It’s hard to believe, but the second-most abundant element in the universe is getting difficult to come by. Helium has long been considered one of the manufacturing industry’s go-to gases, but today, it’s used for much more than fabrication. Helium has become a critical component in a wide range of applications, from party balloons and parade floats to MRI machines and advanced scientific research.
As a result, companies worldwide are scrambling for their share of helium. Chris Vihnanek, senior director of metal fabrication, says the severity of this global shortage wasn’t something most people expected or prepared for. But according to Vihnanek, when it comes to welding, helium can be replaced with other gas blends.
That’s where Praxair’s Stargon SS™ shielding gas blend comes in. Stargon SS blend is a carefully controlled blend of argon, carbon dioxide and nitrogen designed for joining a wide variety of stainless steels. Because it can be used with all types of metal transfer, it’s well suited for all-position welding. However, unlike traditional helium-based blends, it offers excellent performance when joining light-gauge material with short-circuiting transfer. Vihnanek said the benefits of Stargon SS gas blend — combined with its advantages in welding thinner-gauge stainless steels — go a long way toward making it one of the industry’s best alternatives to helium-based gas blends.
“One aspect of helium is that it transfers heat to the base material well. But in some cases, too much heat is not good,” said Vihnanek. “When welding thin material, it’s sometimes difficult to use helium blends. Stargon SS blend works very well on thin material, and we’ve found that — in some stainless steel applications — this is critical.”
According to Vihnanek, the blend allows Praxair customers to focus on what’s most important: increasing productivity instead of worrying about helium-based gas inventories.
“The immediate advantage of Stargon SS welding gas blend is availability. It’s not helium-based, so it is readily available. The second advantage is that we can typically offer it at a lower cost. On top of that, it works well in applications where helium has previously been used. Performance-wise, it allows you to weld thinner material better, with much less distortion.”
To learn more about our Stargon SS gas blend and to discuss how it can best suit your applications, contact your local Praxair representative or call 800.225.8247.