Choosing the Right Welding Wire for You
Whether you are a seasoned welder expert or starting out on your first project, it is important to make sure you have the right materials before you get started. The key to choosing the right wire lies in determining the thickness of the material you are going to be welding and determining which properties of the three main types of welding wire are most suitable for your project. Choosing the wrong type of wire can lead to higher costs, longer labor hours, and a less-than-ideal final project. However, choosing the right type of wire can make your new project a breeze and make existing projects much easier.
Welding Wire Sizes
Welding wire comes in three main types: flux-cored wire, solid MIG wire, and metal-cored wire. All types of wire come in different sizes depending on the thickness of the material you are welding. 0.23’’ wire is used for very small welding machines and typically used for welding thin sheet metal from 24 gauge to around 16 gauge. The next thickest size, 0.3’’ wire is usually what is included in your MIG welder. It is ideal for welding sheet metals up to 1/8’’ thick. 0.35’’ wire will work well for welding metals up to ¼’’ in thickness. This thickness of wire is ideal for beginners The thickest type of wire, .045” wire is ideal for metals that are ¼” thick or more. This type of wire is most often used in industrial welding
The Three Types of Welding Wire
Finding out what thickness of wire you need is easy. You just need to look at what the thickness of the material you are welding is. The tricky part is choosing which type of wire is ideal for your particular project: flux-cored wire or solid MIG wire or metal-cored wire.
On the surface there are few differences between different types of welding wire. The main difference is the electrodes in the wire. Flux-cored wire contains tubular electrodes with fluxing agents in their core. Flux-cored wire can be used for many high strength, low alloy applications. Solid MIG wire requires a solid wire electrode. Solid MIG wire is not ideal for high strength, low alloy application.
Metal cored wire contains a composite electrode. Metal cored wire is also useful for high strength, low alloy applications. Metal core wire is ideal if travel speed is your primary concern. Although there are three main different types of welding wire, most projects rely on either solid MIG wire or flux cored wire.
Flux Cored vs. MIG
Flux cored wire is significantly more expensive than solid MIG wire, but you may find that you save more money on other welding materials if you use flux cored wire. Flux cored wire also has the added advantage of allowing welders to use higher amperes and larger diameter wires than would be possible with solid MIG wire. This will lead to a higher deposition rate subsequently lower labor costs and more efficient work.
Flux cored wire is also much more effective for welding on a dirty base metal than solid MIG wire. Solid MIG wire works great on blasted plates, but is less effective on a plate with heavy mill scale. Solid MIG wire doesn’t deoxidize mill scale as efficiently as flux cored wire, which negatively affects bead shape and travel speeds. Flux cored wire, on the other hand, is highly effective on materials with high levels of rust, mill scale, and oil.
However, solid MIG wire has some benefits other than a lower cost. Solid MIG wire is slagless and requires less cleanup than flux-cored wire, which produces slag and can be labor intensive to clean up afterwards. Solid MIG wire also allows for all-position welding, which equates to less fixturing and lower costs, and it also has a lower heat input, which makes distortion and burn through less likely. On materials less than 3/16 inch thick, solid MIG wire provides a much cleaner-looking weld than flux cored wire would. Solid MIG wire also has better placement than flux cored wire, which makes it ideal for welding automated materials that require a consistent cast.
Flux Cored vs. Gas
Some types of flux cored wire, unlike solid MIG wire, do not require CO2 or argon shielding gas in order to be welded. Solid MIG wire, on the other hand, always requires external CO2 or argon shield gas. Flux cored wire that does not require external shielding gas is known as self-shielded wire, while flux core wire that does require external shielding gas is known as gas-shielded wire. Self-shielded wire is ideal for beginners and is particularly helpful when you may be welding outside, where a breeze may disperse the compressed CO2 or argon shielding gas. Additionally, self-shielded wire is easier to handle and is very portable. The portability is ideal for agricultural projects, or any other type of project where welding must occur far away from your welding shop.
When choosing your specific solid MIG, metal-cored, or flux cored wire, make sure to also check out the consistency of the wire. Make sure the wire has constant chemistry, wire diameter, feedability, and arc performance throughout. If the wire is of poor quality and is inconsistent throughout, you will end up with wire chatter, reduced gun consumables life, poor starting, and wire burnback in the contact tip. Make sure to always check where your wire is manufactured, as European production has different standards than American production. All of this will lead to increased production costs and decreased productivity.
In conclusion, there are benefits and drawbacks to both types of welding wire. The important thing is to keep in mind the specific priorities and resources of your welding project while evaluating which type of welding wire to use. Flux cored wire may be helpful for an outdoor project, while solid MIG wire may be ideal for welding the joints of an automated material. Both types of wire are relatively easy to use and should be accessible to beginners and experts alike.