An introduction to MIG Welding - Part 1

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MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding, also known as MAG (Metal Active Gas) and in the USA as GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding), is a welding process that is now widely used for welding a variety of materials, ferrous and non ferrous.

The essential feature of the process is the small diameter electrode wire, which is fed continuously into the arc from a coil. As a result this process can produce quick and neat welds over a wide range of joints.

MIG welding is carried out on DC electrode (welding wire) positive polarity (DCEP). However DCEN is used (for higher burn off rate) with certain self shielding and gas shield cored wires.

DC output power sources are of a transformer-rectifier design, with a flat characteristic (constant voltage power source). The most common type of power source used for this process is the switched primary transformer rectifier with constant voltage characteristics from both 3-phase 415V and 1- phase 240V input supplies.

The output of direct current after full wave rectification from a 3-phase machine is very smooth. To obtain smooth output after full wave rectification with a 1- phase machine, a large capacitor bank across the output is required. Because of the expense of this, many low cost 1-phase machines omit this component and therefore provide a poorer weld characteristic. The switches to the main transformer primary winding provide the output voltage steps at the power source output terminals.

Another method of producing different voltages at the power source output terminals is to use a Thyristor or a Transistor rectifier instead of a simple diode rectifier. This system offers continuously variable output voltage, which can be particularly useful on robot installations and the cost of this type of rectifier can be partly offset with no need for primary voltage switch or switches and a single tapped main transformer primary winding. Most MIG power sources have a contactor or relay used to switch the output ON/OFF with operations of the trigger on the MIG torch. The switch off operation of this contactor is normally delayed to allow the welding wire to Burn back out of the molten weld pool. A thermostat is fitted on the hottest point in the power source, in series with the contactor coil to provide thermal protection to the machine. Power source performance is measured by it’s ability to provide a certain current for a percentage of a 10 minute period before “Thermal Cut- Out”. This is the “Duty Cycle

The Wire-feed Unit

The wire-feed unit, or sub-assembly where this is mounted in the power source cabinet (known as a composite MIG), provides the controlled supply of welding wire to the point to be welded. According to the welding wire size and Arc voltage provided by the power source, a constant rate of wire speed is required, in MIG welding the power source provides Arc voltage control and the wire feed unit provides welding wire speed control, ( in MIG this equates to welding current ).

Most modern wire feed units control the wire feed speed via a DC motor and thyristor control PCB to provide continous control of Armature volts and hence RPM of motor.

The wire feed motor spindle has a feed roller fitted and another pressure roll, adjustable spring mounted to lightly grip the wire and push it up the length of the MIG torch.

Various combinations of drive system are used by different manufacturers, these include:
  • Driven feed roll and pressure driven pressure roll
  • Driven feed roll and driven pressure roll
  • Two driven feed rolls and pressure driven pressure roll
  • Two driven feed rolls and two driven pressure rolls
The following groups of illustrations show the types of problems encountered when wire-feed roll parameters (pressure and type) are applied incorrectly.


All content courtesy of Weldability SIF our supply partner.
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