The power source is the heart of all arc welding process. Two basic types of power sources are expressed by their voltage-ampere output characteristics. The constant current machine is considered in this paragraph. The other power source, the constant voltage machine, is discussed in paragraph 10-3. The static output characteristic curve produced by both sources is shown in figure 10-1. The characteristic curve of a welding machine is obtained by measuring and plotting the output voltage and the output current while statically loading the machine.

a. The conventional machine is known as the constant current (CC) machine, or the variable voltage type. The CC machine has the characteristic drooping volt-ampere curve, (fig. 10-1), and has been used for many years for the shielded metal arc welding process. A constant-current arc-welding machine is one which has means for adjusting the arc current. It also has a static volt-ampere curve that tends to produce a relatively constant output current. The arc voltage, at a given welding current, is responsive to the rate at which a consumable electrode is fed into the arc. When a nonconsumable electrode is used, the arc voltage is responsive to the electrode-to-work distance. A constant-current arc-welding machine is usually used with welding processes which use manually held electrodes, continuously fed consumable electrodes, or nonconsumable electrodes. If the arc length varies because of external influences, and slight changes in the arc voltage result, the welding current remains constant.

b. The conventional or constant current (CC) type power source may have direct current or alternating current output. It is used for the shielded metal-arc welding process, carbon arc welding and gouging, gas tungsten arc welding, and plasma arc welding. It is used for stud welding and can be used for the continuous wire processes when relatively large electrode wires are used.

c. There are two control systems for constant current welding machines: the single-control machine and the dual-control machine.

(1) The single-control machine has one adjustment which changes the current output from minimum to maximum, which is usually greater than the rated output of the machine. The characteristic volt-ampere curve is shown by figure 10-2. The shaded area is the normal arc voltage range. By adjusting the current control, a large number of output curves can be obtained. The dotted lines show intermediate adjustments of the machine. With tap or plug-in machines, the number of covers will correspond to the number of taps or plug-in combinations available. Most transformer and transformer-rectifier machines are single-control welding machines.

(2) Dual control machines have both current and voltage controls. They have two adjustments, one for coarse-current control and the other for fine-current control, which also acts as an open-circuit voltage adjustment. Generator welding machines usually have dual controls. They offer the welder the most flexibility for different welding requirements. These machines inherently have slope control. The slope of the characteristic curve can be changed from a shallow to a steep slope according to welding requirements. Figure 10-3 shows some of the different curves that can be obtained. Other curves are obtained with intermediate open-circuit voltage settings. The slope is changed by changing the open-circuit voltage with the fine-current control adjustment knob. The coarse adjustment sets the current output of the machine in steps from the minimum to the maximum current. The fine-current control will change the open-circuit voltage from approximately 55 volts to 85 volts. However, when welding, this adjustment does not change arc voltage. Arc voltage is controlled by the welder by changing the length of the welding arc. The open-circuit voltage affects the ability to strike an arc. If the open-circuit voltage is much below 60 volts, it is difficult to strike an arc.

(a) The different slopes possible with a dual-control machine have an important effect on the welding characteristic of the arc. The arc length can vary, depending on the welding technique. A short arc has lower voltage and the long arc has higher voltage. With a short arc (lower voltage), the power source produces more current, and with a longer arc (higher voltage), the power source provides less welding current. This is illustrated by figure 10-4, which shows three curves of arcs and two characteristic curves of a dual-control welding machine. The three arc curves are for a long arc, a normal arc, and the lower curve is for a short arc. The intersection of a curve of an arc and a characteristic curve of a welding machine is known as an operating point. The operating point changes continuously during welding. While welding, and without changing the control on the machine, the welder can lengthen or shorten the arc and change the arc voltage from 35 to 25 volts. With the same machine setting, the short arc (lower voltage) is a high-current arc. Conversely, the long arc (high voltage) is a lower current arc. This allows the welder to control the size of the molten puddle while welding. When the welder purposely and briefly lengthens the arc, the current is reduced, the arc spreads out, and the puddle freezes quicker. The amount of molten metal is reduced, which provides the control needed for out-of-position work. This type of control is built into conventional constant current type of machine, single-or dual-control, ac or dc.

(b) With the dual-control machine, the welder can adjust the machine for more or less change of current for a given change of arc voltage. Both curves in figure 10-4 are obtained on a dual-control machine by adjusting the fine control knob. The top curve shows an 80-volt open-circuit voltage and the bottom curve shows a 60-volt open-circuit voltage. With either adjustment, the voltage and current relationship will stay on the same curve or line. Consider first the 80-volt open-circuit curve which produces the steeper slope. When the arc is long with 35 volts and is shortened to 25 volts, the current increases. This is done without touching the machine control. The welder manipulates the arc. With the flatter, 60-volt open-circuit curve, when the arc is shortened from 35 volts to 25 volts, the welding current will increase almost twice as much as it did when following the 80-volt open-circuit curve. The flatter slope curve provides a digging arc where an equal change in arc voltage produces a greater change in arc current. The steeper slope curve has less current change for the same change in arc length and provides a softer arc. There are many characteristic curves between the 80 and 60 open circuit voltage curves, and each allows a different current change for the same arc voltage change. This is the advantage of a dual-control welding machine over a single-control type, since the slope of the curve through the arc voltage range is adjustable only on a dual-control machine. The dual-control generator welding machine is the most flexible of all types of welding power sources, since it allows the welder to change to a higher-current arc for deep penetration or to a lower-current, less penetrating arc by changing the arc length. This ability to control the current in the arc over a fairly wide range is extremely useful for making pipe welds.

d. The rectifier welding machine, technically known as the transformer-rectifier, produces direct current for welding. These machines are essentially single-control machines and have a static volt ampere output characteristic curve similar to that shown in

figure 10-4 above. These machines, though not as flexible as the dual-control motor generator, can be used for all types of shielded metal arc welding where direct current is required. The slope of the volt-ampere curve through the welding range is generally midway between the maximum and minimum of a dual-control machine.e. Alternating current for welding is usually produced by a transformer type welding machine, although engine-driven alternating current generator welding machines are available for portable use. The static volt ampere characteristic curve of an alternating current power source the same as that shown in figure 10-4 above. Some transformer welding power sources have fine and coarse adjustment knobs, but these are not dual control machines unless the open-circuit voltage is changed appreciably. The difference between alternating and direct current welding is that the voltage and current pass through zero 100 or 120 times per second, according to line frequency or at each current reversal. Reactance designed into the machine causes a phase shift between the voltage and current so that they both do not go through zero at the same instant. When the current goes through zero, the arc is extinguished, but because of the phase difference, there is voltage present which helps to re-establish the arc quickly. The degree of ionization in the arc stream affects the voltage required to re-establish the arc and the overall stability of the arc. Arc stabilizers (ionizers) are included in the coatings of electrodes designed for ac welding to provide a stable arc.

f. The constant-current type welding machine can be used for some automatic welding processes. The wire feeder and control must duplicate the motions of the welder to start and maintain an arc. This requires a complex system with feedback from the arc voltage to compensate for changes in the arc length. The constant-current power supplies are rarely used for very small electrode wire welding processes.

g. Arc welding machines have been developed with true constant-current volt-ampere static characteristics, within the arc voltage range, as shown by figure 10-5. A welder using this type of machine has little or no control over welding current by shortening or lengthening the arc, since the welding current remains the same whether the arc is short or long. This is a great advantage for gas tungsten current by shortening or lengthening the arc, since the welding current remains the same whether the arc is short or long. This is a great advantage for gas tungsten arc welding, since the working arc length of the tungsten arc is limited. In shield metal-arc welding, to obtain weld puddle control, it is necessary to be able to change the current level while welding. This is done by the machine, which can be programmed to change from a high current (HC) to a low current (LC) on a repetitive basis, known as pulsed welding. In pulsed current welding there are two current levels, the high current and low current, sometimes called background current. By programming a control circuit, the output of the machine continuously switches from the high to the low current as shown in figure 10-6. The level of both high and low current is adjustable. In addition, the length of time for the high and low current pulses is adjustable. This gives the welder the necessary control over the arc and weld puddle. Pulsed current welding is useful for shielded metal-arc welding of pipe when using certain types of electrodes. Pulsed arc is very useful when welding with the gas tungsten arc welding process.