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WELDING TYPES AND DEFINITIONS

Ronald Paugh by Ronald Paugh

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Last Updated January 5, 2019

Welding is a process of transforming some of the strongest metals in the world – including steel and iron – into new shapes and forms. During this transformation of the metals, an electric current is deployed to produce the high heat needed to fuse them together seamlessly.

In order to manufacture an automobile, for example, you need to cut and weld pieces of metal together according to the exact specifications of the manufacturer. While some welding processes are fully automated, many of them are still manual, requiring a great deal of very detailed training to master fully. Different types of welding processes make various types of welding methods possible.

So what are the different types of welding? They  include shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), gas metal arc welding (GMAW), flux cored arc welding (FCAW), and gas tungsten arc gas welding (GTAW). All of these types of welding involve fusing materials together in order to join them seamlessly.

The types of electric welding can be further subdivided according to how they fuse materials together, as well as what sort of power source is used to produce the final product. The methods of electric welding can vary depending on the complexity of the job and the skill of the individual. Moreover, the welding technique needs to be adapted according to the types of materials (i.e. metals) being fused together.

Don’t forget to check our latest review about the best welders for beginners.

SMAW

Shielded metal arc welding is one of the most popular methodologies, and this welding technique is also known within the industrial trade as “arc welding,” or even more colloquially as “stick.” This is a manual process in which a stick is the primary instrument for transforming two materials. However, this stick is not just a simple piece of metal; it has a core where an electric current can run.

The stick utilizes the electric current to form an electric arc between the stick and the two metals to be combined together. SMAW is very versatile, and can be used to fuse both iron and steel. It is typically utilized for pipeline work, or for repairing heavy industrial equipment and machinery.

What makes SMAW unique is that it utilizes a consumable electrode. In other words, the welding rod melts, creating the final fused product.

GMAW

Gas metal arc welding is another of the most popular welding methods. This style utilizes a shielding gas along a wire electrode, which heats up the two metals to be joined. GMAW requires constant electric voltage and a direct current (DC) power source.

This is the most common type of welding. If you see stock photos or video clips of welders in a factory, it is a safe guess that they are using gas metal arc welding. While it is quite common, it is best for all stainless steel and aluminum processes.

Similar to SMAW, this approach also uses a consumable electrode. The electrode in this case is a solid wire that is continuously fed through the welding gun. SMAW is unique in that it also features an inert gas (usually carbon dioxide, but a mix of carbon dioxide and argon can also be used) that is also run through the welding gun.

The purpose of the inert gas is to protect the overall quality of the final product and prevent any damage from the oxidation process. Since this methodology features an inert gas (IG), it is often referred to as metal inert gas (MIG).

There are four methods of metal transfer:

  • Globular
  • Short-circuiting
  • Spray
  • Pulsed-spray

Each of these types of welding can produce a specialized weld, each worthy of its own classification.

FCAW

Flux cored arc welding is one of the methods developed as an alternative to shielded metal arc welding. A semi-automatic arc weld is typically utilized on construction projects where high speed and portability are highly desired attributes.

GTAW

Finally, gas tungsten arc gas welding is one of the four primary classifications of welding. This approach is utilized to meld together thick sections of stainless steel or non-ferrous metals (i.e. metals that do not contain iron).

This technique is unique in that it uses a tungsten electrode to produce the weld. As a result, this technique is also known as TIG, for tungsten inert gas.

What makes GTAW stand out from the other techniques are the degree of complexity and time required to do it properly. Of the four methods of welding, GTAW requires the highest degree of skill and training.

For that reason, it is typically used in welding projects where a superior finish is required, or where a high standard of skill is absolutely important.

Tools and equipment

Regardless of the type of weld, the skill of the welder, or the style of the project, there is certain equipment that is typically utilized for each of these four welding processes:

  • Some type of electrode to generate the current
  • An inert gas (usually carbon dioxide)
  • Gloves
  • Boots
  • Welding shield
  • Flame-resistant (or flame-retardant) clothing

Safety must be a primary concern for anyone  working on a welding project. Much attention needs to be given to safety, while keeping in mind the need for a perfect weld technique.

Final thoughts

As it can be seen, each welding method is unique in some way. While stick welding is quite popular, this technique may not be appropriate for very complex work that requires a higher standard of weld. And while gas metal arc welding might be perfect for industrial processes, it might not be as useful for construction projects due to the fact that it is not nearly as portable as other forms of welding.

Jobs in manufacturing, commercial construction, mining, agriculture and repair and maintenance use commercial-grade welding equipment and machines, together with processes that are optimized for each industry. After a little training, it is possible to utilize any of the four methods and styles covered here to create the right weld. It is just a matter of picking the right kind of welding technique for the job.