Finding ways to maximize productivity and weld quality – even with less experienced welders – are common challenges for manufacturing operations. Minimizing downtime and reducing weld rework will always result in better throughput and an improved bottom line.
Fortunately, manufacturers can stay ahead of challenges with the latest welding technologies and by following some best practices to help prevent common mistakes. Even steps that seem small, such as ensuring proper cable connections and gas flow, can help welding operations avoid significant problems.
Provided here are five tips to help optimize the welding process and reduce mistakes that cost time and money.
Tip No. 1: Connections
Check connections and cables: The quality of the welding arc is impacted by bad ground connections or cable damage. Poor cable connections can result in spatter in the weld, which increases time and money spent on cleanup. Damaged cables can lead to voltage drops that reduce the heat in the weld, ultimately contributing to inconsistent weld quality.
To help optimize the weld, regularly check cable connections and conditions and replace damaged or worn cables, as necessary. Be sure to always properly tighten cable connections during setup and watch for connections that can loosen over time with use.
A loose connection or even a small nick in a weld cable can affect the weld. Attention to these seemingly small details can prevent major problems.
Tip No. 2: Gases
Ensure proper gas pressure and flow: Improper gas pressure or flow can affect weld quality, adding downtime for rework. This can happen when the shielding gas level is turned up too high or when the gas lines to the machine are too long.
Gas lines ideally should be as short as the welding application allows, typically only extending from the gas supply directly to the wire feeder. When a gas hose is too long, pressure can build up and inflate the hose even when the operator isn’t welding. This excess pressure is released when the operator pulls the welding gun trigger – causing an unstable welding arc, more spatter and porosity in the arc starts.
Locate the gas regulator as close to the wire feeder as possible to help ensure the correct gas pressure. Regulators that are too far away can cause a surge of gas.
It’s also important to set correct gas pressure settings. Incorrect settings are a common problem in shops without air conditioning where workers may run fans to stay cool. Gas levels may be turned higher to compensate for the fans blowing away the shielding gas, but gas pressure that is too high can cause an unstable welding arc, more spatter and lack of fusion in the weld. However, gas pressure that is too low doesn’t adequately shield the weld, which can also result in weld defects.
Improper gas pressure or flow can also increase costs in the welding operation, through additional downtime for rework or spatter cleanup and by wasting gas. If an operation spends $200,000 a year on shielding gas, using 30 percent more gas than necessary equates to spending an extra $60,000 that could be saved with proper gas settings.
Tip No. 3: Fit-ups
Take time for proper fit-up: Part fit-up issues – and ultimately weld defects – can happen when materials aren’t properly tacked. Improper fit-up can cause extra spatter, poor weld aesthetics and inadequate weld penetration. Also, be careful not to use tacks that are too large, which can be hard to weld over. All of these problems can require extra time and money in the operation.
Ensuring proper part fit-up and tacking of the materials adds time at the start of the process, but helps prevent costly and time-consuming issues later by reducing rework and wasted consumables. It also helps the operator achieve high-quality welds.
Tip No. 4: Anti-spatter
Avoid using too much anti-spatter: While anti-spatter spray serves a purpose in some welding applications, using too much of it or using it in the wrong ways can cause problems.
Anti-spatter spray is designed to prevent spatter from the welding arc from sticking to the part and the consumables on the welding gun. When too much spray is used on parts, the spray can enter the weld joint and cause even more spatter, poor weld performance and problems with weld penetration.
Consumable wear, such as a nozzle insulator that degrades prematurely, can also occur when the gun consumables are soaked in anti-spatter spray. As a result, operations may spend more money on consumables and on downtime for frequent changeover.
If too much spatter is a problem, first check that the weld settings and parameters aren’t too high before relying on anti-spatter spray. Improper gas settings can also be the cause of excessive spatter, so be sure to adjust the gas accordingly. Spatter problems can often be corrected with proper settings and parameters, avoiding the need to use anti-spatter spray.
Also keep in mind that for operations using a weld fume filtration system, anti-spatter can cause shorter filter life, which increases potential downtime, maintenance costs and operator safety hazards.
Using less anti-spatter spray reduces costs spent on the spray and also reduces time for cleaning the weld cell because the spray can cause surfaces and the floor to be slick, which is also a safety hazard.
Tip No. 5: Maintenance
Don’t forget preventative maintenance: Achieving optimal performance and productivity in the welding operation requires regular care and inspection of the gun, consumables and wire feed system. This can be done as planned maintenance during routine pauses in welding.
Frequently inspect the gun and consumables and look for consumable wear. Replace contact tips, gas diffusers and retaining heads, as needed. Also, look for loose connections that can occur over time. Use compressed air to clean out the liner periodically and track how long a liner typically lasts so it can be replaced before problems occur.
Periodically inspect the wire feed drive system to make sure drive rolls are in good working condition and that proper drive roll tension is applied. Any issues with the drive system will cause weld quality issues – and ultimately cost the operation time and money.
Manufacturers can prevent costly mistakes by following some common best practices in the welding operation. The goal of these tips is to increase the time operators spend welding – and reduce the time and money spent on cleaning, grinding or rework. The end result is improved productivity, efficiency and weld quality.