02 Gas Metal Arc Welding Notes.
Post on 16-Dec-2015
DESCRIPTIONAbout gas metal arc welding
Gas Metal Arc Welding & Flux Cored Arc Welding
GAS METAL ARC WELDING
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), was initially referred to as metal inert gas (MIG metal
inert gas) welding is an arc welding process that uses an arc between a continuous filler
metal electrode and the weld pool. The process incorporates shielding from an externally
supplied gas and is used without the application of pressure.
MIG was primarily developed for welding aluminium and other non-ferrous materials in
the 1940s. However, further process developments, such as operating at low current
densities, pulsed current and the use of reactive gases (particularly carbon dioxide) or gas
mixtures led to its use for a broader range of materials. It was the use of both inert and
reactive gases or gas mixtures that made the term Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) as
the formally accepted name of the process.
Further developments during the 1950s and 1960s gave the process more versatility and
as a result, it became a highly used industrial process. Presently, GMAW is commonly
used the automotive and shipbuilding industries, where it is preferred for its versatility
The GMAW process can be implemented in Semi-automatic or Automated operations.
All commercially available important metals, listed below, can be welded in all positions
with this process by selecting the appropriate combination of shielding gas, electrodes
and welding process variables.
Materials welded by GMAW:
High strength low alloy steels (HSLA)
Aluminium and its alloys
Copper and its alloys
Nickel and Nickel based alloys
Principles or Operation of GMAW
Figure 1: GMAW Process
The GMAW Process utilizes the automated feeding of a continuous, consumable
electrode that is shielded by externally supplied gas. The process is illustrated
schematically in Figure 1.
The basic equipment components required are a welding gun and cable assembly, an
electrode (wire) feeder unit, a welding power source and the gas supply with the
associated apparatus. A typical semi-automatic GMAW set up is illustrated in the
schematic in Figure 2.
The gun guides the electrode, conducts electrical current and directs shielding gas to the
work-piece. Most commonly, a constant voltage power source, providing essentially a
flat volt-ampere (V-A) curve, is used in conjunction with a constant speed electrode feed
unit to regulate the arc length. Alternatively, a constant current power source (providing a
drooping V-A curve can also be used with an electrode feed unit that is arc-voltage
Figure 2: GMAW Set up
The constant voltage power source & constant speed wire feed combination is self
regulatory. Any changes in the gun position caused by the welders hand movement, can
initiate a self regulating action to maintain the arc length.
For example, when the gun-to-workpiece distance is suddenly increased, the arc length
momentarily becomes longer and this causes a reduction in current, thereby momentarily
reducing the electrode melting rate. Since the feed remains at the same speed, the arc
length decreases and the current increases until the melting rate again equals the feed
This self regulation of the GMAW arc is depicted in figure 3.
Figure 3: Self regulation of the GMAW arc with Constant voltage power source and
constant speed wire feed
Metal Transfer Modes
The characteristics of GMAW are best described in terms of the basic means by which
metal is transferred from the electrode to the workpiece, or the mode of metal transfer as
this is referred to.
There are four primary methods of metal transfer in GMAW, called globular, short-
circuiting, spray, and pulsed-spray, each of which has distinct properties and
corresponding advantages and limitations.
The mode of transfer is determined by a number of factors:
1. Magnitude, type and polarity of welding current
2. Electrode diameter
3. Electrode composition
4. Electrode extension and
5. Shielding gas composition
This mode of transfer, known as short-circuiting or short-arc GMAW, occurs when
carbon dioxide is the shielding gas, the electrode diameter is smaller, and the current
density is low. The metal is transferred from the electrode only during the period in
which the electrode is in contact with the weld pool. No metal is transferred across the
arc. The electrode contacts the weld pool in the range of 20- to 200 times per second.
Molten droplets forms on the tip of the electrode, but instead of dropping to the weld
pool, they bridge the gap between the electrode and the weld pool as a result of the
greater wire feed rate. This causes a short circuit and extinguishes the arc, but it is
quickly reignited after the surface tension of the weld pool pulls the molten metal bead
off the electrode tip. This process is repeated 20 to 200 times per second, making the arc
appear constant to the human eye.
As a result of the lower current, the heat input for the short-arc variation is reduced,
making it possible to weld thinner materials while decreasing the amount of distortion
and residual stress in the weld area. This transfer is generally suited for joining of thin
sections, for out-of-position welding and bridging large root openings
This type of metal transfer is slow and it is difficult to maintain a stable arc, because it
depends on achieving a consistent and high short-circuiting frequency, which can only be
accomplished with a good power source, suitable welding conditions, and significant
The composition of the shielding gas has a dramatic effect on the surface tension of the
molten metal, arc characteristics and penetration. CO2 produces high spatter levels
compared to Argon and Helium but it also promotes deeper penetration. To achieve a
good compromise between spatter and penetration when welding carbon and low alloy
steels, mixtures of CO2 and argon are often used. Addition of Helium or Argon may
increase penetration in nonferrous metals.
GMAW with globular metal transfer is often considered the most undesirable of the four
major GMAW variations, because of its tendency to produce high heat, a poor weld
surface, and spatter. The method was originally developed as a cost efficient way to weld
steel using GMAW, because this variation uses carbon dioxide, a less expensive shielding
gas than Argon.
As the weld is made, a ball of molten metal from the electrode tends to build up on the
end of the electrode, often in irregular shapes with a larger diameter than the electrode
itself. When the droplet finally detaches either by gravity or short circuiting, it falls to the
workpiece, leaving an uneven surface and often causing spatter.
As a result of the large molten droplet, this mode of transfer is generally limited to flat
and horizontal welding positions.
Spray transfer GMAW occurs when the molten metal from the electrode is propelled
axially across the arc in the form of minute droplets. With Argon-rich gas shielding it is
possible to produce a very stable, spatter-free axial spray transfer mode. The mode
requires Direct current with a positive electrode (DCEP) and a current level above a
critical value termed the spray transition current. Below this level, the transfer is globular.
In this variation, molten metal droplets (with diameters smaller than the electrode
diameter) are rapidly passed along the stable electric arc from the electrode to the
workpiece, essentially eliminating spatter and resulting in a high-quality weld finish.
However, high amounts of voltage and current are necessary, which means that the
process involves high heat input and a large weld area and heat-affected zone.
As a result, it is generally used only on work-pieces of thicknesses above about 6 mm
(0.25 in). Because of the large weld pool, it is often limited to flat and horizontal welding
positions, but when a smaller electrode is used in conjunction with lower heat input, its
versatility increases. The maximum deposition rate for spray arc GMAW is relatively
high; about 60 mm /sec (150 in/min).
A more recently developed method, the pulse-spray metal transfer mode is based on the
principles of spray transfer but uses a pulsing current to melt the filler wire. This allows
one small molten droplet to fall with each pulse. The pulses allow the average current to
be lower, decreasing the overall heat input and thereby decreasing the size of the weld
pool and heat-affected zone while making it possible to weld thin work-pieces.
The pulse provides a stable arc and no spatter, since no short-circuiting takes place. This
also makes the process suitable for nearly all metals, and thicker electrode wire can be
used as well.
The process also requires that the shielding gas be primarily argon with a low carbon
Additionally, it requires a special power source capable of providing current pulses with a
frequency of between 30 and 400 pulses per second.
However, the method has gained popularity, since it requires lower heat input and can be
used to weld thin workpieces, as well as nonferrous materials.
Power source characteristics: As stated before, a constant voltage power source is used for GMAW process. The V-A
characteristics of the power source are depicted in figure 5 below.
Figure 5: Constant voltage power supply V-A curve
As is seen in the figure, a small change in arc voltage will cause a large change in current
thereby increasing or decreasing the melt-off rate of the electrode. This compensates for
the variations in contact tip-to-workpiece distance by instantaneously increasing or
decreasing the welding current.
As we know, the primary function of the Shielding gas is to exclude the atmosphere from
contact with the molten metal. This is necessary since most metals, when molten from
oxides and to a lesser extent, nitrides. Oxygen also reacts with carbon in the molten metal
to form CO and CO2 gases. These reaction gases may produce defects or discontinuities
such as slag inclusions, porosity and weld metal embrittlement.
In addition to provide a protective environment, shielding gas and flow rate have a
pronounced effect on:
Modes of metal transfer
Penetration and weld bead profile
Speed of welding
Cleaning action and weld metal mechanical properties
The choice of a shielding gas therefore depends on several factors, most importantly:
the type of material being welded and
the process variation being used
Figure 7: Bead contours and penetration patterns with various shielding gases
Bead contours and Penetration patterns for various shielding gases are shown in figure 7.
Carbon dioxide provides maximum penetration while Helium produces uniformly
distributed arc energy.
Pure inert gases such as argon and helium produce excellent results for nonferrous
welding and therefore are used with most nonferrous metals, However, with steel these
pure gases cause an erratic arc, encourage spatter (Helium) or do not provide adequate
weld penetration (Argon).
Pure carbon dioxide, on the other hand, allows for deep penetration welds but encourages
oxide formation, which adversely affect the mechanical properties of the weld. Its low
cost makes it an attractive choice, but the arc is harsh, spatter is unavoidable, making
welding thin materials difficult.
Figure 8: Relative effect of Oxygen versus Carbon dioxide additions to the Argon shield
Mixtures therefore are used to combine the properties to give optimum results.
Oxygen (1 5%) and Carbon dioxide (3 25%) additions to Argon produce noticeable
improvement in arc stability and reduces the tendency for undercut. Carbon dioxide
additions to Argon may also enhance the weld bead configuration by producing a well
defined pear-shaped profile as is seen in fillet welds shown in figure 8.
As a result, argon and carbon dioxide are frequently mixed in a 75%/25% or 80%/20%
mixture, which reduces spatter and makes it possible to weld thin steel workpieces.
Argon is also commonly mixed with other gases, such as oxygen, helium, hydrogen, and
nitrogen. The addition of up to 5% oxygen encourages spray transfer, which is critical for
spray-arc and pulsed spray-arc GMAW.
An argon-helium mixture is completely inert, and is used on nonferrous materials.
Gas Flow Rate
The desirable rate of gas flow depends primarily on weld geometry, speed, current, the
type of gas, and the metal transfer mode being utilized.
Welding flat surfaces requires higher flow than welding grooved materials, since the gas
is dispersed more quickly.
Faster welding speeds mean that more gas must be supplied to provide adequate
Higher current requires greater flow, and generally, more helium is required to provide
adequate coverage than argon.
Gas flow rates used for different metal transfer modes are listed in the table below for a
Metal Transfer Mode Gas Flow required
Short circuiting & Pulsed spray
modes (small weld pools)
10 L/min (20 ft/h)
Globular transfer 15 L/min (30 ft/h) is preferred
Spray transfer (higher heat input,
larger weld pool)
20-25 L/min (4050 ft/h)
The electrodes (filler metals) for GMAW are specified by various filler metal
specifications (AWS for instance)
They define requirements for sizes and tolerances, packaging, chemical composition, and
in some cases, mechanical properties.
The process variables that affect weld penetration, bead geometry and overall weld
Welding amperage (electrode feed speed)
Electrode extension beyond the contact tip (stick out)
Electrode orientation (work, travel angles)
Weld joint position
Electrode diameter and
Shielding gas composition and flow rate
The gas metal arc process has been adapted to provide specific characteristics for a wide
range of applications. Some of these variations are:
Gas Metal Arc Sport Welding
Narrow Groove Gas metal arc welding
Gas Metal Arc Brazing
Tandem gas metal arc welding
Only Gas metal arc brazing is discussed here within the scope of the lecture.
Gas Metal Arc Brazing:
In gas metal arc braze welding, a copper based electrode (e.g. aluminium bronze or
silicon bronze) is used instead of a steel electrode to join steel.
As the copper alloy has a lower melting temperature than steel, less heating of the base
metal is required in order to deposit a weld bead, and little or no melting of the base
Because of the low heat input, braze welding is some times used to join heat sensitive
materials such as cast iron, for welding of thin sheet steel to help prevent melt through.
Gas metal arc brazing is also used to join galvanized steels.
The lower heat input reduces the amount of coating that is melted away and the copper
based weld bead furnishes better corrosion resistance than that provided by a carbon steel