Arc welding takes many forms, including sticks, plasma, gas, and lasers. Still, they all follow the same fundamental principles and employ similar methods.
The five most common types of welding are MIG welding (GMAW), TIG welding (GTAW), Oxy welding (OFW), Stick welding (SMAW), and Flux core welding (FCAW).
As a welder, learning and understanding the various methods of arc welds is a good asset to add to your skill set.
So, do you want to learn more about the types of arc welding and its many variations and mechanics?
Here are some of the best-known types of arc welding you can learn and apply to your next project:
Table of Contents
1. Shielded Metal Arc Welding (Stick Welding)
Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) or stick welding is a simple variant of arc tech used by beginner and hobbyist welders. It’s a manual variation that relies heavily on your skills.
In this type of weld, you use a consumable electrode stick heavily coated with flux. The flux coating responds to the high temperature of the weld and shields the molten metal.
Your electrode or rod acts as the material that fills your weld. The rod is consumed during the process, and you must manually replace it to continue working.
2. Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG or MAG Welding)
Gas metal arc welding is also known as MIG, MAG, and sometimes even GMAW. This welding process uses a consumable electrode as stick welding. The difference is that you use a roll of metal wire fed to the soldering gun instead of a flux-coated stick.
Another distinction in MIG is that it uses gas to shield the arc and molten material instead of flux. Thus, you will also need a gas tank for your work.
3. Flux-Cored Arc Welding
Flux-cored welding, or FCAW, is very similar to MIG. It’s where your machine continuously feeds a consumable flux-cored electrode to the gun.
The flux inside your electrode generates a shielding gas that protects your weld. You can also use a separate shielding gas to provide further protection.
4. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG Welding)
In contrast to the methods above, gas tungsten arc welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode for its arc. You need to feed it with another supplementary rod to fill your weld.
This version of arc technology, like MIG, uses gas to shield your molten material from almost any contaminant. The most common gas tungsten arc welds use is in pipes and sheet metal works.
5. Plasma Arc Welding
Plasma arc welding is one of the modern versions of arc welding technology. It’s known for also using a non-consumable tungsten electrode like TIG.
It shoots a heated gas called a plasma jet into the base metal. This concentrated plasma serves as the primary energy source for the soldering process.
Moreover, as you go through your weld pool, you must hand-feed a filler material to the soldering area to finish your work.
6. Carbon Arc Welding
In CAW, you use a carbon electrode for its arc. Carbon electrodes are highly conductive materials with a high melting point, making them very efficient in this arc weld.
One disadvantage of this type of welding is that you can only use a DC power source to supply its electricity.
7. Submerged Arc Welding
Submerged arc welding is a mechanized process commonly used for heavier projects. It’s mainly used on metal sheets for pressure containers and pipelines.
In submerged arc welders, you use a consumable wire electrode constantly feeding into the machine. This type of soldering method is similar to both the FCAW and GMAW.
Most notably, your weld zone is submerged in powdered flux, hence the name. The flux acts as a conductor while producing a layer of UV protection and gas shielding.
8. Atomic Hydrogen Welding
Atomic hydrogen welding is primarily used in melding projects that require speed and precision. Even though it’s more commonly used when working with stainless steel, it’s also suitable for most tough and soft metals.
Its arc process uses hydrogen gas and two tungsten electrodes. The hydrogen gas acts as the protective atmosphere, preventing oxidation of your fused base metal.
9. Electro Slag Welding
Electro Slag Welding, or ESW, is developed to join thick metal plates for ships, storage tanks, and pressure containers.
ESW involves using molten slag to melt the filler metal, including the surfaces of the workpieces you’ll be joining together.
Unlike the other variations in arc weld, you can only apply ESW strictly on vertical or near-vertical position workpieces. Hence, it’s used only in extremely rare situations.
10. Drawn Arc (DA) Stud Welding
Drawn arc stud welding uses metal fasteners called “studs” to fuse thicker and wider base metals.
In this type, instead of electrodes, the studs act as the arc conductor and filler material, melting along with the weld zone to create the joints.
Among other advantages, DA stud melting provides a quick and efficient fusing process. You can also apply it to various metals, like aluminum and stainless steel.
Welding is a necessary part of almost every industry that uses metal, such as automotive, aviation, metal sheets, and construction—to name a few.
There are many types of arc welding used in varying circumstances and conditions. You’ll likely come across many of the techniques discussed here throughout your work as a welder.
That’s why understanding the different types and principles behind arc welds is a must, especially if you’re starting out.