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Air carbon arc gouging - Job Knowledge 12
Air Carbon Arc Gouging
Job Knowledge 12
The main difference between this gouging technique and the others is that a separate air jet is used to eject molten
metal from the groove.

Process description
Air carbon arc gouging works as follows. An electric arc is
generated between the tip of a carbon electrode and the
workpiece. The metal becomes molten and a high velocity air jet
streams down the electrode to blow it away, thus leaving a clean
groove. The process is simple to apply (using the same
equipment as MMA welding), has a high metal removal rate, and
gouge profile can be closely controlled. Disadvantages are that
the air jet causes the molten metal to be ejected over quite a
large distance and, because of high currents (up to 2000A) and
high air pressures (80 to 100 psi), it can be very noisy.

As air carbon arc gouging does not rely on oxidation it can be
applied to a wide range of metals. DC (electrode positive) is normally preferred for steel and stainless steel but AC is
more effective for cast iron, copper and nickel alloys. Typical applications include back gouging, removal of surface
and internal defects, removal of excess weld metal and preparation of bevel edges for welding.

The electrode is a graphite (carbon) rod which has a copper coating to reduce
electrode erosion. Electrode diameter is selected according to required depth and
width of gouge. Cutting can be precisely controlled and molten metal/dross is kept
to a minimum.

Power source
A DC power supply with electrode positive polarity is most suitable. AC power
sources which are also constant current can be used but with special AC type
electrodes. The power source must have a constant current output characteristic.
If it does not, inadvertant touching of the electrode to the workpiece will cause a
high current surge sufficient to 'explode' the electrode tip. This will disrupt the
operation and cause carbon pick-up. As arc voltage can be quite high (up to 50V),
open circuit voltage of the power source should be over 60V.

Air supply
The gouging torch is normally operated with either a compressed air line or separate bottled gas supply. Air supply
pressure will be up to 100psi from the air line but restricted to about 35psi from a bottled supply. Providing there is
sufficient air flow to remove molten metal, there are no advantages in using higher pressure and flow rates.

Carbon pickup
Although carbon is picked up by the molten metal, the air stream will remove carbon-rich metal from the groove to
leave only minimal contamination of the side walls. Poor gouging technique or insufficient air flow will result in
carbon pick-up with the risk of metallurgical problems, e.g high hardness and even cracking.

Typical operating data for air carbon arc gouging:

Current A
Electrode diameter dimensions Carbon electrode consumed Gouging speed
Note: DC
(mm) Depth Width (mm/min) (mm/min)
(mm) (mm)
6.4 275 6-7 9-10 120 609
8.0 350 7-8 10-11 114 711
9.5 425 9-10 12-13 100 660
13.0 550 12-13 18-19 76 508
8.0 300-400 2-9 3-8 100 1650-840
9.5 500 3-12 3-10 142 1650-635
13.0 850 3-15 3-13 82 1830-610
16.0 1250 3-19 3-16 63 1830-710
Gouging is commenced by striking the electrode tip on to the workpiece surface to initiate the arc. Unlike manual
metal arc (MMA) welding the electrode tip is not withdrawn to establish arc length. Molten metal directly under the
electrode tip (arc) is immediately blown away by the air stream. For effective metal removal, it is important that the
air stream is directed at the arc from behind the electrode and sweeps under the tip of the electrode. The width of
groove is determined by the diameter of electrode, but depth is dictated by the angle of electrode to the workpiece
and rate of travel. Relatively high travel speeds are possible when a low electrode angle is used. This produces a
shallow groove: a steep angle results in a deep groove and requires slower travel speed. Note, a steeply angled
electrode may give rise to carbon contamination.

Oscillating the electrode in a circular or restricted weave motion during gouging can greatly increase gouging width.
This is useful for removal of a weld or plate imperfection that is wider than the electrode itself. It is important,
however, that weave width should not exceed four times the diameter of the electrode. The groove surface should be
relatively free of oxidised metal and can be considered ready for welding without further preparation. Dressing by
grinding the side-walls of the gouge should be carried out if a carbon rich layer has been formed. Also, dressing by
grinding or another approved method will be necessary if working on crack-sensitive material such as high strength,
low alloy steel.

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