Original article courtesy of Hobart Filler Metals - hobartbrothers.com
Filler metal packaging, such as spools, may seem like an inconsequential part of the welding operation — a simple way to deliver the welding wire to the joint. However, the type and size of spool a company selects can have a significant impact on productivity, quality and cost.
Not only is it important to make the right selection for the application, but it’s also critical to set up the welding wire spool properly to prevent problems related to poor wire feeding. Such issues can be far-reaching and lead to extra costs for replacing welding consumables as well as downtime for troubleshooting. With labor already accounting for around 85% of the total cost of a welding operation, maintaining arc-on time is key to being efficient and profitable.
The specific type of welding wire spools varies by filler metal manufacturer; however, there are typically three options: steel, plastic and fiberboard.
Each of these spools includes a hub that mounts on the wire feeder by way of a spindle assembly. Depending on the filler metal manufacturer and the type of wire being used — solid, metal-cored or flux-cored — spool weights for industrial applications generally range from 33 to 60 pounds, but can be as light as 12 pounds. These ranges are true for steel wire; aluminum wires have different standard packages. Typically, heavier weights of welding wire are packaged on fiberboard spools due to their sturdy structure.
There are several factors that determine the right welding spool for the application. In some cases, the decision may be made based on what is available for a given wire type and size. In other instances, sustainability may be a factor. For companies committed to implementing and maintaining recycling initiatives, a plastic or steel spool may be preferred over a fiberboard spool.
Portability and productivity can also have major impacts on spool selection — particularly when choosing a specific weight of welding spool. If the welding will take place in a stationary location, using a bench-style feeder, it is often beneficial to purchase a larger spool to minimize downtime for changeover. If the operation requires the welding operator to change locations, a smaller spool is better to simplify portability. In this case the spool would be added to a suitcase-style feeder.
Proper welding spool setup for MIG or flux-cored is key to preventing unnecessary downtime for troubleshooting or fixing problems. Incorrect setup can lead to such issues as poor wire feeding, bird-nesting (a tangle of wire in the drive rolls), burnback (the wire fusing in the contact tip) and wire stuttering that leads to poor arc stability.
As a matter of best practice, follow these steps for setting up a spool on a bench-style feeder.
In addition to selecting the most appropriate spool and setting it up properly, it’s important to protect the welding wire on it through proper storage. After purchasing a new spool, keep it in its original, intact package and store in a cool, dry area. This helps prevent moisture pickup that could introduce hydrogen into the weld, potentially leading to hydrogen-induced cracking, porosity and other weld discontinuities and defects. If possible, remove the spool after welding and place it in its original package. If that is not feasible, it’s best to cover the spool while it is still on the wire feeder.
And, as with any aspect of the welding operation, contact a trusted filler metal manufacturer or welding distributor with any questions about welding spools or other filler metal packaging.