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Welding is a process in which with the help of several tools and different types of metals, you can create any form or design you desire. However, for a welder to become the master of welding, it’s necessary to understand the basics and become aware of the available types of welding processes and welding machine types.
There are over 30 types of welding processes, from simple oxy fuel to more high-tech laser beam welding. Understanding the differences between these welding processes is important for choosing the right one for the job at hand. In this post we’ll cover the 6 main types of welding processes.
Table of Contents
- 1 MIG or GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding)
- 2 Flux-Cored Arc Welding
- 3 TIG or GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding)
- 4 Stick or SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding)
- 5 Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
- 6 Plasma Welding
- 7 Electron Beam Welding (EBW)
- 8 Atomic Hydrogen Welding
MIG or GMAW (Gas Metal Arc Welding)
The MIG welding process uses a wire welding electrode that is automatically fed through a welding gun. The fed electrode creates an arc on the base metal, which heats the material until it starts melting for fusing with another piece of material. This creates a high-strength weld that looks great and requires little cleaning.
For MIG type of welding, you need to supply shielded gas for protecting the weld from contaminants in the air. Common types of gas used for this are carbon dioxide, oxygen, argon and helium.
MIG welding can be used on both thick and thinner plate metals. You can use it to work on metals, such as stainless steel, copper, nickel, carbon steel, aluminum, and other.
Some of the advantages of the MIG welding type is minimal weld cleanup, lower degree of required precision, reduced welding fumes and lower heat outputs. It’s also the easiest welding technique to learn. So it’s a great choice for a beginner welder.
Though it also has its disadvantages. One of them is the weld’s sensitivity to external factors, such as wind, rain or dust. So the MIG welding processes should be carried out indoors, with the materials being cleaned of dirt and rust.
Other disadvantages include the extra cost of getting shielded gas, inability to weld thicker metals, and inability to perform vertical or overhead welding.
- Easiest to learn
- Offers high welding speeds
- Cleaner weld with less cleanup
- Offers better control on thinner metals
- The welder can also be used for flux-core welding
Flux-Cored Arc Welding
Flux-cored arc welding is similar to MIG welding, as it also involves a wire feed process, but instead of the shielded gas, it uses a flux-cored wire to protect the arc from contamination. So unlike with MIG welding, you can weld with this type of welder outdoors and the windy conditions won’t affect the weld. This process is commonly used in construction as it offers high welding speed and portability.
MIG welding is very common in the automotive industry. Automotive work usually requires versatility and strength and this weld provides strength that can withstand large forces. Other common uses of MIG welding include construction, maritime industry, plumbing and robotics.
- Can be used on dirty or rusty materials
- Allows out-of-position welding
- Allows deep penetration if you’re welding thicker metals
- A higher metal deposition rate
TIG or GTAW (Gas Tungsten Arc Welding)
This welding process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode that heeds the metal base. So the electric current runs through a tungsten electrode, which heats the material base and creates an arc that afterward melts the wire and creates the weld pool. It’s used along with a shielded gas, such as argon, for protecting the weld pool against atmospheric contamination.
Just like with MIG welding, you’ll an external gas supply. The gas used is usually either argon or a mix of argon and helium.
TIG welding is one of the most difficult to learn and most inefficient welding processes. It requires a great amount of focus and skill because there’s only a tiny area between the arc and the material being welded.
The advantage, on the other hand, is that it offers the ability to weld very thin materials and provides high quality clean weld that is extremely strong when done correctly. It can be used for welding the following metals: magnesium, copper, aluminum and nickel.
The welding process is quite popular in industries working with non-ferrous metals. It’s often used in bicycle and aircraft manufacturing, as well as in manufacturing tubing, vehicles, and other.
- You get highest quality welds
- Ability to weld thinner metals
- Highly aesthetic weld beads
- Extremely strong weld
Stick or SMAW (Shielded Metal Arc Welding)
Also referred to as stick welding, it has been the most popular welding method among home-shop welders. This is a manual welding technique that has a consumable electrode coated in flux being used to lay the weld. The name stick welding comes from the welding of sticks or rods that include filler material and flux. The purpose of the flux is to protect the molten metal, while the filler joins the pieces of material together.
This welding process requires minimum equipment, so it makes a low cost solution. There’s also no need for shielded gas and you can work with it outdoors in the wind or rain. It also works fine on dirty and rusty metals.
However, the quality of the stick weld is not always the best. It has porosity, cracks and shallow penetration. In general, it’s usually less durable. It’s an old manual technique and is used when new and more expensive equipment is not available.
- Works well in windy, outdoor conditions
- Forgiving when working on dirty or rusty metals
- Works great on thicker metals
Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
This automatic or sometimes semi-automatic process is mostly used only on ferrous steel and nickel based alloys. It has minimal emissions of fumes and arc lights, making it one of the safest welding processes. It requires minimal preparation and offers deep weld penetration, providing quick and efficient welding work.
The SAW is a process when welding is done under a blanket of granular fusible flux cover. With the increase of temperature, the flux becomes conductive, creating a current between the electrode and the welding material. The flux protects the metal from the atmosphere but also prevents any welding spatter.
Plasma welding is similar to TIG welding. They work in the same fashion. The difference is that they use a different torch. Developed in 1954, it continues to be improved up to today.
In plasma cutting, the welder pushes the electrical current through a very small nozzle, which then goes through the protective gas. This enables great accuracy if you’re welding small areas. Thus it requires more concentration and precision. It’s a suitable method for deeper penetration as it can heat the metal to extreme temperatures. It’s more used in big industries, such as aircraft manufacturing, and not very common among DIY and enthusiast welders.
Electron Beam Welding (EBW)
This process is done in a total vacuum and is carried out by firing a beam of high velocity electrons towards the material. The electrons’ energy is then transformed into heat, allowing the welding material to melt, coalesce and fuse together.
EBM is widely used in many industries, such as automated automotive part manufacturing and aircraft engine industry. This technique permits fusing together dissimilar metals that have different thermal conductivities and melting points. Such metals are generally don’t fuse together well with other types of welding processes.
Atomic Hydrogen Welding
This is a welding technique of the past and is largely been replaced in the past years by the gas metal arc welding methods. However, it’s still sometimes used for certain purposes, for example, welding tungsten. It’s a material that is very resistant to heat and this technique allows to weld the metal without damaging it, while at the same time creating a strong weld.
In this process, two metal tungsten electrodes are placed in the hydrogen atmosphere. This makes the hydrogen break up into molecules, which are then combined in an explosion of heat (up to 3000 degrees Celsius).
Below is a table of different welding process types and the materials you can use them for.