The second type of power source is the constant voltage (CV) machine or the constant potential (CP) machine. It has a relatively flat volt-ampere characteristic curve.
a. The static output characteristic curve produced by both the CV and CC machine is shown by figure 10-1 above. 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. The constant voltage (CV) characteristic curve is essentially flat but with a slight droop. The curve may be adjusted up and down to change the voltage; however, it will never rise to as high an open-circuit voltage as a constant current (CC) machine. This is one reason that the constant voltage (CV) machine is not used for manual shielded metal arc welding with covered electrodes. It is only used for continuous electrode wire welding. The circuit consists of a pure resistance load which is varied from the minimum or no load to the maximum or short circuit. The constant current (CC) curve shows that the machine produces maximum output voltage with no load, and as the load increases, the output voltage decreases. The no-load or open-circuit voltage is usually about 80 volts.
b. The CV electrical system is the basis of operation of the entire commercial electric power system. The electric power delivered to homes and available at every receptacle has a constant voltage. The same voltage is maintained continuously at each outlet whether a small light bulb, with a very low wattage rating, or a heavy-duty electric heater with a high wattage rating, is connected. The current that flows through each of these circuits will be different based on the resistance of the particular item or appliance in accordance with Ohm’s law. For example, the small light bulb will draw less than 0.01 amperes of current while the electric heater may draw over 10 amperes. The voltage throughout the system remains constant, but the current flowing through each appliance depends on its resistance or electrical load. The same principle is utilized by the CV welding system.
c. When a higher current is used when welding, the electrode is melted off more rapidly. With low current, the electrode melts off slower. This relationship between melt-off rate and welding current applies to all of the arc welding processes that use a continuously fed electrode. This is a physical relationship that depends upon the size of the electrode, the metal composition, the atmosphere that surrounds the arc, and welding current. Figure 10-7 shows the melt-off rate curves for different sizes of steel electrode wires in a C02 atmosphere. Note that these curves are nearly linear, at least in the upper portion of the curve. Similar curves are available for all sizes of electrode wires of different compositions and in different shielding atmospheres. This relationship is definite and fixed, but some variations can occur. This relationship is the basis of the simplified control for wire feeding using constant voltage. Instead of regulating the electrode wire feed rate to maintain the constant arc length, as is done when using a constant current power source, the electrode wire is fed into the arc at a fixed speed. The power source is designed to provide the necessary current to melt off the electrode wire at this same rate. This concept prompted the development of the constant voltage welding power source.
d. The volt-ampere characteristics of the constant voltage power source shown by figure 10-8, was designed to produce substantially the same voltage at no load and at rated or full load. It has characteristics similar to a standard commercial electric power generator. If the load in the circuit changes, the power source automatically adjusts its current output to satisfy this requirement, and maintains essentially the same voltage across the output terminals. This ensures a self-regulating voltage power source.
e. Resistances or voltage drops occur in the welding arc and in the welding cables and connectors, in the welding gun, and in the electrode length beyond the current pickup tip. These voltage drops add up to the output voltage of the welding machine, and represent the electrical resistance load on the welding power source. When the resistance of any component in the external circuit changes, the voltage balance will be achieved by changing the welding current in the system. The greatest voltage drop occurs across the welding arc. The other voltage drops in the welding cables and connections are relatively small and constant. The volt-age drop across the welding arc is directly dependent upon the arc length. A small change in arc volts results in a relatively large change in welding current. Figure 10-9 shows that if the arc length shortens slightly, the welding current increases by approximately 100 amperes. This change in arc length greatly increases the melt-off rate and quickly brings the arc length back to normal.
f. The constant voltage power source is continually changing its current output in order to maintain the voltage drop in the external portion of the welding circuit. Changes in wire feed speed which might occur when the welder moves the gun toward or away from the work are compensated for by changing the current and the melt-off rate briefly until equilibrium is re-established. The same corrective action occurs if the wire feeder has a temporary reduction in speed. The CV power source and fixed wire feed speed system is self-regulating. Movement of the cable assembly often changes the drag or feed rate of the electrode wire. The CV welding power source provides the proper current so that the malt-off is equal to the wire feed rate. The arc length is controlled by setting the voltage on the power source. The welding current is controlled by adjusting the wire feed speed.
g. The characteristics of the welding power source must be designed to provide a stable arc when gas metal arc welding with different electrode sizes and metals and in different atmospheres. Most constant voltage power sources have taps or a means of adjusting the slope of the volt-ampere curve. A curve having a slope of 1-1/2 to 2 volts per hundred amperes is best for gas metal arc welding with nonferrous electrodes in inert gas, for submerged arc welding, and for flux-cored arc welding with larger-diameter electrode wires. A curve having a medium slope of 2 to 3 volts per hundred amperes is preferred for CO2 gas shielded metal arc welding and for small flux-cored electrode wires. A steeper slope of 3 to 4 volts per hundred amperes is recommended for short circuiting arc transfer. These three slopes are shown in figure 10-10. The flatter the curve, the more the current changes for an equal change in arc voltage.
h. The dynamic characteristics of the power source must be carefully engineered. Refer again to figure 10-9. If the voltage changes abruptly with a short circuit, the current will tend to increase quickly to a very high value. This is an advantage in starting the arc but will create unwanted spatter if not controlled. It is controlled by adding reactance or inductance in the circuit. This changes the time factor or response time and provides for a stable arc. In most machines, a different amount of inductance is included in the circuit for the different slopes.
i. The constant voltage welding power system has its greatest advantage when the current density of the electrode wire is high. The current density (amperes/sq in.) relationship for different electrode wire sizes and different currents is shown by figure 10-11. There is a vast difference between the current density employed for gas metal arc welding with a fine electrode wire compared with conventional shielded metal arc welding with a covered electrode.
j. Direct current electrode positive (DCEP) is used for gas metal arc welding. When dc electrode negative (DCEN) is used, the arc is erratic and produces an inferior weld. Direct current electrode negative (DCEN) can be used for submerged arc welding and flux-cored arc welding.
k. Constant voltage welding with alternating current is normally not used. It can be used for submerged arc welding and for electroslag welding.
l. The constant voltage power system should not be used for shielded metal-arc welding. It may overload and damage the power source by drawing too much current too long. It can be used for carbon arc cutting and gouging with small electrodes and the arc welding processes.