equipment is normally used for this process.
Tungsten-inert gas welding, often referred to as TIG welding, utilizes a virtually nonconsumable electrode made of tungsten. Impurities, such as thorium, are often purposely added to the tungsten electrode to improve its emissivity for direct-current welding. The necessary arc shielding is provided by a continuous stream of chemically inert gas, such as argon, helium, or argon-helium mixtures, which flows axially along the tungsten electrode that is mounted in a special welding torch. This process is used most often when welding aluminum and some of the more exotic space-age materials. When filler metal is desired, a separate filler rod is fed into the arc stream either manually or mechanically. Since no flux is required, the weld joint is clean and free of voids.
Metal-inert gas welding, often referred to as MIG welding, saw its greatest growth in the 1960s. It is similar to the TIG welding process, except that a consumable metal electrode, usually wire in spool form, replaces the nonconsumable tungsten electrode. This process is adaptable to either the semiautomatic or the automatic method. In addition to the inert gases, carbon dioxide has become increasingly common as a shielding means.