TC-9-237 – Chapter-10-section-I-part-2


a. General. The electrical arc welding circuit is the same as any electrical circuit. In the simplest electrical circuits, there are three factors: current, or the flow of electricity; pressure, or the force required to cause the current to flow; and resistance, or the force required to regulate the flow of current.

(1) Current is a rate of flow and is measured by the amount of electricity that flows through a wire in one second. The term ampere denotes the amount of current per second that flows in a circuit. The letter I is used to designate current amperes.

(2) Pressure is the force that causes a current to flow. The measure of electrical pressure is the volt. The voltage between two points in an electrical circuit is called the difference in potential. This force or potential is called electromotive force or EMF. The difference of potential or voltage causes current to flow in an electrical circuit. The letter E is used to designate voltage or EMF.

(3) Resistance is the restriction to current flow in an electrical circuit. Every component in the circuit, including the conductor, has some resistance to current flow. Current flows easier through some conductors than others; that is, the resistance of some conductors is less than others. Resistance depends on the material, the cross-sectional area, and the temperature of the conductor. The unit of electrical resistance is the ohm. It is designated by the letter R.

b. Electrical circuits. A simple electrical circuit is shown by figure 10-12. This circuit includes two meters for electrical measurement: a voltmeter, and an ammeter. It also shows a symbol for a battery. The longer line of the symbol represents the positive terminal. Outside of a device that sets up the EMF, such as a generator or a battery, the current flows from the negative (-) to the positive (+). The arrow shows the direction of current flow. The ammeter is a low resistance meter shown by the round circle and arrow adjacent to the letter I. The pressure or voltage across the battery can be measured by a voltmeter. The voltmeter is a high resistance meter shown by the round circle and arrow adjacent to the letter E. The resistance in the circuit is shown by a zigzag symbol. The resistance of a resistor can be measured by an ohmmeter. An ohmmeter must never be used to measure resistance in a circuit when current is flowing.

electrical circuit

c. Arc Welding Circuit. A few changes to the circuit shown by figure 10-12, above, can be made to represent an arc welding circuit. Replace the battery with a welding generator, since they are both a source of EMF (or voltage), and replace the resistor with a welding arc which is also a resistance to current flow. The arc welding circuit is shown by figure 10-13. The current will flow from the negative terminal through the resistance of the arc to the positive terminal.

welding electrical circuit

d. Reverse and Straight Polarity. In the early days of arc welding, when welding was done with bare metal electrodes on steel, it was normal to connect the positive side of the generator to the work and the negative side to the electrode. This provided 65 to 75 percent of the heat to the work side of the circuit to increase penetration. When welding with the electrode negative, the polarity of the welding current was termed straight. When conditions such as welding cast iron or nonferrous metals made it advisable to minimize the heat in the base metal, the work was made negative and the electrode positive, and the welding current polarity was said to be reverse. In order to change the polarity of the welding current, it was necessary to remove the cables from the machine terminals and replace them in the reverse position. The early coated electrodes for welding steel gave best results with the electrode positive or reverse polarity; however, bare electrodes were still used. It was necessary to change polarity frequently when using both bare and covered electrodes. Welding machines were equipped with switches that changed the polarity of the terminals and with dual reading meters. The welder could quickly change the polarity of the welding current. In marking welding machines and polarity switches, these old terms were used and indicated the polarity as straight when the electrode was negative, and reverse when the electrode was positive. Thus, electrode negative (DCEN) is the same as straight polarity (dcsp), and electrode positive (DCEP) is the same as reverse polarity (dcrp).

e. The ammeter used in a welding circuit is a millivoltmeter calibrated in amperes connected across a high current shunt in the welding circuit. The shunt is a calibrated, very low resistance conductor. The voltmeter shown in figure 10-12 will measure the welding machine output and the voltage across the arc, which are essentially the same. Before the arc is struck or if the arc is broken, the voltmeter will read the voltage across the machine with no current flowing in the circuit. This is known as the open circuit voltage, and is higher than the arc voltage or voltage across the machine when current is flowing.

f. Another unit in an electrical circuit is the unit of power. The rate of producing or using energy is called power, and is measured in watts. Power in circuit is the product of the current in amperes multiplied by the pressure in volts. Power is measured by a wattmeter, which is a combination of an ammeter and a voltmeter.

g. In addition to power, it is necessary to know the amount of work involved. Electrical work or energy is the product of power multiplied by time, and is expressed as watt seconds, joules, or kilowatt hours.


a. General. The arc is used as a concentrated source of high temperature heat that can be moved and manipulated to melt the base metal and filler metal to produce welds.

b. Types of Welding Arcs. There are two basic types of welding arcs. One uses the non-consumable electrode and the other uses the consumable electrode.

(1) The non-consumable electrode does not melt in the arc and filler metal is not carried across the arc stream. The welding processes that use the non-consumable electrode arc are carbon arc welding, gas tungsten arc welding, and plasma arc welding.

(2) The consumable electrode melts in the arc and is carried across the arc in a stream to become the deposited filler metal. The welding processes that use the consumable electrode arc are shielded metal arc welding, gas metal arc welding, flux-cored arc welding, and submerged arc welding.

c. Function of the Welding Arc.

(1) The main function of the arc is to produce heat. At the same time, it produces a bright light, noise, and, in a special case, bombardment that removes surface films from the base metal.

(2) A welding arc is a sustained electrical discharge through a high conducting plasma. It produces sufficient thermal energy which is useful for joining metals by fusion. The welding arc is a steady-state condition maintained at the gap between an electrode and workpiece that can carry current ranging from as low as 5 amperes to as high as 2000 amperes and a voltage as low as 10 volts to the highest voltages used on large plasma units. The welding arc is somewhat different from other electrical arcs since it has a point-to-plane geometric configuration, the point being the arcing end of the electrode and the plane being the arcing area of the workpiece. Whether the electrode is positive or negative, the arc is restricted at the electrode and spreads out toward the workpiece.

(3) The length of the arc is proportional to the voltage across the arc. If the arc length is increased beyond a certain point, the arc will suddenly go out. This means that there is a certain current necessary to sustain an arc of different lengths. If a higher current is used, a longer arc can be maintained.

(4) The arc column is normally round in cross section and is made up of an inner core of plasma and an outer flame. The plasma carries most of the current. The plasma of a high-current arc can reach a temperature of 5000 to 50,000° Kelvin. The outer flame of the arc is much cooler and tends to keep the plasma in the center. The temperature and the diameter of the central plasma depend on the amount of current passing through the arc, the shielding atmosphere, and the electrode size and type.

(5) The curve of an arc, shown by figure 10-14, takes on a nonlinear form which in one area has a negative slope. The arc voltage increases slightly as the current increases. This is true except for the very low-current arc which has a higher arc voltage. This is because the low-current plasma has a fairly small cross-sectional area, and as the current increases the cross section of the plasma increases and the resistance is reduced. The conductivity of the arc increases at a greater rate than simple proportionality to current.

current in amperes

(6) The arc is maintained when electrons are emitted or evaporated from the surface of the negative pole (cathode) and flow across a region of hot electrically charged gas to the positive pole (anode), where they are absorbed. Cathode and anode are electrical terms for the negative and positive poles.

(7) Arc action can best be explained by considering the dc tungsten electrode arc in an inert gas atmosphere as shown by figure 10-15. On the left, the tungsten arc is connected for direct current electrode negative (DCEN). When the arc is started, the electrode becomes hot and emits electrons. The emitted electrons are attracted to the positive pole, travel through the arc gap, and raise the temperature of the argon shielding gas atoms by colliding with them. The collisions of electrons with atoms and molecules produce thermal ionization of some of the atoms of the shielding gas. The positively charged gaseous atoms are attracted to the negative electrode where their kinetic (motion) energy is converted to heat. This heat keeps the tungsten electrode hot enough for electron emission. Emission of electrons from the surface of the tungsten cathode is known as thermionic emission. Positive ions also cross the arc. They travel from the positive pole, or the work, to the negative pole, or the electrode. Positive ions are much heavier than the electrons, but help carry the current flow of the relatively low voltage welding arc. The largest portion of the current flow, approximately 99 percent, is via electron flow rather than through the flow of positive ions. The continuous feeding of electrons into the welding circuit from the power source accounts for the continuing balance between electrons and ions in the arc. The electrons colliding with the work create the intense localized heat which provides melting and deep penetration of the base metals.

the dc tungsten arc

(8) In the dc tungsten to base metal arc in an inert gas atmosphere, the maximum heat occurs at the positive pole (anode). When the electrode is positive (anode) and the work is negative (cathode), as shown by figure 10-15, the electrons flow from the work to the electrode where they create intense heat. The electrode tends to overheat. A larger electrode with more heat-absorbing capacity is used for DCEP (dcsp) than for DCEN (dcrp) for the same welding current. In addition, since less heat is generated at the work, the penetration is not so great. One result of DCEP welding is the cleaning effect on the base metal adjacent to the arc area. This appears as an etched surface and is known as catholic etching. It results from positive ion bombardment. This positive ion bombardment also occurs during the reverse polarity half-cycle when using alternating current for welding.

(9) Constriction occurs in a plasma arc torch by making the arc pass through a small hole in a water-cooled copper nozzle. It is a characteristic of the arc that the more it is cooled the hotter it gets; however, it requires a higher voltage. By flowing additional gas through the small hole, the arc is further constricted and a high velocity, high temperature gas jet or plasma emerges. This plasma is used for welding, cutting, and metal spraying.

(10) The arc length or gap between the electrode and the work can be divided into three regions: a central region, a region adjacent to the electrode, and a region adjacent to the work. At the end regions, the cooling effect of the electrode and the work causes a rapid drop in potential. These two regions are known as the anode and cathode drop, according to the direction of current flow. The length of the central region or arc column represents 99 percent of the arc length and is linear with respect to arc voltage. Figure 10-16 shows the distribution of heat in the arc, which varies in these three regions. In the central region, a circular magnetic field surrounds the arc. This field, produced by the current flow, tends to constrict the plasma and is known as the magnetic pinch effect. The constriction causes high pressures in the arc plasma and extremely high velocities. This, in turn, produces a plasma jet. The speed of the plasma jet approaches sonic speed.

arc length versus voltage and heat

(11) The cathode drop is the electrical connection between the arc column and the negative pole (cathode). There is a relatively large temperature and potential drop at this point. The electrons are emitted by the cathode and given to the arc column at this point. The stability of an arc depends on the smoothness of the flow of electrons at this point. Tungsten and carbon provide thermic emissions, since both are good emitters of electrons. They have high melting temperatures, are practically nonconsumable, and are therefore used for welding electrodes. Since tungsten has the highest melting point of any metal, it is preferred.

(12) The anode drop occurs at the other end of the arc and is the electrical connection between the positive pole (anode) and the arc column. The temperature changes from that of the arc column to that of the anode, which is considerably lower. The reduction in temperature occurs because there are fewer ions in this region. The heat liberated at the anode and at the cathode is greater than that from the arc column.

d. Carbon Arc. In the carbon arc, a stable dc arc is obtained when the carbon is negative. In this condition, about 1/3 of the heat occurs at the negative pole (cathode), or the electrode, and about 2/3 of the heat occurs at the positive pole (anode), or the workpiece.

e. Consumable Electrode Arc. In the consumable electrode welding arc, the electrode is melted and molten metal is carried across the arc. A uniform arc length is maintained between the electrode and the base metal by feeding the electrode into the arc as fast as it melts. The arc atmosphere has a great effect on the polarity of maximum heat. In shielded metal arc welding, the arc atmosphere depends on the composition of the coating on the electrode. Usually the maximum heat occurs at the negative pole (cathode). When straight polarity welding with an E6012 electrode, the electrode is the negative pole (DCEN) and the melt-off rate is high. Penetration is minimum. When reverse polarity welding with an E6010 electrode (DCEP), the maximum heat still occurs at the negative pole (cathode), but this is now the base metal, which provides deep penetration. This is shown by figure 10-17. With a bare steel electrode on steel, the polarity of maximum heat is the positive pole (anode). Bare electrodes are operated on straight polarity (DCEN) so that maximum heat is at the base metal (anode) to ensure enough penetration. When coated electrodes are operated on ac, the same amount of heat is produced on each polarity of the arc.

the dc shielded metal arc

f. Consumable Electrode Arc.

(1) The forces that cause metal to transfer across the arc are similar for all the consumable electrode arc welding processes. The type of metal transfer dictates the usefulness of the welding process. It affects the welding position that can be used, the depth of weld penetration, the stability of the welding pool, the surface contour of the weld, and the amount of spatter loss. The metal being transferred ranges from small droplets, smaller than the diameter of the electrode, to droplets larger in diameter than the electrode. The type of transfer depends on the current density, the polarity of the electrode, the arc atmosphere, the electrode size, and the electrode composition.

(2) Several forces affect the transfer of liquid metal across an arc. These are surface tension, the plasma jet, gravity in flat position welding, and electromagnetic force.

(a) Surface tension of a liquid causes the surface of the liquid to contract to the smallest possible area. This tension tends to hold the liquid drops on the end of a melting electrode without regard to welding position. This force works against the transfer of metal across the arc and helps keep molten metal in the weld pool when welding in the overhead position.

(b) The welding arc is constricted at the electrode and spreads or flares out at the workpiece. The current density and the arc temperature are the highest where the arc is most constricted, at the end of the electrode. An arc operating in a gaseous atmosphere contains a plasma jet which flows along the center of the arc column between the electrode and the base metal. Molten metal drops in the process of detachment from the end of the electrode, or in flight, are accelerated towards the work piece by the plasma jet.

(c) Earth gravity detaches the liquid drop when the electrode is pointed downward and is a restraining force when the electrode is pointing upward. Gravity has a noticeable effect only at low currents. The difference between the mass of the molten metal droplet and the mass of the workpiece has a gravitational effect which tends to pull the droplet to the workpiece. An arc between two electrodes will not deposit metal on either.

(d) Electromagnetic force also helps transfer metal across the arc. When the welding current flows through the electrode, a magnetic field is set up around it. The electromagnetic force acts on the liquid metal drop when it is about to detach from the electrode. As the metal melts, the cross-sectional area of the electrode changes at the molten tip. The electromagnetic force depends upon whether the cross section is increasing or decreasing. There are two ways in which the electromagnetic force acts to detach a drop at the tip of the electrode. When a drop is larger in diameter than the electrode and the electrode is positive (DCEP), the magnetic force tends to detach the drop. When there is a constriction or necking down which occurs when the drop is about to detach, the magnetic force acts away from the point of constriction in both directions. The drop that has started to separate will be given a push which increases the rate of separation. Figure 10-18 illustrates these two points. Magnetic force also sets up a pressure within the liquid drop. The maximum pressure is radial to the axis of the electrode and at high currents causes the drop to lengthen. It gives the drop stiffness and causes it to project in line with the electrode regardless of the welding position.

the dc consumable electrode metal arc


a. General. Alternating current is an electrical current which flows back and forth at regular intervals in a circuit. When the current rises from zero to a maximum, returns to zero, increases to a maximum in the opposite direction, and finally returns to zero again, it is said to have completed one cycle.

(1) A cycle is divided into 360 degrees. Figure 10-19 is a graphical representation of a cycle and is called a sine wave. It is generated by one revolution of a single loop coil armature in a two-pole alternating current generator. The maximum value in one direction is reached at the 90° position, and in the other direction at the 270° position.

sine wave generation

(2) The number of times this cycle is repeated in one second is called the frequency, measured in hertz.

b. Alternating current for arc welding normally has the same frequency as the line current. The voltage and current in the ac welding arc follow the sine wave and return to zero twice each cycle. The frequency is so fast that the arc appears continuous and steady. The sine wave is the simplest form of alternating current.

c. Alternating current and voltage are measured with ac meters. An ac voltmeter measures the value of both the positive and negative parts of the sine wave. It reads the effective, or root-mean-square (RMS) voltage. The effective direct current value of an alternating current or voltage is the product of 0.707 multiplied by the maximum value.

d. An alternating current has no unit of its own, but is measured in terms of direct current, the ampere. The ampere is defined as a steady rate of flow, but an alternating current is not a steady current. An alternating current is said to be equivalent to a direct current when it produces the same average heating effect under exactly similar conditions. This is used since the heating effect of a negative current is the same as that of a positive current. Therefore, an ac ammeter will measure a value, called the effective value, of an alternating current which is shown in amperes. All ac meters, unless otherwise marked, read effective values of current and voltage.

e. Electrical power for arc welding is obtained in two different ways. It is either generated at the point of use or converted from available power from the utility line. There are two variations of electrical power conversion.

(1) In the first variation, a transformer converts the relatively high voltages from the utility line to a liner voltage for ac welding.

(2) The second variation is similar in that it includes the transformer to lower the voltage, but it is followed by a rectifier which changes alternating current to direct current for dc welding.

f. With an alternating flow of current, the arc is extinguished during each half-cycle as the current reduces to zero, requiring reignition as the voltage rises again. After reignition, it passes, with increasing current, through the usual falling volts-amperes characteristic. As the current decreases again, the arc potential is lower because the temperature and degree of ionization of the arc path correspond to the heated condition of the plasma, anode, and cathode during the time of increasing current.

g. The greater the arc length, the less the arc gas will be heated by the hot electrode terminals, and a higher reignition potential will be required. Depending upon the thermal inertia of the hot electrode terminals and plasma, the cathode emitter may cool enough during the fall of the current to zero to stop the arc completely. When the electrode and welding work have different thermal inertia ability to emit electrons, the current will flow by different amounts during each half-cycle. This causes rectification to a lesser or greater degree. Complete rectification has been experienced in arcs with a hot tungsten electrode and a cold copper opposing terminal. Partial rectification of one half-cycle is common when using the TIG welding process with ac power.


a. Multiple layer welding is used when maximum ductility of a steel weld is desired or several layers are required in welding thick metal. Multiple layer welding is accomplished by depositing filler metal in successive passes along the joint until it is filled (fig. 10-20). Since the area covered with each pass is small, the weld puddle is reduced in size. This procedure enables the welder to obtain complete joint penetration without excessive penetration and overheating while the first few passes are being deposited. The smaller puddle is more easily controlled, and the welder can avoid oxides, slag inclusions, and incomplete fusion with the base metal.

sequences in multilayer welding

b. The multilayer method allows the welder to concentrate on getting good penetration at the root of the V in the first pass or layer. The final layer is easily controlled to obtain a good smooth surface.

c. This method permits the metal deposited in a given layer to be partly or wholly refined by the succeeding layers, and therefore improved in ductility. The lower layer of weld metal, after cooling, is reheated by the upper layer and then cooled again. In effect, the weld area is being heat treated. In work where this added quality is desired in the top layer of the welded joint, an excess of weld metal is deposited on the finished weld and then machined off. The purpose of this last layer is simply to provide welding heat to refine layer of weld metal.

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