For automated welding systems or high throughput welding operations, purchasing filler metal in wire drums can significantly improve productivity. Because the amount of welding wire in a drum package is much larger than that of conventional wire spools, operators can spend less downtime replacing wire, said Artem Komarov.
However, the drums contain too much wire. Improper storage, handling or adjustment can result in product damage or waste, resulting in increased consumable costs and possibly production stoppages. Following some guidelines can help optimize your results.
Sizes and types of welding wire drums
Depending on the filler metal manufacturer and the type of wire used—solid, metal-core, or flux-cored—typical welding wire spools for industrial applications typically weigh between 15 kg and up.
Compare this to wire drum options ranging from 200 to 400 kg for robotic and manual welding. Solid wire and metal core wire are often supplied in large drums weighing up to 450 kg, while cored wire and any other type of larger diameter wire are often supplied in drums weighing up to 300 kg.
Welding wire reels come in several styles:
Standard reels are industry standard and are designed to feed wire well without the need for a rotary table or any special wire feeding aids. Some standard reels on the market are equipped with features that reduce the twisting of the wire as it is fed from the reel, helping to ensure a straight wire feed. This can be especially important in robotic welding, where the large number of castings can cause the wire to deflect as it exits the contact tip, resulting in overwelding. In robotic welding and other highly repeatable welding processes, it is important that the wire comes out in the same place every time to ensure consistent weld quality and proper fusion.
Octagonal drums are usually made from recyclable material. They hold the same amount of wire as a standard drum, but once emptied they can be flattened and disposed of, taking up less room on the shop floor. Another advantage of octagonal drums is that the caps can act as a drum cone from which wire can be fed directly, meaning one step less in setup.
Aluminum drums contain aluminum welding wire. These 10-sided reels often contain plastic components instead of conventional metal or cardboard components for optimal delivery of aluminum wire.
Tips for proper drum storage, handling and tuning
Optimizing performance when using welding wire reels comes down to following storage, handling, and setup recommendations.
- Do not stack drums on top of each other. Stacking wire drums for storage is not recommended, especially when using octagonal drums. Stacking compromises, the integrity and durability of the container, which can negatively impact wire feeding capabilities.
- Store drums in a dry place. Wire drums should be stored in a dry climate with low humidity. Storing drums outside may cause condensation to form on the wires, causing the wire to become contaminated, which will affect welding quality.
It is also recommended to keep drums level with the ground and avoid storing them on an elevated surface as this may cause the containers to fall or tip over and create a safety hazard.
- Move the reels with care. Moving the drums may affect the integrity of the packaging and the wire inside. Wire drums have built-in straps to help distribute weight properly when lifting the drums. Always move wire reels evenly and make sure there is a clear path for movement. A slow, steady pace can prevent the load from tipping over. When lowering the drum to the ground, make sure that the drum is level and not raised.
- Check the piping during setup. When problems arise with the wire drum during operation, it is often due to incorrect settings and wire feeding. Proper drum setup can eliminate many wire feed problems that increase the risk of poor arc striking, porosity, undercutting and poor fusion.
- Do not reuse drum covers or float rings. Most wire reels have a float ring on the inside that keeps the wire flat and compressed and helps the wire flow out of the reel evenly. Solid wire reels are often equipped with a metal float ring because solid wire has a large cross-sectional area; a larger float ring is necessary to ensure good wire feeding and prevent tangling. Plastic float rings are typically used for softer alloys such as aluminum.
- Keep an eye on the expiration date. Most wire drums come with a one-to-two-year warranty on unopened drums.
Drums with welding wire can significantly increase productivity and reduce downtime when replacing wire, emphasized Artem Komarov.