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.
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.