Stainless Steel Welding Procedures

Posted on April 28, 2010

Stainless steel alloys usually have a chromium content of a least 10%. Stainless steel base metals are grouped primarily into three classes depending on their crystal structure; austenitic (such as 302, 304, 308, 316, etc.), martensitic (such as 410, and 416), and ferritic (such as 409, and 430.). Austenitic grades are also available with a lowered carbon content (designated with an “L”, such as 304L or 316L.)

Below is a basic step by step guide to follow when welding Stainless Steel:

#1. Safety First
Warning: Protect yourself & others. Read & understand this information.
Fumes & Gases can be hazardous to your health.
Electric Shock can kill.

  • Before use, read & understand the manufacturer’s instructions, Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) & your employer’s safety practices.
  • Keep your head out of the fumes.
  • Use enough ventilation; exhaust at the arc, or both, to keep fumes & gases from your breathing zone & the general area.
  • Wear correct eye, ear, & body protection.
  • Do not touch live electrical parts.
  • See American National Standard Z49.1, Safety in Welding, Cutting, & Allied Processes, published by the American Welding Society, 550 N.W. LeJeune Road, Miami, FL 33126; OSHA Safety & Health Standards, available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402

#2. Select Joint Design & Fit up
Start by determining the best manner in which to join your base metals. Correct joint design & fit up are critical steps to insuring a strong bond upon weld completion. Be sure to consider strength required, welding position, metal thickness & joint accessibility.

The five basic types of joints are butt, corner, edge, lap & t. These five joints can be arranged in many combinations to create a large variety of welds. Fixtures & jigs are helpful in securing the work pieces in place during the joining procedure. Sheet metal & most fillet & lap joints should be clamped tightly over the entire length of the work.

#3. Choose The Welding Process
The three most common stainless welding processes are:

  • SMAWShielded Metal Arc Welding or Stick Electrode
    SMAW is an electric arc welding process in which heat for welding is generated by an electric arc between a covered metal electrode & the base metal. The electrode coating provides shielding. The welding equipment for this process is currently the most inexpensive of the methods described here. However, electrodes do create some inefficiency, such as stub loss & a slag coating, which must be removed.
  • GTAWGas Tungsten Arc Welding-Tig Welding
    Tig Welding is easily performed on a variety of metals. It generally requires little or no post weld finishing. It is an electric welding process in which heat for welding is generated by an electric arc between the end of a non-consumable tungsten electrode & the base metal. Filler metal may be added, if necessary. An inert shielding gas supplies shielding for the arc. (Inert gas creates a protective atmosphere around the welding in process).
  • FCAWFlux Cored Arc Welding-Mig Welding
    Flux is contained within the electrode. It provides shielding, deoxidization & arc stabilization. Additional shielding may be added. A smoke suction nozzle around the gun or fume hood aids in reduction of smoke & fumes. Aufhauser flux cored stainless steel wire is formulated to provide all position welding & smooth, stable arc action.
  • GMAWGas Metal Arc Welding-Mig Welding
    Gas metal arc welding is quick & easy on thin-gauge metal as well as heavy plate. It generally calls for little post weld cleanup. GMAW is an electric arc welding process where heat is produced by an arc between a continuously fed filler metal electrode & the base metal. Shielding is obtained from an externally supplied gas or gas mixture. The two most common types of GMAW are:

Short Circuit Transfer – The arc is broken or short circuited with each drop of metal & restarted. It is used on smaller, thinner gauges & produces a shallow weld.

Spray Transfer – Metal is transferred across the arc creating a continuous spray of fine droplets of metal. These droplets are projected down to the base metal.

#4. Determine appropriate inert Shielding Gas
SMAW – none required
GTAW – Argon is suggested for thicknesses up to approximately 1/2″. For thicker sections, argon-helium mixtures or pure helium may be used. Pure helium may also be employed for deeper penetration. The most common tungsten utilized is 2% thoriated.
FCAW – 100% CO2 or Argon/CO2 The voltage may be somewhat lower if argon with 20 to 25 percent CO2 mixtures is selected. Generally, a gas flow rate of 40 cfh is suggested. Adjustments can be made, depending upon the specifics of the application.
GMAW – Spray Transfer Ð Use Argon & 1% to 2% – Oxygen 99% argon, 1% oxygen is predominantly used – 98% argon, 2% oxygen when welding thinner material.

Short Circuiting Transfer – 90% helium, 7.5% argon, 2.5% CO2

#5. Select The Applicable Filler Metal
For applications where both pieces are the same alloy, select filler metal with a composition similar to that of the base metals. This will ensure the weld has similar properties. Dissimilar base metal applications require selection based on mechanical properties, freedom from cracking, and compatibility.

#6. Set The Parameters
SMAW – uses a direct current (DC) or an alternating current (AC).

DC uses either straight polarity, which is electrode negative or reverse polarity, which is electrode positive. Direct current flows in one direction continuously through the welding circuit. There are several advantages of DC. It works well at low current settings & with small diameters. In addition, igniting the arc & maintaining a short arc is easier.

Stainless electrodes designated Ð15, (ex: 308-15) use direct current, reverse polarity. Their key characteristic is fast freezing slag, which make them suitable for out of position welding. Bead appearance is convex.

AC uses a combination of both straight & reverse polarities, which alternate in regular cycles.

The advantages of this current include: less chance of arc blow, which is an unbalance of the magnetic field around the arc causing a bend in the arc. It also works well on thick metal with a large diameter electrode.

Stainless electrodes designated Ð16 (ex. 308-16) use AC or DC. They produce a smooth weld bead, with a flat to slightly convex bead appearance.

AMPS – The most common settings are:

Diameter 1/16 x 12″ 5/64 x 12″ 3/32 x 12″ 1/8 x 14″ 5/32 x 14″ 3/16 x 14″ 1/4 x 14″
Amps: 15 – 40 30 – 60 50 – 80 70 – 110 100 – 140 130 – 180 175 – 220

GTAW – For gas tungsten arc welding use DC current with straight polarity (electrode negative). The parameters for Tig welding are dependent upon plate thickness & welding position.

FCAW – Flux cored stainless steel welding wire generally uses direct current, reverse polarity (electrode positive). This current type provides better base metal penetration. Flux cored welding requires a longer wire extension or “stick out.” Stick out is the distance between the end of the wire and the end of the contact tip. Stick out for stainless steel flux cored wire is typically 5/8″ to 3/4″.

GMAW – Below are suggested settings for GMAW welding;

Short Circuiting Transfer:

Electrode Diameter, inches Welding Current,
Amperage
Arc
Voltage
Wire Feed
Speed, ipm
0.030
0.035
0.045
60 – 125
75 – 160
100 – 200
17 – 22
17 – 22
17 – 22
150 – 430
120 – 400
100 – 240

Settings based on 90He 71/2 Ar, 21/2 CO2 shielding gas. Flow rate 20cfh.

Electrode Diameter, inches Welding Current,
Amperage
Arc
Voltage
Wire Feed
Speed, ipm
0.030
0.035
0.045
60 – 125
75 – 160
100 – 200
17 – 22
17 – 22
17 – 22
150 – 430
120 – 400
100 – 240

Settings based on 90He 71/2 Ar, 21/2 CO2 shielding gas. Flow rate 20cfh.

Spray Transfer:

Electrode Diameter, inches Welding Current,
Amperage
Arc
Voltage
Wire Feed
Speed, ipm
0.030
0.035
0.045
1/16
3/32
160 – 225
180 – 300
200 – 450
220 – 500
250 – 600
24 – 28
24 – 29
24 – 30
24 – 32
24 – 32
440 – 650
430 – 500
220 – 400
110 – 210
50 – 80

Settings based on Ar, 1 to 5 O2 shielding gas.

#7. Clean The Base Metal
Cleaning should be done just prior to welding to prevent the formation of oxides. The base metal surface must be free of grease, oil, paint, dirt, etc. A clean surface will provide a smoother, stronger joint. Brush the plate surface & edges with a stainless steel wire brush to remove burrs & oxides. Gloves should be worn to prevent hand oil or dirt from getting on the joining surface.

#8. Preheat If Applicable
Preheat is not required for most 300 austenitic grade stainless steels. The base metal should be brought to room temperature, 60 to 75 degrees. Preheat is necessary when welding ferritic or martensitic grades. It is also needed when joining metals that are thick or contain a high percentage of carbon.

#9. Welding Technique
A good welding technique is developed as a welder gains experience. The following are basic welding tips:

  • Use fixtures &/or jigs to help keep work in place.
  • Butting edges should be squared. A square butt joint is prevalently used for stainless sheets 18 gauge or thinner. Heavier gauge sheets & plates may require an edge bevel to assure full penetration.
  • Insure adequate shielding by centering the filler metal in the gas & weld puddle area.
  • Filler metal should be dipped into the weld puddle, but should not drip into it.
  • Move the torch/gun along the joint at a steady, constant speed to maintain uniformity.
  • Hold the torch/gun over the weld until gas stops, to keep work protected.

#10. Cooling/Post Weld Cleaning
Postheat may be required to relieve internal stresses caused by the concentration of heat in the weld area. Postheating aids in slow down of the cooling process to minimize cracking. This is a good procedure to use when joining thick metals. Shielded metal arc and flux cored welding leaves a slag residue on the weld. Remove slag with a chipping hammer or by grinding.

#11. Troubleshooting
Look in our Technical Support Index for troubleshooting.

#12. Aufhauser Stainless Steel Filler Metals
Aufhauser manufactures a complete line of filler metals for stainless steel welding.

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