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Arc Welding
Mar 11, 2016

The arc welding technology area focuses on the most commonly used arc welding processes, mainly GMAW/MIG, GTAW/TIG, SMAW/stick, and plasma. The articles and press releases cover processes and power sources, plus all of the related items—electrodes and wire, wire feeders, fixtures, manipulators, positioners, and power sources. If you need information on personal protective gear, ventilation systems, and safety practices for welders, see our Safety coverage area.


Arc welding was the first type of electric welding to be invented, back in the 1940s, and it's still in widespread use today. You'll find arc welders being used on a daily basis in a variety of industries, from large shipbuilders to small auto and fabrication shops.


In the decades since it's invention, many race cars, dragsters, utility trailers, ships and even skyscrapers were successfully built or repaired with transformer powered arc welders. Even many nuclear power stations were constructed with the use of arc welders and low hydrogen welding rods.


Arc welding is the simplest form of electric welding, and one big advantage it has is the extensive selection of welding rods (filler metal), and the fact that these rods are very easy to transport and use. While somewhat difficult to learn, this welding method is still a valuable asset to any small shop or fabrication business, and many things can be welded with the average arc welding machine.


Arc welding is differentiated from its cousin Mig welding by the fact that it utilizes a flux-coated welding rod typically 12 inches long, whereas Mig welders are wire-fed machines.


The arc welding electrode is a rod constructed of steel, stainless steel, or aluminum and is coated with a flux material that shields the weld pool when welding. This flux is a mixture of oxides, fluorides, carbonates and metal alloys that bind together and around the rod. This flux coating also cleans and protects the hot weld bead as it cools, protecting it from the atmosphere that could degrade the weld.


The electrodes are easy to change, and they can be inserted into the electrode holder fairly quickly. Still, this does slow down the process on bigger welding jobs, which is why many welders prefer to use a wire-fed Mig welding for those applications.


You can stick weld with AC or DC

Stick or arc welding gives you the option of using alternating or direct current. Many welding machines use AC output exclusively, and these are popular welders all around the world. AC welders are often cheaper and easier to manufacture, and cost less to buy, and so welders often choose AC over a DC output machine. And more and more of the new welders offer both AC and DC output, so you can often have the best of both worlds (but expect to pay a higher price for an inverter driven welder).


The other option with arc welding is using a DC or direct current output machine. With this type of welder you can manually choose the polarity, making the welding rod negative or positive as the need requires. Typically the DC machine will have a toggle or rotary switch on the control panel for choosing polarity, or another option is to simply switch over the welding cables. Just make sure the welding rods you’re using are designed to work with DC power output.