Last updated on January 28th, 2020 at 12:53 am
Almost any industry that works with metal depends on welding and cutting machines. Simply, welding machines are used for the joining of metals together. Welding is fundamental to many manufacturing industries and metal fabrication processes. If a product is made of metal there is a good chance it was welded. And as long as there are metals to weld, there will always be a need for a way to cut through them as well. Here metal cutting machines, play a big role. From underwater mining to space inspection, you can think of the number of products that incorporates metal.
Welding is the art of joining metals. A welding machine is a widely used system in construction projects, vehicle fabrication, computer components, auto parts, or artistry work, just to name a few. An arc welder consists of three main components that allow it to bond metal together effectively; a power source, filler material, and shielding gas.
- The electric power source to form an arc. Heat is produced, triggering a hot arc from a welding torch, capable of melting any metal.
- The filler material is used to fill the weld joint connecting two pieces of metal together.
- Shielding gas to protect the weld area. A form of a shield gas is released around the welding zone to avoid any contamination from the environmental elements that lead to an unclean, less stable weld.
Most Common Arc Welding Types
There are many types of welding process used, each is related to a specific application. There are four common processes for arc welding today. Favored by engineers and hobbyists.
- Stick welding also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW).
- Metal Inert Gas (MIG) also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), another common name is hard wire welding.
- Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW) also referred to as flux core wire welding.
- Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW).
They mainly differ in the amount of heat used, the way the filler metal is added, and the shielding gas process. You can learn more by reading our article comparing different welding processes.
Stick Welding / SMAW
A stick welder uses an electrode rod coated with a shielding gas. The electrode wire can also have filler material coating. Upon starting the arc the wire melts to form a weld pool and the shield coating is released to protect the weld from contamination.
This method is one of the oldest and one of the most basic welding processes. It’s simple and great for people who are starting to learn how to weld. It’s also a good process for welding outdoor and in windy conditions. However, the coating released from the wire electrode makes it hard to determine how much filler metal is required. As a result, the finished product is not top notch quality and you would need to chip off the slag and clean the weld after finishing to get clean results.
MIG Welding / GMAW
In MIG welding, it uses an adjustable wire feed spool and an external shielding gas. Once you install the wire spool, you set the required output. Then simply press the trigger of the MIG gun this will release the wire continuously. Once the wire hits the base metal, it forms an arc, melting the wire to bonding the base metals together. While the shielding gas is released through the welding torch.
This method is one of the most common welding processes. It’s a high production welding process that is widely used in shops and factories. It also produces better results when compared to other welding processes. However, MIG welding requires more skill set when compared to stick welding. It is not easy when it comes to setting up the equipment. And it’s recommended to be used mainly indoors.
Flux Core Welding / FCAW
Flux core welding uses the same MIG welding machine. The only difference is that MIG welding uses a solid wire while FCAW uses a flux cored wire. Similar to stick welding, a flux cored wire also contains a shield gas additive.
This method is fast and has a higher deposition rate. Widely used in fast production companies. It is also more useful in windy condition or in the outdoors. However, when it comes to the final product, flux core welding produces more spatter leading to more post cleaning time.
TIG Welding / GTAW
In TIG welding, it uses a non-consumable electrode. Once you have everything set, you insert the Tungsten electrode into the TIG gun. By turning on the power supply the electrode sparks forming an arc while the shielding gas is released through the torch. The arc melts the base metal and the filler material. In this process the electrode is not used as a filler material, instead, a filler wire is fed with the welder’s other hand, if required.
This is also a widely used process. Preferred by many contractors and artists due to its precision. It’s versatile and produces the highest quality welds when compared to other methods. However, it is the most difficult to learn, requiring a welder’s experience. It is also known to be more slow and time-consuming
There are many ways to cut metal, some of which are economical and some are costly. Some are more accurate and some are not. Some are suited for automation while others are not. Today, artists and manufacturers are replacing their saw, snips, cut wheel, or oxy-fuel torch with a plasma cutting machine. They are widely used in a variety of applications from industrial constructions, plumping systems, automotive repair, to hobby fabrication work. Plasma cutting is a great method for cutting through metal, offering a much higher speed and precision combined with low costs. They can also be automated through a CNC table. A plasma cutting machine consists of three main parts to complete a circuit and form a cut; a power source, a torch, and a shielding gas.
- An electric power supply provides voltage and current that are required for maintaining the arc plasma process throughout the cut.
- Inside the torch a plasma arc is formed provided by the power supply, releasing a plasma jet from the nozzle of the torch, cutting through the metal.
- An additional shielding gas is used to further improve the cut quality, shielding the cut from contamination.
Arc Plasma Cutting
Plasma cutting machines work starts in the plasma torch. By sending an arc into the gas at a very high temperature with great speed. This forces the gas to squeeze and pass through the restricted opening of the nozzle, blowing off the molten heated metal and cutting through the metal sheet.
This machine is vital to cutting metal. Preferred by many contractors and engineers in many industries and metal fabrication shops. They are lightweight allowing them to be very portable. They are fast in production time and they are simple to use. However, it requires accuracy to achieve clean edges and good quality.
Consider the safety risks and consider the methods to protect yourself. Safety hazards associated with arc welding and cutting processes include exposure to toxic fumes and ultraviolet rays. Not to mention, hazards associated during operation such as burns, electric shock, cuts, eyes or skin injuries. Taking all required precautions, wear the appropriate protective gear, and always practice. These are some of the basic protective equipment to operate safely.
Face and Eye Protection
A Welding helmet, hood, goggle, or a face shield is crucial in welding and plasma cutting process. Protecting your eyes from intense light and protecting the face from any sparks. In this case, an auto-darkening welding helmet is the best choice. Custom welding helmets are also available with a respiratory space and fashionable designs.
Welding gloves come in second place. They come in thick materials with long cuffs protecting the hands and forearms. Some gloves are also specifically designed to resist electric shock if you accidentally touch the base metal.
Special protective clothing will protect your skin and body from molten metal and sparks exposure. A welding jacket and pants made from thick leather offers a high level of protection. These items of clothing generally fasten closed zippers with heavy leather straps and metal buckles.
Enjoy reading our articles and make sure to check our website constantly to see the latest articles about welding, cutting, protective gear, and everything related to metal fabrication.