Flux Core welding wire is becoming more and more useful as time goes by. It features great single or multi-passes on mild steel, and allows users to do their job without using shielding gases or straight polarity MIGs. Have you ever wondered how flux core welding wire is actually made?
In this article I will explain the process that goes into the production and packaging of flux core welding wire. However, due to legal reasons, I am unable to give any specifics regarding the actual formulas and chemical "recipes" that go into the actual process. Luckily, none of that stuff is needed to explain the general process of how it's made.
The Production of Flux Core Welding Wire
Flux Core welding wire starts out as massive coils of flattened steel, ranging in width and thickness depending on what kind of product is being made. The steel is usually around 1 inch wide and no more than about 1/16 of an inch thick. Some products require steel that is considerably thinner, almost like paper. The steel is loaded onto a machine called a drawbench. The function of the drawbench is to shape the steel into a tube shape, fill it with the appropriate chemicals, and "draw" it out over a long process that actually stretches the tube shaped steel until it is at the proper diameter given by the spec sheets.
The beginning stages of producing flux core welding wire revolves around turning the flattened steel into a tube shape. This happens in the front of the drawbench in the section known as the tube mill. The steel gets fed into the tube mill where several wheel shaped mechanisms slowly and gradually bend and shape the flattened steel into a tube. When the steel is about halfway done being shaped, this is when the appropriate chemicals are put in to actually turn it into flux core welding wire. The steel continues to travel through the tube mill to finish closing up the tube, and is then on its way to being stretched through multiple dies until it gets to the desired diameter.
The steel is pulled through several dies by the heads. The heads are what drives the steel to go through the draw bench. The heads pull the flux core welding wire through each die, making it smaller and smaller as you get towards the end of the drawbench. Each die brings the tube shaped steel down just a few hundredths of an inch on every head, until the desired diameter is achieved. As you may already know, flux core welding wire will normally come in diameters of either .035", .045", .052", 1/16", 3/32", and 5/64". The smaller the diameter, the more heads and dies the tube shaped steel needs to go through. Dry lubrication is often used to aid in reducing the friction that goes on in drawing the steel, reducing breaks in the machine, and also for better feeding through welders later on.
After the steel is brought down to its proper diameter, it continues down the drawbench just a little further where the flux core welding wire is wrapped onto a large reel or stand. These reels and stands will weigh anywhere from 400 to 1500 pounds when they are full in some cases. Before going onto the reel, the steel gets one last little tweak as the cast and helix are set accordingly to customer specifications.
When the reel or stand is full, the employee runs tests on the flux core welding wire checking the fill percentage and making sure it is in spec. A product with too high or too low of a fill percentage will cause issues with the feeders on most welders. After checking the cast, helix, diameter, and fill percentages, the reels or stands are then either sent out onto the floor to be packaged up into smaller spools, large drums, or wooden reels, or they are sent to be baked first at a predetermined temperature and length of time. Some kinds of flux core welding wire requires a baking process, while others don't.
The Packaging of Flux Core Welding Wire
When the product is ready to be packaged up, there are several different ways of doing it. It just depends on the customer what kind of packaging the flux core welding wire will receive. Some are ran onto small spools or coils ranging in weight from 2 to 60 pounds in various predetermined increments. Some of the more popular spool and coil weights for flux core welding wire are: 2, 10, 15, 30, 33, 44, 50, and 60 pounds.
Drums and wooden reels are also very common packaging for flux core welding wire. The drums can weigh anywhere from 100 to 900 pounds depending on the product and customer. The reels are the same way. Within all of the packaging processes, more tests are run to make sure the product is up to par and meets specifications as requested by the customers. The cast and helix are reset through the packaging process as they tend to change while going through some of the machines. Lubrication is added to the flux core welding wire in the final process to allow for optimum feeding control. Too much lube will cause the feeders to clog, while not enough lube can make it hard to go through the feeders.
The flux core welding wire is then tested through an actual welder to be sure it is within specs. After getting the green light, the skids and pallets of packaged product are then shipped out and sent to companies and stores ready to be used.
Even though it may seem like a rather simple process, the production and packaging of flux core welding wire is actually a lot more complex. You also have to take into account how the chemicals that go into the tube shaped steel need to be produced and mixed, which is something I am unable to explain in much detail at all due to legal reasons.
Each product is different in their own subtle ways, and with the mass amounts of different kinds of flux core welding wire, each process requires a slightly different variation, which can often be confusing for those who work for these companies. However, after going through rigorous tests and specifications, you can be rest assured that you will be getting a quality product more often than not. After all, flux core welding wire is extremely important in our society. It builds our ships, our bridges, our cars, and so many other things that we take for granted. Without flux core welding wire, this world would be a much different place.