Arc Welding Electrodes

Arc Welding Electrodes

In addition to establishing the arc and supplying filler metal for the weld deposit, arc welding electrodes introduce other materials into or around the arc. Depending upon the type of electrode being used, the covering performs one or more of the following functions:

Provides a gas to shield the arc and prevent excessive atmospheric contamination of the molten filler metal as it travels across the arc.

Provides scavengers, deoxidizers, and fluxing agents to cleanse the weld and prevent excessive grain growth in the weld metal.

Establishes the electrical characteristics of the electrode.

 Provides a slag blanket to protect the hot weld metal from the air and enhance the mechanical properties, bead shape, and surface cleanliness of the weld metal.

Provides a means of adding alloying elements to change the mechanical properties of the weld metal.

Functions 1 and 4 prevent the pick-up of oxygen and nitrogen from the air by the molten filler metal in the arc stream and by the weld metal as it solidifies and cools.The covering on shielded metal arc electrodes is applied by either the extrusion or the dipping process. Extrusion is much more widely used. The dipping process is used primarily for cast and some fabricated core rods. In either case, the covering contains most of the shielding, scavenging, and deoxidizing materials. Most SMAW electrodes have a solid metal core. Some are made with a fabricated or composite core consisting of metal powders encased in a metallic sheath. In this latter case, the purpose of some or even all of the metal powders is to produce an alloy weld deposit.

In addition to improving the mechanical properties of the weld metal, the covering on arc welding electrodes can be designed for welding with alternating current. With ac, the welding arc goes out and is reestablished each time the current reverses its direction. For good arc stability, it is necessary to have a gas in the arc stream that will remain ionized during each reversal of the current. This ionized gas makes possible the reignition of the arc. Gases that readily ionize are available from a variety of compounds, including those that contain potassium. It is the incorporation of these compounds in the electrode covering that enables the electrode to operate on ac.

To increase the deposition rate, the coverings of some carbon and low alloy steel electrodes contain iron powder. The iron powder is another source of metal available for deposition, in addition to that obtained from the core of the electrode. The presence of iron powder in the covering also makes more efficient use of the arc energy. Metal powders other than iron are frequently used to alter the mechanical properties of the weld metal.

The thick coverings on electrodes with relatively large amounts of iron powder increase the depth of the crucible at the tip of the electrode. This deep crucible helps contain the heat of the arc and maintains a constant arc length by using the “drag” technique. When iron or other metal powders are added in relatively large amounts, the deposition rate and welding speed usually increase. Iron powder electrodes with thick coverings reduce the level of skill needed to weld. The tip of the electrode can be dragged along the surface of the work while maintaining a welding arc. For this reason, heavy iron powder electrodes frequently are called “drag electrodes.” Deposition rates are high; but because slag solidification is slow, these electrodes are not suitable for out-of-position use.