Spot welding
Spot welding is a process in which contacting metal surfaces are joined by the heat obtained from resistance to electric current flow. Work-pieces are held together under pressure exerted by electrodes. Typically the sheets are in the 0.5 millimetre thickness range. The process uses two shaped copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

An electrode is an electrical conductor used to make contact with a nonmetallic part of a circuit...

s to concentrate welding current into a small "spot" and to simultaneously clamp the sheets together. Forcing a large current through the spot will melt the metal and form the weld. The attractive feature of spot welding is a lot of energy can be delivered to the spot in a very short time (approximately ten milliseconds). That permits the welding to occur without excessive heating to the rest of the sheet.

The amount of heat (energy) delivered to the spot is determined by the resistance between the electrodes and the amplitude and duration of the current. The amount of energy is chosen to match the sheet's material properties, its thickness, and type of electrodes. Applying too little energy won't melt the metal or will make a poor weld. Applying too much energy will melt too much metal, eject molten material, and make a hole rather than a weld. Another attractive feature of spot welding is the energy delivered to the spot can be controlled to produce reliable welds.

is a modification of spot welding. In this process the weld is localized by means of raised sections, or projections, on one or both of the workpieces to be joined. heat is concentrated at the projections, which permits the welding of heavier sections or the closer spacing of welds. The projections can also serve as a means of positioning the workpieces. Projection welding is often used to weld studs, nuts, and other screw machine parts to metal plate. It's also frequently used to join crossed wires and bars. This is another high-production process, and multiple projection welds can be arranged by suitable designing and jigging.


Spot welding is typically used when welding particular types of sheet metal
Sheet metal
Sheet metal is simply metal formed into thin and flat pieces. It is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking, and can be cut and bent into a variety of different shapes. Countless everyday objects are constructed of the material...

. Thicker stock is more difficult to spot weld because the heat flows into the surrounding metal more easily. Spot welding can be easily identified on many sheet metal goods, such as metal buckets. Aluminum alloy
An alloy is a mixture or metallic solid solution composed of two or more elements. Complete solid solution alloys give single solid phase microstructure, while partial solutions give two or more phases that may or may not be homogeneous in distribution, depending on thermal history...

s can be spot welded, but their much higher thermal conductivity
Thermal conductivity
In physics, thermal conductivity, k, is the property of a material's ability to conduct heat. It appears primarily in Fourier's Law for heat conduction....

 and electrical conductivity requires higher welding currents. This requires larger, more powerful, and more expensive welding transformer
A transformer is a device that transfers electrical energy from one circuit to another through inductively coupled conductors—the transformer's coils. A varying current in the first or primary winding creates a varying magnetic flux in the transformer's core and thus a varying magnetic field...


Perhaps the most common application of spot welding is in the automobile
Automotive industry
The automotive industry designs, develops, manufactures, markets, and sells motor vehicles, and is one of the world's most important economic sectors by revenue....

 manufacturing industry, where it is used almost universally to weld the sheet metal to form a car. Spot welders can also be completely automated
Robot welding
Robot welding is the use of mechanized programmable tools , which completely automate a welding process by both performing the weld and handling the part. Processes such as gas metal arc welding, while often automated, are not necessarily equivalent to robot welding, since a human operator...

, and many of the industrial robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

s found on assembly line
Assembly line
An assembly line is a manufacturing process in which parts are added to a product in a sequential manner using optimally planned logistics to create a finished product much faster than with handcrafting-type methods...

s are spot welders (the other major use for robots being painting).

Spot welding is also used is in the orthodontist's clinic, where small scale spot welding equipment is used when resizing metal "molar bands" used in orthodontics
Orthodontics, orthodontia, or orthodonture is the first specialty of dentistry that is concerned with the study and treatment of malocclusions , which may be a result of tooth irregularity, disproportionate jaw relationships, or both...


Another application is spot welding straps to nickel-cadmium or nickel-metal-hydride cells in order to make batteries. The cells are joined by spot welding thin nickel straps to the battery terminals. Spot welding can keep the battery from getting too hot, as might happen if conventional soldering were done.

Good design practice must always allow for adequate accessibility. Connecting surfaces should be free of contaminants, such as scale, oil, and dirt, for quality welds. Metal thickness is generally not a factor in determining good welds.

Processing and Equipment

Spot welding involves three stages; the first of which involves the electrodes being brought to the surface of the metal and applying a slight amount of pressure. The current from the electrodes is then applied briefly after which the current is removed but the electrodes remain in place in order for the material to cool. Weld times range from 0.01 sec to 0.63 sec depending on the thickness of the metal, the electrode force and the diameter of the electrodes themselves.

The equipment used in the spot welding process consists of tool holders and electrodes. The tool holders function as a mechanism to hold the electrodes firmly in place and also support optional water hoses which cool the electrodes during welding. Tool holding methods include a paddle-type, light duty, universal, and regular offset. The electrodes generally are made of a low resistance alloy, usually copper, and are designed in many different shapes and sizes depending on the application needed.

The two materials being welded together are known as the workpieces and must conduct electricity. The width of the workpieces is limited by the throat length of the welding apparatus and ranges typically from 5 to 50 inches. Workpiece thickness can range from 0.008in. to 1.25in.

After the current is removed from the workpiece, it is cooled via the coolant holes in the center of the electrodes. Both water and a brine solution may be used as coolants in spot welding mechanisms.

Tool Styles

Electrodes used in spot welding can vary greatly with different applications. Each tool style has a different purpose. Radius style electrodes are used for high heat applications, electrodes with a truncated tip for high pressure, eccentric electrodes for welding corners, offset eccentric tips for reaching into corners and small spaces, and finally offset truncated for reaching into the workpiece itself.


The spot welding process tends to harden the material, cause it to warp, reduce the material's fatigue strength, and may stretch the material as well as anneal it. The physical effects of spot welding include internal cracking, surface cracks and a bad appearance. The chemical properties affected include the metal's internal resistance and its corrosive properties.

Electrical notes

The basic spot welder consists of a power supply, an energy storage unit (e.g., a capacitor bank), a switch, a welding transformer, and the welding electrodes. The energy storage element allows the welder to deliver high instantaneous power levels. If the power demands are not high, then the energy storage element isn't needed. The switch causes the stored energy to be dumped into the welding transformer. The welding transformer steps down the voltage and steps up the current. An important feature of the transformer is it reduces the current level that the switch must handle. The welding electrodes are part of the transformer's secondary circuit. There is also a control box that manages the switch and may monitor the welding electrode voltage or current.

The resistance presented to the welder is complicated. There is the resistance of secondary winding, the cables, and the welding electrodes. There is also the contact resistance between the welding electrodes and the workpiece. There is the resistance of the workpieces, and the contact resistance between the workpieces.

At the beginning of the weld, the contact resistances are usually high, so most of the initial energy will be dissipated there. That heat and the clamping force will soften and smooth out the material at the electrode-material interface and make better contact (that is, lower the contact resistance). Consequently, more electrical energy will go into the workpiece and the junction resistance of the two workpieces. As electrical energy is delivered to the weld and causes the temperature to rise, the electrodes and the workpiece are conducting that heat away. The goal is to apply enough energy so that a portion of material within the spot melts without having the entire spot melt. The perimeter of the spot will conduct away a lot of heat and keep the perimeter at a lower temperature. The interior of the spot has less heat conducted away, so it melts first. If the welding current is applied too long, the entire spot melts, the material runs out or otherwise fails, and the "weld" becomes a hole.

The voltage needed for welding depends on the resistance of the material to be welded, the sheet thickness and desired size of the nugget. When welding a common combination like 1.0 + 1.0 mm sheet steel, the voltage between the electrodes is only about 1.5 V at the start of the weld but can fall as low as 1 V at the end of the weld. This decrease in voltage results from the reduction in resistance caused by the workpiece melting. The open circuit voltage from the transformer is higher than this, typically in the 5 to 22 volt range.

The resistance
Electrical resistance
The electrical resistance of an electrical element is the opposition to the passage of an electric current through that element; the inverse quantity is electrical conductance, the ease at which an electric current passes. Electrical resistance shares some conceptual parallels with the mechanical...

 of the weld spot changes as it flows and liquefies. Modern welding equipment can monitor and adjust the weld in real-time
Real-time computing
In computer science, real-time computing , or reactive computing, is the study of hardware and software systems that are subject to a "real-time constraint"— e.g. operational deadlines from event to system response. Real-time programs must guarantee response within strict time constraints...

to ensure a consistent weld. The equipment may seek to control different variables during the weld, such as current, voltage, power, or energy.

A spot welding machine normally consists of tool and electrodes, which are mechanisms for making and holding contact at the weld. Tool holders have two functions: to hold the electrode firmly in place and to support water hoses that provide cooling of the electrodes.

Welder sizes range from 5 to 500 kVA. Micro spot welders, used in a variety of industries, can go down to 1.5 kVA or less for precision welding needs.


Welding times are often very short, and that can cause problems with the electrodes—they cannot move fast enough to keep the material clamped. Welding controllers will use a double pulse to get around this problem. During the first pulse, the electrode contact may not be able to make a good weld. The first pulse will soften the metal. During the pause between the two pulses, the electrodes will come closer and make better contact.


During spot welding, the large electric current induces a large magnetic field, and the electric current and magnetic field interact with each other to produce a large magnetic force field too, which drives the melted metal to move very fast at a velocity up to 500 mm/s. As such, the heat energy distribution in spot welding could be dramatically changed by the fast motion of the melted metal. The fast motion in spot welding can be observed with high speed photography.


It is common for a spray of molten metal droplets (sparks) to be ejected from the area of the weld during the process.

While spot welding does not generate UV light as intensely as arc welding, eye protection is still required. Welding goggles with a 5.0 shade are recommended.
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