Why Shield Gas is Important for Welding

Published on 21 December 2021
  • book4 min

Welding is a very delicate process; only the people who have good practice in it can perform a perfect job in amalgamating two metal pieces together. Now the concept of shielding gas comes into the picture which plays an important part in the process.

Shielding gases can be semi inert or inert which helps in preventing the weld pool from getting contaminated from the atmospheric impurities such as oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, dust particles, etc.

These inert gases are colorless, odorless and non chemically reactive, the most common gases which are used for welding are Argon, Helium & Carbon dioxide. These particular gases provide unique benefits in a given application as well as there can be some drawbacks if it doesn’t match with the base metal and type of electrode. 

Let’s look into the particular shielding gases uses:

  • Argon: It is the most suitable gas for the longer arc at lower voltages as well as for the easier start and alternating current application. For the welds which are emphasized upon weld quality, appearance & reducing post-weld clean-ups, a mixture of Argon up to 95% & 25% of CO2 becomes the good option.

    This mixture provides a desirable combo of arc stability, reduced spatter than pure use of CO2 and puddle control. Argon produces a narrow penetration which is very helpful for fillet and butt welds. If the welder is welding non-ferrous metal such as aluminum, magnesium, or titanium then he/she needs to use 100% Argon.  

  • Helium: It is effective for mechanized application but less forgiving for manual welding. Pure Helium produces an erratic arc which can result in spatter while working with steel. Helium produces a wide and deep penetration profile.

    It works well with thick materials and is usually used in the ratio of up to 75% Helium to 25% Argon. Adjusting the ratio can change the penetration, bead profile and travel speed. This gas creates a hotter arc which allows for faster travel speeds and fast travel profile.

  • Carbon Dioxide: it is a very common reactive gas that is generally used in MIG welding. It is the only gas that can be used in its pure form without any addition of inert gases, it is also inexpensive gas that provides deep weld penetration which is useful for welding thick metals. Although it produces a less stable arc, more spatter and is limited to only the short circuit process.  

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There is a saying that one cannot use the same approach to get different results, this phrase suits correctly the welding process, there are different welding methods like SMAWGTAW, MIG, SAW, etc and for these different methods, we cannot use the same wire/electrode. 

Many fabricators/ welders ignore the efficiencies which can be achieved by changing of consumable or process. Several points came into observation, one of which is while asking fabricators why they are using a particular consumable on different material, the response was \u201cIt is the only way we know and it is going great for us\u201d, even though another way might allow significant improvement.

Let\u2019s deep dive into the factors which is important to look into while choosing the right consumable:


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Giant pipes are used everywhere in the world and it is the simplest way to pass huge amounts of liquid from one place to another. These giant pipes are used for the water supply from the river to the purification plant of your city, for natural gas pipelines, for food and beverages companies, etc. Welding pipes is not an easy task to perform, because it takes a lot of perfection to make it leak proof to avoid any loss or hazard.


To avoid any leakages welder needs to look into some common points like, cutting the edges, proper tack should be done, choosing the correct electrode/welding wire according to the base metal, need to check if he/she is using the correct shield gas or not and what should be the correct otherwise it can lead to more spatter, needs to understand the porosity and using the correct welding machine which can tackle the work.

Most commonly the steel pipes are used for any giant piping work, to weld the steel pipes together the welder can use metal inert gas (MIG/GMAW) process, tungsten inert gas welding (TIG/GTAW) process either shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) commonly known as stick welding process. The welder needs to align two pipes together in a way that no gaps will be left and this should be maintained during the whole process. 

In the case of welding, the natural gas pipeline shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) process is very common and effective. Here the butt weld technique is used for the major joint. Here the welder needs to keep a few things in his mind like cleaning the rust, oil, slag to avoid any unfavorable events.

While welding pipes generally the tack weld technique is used to hold the weld before the final welding as it gives a blueprint to the welder of how the final weld will be done.     

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You are reading it correct \"underwater welding\", but how is it possible to weld underwater because, while welding electricity is consumed and we all know that electricity and water can\u2019t go hand in hand. Underwater welding is undoubtedly a dangerous process, but with proper training and following safety rules, the risks can be avoided.

Underwater welding was invented in the 1930s which is used for maintenance and repairing full or partial submerged marine structures. Now the underwater welding can be differentiated into two inland welding where the work on dams, bridges & small sea craft is done and another one is offshore welding which is done on ships, undersea pipelines, underwater habitat, oil rigs, etc.   


There are two types of underwater welding one is dry welding and the other is wet welding, in dry welding welders creates a seal first around the area where the welding process is going to take place, then the water is pushed out with the help of high-pressure pumps through hoses and the gaseous mixture of helium and oxygen takes the place. Then the right amount of pressure is created to prevent the chamber from decompression sickness after that the divers cum welders choose which welding method can be applied according to the size of chambers.

There are few welding methods that are applied on dry welding which are dry spot welding, dry chamber welding, habitat welding, pressure welding, GTAW/TIG, GMAW/MIG and plasma arc welding. Wet welding as it is clear by its name that water is going involved in this process, but what about the current?

As a reader you must be thinking that how the divers don\u2019t get an electric shock, here a layer of gaseous bubbles are generated when the arc melts the flux, this layer shields the weld and prevents electricity from being conducted beyond itself. These bubbles secure the welding area and can disturb the weld pool if the diver cum welder is not careful. Direct current (DC) is a popular way to weld. For underwater welding, it is considered safe as compared to alternating current. SMAW is the common welding method applied in wet welding but flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) and friction welding are also employed for underwater welding. 

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Choosing the correct shield gas is an important part, it plays a huge role in the welding process. The shielding gas not only protects the weld from getting contaminated from oxygen, nitrogen, or oxygen but can also affect the size, shape, fusion, speed, spatter and porosity too. In order to achieve strong, tough and corrosion-proof weld the welder should be well aware of the science behind that.


The welder needs to identify his/her goals in respect to get the better result, because no shielding gas exist which can fit in all type of welding, to choose the correct shield gas one should look into: the cost of gas, the base metal, the weld transfer process, penetration & post weld cleans ups, finished weld properties and the productivity goals.

For the Metal Inert Gas welding process, the mixture of CO2 and argon is an excellent choice, it also helps in welding thin automotive parts such as exhausts using solid wire. A mix of 2.5% carbon dioxide and argon which gives a good wetting action, produces a smooth weld with minimal spatter & low surface oxidation with relatively low fusion. 

For the pipework and paneling for components ranging from 3mm to 12mm which requires high integrity welds should consider argon, helium and CO2 mixture. It produces weld with low-temperature toughness values, low levels of porosity, high penetrations and excellent corrosion resistance. 

Here while choosing the correct shielding gas one should consider safety as a priority too because the welder is going to deal with high-pressure cylinders. It is important to purchase or rent shielding gases from a reputable company that can give an assurance that following strict standards are met and the gas cylinder complies with the regulations.

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In the 21st century, we have many industries located in India and in most of them we can find welding machines & equipment.  It is very necessary to do proper maintenance of machinery to give a long life, for example, if we assume the human body as machinery, we take proper care by eating food on time, doing exercise and taking work from it.

If we don\u2019t take care of the body; like if we take only work from it, do not eat healthy food and don\u2019t stretch the muscles then it can result in fatigue and lead to an unhealthy life. 

Let\u2019s look into some of the tips for maintenance and care of welding machine:

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Do you remember when you were in school in the art & craft class we used to join two pieces of paper with glue or through a stapler? Well here it is also the same, instead of joining two pieces of paper, we join two metal pieces not with glue or with stapler but with the scientific method of fabrication, where the metal pieces are fused together with heat and pressure and this process is called welding.

Welding is generally used for metals and thermoplastics but it can also be used on wood. Once the welding job is completed the welded joint can be referred to as a weldment. The metal pieces which are joined together are generally referred to as parent materials and the material which helps to join them is known as filler material or consumables. 


Consumables are usually chosen according to the composition of the parent metals which helps in forming homogeneous welds and sometimes different filler materials are used with cast irons therefore the properties which are used in these kinds of welds are typically known as heterogeneous welds.

An interesting fact about welding is, the electric arc is low voltage & high current discharge, generally for SMAW/GTAW current ranges 400-500 AMPs &SAW 600-1000 Amps and normal voltage range 10v to 35v. Capabilities vary from 60 percent to 90 percent which depends on the type of welding process, the heat is lost by conduction through the base metal and the radiation of the external environment.  

In the process of welding, heating at high temperatures causes a weld pool of molten material and when it gets cool it forms a joint that can be stronger than the parent material. The pressure is also used to produce a weld either alongside the heat or by itself. The welding process also needs protection from the external environment, hence there is a high chance that it can get contaminated or can get oxidized to protect the weld from these scenarios shield gases are used to protect the weld and helps to become stronger.


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Welding is one of the\r\ncrucial steps in building our lives easier, several modern welding techniques\r\nare available these days which are reliable and trust worthy. Back in the\r\nancient times when the early human civilization used to practice welding just\r\nby fusing metals with small boxes of gold and was helpful to join metals with\r\npressure. It is not just centuries old, it even dates back to the Bronze and\r\nIron ages. The ancient Egyptians welded together small gold boxes with joints, and\r\nthis was considered welding. Welding is the process of joining metal parts\r\ntogether to create an object. 


The researchers further\r\ndeveloped new welding methods and gained a better understanding of welding\r\nquality and welding properties. Robot welding became more common in industrial\r\nenvironments, and development continued with the introduction of electron beam\r\nwelding in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Although these early forms\r\nof welding were certainly not operated with the equipment used today, it is\r\nlikely that the original welders had to work at extremely high temperatures to\r\njoin metals, which may have led to some of the earliest examples of metal\r\nfusion in the Bronze and Iron Ages. The technology developed further when\r\nshielding gases were introduced into the industry to prevent oxygen-related\r\ndamage. 


In the 1930s, further\r\nmodernisation enabled the welding of metals such as magnesium and aluminium.\r\nArc welding and automatic welding became known in the late 20th and early 21st\r\ncenturies with the invention of the first electric welding machines. The metal\r\nmelted at the electrode carries an additive metal that deposits the fillers in\r\nthe joint to produce the weld.


By the end of the 19th\r\ncentury, the only welding method was forging, which used for centuries to\r\ncombine metals by heating & pounding, but there were rudimentary forms of\r\nwelding. Soon resistance welding followed, arc welding and oxyfuel welding were\r\nthe first processes to develop at the end of the century. 


According to the National\r\nInstitute for Standards and Technology welding technology developed rapidly in\r\nthe 20th century, driven by the demand for reliable and cost-effective joining\r\nmethods.

However, tungsten arcwelding required an expensive shielding gas, which was only perfected in the\r\nlate 1950s and enabled the use of high-pressure, low-temperature, gas and metal\r\nwelding. Until 1957, there were three different types of flux arc welding, but\r\nthe most popular was established as a self-shielding wire electrode that could\r\nbe used at high temperatures, leading to greatly increased welding speeds.\r\nShielded metal arc welding was developed in the early 1960s using flux-coated\r\nconsumables. It quickly developed into one of the fastest and most\r\ncost-effective welding method tries such as the automotive, aerospace and\r\naviation industries. 


In the year 1890,\r\nunderwater welding was invented, which is still popular today, as well as the\r\nuse of electrode in many other applications. 

After decades of\r\ndevelopment, gas tungsten arc welding was finally perfected in 1941, and gas\r\nmetal arc welders followed suit, enabling the use of metal arcs for welding\r\nwithout a welding rod, but requiring an expensive shielding gas.

After a decade of research\r\nand development in the late 1930s and early 1940s, the gas-to-metal arc welding\r\nsystem (also known as shielded metal welding or SMAW) was developed, using\r\nconsumer electrodes and atmospheric carbon dioxide as shielding gases. It\r\nquickly developed into one of the most popular welding methods in manual\r\nwelding and formed the basis for many of today's high-tech welding\r\ntechniques. 

Electrical current is used\r\nto hit the base material of the consumable electrode rod, which is made of\r\nsteel and coated with a protective layer to protect the welding area from\r\noxidation and contamination by the CO 2 gas produced during the welding\r\nprocess. However, welding times are quite slow, as consumables and electrodes\r\noften have to be replaced and slag residues and flux have to chip off during\r\nwelding. 

Thermite welding was\r\ninvented in 1893, and by that time the process of oxyfuel welding had become\r\nestablished. Until the production of special electrodes, this process was\r\nlimited to welding iron materials.


Welding process came\r\nacross a long way and still a long way to go we have energy requirements for\r\nwelding which will reduce significantly with the development of smart material\r\nand will help to lower the cost of welding. \r\n



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