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Basic Arc Welding Processes

GENERAL The inspector should understand the basic arc welding processes most frequently used in the fabrication and repair of refinery and chemical process equipment. These processes include 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 stud arc welding (SW). Descriptions of less frequently used welding process are available in the referenced material. Each process has advantages and limitations depending upon the application and can be more or less prone to particular types of discontinuities. S/No. Welding Process SHIELDED METAL ARC WELDING (SMAW) SMAW is the most widely used of the various arc welding processes. SMAW uses an arc between a covered electrode and the weld pool. It employs the heat of the arc, coming from the tip of a consumable covered electrode, to melt the base metal. Shielding is provided from the decomposition of the electrode covering, without the application of pressure and with filler metal from the electrode. Either alternating current (ac) or direct current (dc) may be employed, depending on the welding power supply and the electrode selected. A constant-current (CC) power supply is preferred. SMAW is a manual welding process. GAS TUNGSTEN ARC WELDING (GTAW) GTAW is an arc welding process that uses an arc between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the weld pool. The process is used with shielding gas and without the application of pressure. GTAW can be used with or without the addition of filler metal. The CC type power supply can be used with either dc or ac, the choice depends largely on the metal to be welded. Direct current welding is typically performed with the electrode negative (DCEN) polarity. DCEN welding offers the advantages of deeper penetration and faster welding speeds. Alternating current provides a cathodic cleaning (sputtering) that removes refractory oxides from the surfaces of the weld joint, which is necessary for welding aluminum and magnesium. The cleaning action occurs during the portion of the ac wave, when the electrode is positive with respect to the work piece. GAS METAL ARC WELDING (GMAW) GMAW is an arc welding process that uses an arc between continuous filler metal electrode and the weld pool. The process is used with shielding from an externally supplied gas and without the application of pressure. GMAW may be operated in semiautomatic, machine, or automatic modes. It employs a constant voltage (CV) power supply, and uses either the short circuiting, globular, or spray methods to transfer metal from the electrode to the work: The type of transfer is determined by a number of factors. The most influential are: a. Magnitude and type of welding current. b. Electrode diameter. c. Electrode composition. d. Electrode extension. c. e. Shielding gas. a. b. c. Advantages Equipment is relatively simple, inexpensive, and portable. Process can be used in areas of limited access. Process is less sensitive to wind and draft than other welding processes. Process is suitable for most of the commonly used metals and alloys. Produces high purity welds, generally free from defects. Little post-weld cleaning is required. Allows for excellent control of root pass weld penetration. Can be used with or without filler metal, dependent on the application. a. Limitations Deposition rates are lower than for other processes such as GMAW. Slag usually must be removed at stops and starts, and before depositing a weld bead adjacent to or onto a previously deposited weld bead.




a. b. c. d.





Deposition rates are lower than the rates possible with consumable electrode arc welding processes. Has a low tolerance for contaminants on filler or base metals. Difficult to shield the weld zone properly in drafty environments.



The only consumable electrode a. process that can be used to weld most commercial metals and alloys. b. b. Deposition rates are significantly higher than those obtained with SMAW. c. c. Minimal post-weld cleaning is required due to the absence of a slag.

The welding equipment is more complex, more costly, and less portable than that for SMAW. The welding arc should be protected from air drafts that will disperse the shielding gas. When using the GMAW-S process, the weld is more susceptible to lack of adequate fusion.


FLUX CORED ARC WELDING (FCAW) FCAW is an arc welding process that uses an arc between continuous tubular filler metal electrode and the weld pool. The process is used with shielding gas evolved from a flux contained within the tubular electrode, with or without additional shielding from an externally supplied gas, and without the application of pressure. Normally a semiautomatic process, the use of FCAW depends on the type of electrodes available, the mechanical property requirements of the welded joints, and the joint designs and fit-up. The recommended power source is the dc constantvoltage type, similar to sources used for GMAW.



SUBMERGED ARC WELDING (SAW) Submerged arc welding is an arc welding process that uses an arc or arcs between a flux covered bare metal electrode(s) and the weld pool. The arc and molten metal are shielded by a blanket of granular flux, supplied through the welding nozzle from a hopper. The process is used without pressure and filler metal from the electrode and sometimes from a supplemental source (welding rod, flux, or metal granules). SAW can be applied in three different modes: semiautomatic, automatic, and machine. It can utilize either a CV or CC power supply. SAW is used extensively in shop pressure vessel fabrication and pipe manufacturing. STUD ARC WELDING (SW) SW is an arc welding process that uses an arc between a metal stud or similar part and the work piece. Once the surfaces of the parts are properly heated, that is the end of the stud is molten and the work has an equal area of molten pool, they are brought into contact by pressure. Shielding gas or flux may or may not be used. The process may be fully automatic or semiautomatic. A stud gun holds the tip of the stud against the work. Direct current is typically used for SW with the stud gun connected to the negative terminal (DCEN). The power source is a CC type. SW is a specialized process predominantly limited to welding insulation and refractory support pins to tanks, pressure vessels and heater casing.

The metallurgical benefits that can be derived from a flux. b. Slag that supports and shapes the weld bead. c. High deposition and productivity rates than other processes such as SMAW. d. Shielding is produced at the surface of the weld that makes it more tolerant of stronger air currents than GMAW. a. Provides very high metal deposition rates. b. b. Produces repeatable high quality welds for large weldments and repetitive short welds.



c. d. a. c. b. c.

d. a. High productivity rates a. compared to manually welding studs to base metal. e. b. Considered an all-position b. process.


Equipment is more complex, more costly, and less portable than that for SMAW. Self-shielding FCAW generates large volumes of welding fumes, and requires suitable exhaust equipment. Slag requires removal between passes. Backing material is required for root pass welding. A power supply capable of providing high amperage at 100% duty cycle is recommended. Weld is not visible during the welding process. Equipment required is more costly and extensive, and less portable. Process is limited to shop applications and flat position. Process is primarily suitable for only carbon steel and low alloy steels. Process is specialized to a few applications.