The sight of welding is quite mesmerizing. The bright flashes of light and flying sparks hold beauty and intrigue. But what causes welding sparks? And can they injure you? Well, these questions cross anyone’s mind when they see a welder in action. In the following article, there will be an attempt to get to the bottom of this.
Sparks mainly result from two things during welding. Firstly, the melting and boiling metals send droplets into the air. Secondly, the air between the torch and the work metal gets electrically charged up and starts moving. What we see is a joint manifestation of these two.
Well, that’s just a short answer. There is certainly more to the situation. Plus, you also need to know whether these sparks can hurt you and, if so, what you can do to prevent them. Keep reading to find out.
What Causes Welding Sparks?
The sparks we see during welding are a combination of flying metal droplets and charged particles in the air. Welding two pieces of metal requires a very high temperature. And this extreme temperature results in boiling the metal electrode in the welding torch and the metal that is being worked on.
The boiling metal sends droplets of metal which manifest as sparks or spatter. Plus, the charged air particles also appear as sparks. To understand it properly, you first need to know how the process of welding works.
The basic principle of welding is to heat two pieces of metal to very high temperatures. Like, around six to eight thousand degrees celsius. This causes the metal pieces to melt. Then you join the melted parts to join them together.
The process of welding requires three main things. You need a power supply, an electrode, and a grounded wire.
The welder connects these parts to the metal that he will work on. Then he will touch the metal with the electrode (welding gun). After making this contact, the welder will break it by pulling the gun away. This creates a small gap of air between the working metal and the gun.
The small air gap works as a passage for electrical current. And this essentially creates a very small lightning bolt. This is known as the welding arc.
The electric discharge from this lightning or welding arc heats the metal and eventually melts it. When the electrode in the welding gun and the metal being worked on start to boil, they send off droplets of molten metal into the air.
These appear as sparks. They are more correctly known as spatter. At the same time, the electrical arc charges the air in the gap too. As a result, the air becomes ionized.
Among the charged air particles, the negative ones move towards the electrode of the torch. Meanwhile, the positive ions move towards the work metal. We watch this movement of ions as sparks are emitted.
The Hazards Of Welding Sparks
Several hazards can result from welding sparks. Not only can the welder get injured, but there is also the possibility of destruction to the surroundings. So, you must have a sound knowledge of the hazards of welding sparks.
UV Light And Disastrous Rays
First of all, welding emits an extremely bright light. These lights contain ultraviolet and infrared rays. These rays are extremely dangerous if exposed on a regular and long-term basis.
Besides long-term problems, working with welding can cause many immediate symptoms, such as visual problems, headaches, nausea, sleeplessness, etc.
If you are getting some welding work done at your home, always keep an eye out for fire hazards. The sparks and spatter are extremely heated particles. And they have the potential to start a fire depending on where they land.
Keep in mind that welding sparks fly up to 35 feet from their site of origin. So, if there’s something flammable around, it’s only a matter of seconds to start a fire.
The sparks that fly during welding can reach more than 1300 degrees Celsius in temperature. So, it is easy to see how much potential they have to cause a burn injury.
Welders or their assistants can experience many kinds of burn injuries during their work. They can suffer from burns on body parts like their hands and feet.
Such injuries usually happen when the sparks land on you. And this is painful in some instances and causes further complications if infected.
However, one or two sparks won’t necessarily burn your hands or feet. But consider that, during welding, there are thousands of sparks. And if you are constantly getting beaten by those drops of molten metal, eventually there will be injuries.
Plus, the heat generated from the sparks can also cause burns. In this case, the sparks don’t even have to touch you.
Blindness And Photokeratitis
The common eye complication from welding is known as “arc eye.” When you look at the welding arc without any eye protection for an extended period, the flash and heat essentially burn the sensitive layers of your eyeball.
The symptoms of arc eye include a burning sensation, short-term blindness, and extreme pain in the eye. These are also collectively known as photokeratitis in medical terms.
Besides the flash, the molten metal can hit your eye too during welding. This might also result in a small piece of metal getting stuck in your eye. Both of which can eventually result in blindness.
However, none of these should discourage you from the fine craft of welding. Because, if you are just minimally careful and take some precautions, none of these injuries will ever happen to you.
Check our article: Can You Go Blind From Welding? [How To Avoid This]
Protection From Welding Hazards
To prevent any fire hazard, make sure the area around your welding site is free of flammable objects. Keep materials like dry pieces of wood, straw, cloth, or cotton away from your workplace.
Use protective clothing to prevent personal injuries. Fire-resistant long-sleeve shirts and pants can help you here. To protect your face and eyes, use a shield and glass goggles.
How To Reduce Welding Spark?
Excess welding sparks can significantly diminish the quality of the work you are doing. Moreover, more spatter means more cleaning up afterward. Plus, there is the issue of material wastage. So, let’s see how you can reduce the number of welding sparks.
Arc Voltage Adjustment
First of all, consider the arc voltage. If the arc voltage is too low, there will be a lot of spatter. Because less voltage means more short-circuits in the weld pool, there are more minute explosions in the wire tip.
On the other hand, if the voltage is too high, the extreme arc will naturally create a lot of sparks. So, you need to make sure the arc voltage is set at a medium range.
Length Of Stick-out Wire
Secondly, you need to make sure that the length of the stick-out wire is adequate. This wire determines the amperage of the arc. If the wire is too long, it will reduce the amperage. And that will result in increased spatter as the penetration into the weld is not deep enough.
Meanwhile, the wire being too short can also be a cause of increased sparks. Because short wire means increased amperage, and that translates to a greater force in the welding arc. And as you already know, the greater force of the arc results in more spatter.
Switch To Tungsten Inert Gas Welding
Other than these, you can also consider upgrading your welding machines to newer models. Many of the newer machines have detailed options for spatter control.
Another option is switching to TIG welding, or Tungsten Inert Gas welding, instead of Metal Inert Gas welding, or MIG.
MIG welding utilizes a metal electrode, which is the chief source of sparks, whereas TIG doesn’t use such an electrode. Therefore, there is little chance of such a spatter.
If you have ever wondered what causes welding sparks, then the above discussion has hopefully satisfied your query. You can also get an idea of the kind of danger these sparks can possess. So, always wear protective gear while welding and be aware of your surroundings to avoid any of the hazards.