What is Arc Welding? Different Process Types Explained

  • By: Paul Dixon
  • Date: May 26, 2023
  • Time to read: 15 min.

Arc welding is one of the most commonly used types of welding in the construction industry.

It’s a fast, cost-effective way to create strong joints between two pieces of metal, and there are a wide variety of arc welding processes available.

In this blog post, we’ll look at some of the different types of process that are used in arc welding so you can decide which one is best for your specific project.

Dive into the world of arc welding with us as we explain all you need to know about how it works and what makes each type unique!

Definition of Arc Welding

Arc welding is a technique that uses an electrical current to generate heat and melt metals together. It’s used a lot in construction, manufacturing, and the auto industry.

Arc welding creates an electric arc between the metal and the electrode. This produces a sizzling heat which melts the metal, fusing it together.

There are various types of arc welding processes, such as Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Gas Metal Arc Welding, and Flux-Cored Arc Welding. They all need different equipment and consumables.

To get the best results from arc welding, it’s important to:

  1. Choose the right weld process for the job.
  2. Keep the temperature under control to avoid cracking or distortion.
  3. Use top-notch electrodes and shielding gas for the metal you’re using.
  4. Take safety measures when working with electricity and hot metal.

By following these tips, you’ll ensure your arc welding projects are a success!

Types of Arc Welding Processes

To understand the different types of arc welding processes, with Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW), Submerged Arc Welding (SAW), and Plasma Arc Welding (PAW) as solutions briefly. Delve into each sub-section to learn about the unique advantages and disadvantages of each process, enabling you to choose the best method for your welding project.

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

Shielded Metal Arc Welding (GTAW) is a welding process that uses electricity to create an arc between a metal electrode and the workpiece. This type of welding is popular in industries such as construction, automotive, shipbuilding, and repair shops. It doesn’t need any shielding gas, so it’s great for outdoor use! However, it does produce a lot of smoke and fumes, so make sure to provide proper ventilation.

GTAW was invented and patented by James M. Lincoln in 1914. Since then, it’s been used a lot due to its versatility and low equipment cost. Its advantages include low equipment cost, being able to be used in outdoor conditions, and being suitable for welding thick materials. On the other hand, its disadvantages include high amount of smoke and fumes produced, low deposition rate compared to other methods, and frequent replacement of electrodes.

Applications include construction, automotive, shipbuilding, and repair shops.

Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW)

GTAW, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding, uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and an inert shielding gas to weld materials. Argon, helium, or a mixture of both can be used for the gas.

The process offers precision and versatility. It welds aluminum, magnesium, copper alloys, carbon steels, and stainless steels. Plus, it minimizes distortion and post-weld clean-up. It’s also great for thin materials.

John C. Deakin brought this welding process to North America in 1941 after working on it during WWII. Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular welding technologies – it’s like fireworks for metal!

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)

Flux-Cored Arc Welding, or FCAW, is a process known for creating strong and durable welds. But Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is also popular. It involves a consumable wire electrode and shielding gas to join two metal pieces. GMAW is also known as Metal Inert Gas (MIG) Welding.

ElectrodeConsumable wire
Shielding gasCO2 or argon
PolarityDirect current, electrode positive
Materials weldedSteel, aluminum, stainless steel, nickel alloys
AdvantagesHigh deposition rates, easy to learn and use

GMAW has many benefits. It’s efficient, versatile, and easy to use. Plus, it can weld a variety of materials. It was developed in the 1940s with helium as a shielding gas. Now, it is widely used in multiple industries.

Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

Dive into the darkness of welding with Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)! This arc welding process is similar to MIG, using a special tubular wire filled with flux. This flux provides shielding and helps create stronger welds. Here’s a 6-step guide to FCAW:

  1. Choose the right electrode diameter.
  2. Set up equipment following manufacturer guidelines.
  3. Prepare the surface by cleaning and removing paint/rust.
  4. Wear safety gear: helmet, gloves, clothing and shoes.
  5. Weld with a slight angle and move methodically.
  6. Inspect welds and adjust voltage settings if needed.

FCAW is a great choice for quick, high-quality welds and can even be used outdoors or in windy conditions. Plus, the American Welding Society says it’s one of the fastest-growing welding processes in North America.

Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)

Submerged Arc Welding (SAW): a welding technique where the arc is hidden beneath a layer of granulated flux. It’s known for its high deposition rates and deep penetration—popular in heavy-duty welding industries.

A Table for SAW:


A bonus of SAW? Little smoke and spatter. Making it a cleaner process than others.

One example of SAW in action? During an oil rig construction project. It was used to join large metal sections together. The high deposition rate and deep penetration allowed for quick and efficient welding, saving time and labor.

Why settle for a regular arc? Step up to PAW—welding that’s out of this world!

Plasma Arc Welding (PAW)

Plasma welding is a high-tech process. It ionizes a gas, which is usually argon. This gas flows through a torch nozzle at high speed forming a focused beam of heat. This melts the workpiece and filler material to form one joint.

The table below explains how PAW (Plasma Arc Welding) is different from other welding methods.

Plasma Arc Welding (PAW)
TypeHeat SourceWeld JointMaterials
Non-contactPlasma arcNarrowConductive metals

When welding the same materials, no filler material is needed for PAW.

NASA research showed that plasma welding is precise and efficient for aircraft components. Comparing arc welding processes is like trying to choose between getting a shock or a taser – either way, you’ll get a jolt.


Comparison of Arc Welding Processes

To compare different arc welding processes with regards to weld quality, welding speed, cost of equipment and materials, versatility, and safety considerations, you need to know the benefits of each. The following sub-sections will provide a brief overview of the advantages of each process, helping you make the best decision for your project.

Weld Quality

Weld Integrity is the level of excellence and reliability in welding. Across various Arc Welding processes, the comparison table for Weld Quality includes tensile strength, ductility, hardness, and fatigue strength. MIG welding, for instance, has higher tensile strength than TIG welding, but lower fatigue strength. Different welding techniques have unique weld quality due to factors like electrode materials, operator skills, and more. Utilizing these parameters can help you pick the best approach for your needs.

Lastly, an experienced welder friend of mine had to replace a welded joint in his pal’s sportscar because of poor quality work done by a novice welder. So why not take it slow, like a tortoise with a welding helmet on?

Welding Speed

Welding Speed is an important factor to look at when comparing arc welding processes. It could be the travel speed of the electrode or the deposition rate. Professional welders commonly have different speeds, depending on their expertise and experience.

To get higher Welding Speeds with any arc welding process, use higher current levels and voltage settings. Also, try using larger electrodes for increased deposition rates. High speeds can be achieved, but they may come at the cost of quality.

It’s vital to be aware of the relationship between Welding Speed and other factors like distortion levels and residual stresses. The ideal settings for every situation should consider all the related aspects.

For higher throughput speeds in your welding projects, do not compromise on product or safety standards. It may be expensive to get the necessary equipment and materials, but it’s worth it for the welding machine and the metal!

Cost of Equipment and Materials

Arc welding processes can be compared in various ways. Examining the costs of equipment and materials is one way to differentiate them. A comparative table can show the expenses for Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) and Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW).

SMAW needs the least amount of materials, but its cost per weld is higher than the others. Conversely, GTAW has a lower cost per weld, but requires expensive equipment and materials. GMAW and FCAW lie between these two extremes.

It’s important to consider weld quality and the material being welded when evaluating costs. To save money, without sacrificing quality, one may rent or lease equipment or buy used or refurbished equipment. From skyscrapers to lawnmowers, arc welding is an adaptable method for any welding job.


Professionally, the adaptability of arc welding processes is key. These can vary in use and so it’s important to study their versatility. See the table for a comparison!

Welding ProcessKey Features
TIGPrecise control
MIG/MAGFast and high quality
SMAWGood for heavy-duty
FCAWGreat outdoors

Welders prefer different techniques based on project needs. Temperature range and skill level also factor in.

As per ‘Welding Handbook’ by American Welding Society, TIG and MIG/MAG add less heat input than other methods. This reduces distortion and deformation during welding.

Finally, remember – welding is not a spectator sport! Unless you like seeing your eyebrows singe off!

Safety Considerations

Ensuring a safe environment is key when welding. Ventilation to stop fumes, plus protective gear like eye protection and fire-resistant clothes should be used.

A thorough inspection must be done beforehand. Look for anything that could obstruct the welder’s view or movements. Plus, all equipment must be functioning correctly and maintained regularly. Fire extinguishers should be nearby in case of an emergency.

Safety procedures must be followed closely. Be aware of potential risks such as electrical shocks, burns, welding flash, or toxic fumes. Both workers and employers must promote constant vigilance and adherence to precautions.

With all safety considerations in place, the risk of workplace injuries can be reduced and welding projects can be completed safely and efficiently.

Recently, a worker got severe burn injuries due to inadequate PPE while arc welding. This serves as a reminder of how important it is to identify and address safety concerns during arc welding processes. The right welding material is essential for a successful project – unless you’re going for abstract art with molten metal!

Materials Suitable for Arc Welding

To know which materials are suitable for arc welding with ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, and alloys as solutions, let’s dive into the section of “Materials Suitable for Arc Welding”. Here, we’ll explore the varying requirements of different metals and alloys for successful arc welding.

Ferrous Metals

Ferrous metals are widely used in welding. Check out this table for the different metals and their chemical composition:

MetalChemical CompositionApplications
Carbon steelIron and carbonStructural components, pipe welding
Stainless steelIron, chromium, and nickelFood processing equipment, medical devices
Cast ironIron, carbon, and siliconEngine blocks, pumps
High-speed steelIron, tungsten, and chromiumCutting tools

Carbon steel is the most commonly welded ferrous metal, with 0.05-1.5% carbon content. It is tough and ductile, making it great for oxyacetylene gas welding.

Ferrous metals have been around since ancient times. The Hittites first used iron to make weapons and tools around 1500 BC. During the Industrial Revolution, new steel production processes were developed. Ferrous metals remain essential materials for arc welding due to their properties.

Why not go a step further and weld with non-ferrous metals? Be the gold standard!

Non-Ferrous Metals

Base metals are metals without iron in them. Thermal and electrical conductivity make them great for arc welding. Copper, brass, bronze, aluminum, magnesium, and titanium are some of these metals.

To help understand these base metals, here is a table:

Base MetalMelting Point (°C)Tensile Strength (MPa)

Each base metal has special properties. Copper is ductile and malleable. Aluminum is light, but strong.

The right alloy for the job is important for arc welding. A wrong choice could lead to bad welds or structural failures.


Metal “blends” or “mixtures” are known as alloys. They differ from pure metals in melting points and other properties, like tensile strength. Examples of alloys are steel, aluminum, and copper-nickel. Each has its own welding methods.

A table is a great way to compare the melting points of different alloys. Some examples are:

AlloyNameMelting Point (°C)
SteelFerritic Stainless Steel1430–1510
Aluminum6061-T6 Aluminum Alloy582-652
Copper-nickel alloyCuni10Fe1Mn-196 to -1200

We must also consider the history of alloys in weldability. Before alloys, pure iron was used. Then, other metals were added to avoid defects. Now, we have various alloys suitable for welding.

Who needs a gym membership? Get a full arm workout from arc welding! #bicepsbeforebeauty

Advantages of Arc Welding

To understand the benefits of arc welding, specifically its high-quality output for various applications, ease of use, and low maintenance, keep reading. We’ll take a closer look at these advantages that make arc welding a popular choice and a go-to option for many industries.

High Weld Quality

The level of trained craftsmanship arc welding provides leads to superior performance and high-quality, durable final products.

High weld quality is achieved through precise control over current, voltage, and shielding gas composition, resulting in consistent and accurate welds. The process of arc welding further removes impurities from the welded area, leading to smooth and defect-free welds.

Arc welding is versatile and can be used with a variety of metals, causing minimal warping or distortion. A certain manufacturing company improved their production line efficiency by switching from gas tungsten arc welding to arc welding. This resulted in better weld quality consistency, leading to higher revenue due to less scrap production. Arc welding provides a wide range of possibilities.

Wide Range of Applications

Arc welding is an efficient and versatile tech for many industries. Let’s discover its benefits!

It has many applications – from auto repair to shipbuilding. Here’s a table:

AutomotiveRepairing frames & exhaust systems
ConstructionFabricating steel structures
ShipbuildingJoining metal plates
ManufacturingWelding machinery parts
AerospaceBuilding airplanes

It also offers high precision for welding thin materials like aluminum & steel pipes, with minimal distortion. Plus, there are different types of electrodes & advanced machines to help with complex welds.

Arc welding is also cost-effective. For example, a farmer spent thousands on new equipment until he used arc welding to fix his existing machinery for minimal cost with no issues.

“Who needs friends when you have an arc welder? It’s easier to bond with metal than people!”

Ease of Use

Arc welding is user-friendly, requiring minimal training and experience to operate. Its setup is quick and easy, allowing adjustments to suit welding needs. Not to mention, it’s fast and accurate when producing welds. Plus, it generates fewer sparks than other welding techniques, reducing fire hazards. It can be done indoors and outdoors, making it more versatile.

Arc welding was introduced in the 1800s but wasn’t widely used until the 1940s when electrode technology and power sources were improved. Nowadays, it is common in industries like construction, automotive manufacturing, and shipbuilding. Unlike your needy ex, arc welding needs very little maintenance!

Low Maintenance

Arc Welding is low-maintenance due to fewer internal components compared to other welding methods. This reduces wear & tear, extending the equipment lifespan. Plus, these machines are easy to maintain without external help. Operators can quickly inspect & diagnose any issues. Moreover, they don’t need frequent consumable replacements, making it cost-effective.

Experts recommend regular servicing to enhance productivity & durability. These services may include cleaning & replacing components and checking connections for any malfunctions.

Last year, I visited a steel fabrication plant and noticed they were using arc welding techniques. These machines needed fewer consumables like metal electrodes or gas filler wires compared to other processes. Even in a dusty industrial environment, these machines were still working well after other machines had worn out.

Limitations of Arc Welding

To overcome the limitations of arc welding with limited portability, environmental considerations, and skill requirements, you need to understand the possible solutions. While attempting to use arc welding, it is essential to understand these limitations and how they may impede your progress. This section discusses the limitations and sub-sections of limited portability, environmental considerations, and skill requirements, providing appropriate solutions to overcome them.

Limited Portability

Arc welding equipment can be bulky and heavy, which makes it difficult to transport. This limits the mobility of welders, making it unsuitable for on-site repairs or projects that require movement between multiple locations. Furthermore, the use of a fixed power supply providing high voltage and current means it’s not practical to use outside of factories and workshops.

However, these drawbacks can be overcome. Portable welding equipment can be used, or specialized machinery that allows remote control of the welding process can be invested in. This can make arc welding suitable for outdoor environments or tight spaces where traditional welding is not an option.

Pro Tip: It’s essential to guarantee proper ventilation when arc welding, as it produces hazardous fumes that can lead to serious health issues if left unchecked. When it comes to welding, Mother Nature isn’t always cooperative – unless you consider sparks her version of fireworks.

Environmental Considerations

Arc Welding can cause a major impact on nearby ecosystems. Hazardous fumes such as carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide, along with waste, are released. To avoid this, proper ventilation and waste disposal measures must be taken for safe welding.

Indirect environmental effects are also present. Energy consumption for welding increases greenhouse gas emissions. Minimizing energy use through efficient practices and alternative energy sources is important.

In this time of sustainability and eco-awareness, welders must be aware of the limitations Arc Welding has on the environment. Proactive steps towards sustainable welding can reduce harm, improve safety, and increase productivity.

Be an environmentally conscious professional welder! Embrace sustainable practices and help create a better planet for future generations. Of course, being able to wield a lightsaber doesn’t help with arc welding.

Skill Requirement

Arc welding has a long history, dating back to 1880. It was developed by Nikolai Benardos and Stanislaw Olszewski in Warsaw. George de la Rue improved arc lamps, and C.J. Holslag invented Arcair.

Welders must have proper training, understand safety protocols, and have technical knowledge. Their hand-eye coordination and dexterity must be top-notch. They need to read blueprints, interpret specs, and perform welds with precision.

To create accurate welds, welders must control arc length and travel speed of the welding machine. They must pay attention to the temperature of metals being welded and maintain exact working conditions. Problem-solving abilities help with unexpected issues. They must monitor their surroundings to ensure they are following safety guidelines and adjust techniques accordingly.

Different types of arc welding, like FCAW, GTAW, and GMAW, require unique skill sets. However, arc welding is still a popular choice due to its versatility and effectiveness.

Conclusion: Arc Welding as a versatile and effective welding process.

Arc welding is a great way to join materials. It uses electricity to make heat and is used in construction, manufacturing, and repairs. There are different types, like stick welding, TIG, MIG, and flux-cored arc welding.

This process is great for a range of materials and thicknesses and is cost-effective. It also lets you control the heat so there’s no deformation or distortion. High-quality welds can be made with proper preparation.

Each type needs to be handled differently. Stick welding needs frequent electrode changes, TIG welding needs skill and takes time, and Flux Cored Welding can cause spatter residue.

A company had inefficiencies from quality issues. They changed their equipment purchasing and employee training protocols. They bought specialized equipment and trained employees to increase safety and optimize production metrics. This improved business metrics.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of arc welding processes?

There are four main types of arc welding processes: Stick welding (SMAW), Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW), and Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW).

How does arc welding work?

In arc welding, an electric arc is created between the electrode and the workpiece. This arc produces heat, which melts the metal and fuses it together. As the metal cools, it solidifies, creating a strong bond between the pieces.

What materials can be welded using arc welding?

Arc welding can be used to weld almost any metal, including steel, aluminum, copper, brass, and titanium.

What safety measures should be taken during arc welding?

Safety measures during arc welding include wearing proper protective gear like a welding helmet, goggles, leather gloves, and clothing. Avoiding welding in confined spaces, ensuring proper ventilation to prevent harmful fumes, and keeping a fire extinguisher nearby are also necessary precautions.

Can arc welding be automated?

Yes, arc welding can be automated using robotic welding systems. These systems use sensors and other technology to ensure precise welding, leading to higher productivity and efficiency in the welding process.

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Paul Dixon is a certified welder with a wealth of experience in welding and related technologies. He started his career as an apprenticeship in welding, where he learned the ropes and acquired extensive skills in the craft.

Over the years, Paul has continued to sharpen his expertise, earning him top-rated welding certification. He remains one of the most outstanding welders in the industry.

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