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Cored Wire Trends in the North American Market
Since the introduction of cored wires in 1957, the North American Market has seen steady growth and acceptance. This growth has included not only mild steel wires, but also low alloy high strength wires as well as 300 and 400 series stainless steel cored wires. Virtually every industry from automotive, structural, transportation, off shore, ship building, light and heavy fabrication is using cored wires while realizing the benefits of increased productivity and efficiency. The ESAB Welding and Cutting Products facility located in Hanover PA, has not only been a constant supplier of cored wires to the market since the late 1950’s, but is also known for being a high quality producer as well as the industry leader in innovation and cored wire technology. ESAB Welding and Cutting Products has maintained leadership in three trends that have been occurring in the North American Market; small diameter low spatter reduced fume products, metal cored wires, and package innovation.
The diameter of choice up to the early 1970’s was the 3/32 inch (2.4 mm). As technology improved, end users were able to achieve comparable results and obtain all position capabilities from smaller diameter wires. The technology improvements that allowed smaller diameter cored wires to gain in acceptance and popularity were not only due to advancements in improved manufacturing, slag systems and alloying of the cored wires, but also because the technology in power sources available to the market improved. ESAB’s full line of conventional and inverter power sources and wire feeders have helped the market move away from 3/32 inch wires to the all position 1/16 inch (1.6 mm), 0.045 inch (1.2 mm) and even 0.035 inch (0.9mm) diameters. Today the wire diameter of choice in North America is by far the 0.045 inch diameter. Over 85% of the production in Hanover is for diameters 1/16 inch and smaller.
The advantages of ESAB’s small diameter cored wires goes beyond welder appeal and deposition rates as high as 12.7 lb./hr. (5.76 kg./hr.) for 0.045 inch diameter and 20.1 lbs./hr. (9.11 kg./hr) for 1/6 inch diameter wires. Emphasis from the market is beginning to be centered on the total cost to weld a structure including weld preparation and post weld clean up. Additionally factors such as government regulations are requiring that many fabricators consider the well being of their welders and the cleanliness of the working environment. ESAB’s “Ultra Series” provide fabricators with cored wires that have very low spatter reducing post weld clean up as well as lowering fume emissions. For those applications where critical weldments are required such as the ship building industry, the Dual Shield II Ultra Series provides low spatter, low fume and also exhibits extremely good mechanical properties along with low diffusible hydrogen levels. ESAB’s latest innovation for the welding fabricator is Dual Shield 70 Ultra Plus. Specifically designed for optimized performance with high argon shielding gases, Dual Shield 70 Ultra Plus has virtually no spatter and the lowest fume emission rate of any cored wire on the market.
Unlike other areas of the world where basic slag and metal cored wires enjoy higher popularity among the welders, the North American market has been predominately rutile slag (E71T-1) cored wires. However, there is currently a growing movement underway by US fabricators to change from solid wires and rutile slag cored wires to a metal cored wire. The obvious advantages of high deposition rates similar to flux cored wires, coupled with high efficiencies of solid wires make the metal cored wires extremely attractive. In addition, metal cored wires can offer less rework in many applications where better penetration and side wall fusion is required. Another advantage seen with metal cored wires is the lower heat input required per weld deposit. This means the operator can use lower current levels for thin gage material to eliminate warpage. Fewer tack welds are often required resulting in an additional labor savings. There is also a perception in the welding industry in the US that metal cored wires welded with high Argon gas mixtures provide reduced fume emissions over flux cored wires. ESAB’s line of “Coreweld” metal cored wires are designed to meet the requirements of an AWS A5.18 electrodes while providing an excellent spray transfer with reduced fume and spatter levels. Post weld clean up is all but eliminated resulting again in labor savings. In addition to the line of mild steel metal cored wires, many end users prefer metal cored over solid wires when a specific alloy composition is required. Because of the ability to produce small batches of fabricated wires, ESAB has the ability to customize many types of low alloy metal cored wires that would be difficult to obtain as a solid MIG wire. Thus there is an advantage to the end user in having a low alloy metal cored wire tailored to his specific application and base material.
Although development and technology improvements had been occurring in cored wires, the packaging was often overlooked. ESAB recognized the importance of the package as well as the product and has been able to introduce several trends in packaging types and sizes that are becoming the industry standard. The Marathon Pac cored wire product is the most rapid growth new package in the North American market today. Once thought to be primarily for high speed robotics applications only, many end users who have stationary weld stations are finding the advantages of straight wire fed from a Marathon Pac. Not only is downtime for change-over dramatically reduced, but the straight Marathon Pac wire feeds extremely easy and has less effect on the wear of the feeder, liner, and contact tips. Many fabricators who have converted to the bulk packaging of the Marathon Pac have found significant labor savings. The US is somewhat behind the rest of the world in their use of recycling of packaging materials. ESAB Welding and Cutting Products has made it a priority to provide the North American market with products that are packaged in the most environmentally friendly materials available. Introduction of the adaptorless wire spool and various types of bulk packaging have reduced the land fill waste and disposal costs for many of ESAB’s customers.
ESAB Welding and Cutting Products will continue to lead the industry in cored wire innovation and tecnology. Research and Development along with Plant Engineering and Process Engineering are constantly working on projects to not only enhance existing products, but also lead the way in introduction of new products. Look for ESAB to maintain the lead in cored wires with new developments today for the welding industry of tomorrow.
About The Author
Dwight Myers is the Director of Marketing, Filler Metals for ESAB Welding and Cutting Products and is responsible for the product management and global marketing of all North American produced filler metal products for all welding processes. He has served in postions of Research and Development, Product Management and Marketing in his 33 years with the company.