9 Different Types of Welding Explained

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Categories Welding
Welding is crucial to our infrastructure.

Learning to weld sounds simple enough, right? There are several types of welding, with some easier to learn than others. Some techniques leave a satisfying, neat finish while others require rework to smarten them up.

We introduce you to 9 different welding types to see how they work and what they are best suited to.


What Is Welding?

Welding is the technique of joining materials together using heat to melt the parts and the process of cooling to create the fusion that binds them. Typically, the materials are metal, but sometimes it could be thermoplastics.

Welding differs from lower-heat metal-joining methods like brazing and soldering because these processes do not melt the base metal.

Types of Welding Techniques Explained

As we said in the introduction, this article focuses on 9 welding methods, but there are actually 30 different ways to weld.

1. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (TIG/GTAW)

TIG welding, as it is commonly known, is one of the few types of welding performed without a filler metal. You can add a filler if you wish, but feeding it by hand requires skill and patience. TIG welding works because the electrode is non-consumable and made of tungsten, meaning it doesn’t melt during the welding process.

You will need a gas tank with TIG welding to provide the constant source of gas necessary to protect the weld. TIG welding produces neat and highly satisfactory results that require no cleanup. For this reason, this type of technique is better for the more skilled welders.

TIG welding is heavily used in the automotive, aircraft and aerospace industry, as well as autobody repairs.

PROS:
  • Clean welds.
  • High degree of control for the welder.
  • Used with or without filler material.
  • Used in manual and automatic methods.
  • Super-strong welds.
CONS:
  • Requires a constant gas supply.
  • Not suited to outdoor use.
  • Requires a high degree of skill.
  • Time-consuming.
  • Not suitable for thicker metal joints.

Additional Specs

Weld materialCopper, stainless steel, brass, bronze, aluminum, nickel alloys
Energy sourceGas (chemical)
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsIndustrial, shipbuilding, construction, automotive

2. Flux-Cored Arc Welding (FCAW)

This type of weld resembles MIG welding, which is why MIG welders can often perform both duties. The electrode wire and filler metal get fed through the wand. Unlike TIG welding that requires a gas supply, FCAW welds a core of flux around the electrode that creates a shield of gas around the weld, eliminating the need for gas.

FCAW welding is ideal for heavy-duty tasks and thicker material, which is why it is great for plant and heavy machinery repairs. Also, because there is no gas supply, this type of welding is cheaper and adapts better to outside conditions.

It is mainly used in railroad construction, shipbuilding, manufacturing plants, and industrial piping maintenance and repairs.

PROS:
  • Suitable for thicker joints.
  • Flexible torch movement and orientation.
  • Requires very little skill.
  • Excellent weld penetration.
  • Highest metal deposition rate.
CONS:
  • Creates slag.
  • Fixed-core wires are costly.
  • Rougher finish to the weld.

Additional Specs

Weld materialCopper, stainless steel, brass, bronze, aluminum, nickel alloys
Energy sourceGas (chemical)
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsIndustrial, shipbuilding, construction, automotive

3. Stick-Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW)

This is an old form of welding used since the 1930s. It is easy to master but produces an imperfect weld that will require some cleanup after finishing. The electrode stick is consumable, melting as the arc is created to form the filler metal and solidifying to create the bond between the metals.

Like FCAW, the stick is coated in flux to protect the weld, creating a cloud of gas to prevent oxidation. As the metal cools, the gas settles on the surface and forms slag.

This is an effective method of welding to use outdoors in all weather conditions. Because it works on damaged and rusted surfaces, it is an excellent method to use for equipment repairs.

PROS:
  • Great in all weather conditions.
  • Easy to master.
  • Great for detailed welding.
  • Requires no gas.
CONS:
  • Leaves a messy finish.
  • Creates fumes.
  • Not a continuous process as the stick needs replacing.
  • Metal deposition rates are low.

Additional Specs

Weld materialCarbon steel, stainless steel, low alloy steel, iron
Energy sourceElectric arc (electrical)
Skill levelBeginner
ApplicationsManufacturing, railroad, construction, automotive

4. Gas Metal Arc Welding (MIG/GMAW)

MIG welding is one of the simplest ways to weld, and is easily performed by novice welders. MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas and is the method of feeding the filler through the wand, while a continuous supply of gas creates a shield to protect the weld from the elements.

It is not the best method of welding for outdoor use, but it is versatile and welds many different types of metal. The filler wire is fed from a spool and acts as the electrode. For this reason, MIG welding is also a more efficient welding technique because the process only stops when the spool needs changing.

MIG welding is widely used in the automotive industry, construction and high-production manufacturing.

PROS:
  • Continuous welding.
  • Higher welding speeds.
  • Higher deposition rates.
  • Neater weld results.
  • Low skills needed.
  • Process easily automated.
CONS:
  • Higher setup costs.
  • Creates volatile gasses.
  • Higher maintenance costs.
  • Radiation effects are more severe.

Additional Specs

Weld materialSteel, alloys, magnesium, mild steel
Energy sourceGas (chemical)
Skill levelBeginner
ApplicationsWorkshops, production lines, factories

5. Laser Beam Welding

Typically, laser beam welding is used in industrial settings because it is easier to automate with robotics. It involves a laser beam to create heat and melt the base metals and is used with carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum and titanium. Laser beam welding suits the manufacturing process and the automotive industry.

PROS:
  • Easy to automate.
  • More accurate.
  • Higher strength weld.
  • Faster production rate.
  • No loss of working hours replacing electrodes.
CONS:
  • Not suited to manual welding.
  • Expensive initial setup.
  • Best suited using robotic controls.

Additional Specs

Weld materialCarbon steel, aluminum, stainless steel
Energy sourceLaser beam
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsManufacturing, automotive, prefabrication

6. Electron-Beam Welding

Electron beams create heat through kinetic energy. A high-velocity beam of electrons melt the base metal, and as it cools, it fuses together. It is highly sophisticated, automated and expensive. It also requires a vacuum environment.

PROS:
  • Efficient.
  • Neat finish.
  • Fast.
  • Continuous production.
CONS:
  • Expensive to set up.
  • Highly complex.
  • Not a manual form of welding.

Additional Specs

Weld materialSteel, iron, stainless steel, steel alloys
Energy sourceElectron beam
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsAircraft, nuclear, aerospace, defense, medical, oil, gas

7. Plasma Arc Welding

Plasma arc welding is similar to TIG welding, but it produces higher temperatures and uses a smaller arc. This makes it more precise and better suited for detailed welding. It works by pressurizing the gas inside the wand to create plasma. The plasma is then ionized to make it electrically conductive.

This creates an incredibly high temperature from the arc and allows the base metals to weld without using filler metal. Thanks to the precise nature of this method, it is accurate, allows for deeper weld penetration and leaves a neat and satisfying weld.

Plasma arc welding is used in the aerospace industry, aircraft and the electronics industry.

PROS:
  • Low power consumption.
  • Deeper welding penetration for thicker materials.
  • Higher welding speeds.
  • Steady arc.
CONS:
  • Expensive initial setup.
  • Noisy.
  • Requires a high degree of skill.
  • Higher radiation levels.

Additional Specs

Weld materialSteel, stainless steel, iron, aluminum, steel alloys
Energy sourceElectric arc (electrical), Gas (chemical)
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsAll commercial-grade metals

8. Atomic Hydrogen Welding

Atomic hydrogen welding is a method that generates extreme heat that can often increase to temperatures that exceed that of an acetylene torch. It uses hydrogen gas to shield two tungsten electrodes, and the intense heat means that a filler metal is not necessary to create a strong fusion between the materials.

This is an older form of welding that has largely been replaced by the MIG method. This type of welding is used in applications where rapid welding is needed, and it works well on stainless steel and non-ferrous metals.

PROS:
  • Very fast results.
  • Extreme temperatures.
  • Efficient.
  • Less distortion.
  • No filler metal needed.
CONS:
  • Higher running costs.
  • Only welds flat positions.
  • High heat equals high danger.
  • High skill level required.
  • Hydrogen is extremely flammable.

Additional Specs

Weld materialStainless steel, tungsten, all ferrous and non-ferrous metals
Energy sourceHydrogen gas (chemical)
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsAutomotive, construction, heavy-duty applications

9. Electroslag

Electroslag is an advanced method of welding that is automated. It joins the thin edges of two metal plates together vertically. The weld takes place between the joints instead of on the outside and, as a copper electrode gets fed through a consumable guide tube, it acts as filler metal.

Electricity creates the arc, and the weld moves from the bottom of the seam, rising to the top, creating the seal. This type of welding is common in the prefabricated steel industry because it suits thick steel plates.

PROS:
  • Automated.
  • High production rate.
  • Low slag production.
  • High deposition rate.
  • Heavier sections can be welded in a single pass.
CONS:
  • High temperatures need constant cooling.
  • Slow cooling rate.
  • High setup costs.
  • Requires a high degree of skill.

Additional Specs

Weld materialCarbon steel, high-strength steel, low-alloy steel, stainless steel, aluminum
Energy sourceElectric arc (electrical)
Skill levelAdvanced
ApplicationsPrefabricated structures, production lines, factories

A World Without Welding

Imagine a world where welding didn’t exist. Almost every part of engineering and construction relies on welding technology. Over the years, welding has become more advanced, and with it, a world of possibilities has opened up in ways that our predecessors could only dream about.

So the next time you pass under a metal bridge, take a moment to look up and appreciate the skill and quality of the welding.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.

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