Welding 101 – Different Types of Welding Processes

Welding is a fascinating process dating back to 1904 when the coated electrode was developed. In this document we will cover the types of arc welding, processes with the aim to provide some helpful tips.

In simple terms, arc welding is a process used to join metals.

The welding process involves a welding power source to generate an electric arc to melt the parent material being welded as well as any consumable being used.  This then bonds separate individual metals together.

IMPORTANT: Stay safe, always

This has been written for experienced – competent operators. If you are not fully familiar with the principles of operation and safe practices for arc welding and cutting equipment, we urge you to read Cigweld/ESAB’s booklet, “Precautions and Safe Practices for Arc Welding, Cutting, and Gouging” with reference 0-5407 available from www.cigweld.com.au or email enquiries@cigweld.com.au

Do NOT permit untrained personnel to install, operate or maintain equipment. Do NOT attempt to install or operate equipment until you have fully read and understand these instructions. If you do not fully understand these instructions, contact your supplier for further information. Be sure to read the Safety Precautions before starting any installation.

Types of Welding Processes

There are four main types of arc welding processes. These are termed Stick Welding (SMAW), MIG Welding GMAW, TIG Welding GTAW and Flux Cored Arc Welding FCAW. In this post, we will be taking a closer look at these four processes.

1. STICK Welding (SMAW)

Stick Welding is the simplest form of welding. The technical term here is Shield Metal Arc Welding, abbreviated to SMAW. Historically, it has also been known as Manual Metal Arc Welding (MMAW). The “stick” is the slang name derived from one of the materials used in the process, Stick welding uses a power source that outputs a constant current electric arc.  This current flows through a flux coated welding electrode. The coating ensures that the weld zone is not exposed to air while the rod is melting. This method is relatively cheap and compatible with most metals. SMAW is widely used in a number of applications i.e construction sites, workshops, shipyards, pipelines, farm repairs, D.I.Y etc.

2. MIG Welding (GMAW)

GAS Metal Arc Welding, generally referred to as MIG, is an arc welding process whereby an electric arc forms between a consumable mig wire and the work piece which heats these materials causing them to melt and form a molten metal puddle which joins together. The heat zone is blanketed with a shielding gas which shields the welding puddle from atmospheric contamination.  MIG is a simple, fast and widely used process and would be recommended to start with if you are new to welding.

3. TIG Welding (GTAW)

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, generally referred to as TIG, is an arc welding process that uses a tungsten electrode to deliver the electric current to the weld pool. This process also requires a shielding gas, generally Argon, in order to protect the weld metal from atmospheric contamination. The TIG process requires a lot more experience and can also be rather challenging for the inexperienced. GTAW is commonly used to weld thin sections of stainless steel and non-ferrous materials (e.g. aluminum, magnesium and copper alloys).

4. Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

FCAW welding also referred to as flux cored welding is a semi- automatic or automatic process. FCAW requires a continuously fed consumable, tubular electrode which contains a flux. A constant voltage power supply or less commonly a constant current power supply is also required along with an externally supplied shielding gas which shields the weld metal from atmospheric contamination. Not all flux cored wires can run without gas therefore it’s recommended to refer to the manufacturers data sheet for the welding wire being used.  Common applications for FCAW arc welding, construction, heavy fabrication, earthmoving, shipyards.

Welding Equipment

Now that you have chosen your most preferred welding technique, let’s take a look at the equipment, you will need to achieve your welding needs. If you are new to welding, we would recommend two main types of welding equipment – a MIG welder or a MIG/TIG/Stick
multi-process welder.  The last one comes handy, irrespective of the basic arc welding type you have chosen. Although the electric stick welders are cheaper, you will need to put in a lot of practice to get a hold of it.  So, if you are just starting or you don’t weld regularly, you should get a wire feed welder.

All new machines are packed with a user manual, which offers the user some safety and mechanical information about the welder.  The manual also contains a couple of simple welding procedures for newbies. For people that hardly weld or just started welding, constant practice is advisable before taking on real welding tasks.

Personnel Protective Equipment (PPE)

When welding you will need a welding helmet to protect your eyes and face from the bright light, heat and spatter generated at the welding arc.  There are different types of welding helmets. Cigweld/ESAB are working on a guide to help choose the right welding helmet for you.

Wear Protective clothing made from durable flame-resistant material and foot protection. If noise is at a high level, use approved ear plugs or earmuffs.

Other welding equipment and materials for your type of welding processes

Let’s not forget to mention that you’d also need magnets and clamps, which help to hold metals in place while you work. Other useful equipment such as special work stands and tables designed for welding, as well as fibre-glass welding blankets that ensure that the sparks do not spread.  The last tool is the weld-on tab, which comes in handy creating handles, holes, flanges, and similar mechanical parts by welding them to a pipe or a similar metal object.  You can get weld-on tabs in different shapes and sizes.

But welding is not all about the tools and the equipment; some consumables are required too.  Welding materials include flux-cored wires and MIG wires, which are made of different materials and diameters. Depending on your preferred welding technique, you will also need TIG or gas brazing rods, flux, electrode sticks, and tubes. Your nearest distributor will have all necessary tools and materials for sale

Welding Tips

Like every other enjoyable activity, chances are you will be hit by the excitement that comes with welding.  However, don’t get demotivated if your first welds don’t turn out as you had hoped! Welding is an art and it requires lots and lots of practice.

1. Safety first

Safety is paramount Start by learning how to use tools properly. Take adequate precautionary measures for your safety at every stage of the welding process.  You will find useful safety information in your operating manuals https://www.cigweld.com.au/manuals/ 

2. Maintain a clean work area

The importance of a clean work area cannot be overemphasized; it makes work smooth and easy while leaving you with a great and professional-looking weld finish. So, clear all the items that could disturb you, including something as insignificant as oil drippings.  Do not let anything affect your finished product’s appearance.

3. Do background research in your chosen type of welding process

Doing your homework before engaging in any welding work will save you some problems.  Find out the best technique for the material you want to weld, as well as the right materials and tools.  Do not proceed to weld if you do not have the right materials, tools, and most importantly, skills and experience to weld such materials.

4. Get comfortable

Being as comfortable as possible plays a big part not only in operator safety but can also contribute to the quality of the finished weld.

5. Draw inspirations from welding pros

As a newbie in welding, it is important to stay charged up and inspired. The best sources of inspiration include professional welders and hobbyists that have been in business for a long time.  You will also find useful tips and tricks on the internet. Feel free to ask questions on forums if you ever get stuck with something. Remember that the best form of learning is by asking questions. Try to experiment as much as you can but without compromising your safety. For welding inspiration, have a look at our Instagram page, where we share fun and impressive welding projects every day.

6. Work on welding projects that make you happy

Happiness has a way of propelling us to do more. You should try to make your first welding projects one that brings you pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction.
Keep learning and keep practising! We are confident that you will learn sufficiently to get yourself started on your welding journey.