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Understanding Different Welding Processes

There’s nothing better than being able to appreciate a fine weld job. It’s easy to be seduced by beautiful photographs of welding work that not only serves its purpose perfectly but also looks great too! To those who know, uniformity, shine, symmetry and perceived strength, are all areas that a keen eye will appreciate in a weld.

With wonderful welds come a range of different techniques available for certain purposes. As you’d expect with making bespoke balustrades, staircases, balconies and other steel fabrications, we know a thing or two about welding, so we have explained the various styles of welding; TIG, Stick, MIG, and Flux Cored Arc, so that you can improve your understanding.

TIG Welding

Tungsten Inert Gas, or TIG welding, uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode as a way of producing a weld. Shielding gas – typically argon or helium – assists in the weld area, helping to protect it from atmospheric contamination like nitrogen and oxygen which can trigger fusion defects, brittle welds or porosity. Additionally, the gas helps to maintain a stable arc by transferring heat from the tungsten electrode to the metal.

As far as all the welding processes are concerned, TIG welding is arguably the most difficult technique. This is due to the level of coordination the welder needs to have to complete this style of weld. A big plus of TIG welds is that they produce a strong, high-quality weld, although they are complex and tough to master.

What’s more, the process involved in TIG welding is significantly slower than other welding techniques, this gives the welder a suitable time frame in which to come up with a highly effective and aesthetically pleasing weld bead.

TIG welds are ordinarily used to weld thin pieces and nonferrous metals such as magnesium and aluminium. TIG welding is extensively used in the aerospace industry to manufacture space vehicles and in more conventional industries such as bicycle construction, in which thin-walled tubing needs to be welded. What TIG welds offer that no other can, is the ability to weld many different metal alloys in so many configurations making it an adaptable process.

Stick Welding

Stick welding, also referred to as SMAW or shielded metal arc welding, is one of the oldest processes of welding that is still practised in mainstream construction and maintenance projects today.

This technique was born in the 1920’s as an inexpensive, mobile welding service that was able to provide versatility, while also being easily operable both indoors and outdoors.

Stick welding is not only seen as one of the most popular techniques, but is also among the most-used welding processes in the construction of steel structures and industrial fabrication. Stick welding has only recently begun to see a decline following the popularity of ARC welding among industrial circles.

This style is commonly used to weld steel and stainless steel, along with other metals like low and high alloy steel, cast iron and carbon steel. Stick welding doesn’t offer such high-quality welds as mentioned with their TIG counterparts. Additionally, weld splatter, porosity, low levels of fusion, cracking and shallow weld penetration can affect the method of stick welding.

MIG Welding

The Metal Inert Gas welding, otherwise known as MIG welding, uses electricity as a means of melting and infusing metal pieces together.

MIG is viewed as the easiest of the welding techniques as far as use and mastering are concerned. It was introduced in the 1940’s and is a supremely fast and efficient process, which makes it a keen favourite of many indoor and fast-paced maintenance or fabrication companies. MIG welding is not a process that can be used outdoors in a mobile capacity very well, mostly because the equipment is problematic to transport.

MIG is a technique that is versatile when welding various types of metal, such as carbon and stainless steels, aluminium, magnesium, copper, nickel and silicon bronze, amongst other alloys. Additionally, MIG welding is a favourable approach for joining metal in a wide range of thicknesses.

The basic process involves an arc of electricity that creates a short-circuit between a continuous anode (the wire feeding the welding gun) and a cathode (the metal itself that is being welding). The heat produced by the short circuit and a nonreactive, or inert gas, melts the metal allowing them to fuse together.

This weld type offers a good quality weld while being visually attractive as well. Because of these traits, MIG is a popular choice for visible welding processes. Minimal weld splatter is involved, and it is suitable for all-position welding. Its only downsides are that it produces dross (a mass of solid impurities floating in molten metal), and its porosity which can cause weakened, less ductile welds.

Flux-cored ARC Welding

Similarly to the MIG process, Flux-cored ARC welding’s (FCAW) equipment and techniques, was introduced in the 1950’s as an alternative to stick welding by eliminating the stick electrode used in SMAW. This allowed for the process to overcome restrictions often associated with stick welding. Flux-cored ARC welding can use one of two processes, which are explained below.

One uses a shielding gas from an external supply to keep the weld surface free of potential atmospheric contamination, developed and used primarily for welding structural steels. This makes it a good choice for manufacturing fabrication where welding thicker metals are required.

The second uses no shielding gas made possible by the flux core in the electrode used to develop current. This option is a well-liked choice of welding technique as its more mobile and portable than the shielding gas process. Not only this but it also offers good penetration to the base metal, increasing the strength. With the lack of a shielding gas present, it means this is an appealing outdoor welding technique, as it’s not disturbed by the wind.

FCAW is a costlier process because of its equipment – stemming predominantly from the cost of filler material/wire – and also generates a reasonable level of smoke in comparison to other processes. The plusses associated with FCAW are that the excess welding slag is easy to remove, there is less pre-cleaning of metal needed, and it also offers high-speed applications.

Hopefully, this has enlightened you in the world of welding techniques. Do you have a favourite? Let us know on our social media channels.