Welding with DC Straight and Reverse Polarity
a. 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.
(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. Welding 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.
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.
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 watt meter, 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.