Plasma welding is characterized by a high concentration of energy, which allows for high welding speed and leads to less distortion and residual stresses compared to conventional welding processes. Due to the local and controlled heat input, the process is suitable for sheet metal from ≈ 0.1 mm (micro plasma) up to ≈ 10 mm. In the case of aluminum and its alloys, the natural aluminum oxide layer on the metal surface limits the productivity of the plasma welding process. The electrically isolating and thermally insulating Al2O3 layer has a significantly higher melting point compared to the aluminum (Tm(Al2O3) = 2072 °C vs. Tm(Al) = 660 °C). The oxide layer hinders the formation of a stable arc and can even impede the joining formation. In order to remove the oxide layer and to produce quality welds with a DC process, it is necessary to weld with reverse polarity to use the principle of cathodic surface cleaning. However, this leads to increased electrode wear and increased penetration depth, which is not always desirable.

In the study presented, the use of silane to reduce the oxygen content in the welding atmosphere as well as to remove the natural aluminum oxide layer on the metal surface was investigated. As previous studies have shown that the use of silane-doped plasma-gases is suitable for removing the superficial oxide layer on aluminum components, high-quality welded joints were expected. Quality welds with sufficient dilution were achieved using a transferred arc silane-doped helium plasma. In contrast, welding with an argon-silane mixture led to excessive pores formation. Additionally challenges to stabilize the arc process were identified and ramifications with respect to process optimization are discussed.

Publication timeframe:
4 times per year
Journal Subjects:
Materials Sciences, Functional and Smart Materials