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Home / Choosing the Right Drive Roll is Key for Smooth Wire Feeding

Choosing the Right Drive Roll is Key for Smooth Wire Feeding

Is your wire welding operation being challenged by poor feedability, birdnesting, burnback, or clogging of the gun liner? If so, you may be using the wrong type or size of drive rolls for the job, or using improper drive roll tension. Here are some tips to help you prevent downtime and its associated costs due to poor wire feeding.

Posted: February 16, 2017

Drive rolls feed the wire smoothly from the wire spool into the gun cable. Setting the drive roll tension too tight can deform the wire and cause arc instability or burnback. Too little tension can cause wire slippage. To set the proper tension, begin by releasing all tension on the drive rolls. Then increase the tension while feeding the wire into a block of wood, continuing to increase the tension one half-turn past wire slippage. Make sure to properly set the tension each time the drive roll is changed.
The right style of drive roll for the application depends upon what type of wire is being used. Shown here, from left to right: V-knurled, V-groove, U-groove and U-cogged drive rolls. Use V-knurled rolls with gas- and self-shielded flux-cored and metal-cored wires that are softer due to the flux inside and the tubular design. Use V-groove rolls with solid wire. Use U-groove rolls with aluminum wires or other very soft materials. Use U-cogged rolls to feed very large diameter, very soft cored wires.
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Drive rolls are an important part of the wire feeding system, integral to smooth and consistent wire feeding. Using the right type of drive rolls for the chosen wire can impact productivity, quality and efficiency – and help save time and money for troubleshooting and maintenance. It’s not uncommon for welding operators to ask: What is causing my wire feeding issues? Poor feedability, birdnesting, burnback and clogging of the gun liner are among the challenges that they may face with wire welding processes. All of these issues can result in costly downtime, increased time spent on weld cleanup due to excessive spatter, or even defects in the weld. Sometimes these issues stem from using the wrong type or size of drive rolls for the job, or from improper drive roll tension.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT DRIVE ROLL
The three types of drive rolls most commonly used for wire welding processes are V-knurled, V-groove and U-groove.

  • V-knurled drive rolls are used with gas- and self-shielded flux-cored and metal-cored wires that are softer due to the flux inside and the tubular design. This type of drive roll has teeth to dig into the wire and help push it through the feeder drive system and gun cable. V-knurled drive rolls are not typically used with solid wire and may cause shavings to break off the wire. Those shavings can clog the liner and negatively impact wire feeding.
  • V-groove drive rolls are normally used with solid wire. The extra push provided by V-knurled drive rolls is not needed with solid wire, which is stiffer and tends to feed better through the liner.
  • U-groove drive rolls are designed for use with aluminum wires or other very soft materials. When using soft wires such as aluminum, it’s important to avoid marring the wire surface or deforming or mashing the wire. A U-groove drive roll helps to feed the wire through the liner while still keeping the wire’s round shape.

A fourth type, less common, are U-cogged drive rolls. These are similar to V-knurled drive rolls in that they have teeth to feed soft wires. U-cogged drive rolls can be used to feed very large diameter, very soft cored wires.

BEST PRACTICES FOR SUCCESS
Following some key best practices can help prevent issues with wire feeding. Along with selecting the right type of drive roll, it’s also important to choose a drive roll that matches the size of the wire being used. A drive roll that is too big or too small for the wire can lead to feeding problems. Setting the proper drive roll tension is also essential. Drive rolls are designed to feed the wire smoothly from the wire spool into the gun cable. Setting the drive roll tension too tight can deform the wire and result in arc instability or burnback. Too little tension can also be problematic and cause wire slippage. To set the proper tension, begin by releasing all tension on the drive rolls. Then increase the tension while feeding the wire into a block of wood, continuing to increase the tension one half-turn past wire slippage. Make sure to properly set the tension each time the drive roll is changed.

Most feeders now come installed with an inlet guide and/or intermediate guide that help guide the wire into the drive rolls properly. These guides are designed to work with a range of wire sizes, so make sure the guides being used are properly sized for the wire as well. Lastly, occasional cleaning of the drive roll surface with a wire brush can also help maintain proper wire feeding. Remember, drive rolls are an important part of smooth, consistent wire feeding. Take care to choose the right style and size of drive roll – and to set it up properly – to help prevent poor wire feeding and any associated downtime or costs.

  • Ray Cichlar wrote:

    I’ve found that a small piece of thick felt (about 2×2 inches) that’s folded over and clipped onto the wire before the feed mechanism helps to clean the wire and even prevent bird nesting. You may be surprised that new, clean wire will still have some grime on it.

  • Jenny wrote:

    Hi, thank you for detailed insight on V-groove and U-groove.
    I would like to ask if the material of rollers have effect on different types of wires.
    For example, ceramic rollers to weld inconel, plastic for aluminum, and steel for hard wire, etc?
    Could you share your expertise?

  • TMI Consulting wrote:

    Caleb:
    Do you make drive rolls for 3/16 dia. aluminum wire….if so what would you recommend style and type?
    Thank You,
    Joseph Schnabel

  • Allen Sadler wrote:

    What type of feeder rollers should be used for silicon bronze wire?

  • Shammy Peterson wrote:

    It caught my attention when you said that drive rolls are an important part of the wire feeding system. As you said, it is important to choose the right type because it can impact productivity, efficiency, and quality. I could imagine how applications and industries that need the use of urethane roller find a manufacturer that can supply the specific type of roller that they need. Your tips will surely help everyone that uses drive rolls to find quality materials for their wire feeding jobs. https://circulartech.com/rollers/

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