Why Would I Use Helium as a Shielding Gas?
“I read that helium is an inert gas… but what exactly does that mean?”

When you hear the term “inert gas”, it means that the gas does not go through chemical changes when exposed to other substances.  This type of reliability makes helium an excellent choice for welding when you seek a broad, more shallow penetration pattern.  Need to improve the wetting of your weld bead, or speed up your travel?  Helium might be the way to go.

“I know welders using helium mixed with argon for stainless steel TIG.  Can I get that at WSI, and is it beneficial?”

Absolutely.  While the cleaning action available when using pure argon is missing, the thermal conductivity makes helium a great choice for a mix.  When using a mix, you get the best of both gas properties.  Often, our customers will use an argon/helium mix of 25/75 helium and argon, respectively.  If you’re seam welding with GTAW (gas tungsten arc welding), a higher helium percentage may be the best option for you.

“I thought Helium was for balloons.”

While we certainly provide helium to a number of customers such as florists and floral designers, party supply companies, and hospitality companies that use helium for blowing up balloons, there’s so many more important uses.  MRIs and NMR spectrometers, cooling of satellites, space programs uses such as rockets and space craft, blimps and air balloons, and, of course, welding, are just examples of the many uses of helium.

“Where does helium come from, anyway?”

It’s magical.  No.  Just kidding.  Helium is mined through a process of natural gas drilling.  Once drilled, the nitrogen is extracted, and then separated from the natural gas.  Within the nitrogen, helium concentrates separate from the cooling nitrogen and are then extracted by the use of a cryogenic separation unit.  In the United States, the Federal Helium Reserve is managed by the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, and supplies over forty percent of the American domestic demand for helium.  For more information on the federal helium program, visit: Helium Program

“Is helium expensive?”

The bad news?  Helium may, from time to time, be limited in supply based on the federal government, which may drive up price and reduce availability.  The good news? While helium is definitely more pricey than argon for most welding uses, today’s helium pricing is better than ever, and the outlook is strong to keep the price at a fair market rate.  Let the team at WSI help you get the helium you need at a very competitive price by calling 561-848-5520.