A weld spatter is a common welding defect where some small balls of molten metal blow out of the welding arc and attach to the workpiece or nearby tools. Additionally, they can cause injuries to the welders and even start a fire. Weld spatters occur more often for MIG welding but can also happen for others like stick welding. Here we look at the common causes of this welding issue and how to deal with it for a smoother weld.
6 Common Causes Weld Spatter
1. Weldable Metal
The quality and type of the welding material are some of the leading causes of spatter. Everything from the actual metal composition to even other things like level of cleanliness determine if you get spatter and how much.
While most metal types can hold a weld well, some are not just designed for welding. Some metals will have different components or additives added to them that affect their weldability. Therefore, when you try to weld them, you get a lot of spatter.
Solution: If you suspect the metal you have is not weldable, there is no other solution besides replacing it with something that holds a weld well with minimal spatter. But, if you cannot replace the metal, in this article, we will highlight other solutions for spatter that you can try to minimize the problem.
Some metal types might be suitable for welding but still have coatings that affect the welds you get and lead to spattering. Standard metal coatings like chrome, zinc, rubber, and galvanized coating contain additives that can increase spatter significantly. However, others like pre-primed steel will not have any contaminants, meaning you can weld them with little to zero spattering.
Solution: If metal coating is the source of spatter for you, the best solution is always to grind it off before you start welding. Grinding off the coating ensures you have a pure surface that will hold a weld much better with minimal spatter.
Just like metal coating, a dirty surface can cause spatter when welding. Remember that the dirt, dust, or even oil is a foreign material on the metal’s surface, and the intense heat produced when welding can consume it and form weld spatter.
Solution: Before you start welding, it is a good idea to clean the metal to remove things like dirt, grease, oil, and even marker pen lines. You do not even need to do a thorough cleaning in most instances, as a simple wipe with a rag is often enough.
2. Weldable Filler
You can have the best quality metal for welding with no issues like poor-quality coating or dirt and still get some nasty spatter if you also do not choose good filler. Some filler wires and rods often results in spatter as they are of poor quality or contaminated.
If you go cheap with your filler choice, the chances are you will end up with something low grade. A filler rod plays a crucial role in a weld, and so it is essential to make sure it is of good quality with a suitable material composition for a spatter-free weld.
Many companies find it cheaper to make filler wire or rods with added components that do not benefit the welding but still get the job done. However, these components often result in excessive spatter.
Solution: It is important never to go cheap with the filler wires and rods you use to ensure there is no excessive spatter when welding. You should do adequate research on the fillers and compare different options to ensure you end up with a quality one that produces minimum spatter.
Some welders often leave their welding equipment, including the consumables, all over and do not put too much thought into how they store them after use. However, this often causes contamination of things like the filler rods when they contact dust, oil, or dirt. This contamination can cause a lot of spatter when welding.
Solution: You need to take good care of your welding equipment, which is more so the consumables like fillers. It is essential to keep the filler wire/rod covered or in a bag and remember to wipe them clean before use, as this helps remove any contamination.
3. Welder Settings
Sometimes you might still get excess weld spatter even when using good quality metal and filler wires free of any contamination. In such cases, the problem can come from having the wrong welder setting when welding, which is a more common issue for beginner welders but can also affect experienced ones.
If you are doing MIG welding, a common spatter source is irregularity with the wire feed or too high welding speed. In such instances, spatter will occur as the filler wire gets to the weld pool before it gets hot enough as it splashes causes spatter to fly out.
For other welding styles such as SMAW, having the temperature too high or too low can also lead to spatter.
Solution: Before you start welding, it is always better to practice on a scrap metal to ensure your settings are correct and hence minimize spatter. Trial and error is the best solution here, and it is better to make sure you do the practice on a piece you do not plan to use again.
4. Welding Technique
Even if you have the best tools and consumables and know precisely how to set them up when welding, you can still end up with spatter if your welding technique is not correct. It is hence vital to make sure you master the proper method for welding.
Here the technique principally depends on the kind of welding you are doing. One of the most important things you need to ensure spatter-free welding is to get the torch angle right for MIG welding. Keeping the torch angle greater than 15 degrees increases spatter. Additionally, MIG welding requires consistency in wire travel speed.
While SMAW welding is more forgiving when it comes to technique, there are still some crucial things you need to observe for a spatter-free weld. Key among them is pulling and pushing. Pulling creates more spatter, while pushing reduces spatter.
Solution: Whether you are MIG or SMAW welding, it is essential to master the correct technique to prevent spattering. The most important thing here is maintaining correct wire travel speed, maintaining consistency, and making sure other things like torch angle are right.
5. Welding Gas
Every experienced welder knows that the type of gas you use when welding has a colossal effect on the weld’s quality. The gas type seems to affect the cleanliness of the weld more than other things. Hence, if you make the wrong choice, such as using pure carbon dioxide or use something substandard, you will always get a lot of spatter.
Solution: If you are MIG welding aluminum, pure argon will be the best choice as it causes minimal spatter. However, when welding steel, it can cause excess spattering, just like using pure carbon monoxide. For such welds, the best way to get a spatter-free finish is to use argon and carbon dioxide mixture, with the latter forming the higher percentage. Many other welding types also require you to have the right argon and carbon dioxide mixture for smooth, spatter-free welds.
6. Equipment Issues
As a welder, you need to make sure your gear is always in great shape as this not only helps make it durable but can affect the quality of your welds. That said, in some cases, the only reason you get excess spatter is you have equipment issues.
Common welding equipment issues such as a worn-out contact tip, erratic wire feed, and problematic machines with inconsistent current can cause or contribute to spattering when welding.
Solution: It is vital to maintain your welding equipment regularly to ensure everything is functioning as it should. Things like ground clamps need to be appropriately cleaned, and welders have to ensure they are making good contact, so the current does not keep fluctuating. Also, you need to check things like hoses, gas ports, and regulators to ensure the shielding gas flows smoothly. Additionally, make sure you replace any worn-out or damaged contact tips.
A weld spatter is one of the most common issues and perhaps the most annoying problem you can encounter when welding. Besides leaving the weld unsightly, it can also cause accidental burns or even start a fire. However, the good news is that spatters are easy to deal with as you only need to narrow down the specific cause and solve the underlying issue.