Today, Prime Steel Pipe will share the type of rotary contact wheel welding for everyone. In rotary contact wheel welding, the electrical current is transmitted through a contact wheel at the weld point. The contact wheel also applies some of the forge pressure necessary for the welding process. The three main types of rotary contact wheel welders are AC, DC, and square wave. In all three power supplies, electrical current is transferred by brush assemblies that engage slip rings attached to a rotating shaft that supports the contact wheels. These contact wheels transfer the current to the strip edges.
AC Rotary Contact Wheel Welding. In an AC rotary contact wheel welding machine, the current is transferred through the brushes to the rotating shaft, which has a transformer mounted on it. The transformer reduces the voltage and increases the current, making it suitable for welding. The two legs of the transformer’s output circuit are connected to the two halves of the rotating contact wheel, which are insulated from each other. The strip completes the circuit by acting as a conductor between the two halves of the wheel.
Traditional rotary contact wheel welders used 60-hertz AC, or common line current. A drawback to this system is that the current–and therefore the weld heat–rises and falls, limiting the speed at which the tube can be welded. An AC sine wave reaches its maximum amplitude briefly, producing weld heat that varies just as the sine wave does.
To help even out the heat variation, motor generator sets were introduced to create AC at higher frequencies. Some of the frequencies used were 180, 360, 480, and 960 Hz. A few solid-state units also were produced to generate higher-frequency currents. An AC sine wave at 960 Hz reaches its maximum amplitude 1,920 times per second, as opposed to 120 times per second with a 60-Hz signal. The 960-Hz sine wave produces heat with a much more consistent temperature.
DC Rotary Contact Wheel Welding. The next step in rotary contact wheel welding was the DC power supply. The power produced has a nearly constant amplitude. Although this solves the problem of varying heat, a major drawback is that higher maintenance costs are associated with this type of welding machine.
Because it is not possible to change the voltage of DC with a transformer, it is necessary to transmit the high-amperage, low-voltage weld current into the shaft through a large number of brushes (92 for DC versus 8 for AC) with a high current density. Transmitting high-amperage, low-voltage current produces excess (waste) heat that causes heavy wear, resulting in the high maintenance costs mentioned previously.
Square Wave Rotary Contact Wheel Welding. The latest step in the evolution of rotary contact wheel welding is the square wave power supply. This method combines the consistent weld heat of DC with the lower maintenance associated with AC units.