Welding Consumables Complete Guide: Parts and Materials
What are welding consumables?
Welding consumables are materials used during the welding process, such as MIG wire, TIG wire or MMA electrodes. These materials must be replaced regularly as they get used up during the welding process.
There are two main types of welding consumables: firstly, the type which forms the weld, and secondly, a material such as tin or lead which acts as a “glue” that melts and joins the metals together by bonding. This article will discuss the first method while examining the MIG/MAG, TIG and MMA welding processes.
What is arc welding?
Arc welding is a process that uses an electric arc to create heat. This heat then melts and melds the metals together. A power source generates the electrical arc between a consumable or non-consumable electrode, creating a “weld pool” that melds the metal together once cooled. This type of welding is typically used to join metals such as steel, aluminium and stainless steel.
MIG/MAG Welding Consumables
MIG/MAG welding is what most welders are familiar with as it is relatively easy to learn and can be a great introduction to welding.
MAG (Metal Active Gas) uses active gases (argon, hydrogen and nitrogen) to shield the weld pool from contaminants. The active gases form plasma around the electrode, and the heat from the plasma melts the consumable wire and forms the weld joint.
The usual method of delivering the welding arc, shielding gas, and filler metal to the workpiece is achieved by a welding torch (or ‘gun), which is attached to the electrical terminal of a welding machine. While the filler wire is pushed along the torch, a shield gas is fed up the torch from its compressed cylinder, directed at the contact tip.
MIG consumable parts are a commodity, but they are vital to achieving quality welding and can directly impact the productivity and cost of the project. Poor-quality welding materials can significantly affect the welding result; a badly designed MIG torch can poorly feed the filler wire or provide inconsistent gas shielding.
The main consumable parts used during MIG/MAG welding are a liner, contact tip, gas nozzle, and diffuser. These parts feed the filler wire, maintain the gas shield, and create a good welding arc. These parts are vital to completing a superior weld, so using the best quality materials for these roles is essential.
Higher-quality consumables are typically made from higher-grade materials, maximising life, increasing weld quality and reducing unnecessary issues. To reduce strife and low-quality welding results, buying quality consumable welding materials is best.
TIG welding consumables
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld, and a shielding gas (usually argon) is used; however, a filler metal is not always used in this process. TIG welding primarily welds thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous metals such as aluminium, magnesium and copper alloys.
As the tungsten electrode is non-consumable, it does not melt or become part of the weld; instead, the arc’s heat melts the metal being welded.
During welding, the tungsten electrode is held in place by a collet within the torch head. The main parts of the collet, the collet body and ceramic nozzle, need to be precisely dimensioned to suit the tungsten electrode. A poorly mounted electrode will cause the welding arc to wander, making it harder to control the weld pool.
Poor-quality parts produce unnecessary difficulties such as undesirable weld bead appearance, weak gas shielding and extra downtime caused by frequently replacing burnout parts and ceramic nozzles.
MMA (Manual Metal Arc) welding is an arc-welding process in which the meld is produced by heating with an arc between a covered metal (stick) electrode and the workpiece. In this case, the shielding gas is generated through the decomposition of the electrode covering and the filler metal is collected from the electrode. This type of welding is frequently used in the construction and fabrication industries.
There are no actual consumable parts in the MMA welding process; however, the electrode holder, earth clamps and welding leads that are used deteriorate with use, which can cause issues such as the electrode falling out of the holder or changing position during welding, or the reduction of welding power due to poor earth and electrode conductivity.
It is recommended that welding leads are replaced regularly and that the correct size of cable, holder and earth clamps are used. PWP has provided a sizing guide below:
Where to find quality welding consumable suppliers in the UK
At PWP we aim to provide welders and those who work in the industry with the highest-quality materials to ensure that your welding has perfect results, and we plan to execute this goal by providing the essentials.
Our extensive product ranges are focused on providing solutions that customers can benefit from and help produce their best work. PWP is determined to put quality equipment in the hands of welders and help the industry become more efficient, dynamic and profitable.