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Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.


Volume 19, Number 4 - August 2003 to October 2003

Assessing the Benefits of Surface

Tension Transfer® Welding to Industry
By Mr. Bruce D. DeRuntz


Materials & Processes

Peer-Refereed Article

The Official Electronic Publication of the National Association of Industrial Technology • www.nait.org
© 2003

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

Assessing the Benefits of

Surface Tension Transfer®
Welding to Industry
By Mr. Bruce D. DeRuntz
The Lincoln Electric Company is to review the characteristics that are
the first and only welding company to sought after in the Short Arc processes.
Bruce DeRuntz is an Assistant Professor in the De- hold a patent on a revolutionary new The popular solid wire, Short Arc
partment of Technology at Southern Illinois Uni-
versity Carbondale. Bruce develops and teaches welding process called Surface Tension welding process is primarily selected
courses in Quality Control, Industrial Metrology, Transfer® (STT®). Originally pat- for applications in manufacturing that
Manufacturing Policy, Manufacturing Processes,
and First-line Supervision. He is a past recipient of ented in 1988, it wasn’t until 1994 that require medium to low heat input. The
his department’s Outstanding Teacher award and the first commercial unit was produced process will work in all positions and
currently serves as President Elect of NAIT’s In-
dustry Division. Bruce’s industrial experience in- and sold. Today this welding process is only requires average operator skill. In
cludes 10 years with defense and automotive com- being used by every major pipe this process, the operator sets the wire
panies designing and implementing quality sys-
tems, supervision and administration, project contractor in the world, yet it is still feed speed and average voltage, based
management, and supplier development. His con- relatively unknown in many manufac- upon the heat required for the particu-
sulting experience includes three years with the
Manufacturing Extension Partnership. He is a Cer- turing sectors. To test if welding lar application. This takes into ac-
tified Quality Engineer, Certified Senior Industrial educators recognized this welding count, but is not limited to, factors such
Technologist, and ISO 9000 Auditor.
process, educators at a National as material size and type, joint configu-
Association of Industrial Technology ration, electrode size and type, travel
(NAIT) conference were asked if they speed, and arc shielding gas. The
had ever heard of STT. A unanimous Short Arc process is characterized by
response indicated that they had never its undesirable explosion of molten
heard of this new process (DeRuntz, metal known as spatter. Spatter occurs
2001). The audience expressed a when the electrode makes contact with
strong interest in learning more about the base metal (shorting out the
this new technology and encouraged circuit), then a high current, known as
the presenter/author to publish a paper Pinch Current is applied to “blow” or
that would contribute to the body of separate this short. The molten drop
knowledge for Industrial Technologists. contacting both the electrode and work
Therefore, the purpose of this paper is acts like a fuse and “blows”, depositing
to enlighten Industrial Technology some of itself into the weld path and
professionals on one of the newest surrounding fixtures, while casting
high-tech welding processes, STT, and other parts into the air. This process
suggest the future implications for repeats itself about a hundred times per
manufacturing adopting this technol- second as the machine tries to maintain
ogy. This paper explains how the the set voltage. To gain control of this
process works, examines its advantages volatile welding process and produce
and disadvantages, and provides case higher quality welds, the power source
studies of its successful implementa- needs to be better controlled.
tion in the world of manufacturing. The TIG welding process precisely
While this paper is not intended to controls the current through a highly
endorse any manufacturer or its skilled operator that uses a foot pedal
products, the technology explained or hand control to continuously adjust
within is patent protected by The the amount of current that he deems
Lincoln Electric Company. necessary during every second of the
welding process. The characterization
Process Description of this process is a much slower
STT is a new approach to what has deposition rate of filler metal, but
been known as the Short Arc transfer results in higher quality welds without
mode or Short Arc welding. To best spatter. The STT process uses sophisti-
explain this process, it is first necessary cated electronic technology to combine

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

the best characteristics of the Short Arc The applications are identical to those 4. The dv/dt calculation (T2 - T3):
and TIG processes. The STT process associated with the standard short- This calculation indicates the
could be called an intelligent TIG circuiting processes. Various shielding moment before the wire com-
welding process for Short Arc welding. gases, including 100% carbon dioxide pletely detaches. It is the first
The welding scientists who and blends of carbon dioxide and argon derivative calculation of the rate
invented this process have custom for mild steel, as well as gas blends of change of the shorted elec-
designed the weld current (waveform) with helium for stainless steel, may be trode voltage vs. time. When
to be modified hundreds of times per used with this new power source. To this calculation indicates that a
second to transfer each droplet of illustrate how this waveform technol- specific dv/dt value has been
molten metal when the electrode is ogy works, figures 1 and 2 contrast the attained, indicating that fuse
shorted, such that there is no volatile welding processes of STT and Short separation is about to occur, the
explosions, and thus eliminating Arc. current is reduced again to 50
spatter. According to Dodson (1999) The following six steps (see figure amperes in a few microseconds.
the key to STT technology is its ability 1) illustrate the distinct steps that occur This is to prevent a violent
to control the current independent of in the STT process (Stava, 2001): separation and explosion that
wire feed speed. This means that more 1. Background current (T0 - T1): would create spatter. (Note: this
or less current can be applied without This is the current level of the event occurs before the shorted
adding more wire. The Surface arc prior to shorting to the weld electrode separates). T4 indi-
Tension Transfer® process was named pool. It is a steady-state current cates the separation has oc-
after the way this technology monitors level, between 50 and 100 curred, but at a low current.
and controls the surface tension of the amperes. The electrode ap- 5. Plasma boost (T5 - T6): Amper-
weld droplet as it adheres to the weld proaches the work piece. age is again increased and a
puddle. It does this through a high- 2. Ball time (T1 - T2): Just before controlled uniform separation
speed inverter that precisely adjusts the the electrode is about to com- takes place and creates the weld
output current waveform during the plete the short (at the back- bead with little spatter. It is at
entire shorting cycle. This unique high ground current), the voltage this period of high arc current
frequency inverter technology is known sensing clip reads a decrease in that the electrode is quickly
as Waveform Control Technology™ voltage and the machine drops “melted back.” (The geometry of
The Waveform Control technology the amperage. (In conventional the melted electrode at this point
has the capability of programming the short circuit welding, the short is very irregular).
power supply for unique waveforms to circuit would occur and amper- 6. Plasma (T6 - T7): This is the
optimize the arc characteristics for a age would rise dramatically). period of the cycle where the arc
specific application. Factors such as The background current is current is reduced from plasma
the type of joint, material and thick- further reduced to 10 amperes boost to the background current
ness, rate of travel, electrode size and for approximately 0.75 millisec- level. In this “tail-out” period,
type, as well as the specific arc shield- onds. This time interval is the current goes from this higher
ing gas are all considered. Once the referred to as the ball time. level down to its initial back-
program(s) are entered into the power 3. Pinch mode (T2 - T3): Wire is ground level. The cycle then
supply, the optimal arc for that applica- still being fed; therefore fusion is repeats itself, with the time
tion is obtained, making this technol- occurring between the electrode required for one waveform
ogy very versatile for a variety of with the work piece. In order to taking between 25-35 millisec-
applications and base materials. transfer the molten drop, amper- onds.
According to Stava (2000), the age must be increased. A high
STT process operates neither in the current is applied to the shorted Figure 1 depicts the process during
constant current nor constant voltage electrode in a controlled manner. one STT waveform. The figure
mode, rather it is a high-frequency This accelerates the transfer of illustrates amperage over time, with the
(wide-bandwidth), current-controlled molten metal from the electrode time being in milliseconds.
machine wherein the power to the arc to the weld pool by applying
is based on the instantaneous arc electronic pinch forces. (Note Comparison of Traditional
requirements, not on an “average DC that the electrode-to-work GMAW to STT GMAW
voltage.” In principle, it is a power voltage is not zero during this A comparison with conventional
source that is capable of delivering and period. This is due to the high GMAW further improves the under-
changing the electrode current in the resistivity of iron at its melting standing of the STT process. In the
order of microseconds. Furthermore, it point of 1550° C / 2822° F.) At conventional GMAW short-circuiting
is designed for semiautomatic applica- T-3 the wire begins to “neck” process, a high level of spatter and
tions, where rate of travel, speed, and down or melt from the outside smoke results from electrode separa-
electrode extension lengths will vary. in. tion occurring at a high pinch current

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

compared to STT (see figure 2). In this far back on the puddle, penetration will inch, the STT’s heat input is typically
mode, the magnitude of the current is be incomplete. 7,000 joules per inch, which ultimately
relatively high at the moment the The STT process also makes it leads to reduced distortion. For pipe
droplet separates from the wire, possible to complete open root welds welding, the process also makes it easier
causing the fuse to explode and three or four times faster than GTAW, to perform open gap root pass welding,
generating a high level of spatter with low heat input and no lack of with better back beads and edge fusion.
(Dodson, 1999). fusion (Stava, 2001). With STT technol- It is easier to operate than other pro-
Figure 2 illustrates the six distinct ogy, the heat affected zone is minimized. cesses, yet produces consistent, X-ray
steps that occur in a conventional Moreover, while most conventional quality welds.
GMAW process (Stava, 2001): welding processes can have heat inputs
1. The electrode approaches the as high as 25,000 to 30,000 joules per
work piece with the amps and
volts maintaining steady levels. Figure 1. Surface Tension Transfer Process.
2. As the electrode shorts, the
voltage drops dramatically and
the amperes begin to rise. The
next two steps differentiate
conventional GMAW from STT
because of STT’s precise control
of the waveform.
3. The electrode has come in
contact (shorted) with the work
piece and is depositing the filler
metal. At this point, the voltage
is approximately zero, and the
amperes have increased im-
4. The increase in amperes causes
the filler metal to separate from
the rest of the electrode in a
violent and unpredictable
manner, producing greater
spatter and smoke than STT.
5. After the separation between the
weld deposit and the welding
wire, the voltage and amperes Figure 2. Conventional Short Circuiting Process.
decrease back to their preset
6. Repeats the process as in step

The comparison of these two

processes is especially dramatic in pipe
welding. The constant voltage GMAW
process normally used for pipe welding
does not control the current directly;
instead it controls the average voltage.
This can cause the weld puddle
temperature or fluidity to be too high,
and the internal bead may shrink back
into the root, a reaction known as “suck
back.” Also, when using conventional
Short Arc GMAW, the operator must
concentrate the arc on the lip or leading
edge of the puddle to ensure proper
penetration and fusion. If the arc is too
Figures 1&2 a provided courtesy of The Lincoln Electric Co., Cleveland, OH, USA

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

Table 1 provides a complete preparation, but also because more of specializing in stainless steel, structural
comparison of the GWAW welding the electrode stays in the weld joint, steel, bridge steel, and light gauge steel
process to STT. resulting in reduced electrode con- applications.
sumption. Finally, welding time is Advanced Bus Industries, L.L.C.
Advantages, Benefits and added before cleaning accumulated (ABI) manufactures advanced design
Limitations spatter from the gun nozzle. custom vehicles. These bus-type
The description of the processes Operating conditions are also vehicles are outfitted with leather
and the technical comparison of STT to improved for welders who will be more interior, televisions, VCRs and even
conventional Short Arc waveforms comfortable by the decrease in spatter, Global Positioning Systems. The
provide an important understanding of decrease in smoke levels, and reduction company was challenged with increas-
the similarities and differences between in arc radiation over Short Arc transfer. ing its productivity and adopting a new
the two methods. To understand the Creating a safer environment will commercial model. In changing over
workplace attributes, STT’s advan- increase the operator’s comfort, its Columbus, Ohio shop to accommo-
tages, benefits, and limitations will be concentration and confidence to date the new model, ABI revamped its
categorized into weld quality, operation produce a weld with minimal variation. entire manufacturing process and
costs, and operation conditions. Because of its superior arc characteris- turned to a new material for vehicle
Improved weld quality can be tics, welding with STT requires less production – stainless steel. But when
achieved in all position welding operator skill in handling the torch, it comes to production, stainless steel
through better fusion in poor fit up thus minimizing training. presents a welding challenge, as it is a
areas, lower heat input and less oxi- While STT offers many benefits, it poor conductor of heat and therefore
dization. Better fusion is possible is also very important to understand its retains heat in the weld zone leading to
through the precise control of amper- disadvantages and limitations com- warpage and distortion. To combat this
age throughout the entire weld cycle. pared to conventional short circuiting stainless steel welding problem, ABI
The precise control of the current process. One of the first disadvantages turned to STT. With STT, cleanup time
eliminates the volatile explosion of a manufacturer would notice is that the at ABI has been dramatically reduced
molten metal when the arc shorts, STT power source is initially more by more than 75 percent (Dodson,
therefore depositing more of the expensive than a constant voltage 2000). Additionally, since operators
consumable electrode and concentrat- power source. This may be explained have more control over the arc and the
ing the arc on the base metal. The by the use of a patent protected entire welding process, travel speeds
ability to concentrate the arc also aids technology and the cost savings that are up. Both of these factors contrib-
in the elimination of cold lapping on are realized though its benefits. The uted to increased vehicle production.
open root joints for pipe and pressure deposition rates are lower than globu- “Spatter is almost non-existent with the
vessels. The lower heat input provides lar, spray arc and pulse spray, but are STT, especially in critical areas where
the advantage of less material distor- equal to that of short circuit welding. several joints meet.” states Ron Estes,
tion and burn-through by providing As in pulsed spray welding, setting the the Weld Shop Supervisor for ABI.
only the required amount of heat to welding parameters for STT are quite “STT also provides more control of the
produce the weld, even in sensitive different than settings normally used weld puddle by offering additional
material like stainless steel. This and may require additional training. settings for peak, background, tail-out
precise control of heat means that even Finally, the STT process differs from and hot start, so there are many options
thin gauge galvanized sheet metal can the conventional short circuiting to tailor the weld machine”. The
be welded without burning off the process through its inability to perform benefits of the STT process include
galvanized plating on the back side of aluminum welding at this time. reduced spatter, smoke and distortion –
the metal. all critical elements for high-quality
A reduction in operation costs are Case Studies vehicle production. The reduced clean-
realized through the use of less expen- The release of a new technology up time offered by the STT represents a
sive larger diameter electrodes, less always promises remarkable advan- substantial cost savings in labor to ABI.
expensive CO2 shielding gas, and tages and benefits over an existing one. J.N. Rowen Limited, one of the
reduced spatter. The use of a larger These promises carry no merit until the United Kingdom’s leading independent
diameter wire will reduce the actual technology is implemented and its structural steel working companies, has
weld time, and improve efficiency. A benefits validated by commercial end- recently branched into the design and
significant savings can also be realized users. The following case studies verify fabrication of tubular structures
because the STT process operates with the benefits being realized by manufac- requiring high integrity welds. Accord-
the less expensive CO2 gas when using turers, and the implications this new ing to Lincoln (2000), after securing
steel alloys. Reduced spatter translates technology will have on the welding the prestigious steel work contract for
into significant cost savings due to less industry. These case studies are a cross the new Wimbledon No. 1 Court, J.N.
“cleanup” required of fixturing and the sectional representation of the welding Rowen employed the unique inverter
weld surface area prior to final surface industry, with feature companies based STT process. The STT process

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

Table 1 Comparison of GMAW to STT.

Gas Metal Arc Welding Surface Tension Transfer

Metal Transfer Process Short Circuiting Transfer Modified Short Arc with the Amperage
and Voltage changed based upon the
needs of the Arc

Voltages 16V To 22V 16V To 22V

Amperages Low Amperages: (30A to 200A) Two Amperage Levels:

• Peak Current (0A to 450A)
• Background Current (0A to 125A)

Wire Electrode Size Typically Smaller Diameters Typically Larger Diameters

(0.025 in to 0.045 in) (0.035 and 0.045)
(0.60 mm to 1.10 mm)

Shielding Gases: • 100% CO2 (Lowest Cost) • 100% CO2 (Lowest Cost)
• 75% Ar/25% CO2 Gas Mix • Custom blended to meet the optimum
arc physics

Advantages • All Position Welding • Low Heat Input

• Low Cost • Controlled Heat Input
• All Position Welding
• Handles Poor Fit Up
• Minimal Spatter
• Can Use a Larger Wire Size
• Minimal Smoke
• Low Cost Gas
• Good Fusion

Limitations • Spatter • More Expensive Equipment

• Potential Lack of Fusion • Limited to a Modified Short-Circuit
• Limited to Thin Material Mode

Costs $3,000 $6,000

Training/Skill Similar Similar

Materials • Carbon and Low Alloy Steels • Carbon and Low Alloy Steels
• Galvanized/Zinc Coated • Galvanized/Zinc Coated
• Stainless and Nickel Alloys (plating unaffected on backside)
• Silicon Bronze and Copper Alloys • Stainless and Nickel Alloys (with greatly
reduced spatter)
• Silicon Bronze and Copper Alloys

Industries • Automotive • Automotive

• Food and chemical processing • Pipe and Pressure Vessel
• Consumer products • Power Generation
• Food and chemical processing
• Thin gauge consumer products

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

was seen as the next step in their AWS code-quality work quickly and Summary and Implications
continuing development of welding efficiently, XKT has turned to the STT Industrial Technology educators
technology; offering enhanced product process. According to Goetz (2000), make a significant contribution to the
quality, greater productivity and this process is able to put in the pipe’s success of manufacturers everyday
increased profitability. The following root weld pass three to four times faster when they teach students about the
benefits were identified throughout this than the former process of stick weld- latest technology in industry. The field
construction project: ing, in addition to being easier to of welding should be no exception and
• Ease of Use - Optimum arc perform for XKT’s 23 certified welders. IT educators should integrate “adaptive
characteristics were maintained “Prior to the STT, we were using a stick waveforms” such as STT welding
even with variations in electrode process with back-up bars,” says Corkey technology into their courses and
extension. This released the Bates, Welding Engineer/Production laboratory experiences. STT offers
welder from the need to maintain Manager for XKT Engineering, Inc. many advantages primarily over the
exact lengths and welding gun “When welding a 24” diameter pipe, we Short Arc means of metal transfer. The
angles in order to produce a would use approximately 10 to 12 greatest advantages are the improved
smooth, low spatter, high integ- consumable rods, which means a lot of weld qualities, reduced operation costs
rity weld. Full welder training starting and stopping. With the STT, we and improved operating conditions.
and welder qualifications were weld ¼ of the pipe at a time, so we only The backbone of STT is its revolution-
completed within one day. start and stop four times while laying ary waveform technology which
• Controlled Arc Energy - The the root pass. This means increased controls current precisely and indepen-
plasma boost caused the arc to speed in welding for the root pass. And, dently of wire feed speed during the
broaden; melting a wide surface because the STT root pass cross-section entire welding cycle. This precise
area, eliminating cold lapping (or nugget) is larger than in the past, the digital control of the weld current
and promoting good fusion, even hot (or second) pass goes much faster as represents the next generation in
on heavier gauge materials. well. Also, with fewer starts and stops, welding technology and a whole new
• Reduction in consumable costs - we have decreased the potential for future in industrial applications.
100% CO2 Shielding Gas welding imperfections like porosity and The implications for this emerging
produced a gas savings in excess cratering.” “Our welds must pass either technology are far reaching as the
of 25%. radiographic or ultrasonic inspection to automotive, petroleum, and structural
• Increase in productivity - AWS D1.1 standards for cyclically steel industries have just begun imple-
Operator friendly process loaded tension stress welds. With the mentation. The advent of STT has
reduced down time and operator STT, we were easily achieving these caused manufacturers to grapple with a
fatigue. High travel speeds for quality welds on our root pass,” notes paradigm shift in their traditional
root passes and all position Bates. “We also noticed that the STT application of short-arc welding.
welding substantially reduced generated less spatter and fume than our These companies are now realizing
overall weld times. Also, the previous stick process, which meant less significant cost savings by replacing
reduction in spatter translated clean-up and the ability to go right to their traditional MIG, stick welding,
into savings by minimizing or submerged arc for the fill and cap and fastener processes with STT. It is
eliminating the labor time to passes.” this author’s estimation that up to 75%
remove spatter, plus savings in Honda employs about 850 associ- of the current short-arc sheet metal and
time from the ability to produce ates at its Marysville Ohio Motorcycle pipe welding applications could be
high integrity welds in any Plant. The plant produces about justifiably replaced by STT due to its
position. This eliminated the 150,000 units a year, of which over tangible benefits of improved quality,
need to rotate and position the 90,000 are equipped with fuel tanks lower costs, and improved operating
structures for welding. With using the STT weld equipment. The conditions. Within the next 10 years, it
over one thousand butts to weld, tanks are fabricated from highly is possible that STT will become the
substantial savings on production formed sections of 22GA sheet steel predominant steel alloy welding
times were achieved. and are then welded together with a process used in U.S. manufacturing;
100% penetration butt weld. Because therefore it is critical that we begin
XKT Engineering Inc is located on of the thickness of the parts and the preparing our future technologists and
Mare Island in Vallejo, California. The varying contour of the seam, welding is engineers to exploit and optimize this
company’s location on the bay and often a challenge. After changing to latest high-tech process.
access to barge transportation, make it STT, almost all of the defects Honda
the perfect firm to handle bridge had previously encountered with the
reinforcement and new construction conventional MIG process had been
projects. These projects require the use eliminated and rejects were reduced by
of pipe pilings that run anywhere from more than 90% (Wall, 2000).
60 to 160 feet in length. To handle this

Journal of Industrial Technology • Volume 19, Number 4 • August 2003 to October 2003 • www.nait.org

References Goetz, J. (2000). New equipment Stava, E. K. (2001). Waveform control

DeRuntz, B. D. (2001). Surface Tension speeds up the welding of pipe speeds root pass. Welding Design &
Transfer welding in manufacturing. pilings for bridge building and Fabrication, 74(2), 39.
Selected Paper presented at the reinforcing., 2001, from http:// Wall, K. (2000). Honda improves
National Association of Industrial www.lincolnelectric.com/products/ productivity with STT welding
Technology Conference, Detroit tech/gemco.asp process. Retrieved June 1, 2001,
Michigan, 20-26. Lincoln, U. K. (2000). STT case study - from http://
Dodson, D. (1999). New welding J.N. Rowen Ltd. at Wimbledon. www.lincolnelectric.com/products/
technology eases FGD wallpaper- Retrieved June 1, 2001, from http:// tech/honda1.asp
ing. Power Engineering, 103(6), 38- www.lincolnelectric.com/products/
42. tech/casestt.asp
Dodson, D. (2000). New welding Stava, E. K. (2000). The surface
equipment puts stainless steel tension transfer power source, A
vehicle production in the fast lane. new, low-spatter arc welding
Retrieved June 1, 2001, from http:// machine. Retrieved June 1, 2001,
www.lincolnelectric.com/products/ from http://
tech/abi1.asp www.lincolnelectric.com/products/