Aaron Ardaiz is an experienced welder who has been working in the trade for many years. He has learned the ins and outs of the skill, refining his abilities to get more familiar with the various techniques. While many have a basic idea of what welding is, few realize that there are many different welding techniques, each of which have different pros and cons. Below we will discuss these techniques, explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW): This welding technique is often referred to simply as ‘Stick’. Stick welding uses a welding rod in order to carry an electric current and feed the metal into the weld. Stick welding uses this electric current, creating an arc from the rod to the metal, generating temperatures as high as 6500 degrees Fahrenheit. While the metal heats, the flux from the rod merges with the metal, creating a weld. The advantages of the stick weld are that the equipment is low cost, easy to transport, requires no shielding gas, and can work even on rusty or dirty metal. The downside of this method is that it produces high energy wastes, is hard to use on delicate materials, and requires a high skill level from the operator.
- Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW): This weld is commonly referred to as the TIG, or the Heliarc. This welding technique uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to create a molten weld puddle. An external filler rod can be added to that molten metal puddle in order to create a weld bead. This process requires what is called a shielding gas. A shielding gas is an inert gas that is used to protect a weld area from oxygen and water vapor. The most common shielding gas used is argon. The advantages of this technique include clean, quality welds. It is easy to use on thin materials, many different alloys can be welded, and the welds typically look better. The cons of this technique are that the equipment cost is high, an external shielding gas is required, it does not work on rusty or dirty metal, and it requires a high skill level from the operator.
- Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW): This welding process is similar to Gas Metal Arc Welding. However, it uses a tubular wire that is filled with flux, as opposed to a solid wire. This kind of welding is used for thick materials, and heavy equipment construction repairs. The advantages are that it has no need for external shielding gas, has high efficiency, and minimal clean up. The disadvantages include high equipment costs, and the process generally creates a lot of smoke.