How To Select And Prepare Tungsten Electrodes For Your Application
How To Select and Prepare Tungsten Electrodes For Your Application
To those of us who may not be aware, tungsten is an uncommon metallic element that is used
in the manufacturing of TIG (or GTAW) electrodes. The TIG electrodes demand the type
of hardness and high temperature resistance that tungsten alone can provide. This is
because tungsten electrodes are meant to carry the welding current to the arc. It is to be
noted that tungsten has an inconceivably high melting point when compared with other
These electrodes come in different sizes and lengths and are available either as pure
tungsten or a hybrid of tungsten mixed with other rare earth elements and oxides. Choosing
the right electrode depends on the type and thickness of the base material and whether you
are going to weld with alternating or direct current.
Please know that pure tungsten electrodes are expected to contain nearly 100% tungsten
and have the maximum consumption rate of all electrodes. Tungsten electrodes are
strangely less costly than its alloyed counterparts. These electrodes form a balled tip when
heated and provide great arc stability for AC welding with balanced wave. Pure tungsten
also provides good arc stability for AC sine wave welding - for aluminum and magnesium
Thoriated tungsten electrodes (Color Code: Red) contain a minimum of 97.30% tungsten and
balance thorium. These electrodes are the most widely used electrodes and are known for
longevity and easy use. Thorium is highly useful in increasing the electron emission qualities
of the electrode. Thus, it improves arc starts and enables a higher current carrying
capacity. It also results in a lower level of weld contamination than other electrodes.
Ceriated tungsten electrodes (Color Code: Orange) contain a minimum of 97.30% tungsten
and balance cerium. These electrodes are known to perform remarkably well in DC welding
at low current settings. With its excellent arc starts at low amperages, ceriated tungsten
are widely used as orbital tube and pipe manufacturing, thin sheet metal work or jobs where
small and delicate parts are welded.
Lanthanated tungsten electrodes (Color Code: Gold) contain a minimum of 97.80% tungsten
and balance lanthanum. These electrodes are known for their excellent arc starting as well
as arc stability, low-burn-off rate and quick re-ignition capabilities. The fact is, in select
cases, lanthanated tungsten electrodes can replace 2% thoriated without having to make
significant welding program changes.
Zirconiated tungsten electrodes (Color Code: Brown) contain a minimum of 99.10% tungsten
and balance zirconium. Zirconiated tungsten electrode is capable of stable arc and it resists
tungsten spitting. The added feature is its current carrying capability which is equal if not
more than thoriated tungsten. Zirconiated electrodes are unsuited for DC welding.
Rare earth tungsten electrodes (Color Code: Gray) contain unspecified additions of rare
earth oxides or a mixture of different oxides. However, manufacturers will indicate each
additive and its percentage on the outer label. Depending on the additives, you can obtain a
stable arc in both AC and DC processes as also more longevity.
Finally, it may be said that the arc quality and welding performance you achieve will largely
depend on the type and shape of tungsten you use. Each of these six types of tungsten has
its own merits and shortcomings. It is therefore critically important you choose the right
tungsten appropriate for each application.
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