Wire feed welding uses a welder with a continuously fed wire electrode. It is a good choice for thinner metals, and once you’ve set the wire thickness and speed, you can begin your weld.
You will need an understanding of welding but the process is easy and beginners will be able to use it.
What is wire feed welding?
Wire feed welding is also MIG, GMAW welding and flux core welding. It is the process of automatically feeding the wire through the welder.
As the wire feeds through, it forms an arc to produce a shielding gas. The heat produced welds the workpiece and filler metal electrode together.
Wire feed welding is an excellent choice for mild welding.
How to wire feed weld
You will need a welder which has an automatic wire feeder.
- The roll of wire is placed in the welder. There are also two drive rolls and these feed the wire through. As wire is available in different sizes, it’s important to set the drive rolls to match, otherwise the wire will not feed through properly.
- The electrode is then fed in to the electrode holder. This is shaped like a gun. To start the process, you simply pull the trigger, which will start the power supply.
- Once this has started, the arc is created, and this simultaneously heats the base metal and melts the wire electrode.
- The shielding gas is then created.
- The rollers will then feed the wire through in a continuous motion, so you don’t have to keep stopping.
- To complete the weld, simply move the gun along the workpiece.
- Make sure you push the wire and not pull it. This creates a cleaner weld and you won’t have to clear off slag.
Setting up the weld
Before you start, it’s important to set the wire feeder up correctly.
- Angle: The angle of your weld will depend on the metal you are working with and the joint you are creating. There are four angles: flat, horizontal, vertical and overhead.
- Flat: For butt joints, the angle between the gun and the workpiece is 90 degrees. The filler metal is aimed straight in to the joint, but the travel angle can be adjusted from 5 to 15 degrees. You can go back and forth over the weld to create a smooth join. If you’re working on a T-joint, the angle between the wire and the workpiece should be 45 degrees and you can take multiple passes over the weld. For a lap joint, the work angle should be 60-70 degrees. This can be adjusted depending on the thickness of the metal. The thicker the metal, the larger the angle should be.
- Horizontal: If you’re working on a horizontal joint, you will need to consider the effect of gravity. The work angle should be adjusted from 0 to 15 degrees, and the angle will need to be correct to prevent the filler metal from sagging over the edge. You can use a combination of push and pull to create a smooth weld.
- Vertical: It’s very important that you take the time to set this up correctly. The travel angle should be 5-15 degrees from the perpendicular. You will also need to use a weave technique to control the size and shape of the bead.
- Overhead: This is very tricky to do correctly, and only experienced welders should try this.
- Wire: The correct wire is also essential. There are 2 types which are commonly used with wire feed:
- ER70S-3, which is good for all purpose welding
- ER70S-6, which is ideal for dirty / rusty steel, and also for repairs or maintenance
The thickness of the wire will depend on the weld you are creating.
|0.035 inches||Medium thickness sheets / home and motorsports|
|0.035 inches||Thicker metals at higher temperatures|
|0.045 inches||Thicker metals at higher temperatures|
|0.030 inches||Good all-round choice|
|0.023 inch||Thinner sheets|
- Length: The length of the wire is also a consideration. This is the amount that sticks out of the end of the gun, usually 3/8 of an inch. If it is longer than this, the arc will produce a sizzling sound which will affect the weld.
- Gas: The shielding gas plays an important role in the overall quality of the weld, so it’s vital to get it right. Not only that but if the wrong gas is used, it can create potentially harmful fumes. The best shielding gas for carbon steels is a mix of 75% argon and 25% carbon dioxide. You can use 100% carbon dioxide, but that does create more spatter and rougher beads.
If you’re not experienced with wire feed welding, always practice first.
- Wire feed welding works well with thinner metals, including aluminum
- There is no need to stop to replace the electrode
- It creates less slag and a cleaner weld due to pushing
- It is easy to learn, though you will need basic welding skills
- Wire feed welding creates a lot of heat, so it is not always suitable for overhead and vertical welding.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is MIG the same as wire feed?
Wire feed welding includes MIG welding, as this uses an automatic wire feeder.
Do you need gas to wire feed weld?
You don’t always need gas. If you use a flux core, this will create its own shielding gas. However, if you are using a MIG welder, then you will need gas to operate it.
Does wire feed welding create slag?
One of the nice advantages of wire feed welding is that it doesn’t produce slag. If done correctly, you should have a nice, clean weld.
While wire feed welding is easy to pick up, you will need to practice when you start. Making sure the settings are correct and that you are working at the right angle is very important, so if you’re new to welding, practice is essential.
Keeping one hand free to control the gun makes it quicker for you to complete the weld and help you create a cleaner weld too. You do not need to stop mid weld to change the wire, as most rolls are a few meters in length.
If you’re working with thinner metals, then this is the best method to use, whether you’re a professional or a DIYer looking to complete some home projects.