Atomic hydrogen welding (AHW) is an arc welding process that uses an arc between two metal tungsten electrodes in a shielding atmosphere of hydrogen. The process was invented by Irving Langmuir in the course of his studies of atomic hydrogen. The electric arc efficiently breaks up the hydrogen molecules, which later recombine with tremendous release of heat, reaching temperatures from 3400 to 4000 °C. Without the arc, an oxyhydrogen torch can only reach 2800 °C. This is the third hottest flame after cyanogen at 4525 °C and dicyanoacetylene at 4987 °C. An acetylene torch merely reaches 3300 °C. This device may be called an atomic hydrogen torch, nascent hydrogen torch or Langmuir torch. The process was also known as arc-atom welding.
The heat produced by this torch is sufficient to melt and weld tungsten (3422 °C), the most refractory metal. The presence of hydrogen also acts as a gas shield and protects metals from contamination by carbon, nitrogen, or oxygen, which can severely damage the properties of many metals. It eliminates the need of flux for this purpose.
The arc is maintained independently of the workpiece or parts being welded. The hydrogen gas is normally diatomic (H2), but where the temperatures are over 600 °C (1100 °F) near the arc, the hydrogen breaks down into its atomic form, simultaneously absorbing a large amount of heat from the arc. When the hydrogen strikes a relatively cold surface (i.e., the weld zone), it recombines into its diatomic form and rapidly releases the stored heat. The energy in AHW can be varied easily by changing the distance between the arc stream and the workpiece surface. This process is being replaced by shielded metal-arc welding, mainly because of the availability of inexpensive inert gases.
In atomic hydrogen welding, filler metal may or may not be used. In this process, the arc is maintained entirely independent of the work or parts being welded. The work is a part of the electrical circuit only to the extent that a portion of the arc comes in contact with the work, at which time a voltage exists between the work and each electrode.
Bare metal-arc welding (BMAW) is an arc welding process in which fusion is obtained by heating with an unshielded arc between a bare or lightly coated electrode and the work. Pressure is not used and filler metal is obtained from the electrode.
Carbon arc welding (CAW) is a process which produces coalescence of metals by heating them with an arc between a nonconsumable carbon (graphite) electrode and the work-piece. It was the first arc-welding process ever developed but is not used for many applications today, having been replaced by twin-carbon-arc welding and other variations. The purpose of arc welding is to form a bond between separate metals. In carbon-arc welding a carbon electrode is used to produce an electric arc between the electrode and the materials being bonded. This arc produces extreme temperatures in excess of 3,000°C. At this temperature the separate metals form a bond and become welded together.
Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW or FCA) is a semi-automatic or automatic arc welding process. FCAW requires a continuously-fed consumable tubular electrode containing a flux and a constant-voltage or, less commonly, a constant-current welding power supply. An externally supplied shielding gas is sometimes used, but often the flux itself is relied upon to generate the necessary protection from the atmosphere. The process is widely used in construction because of its high welding speed and portability.
FCAW was first developed in the early 1950s as an alternative to shielded metal arc welding (SMAW). The advantage of FCAW over SMAW is that the use of the stick electrodes used in SMAW is unnecessary. This helped FCAW to overcome many of the restrictions associated with SMAW.
Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), sometimes referred to by its subtypes metal inert gas (MIG) welding or metal active gas (MAG) welding is a semi-automatic or automatic arc welding process in which a continuous and consumable wire electrode and a shielding gas are fed through a welding gun. A constant voltage, direct current power source is most commonly used with GMAW, but constant current systems, as well as alternating current, can be used. 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.
Originally developed for welding aluminum and other non-ferrous materials in the 1940s, GMAW was soon applied to steels because it allowed for lower welding time compared to other welding processes. The cost of inert gas limited its use in steels until several years later, when the use of semi-inert gases such as carbon dioxide became common. Further developments during the 1950s and 1960s gave the process more versatility and as a result, it became a highly used industrial process. Today, GMAW is the most common industrial welding process, preferred for its versatility, speed and the relative ease of adapting the process to robotic automation. Unlike welding processes that do not employ a shielding gas, such as shielded metal arc welding, it is rarely used outdoors or in other areas of air volatility. A related process, flux cored arc welding, often does not utilize a shielding gas, instead employing a hollow electrode wire that is filled with flux on the inside.
Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding, is an arc welding process that uses a nonconsumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The weld area is protected from atmospheric contamination by a shielding gas (usually an inert gas such as argon), and a filler metal is normally used, though some welds, known as autogenous welds, do not require it. A constant-current welding power supply produces energy which is conducted across the arc through a column of highly ionized gas and metal vapors known as a plasma.
GTAW is most commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminum, magnesium, and copper alloys. The process grants the operator greater control over the weld than competing processes such as shielded metal arc welding and gas metal arc welding, allowing for stronger, higher quality welds. However, GTAW is comparatively more complex and difficult to master, and furthermore, it is significantly slower than most other welding techniques. A related process, plasma arc welding, uses a slightly different welding torch to create a more focused welding arc and as a result is often automated
Plasma arc welding (PAW) is an arc welding process similar to gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). The electric arc is formed between an electrode (which is usually but not always made of sintered tungsten) and the workpiece. The key difference from GTAW is that in PAW, by positioning the electrode within the body of the torch, the plasma arc can be separated from the shielding gas envelope. The plasma is then forced through a fine-bore copper nozzle which constricts the arc and the plasma exits the orifice at high velocities (approaching the speed of sound) and a temperature approaching 20,000 °C. Plasma arc welding is an advancement over the GTAW process. This process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and an arc constricted through a fine-bore copper nozzle. PAW can be used to join all metals that are weldable with GTAW (i.e., most commercial metals and alloys). Several basic PAW process variations are possible by varying the current, plasma gas flow rate, and the orifice diameter, including:
- Micro-plasma (< 15 Amperes)
- Melt-in mode (15–400 Amperes)
- Keyhole mode (>100 Amperes)
- Plasma arc welding has a greater energy concentration as compared to GTAW.
- A deep, narrow penetration is achievable, with a maximum depth of 12 to 18 mm (0.47 to 0.71 in) depending on the material.
- Greater arc stability allows a much longer arc length (stand-off), and much greater tolerance to arc length changes.
- PAW requires relatively expensive and complex equipment as compared to GTAW; proper torch maintenance is critical
- Welding procedures tend to be more complex and less tolerant to variations in fit-up, etc.
- Operator skill required is slightly greater than for GTAW.
- Orifice replacement is necessary.
Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), also known as manual metal arc (MMA) welding, flux shielded arc welding or informally as stick welding, is a manual arc welding process that uses a consumable electrode coated in flux to lay the weld. An electric current, in the form of either alternating current or direct current from a welding power supply, is used to form an electric arc between the electrode and the metals to be joined. As the weld is laid, the flux coating of the electrode disintegrates, giving off vapors that serve as a shielding gas and providing a layer of slag, both of which protect the weld area from atmospheric contamination.
Because of the versatility of the process and the simplicity of its equipment and operation, shielded metal arc welding is one of the world’s most popular welding processes. It dominates other welding processes in the maintenance and repair industry, and though flux-cored arc welding is growing in popularity, SMAW continues to be used extensively in the construction of steel structures and in industrial fabrication. The process is used primarily to weld iron and steels (including stainless steel) but aluminium, nickel and copper alloys can also be welded with this method.
Submerged arc welding (SAW) is a common arc welding process. Originally developed by the Linde – Union Carbide Company. It requires a continuously fed consumable solid or tubular (flux cored) electrode. The molten weld and the arc zone are protected from atmospheric contamination by being “submerged” under a blanket of granular fusible flux consisting of lime, silica, manganese oxide, calcium fluoride, and other compounds. When molten, the flux becomes conductive, and provides a current path between the electrode and the work. This thick layer of flux completely covers the molten metal thus preventing spatter and sparks as well as suppressing the intense ultraviolet radiation and fumes that are a part of the shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) process.
SAW is normally operated in the automatic or mechanized mode, however, semi-automatic (hand-held) SAW guns with pressurized or gravity flux feed delivery are available. The process is normally limited to the flat or horizontal-fillet welding positions (although horizontal groove position welds have been done with a special arrangement to support the flux). Deposition rates approaching 100 lb/h (45 kg/h) have been reported — this compares to ~10 lb/h (5 kg/h) (max) for shielded metal arc welding. Although Currents ranging from 300 to 2000 A are commonly utilized, currents of up to 5000 A have also been used (multiple arcs).
Single or multiple (2 to 5) electrode wire variations of the process exist. SAW strip-cladding utilizes a flat strip electrode (e.g. 60 mm wide x 0.5 mm thick). DC or AC power can be used, and combinations of DC and AC are common on multiple electrode systems. Constant voltage welding power supplies are most commonly used; however, constant current systems in combination with a voltage sensing wire-feeder are available.
- Also known as metal inert gas (MIG) welding or metal active gas (MAG) welding
- Also known as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding
- Also known as manual metal arc (MMA) welding or stick welding