Why Learning About Shielded Metal Arc Welding Can Help Your Welding CareerSeptember 10, 2019
It’s an essential process for aspiring welders to learning, but how exactly does it work, and why do you need it in your welding career? Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW)—known by some as “stick welding”—is where a weld is made through an electric current that forms an arc between a weld pool and a flux-covered electrode, leading to the formation of gases that shield the weld pool and give it a layer of slag. As a result, the weld is protected from contamination.
Being one of the most basic and oldest welding techniques, SMAW may seem at first like it has a big learning curve, but it is actually quite simple once you’ve fully understood its inner workings. Here’s how SMAW works, and how it can be helpful for you and your welding career.
Those in Welding Technician Training Should Familiarize Themselves With the Process
Since it’s one of the simplest processes in welding, it goes without saying that those hoping to have a career in the profession should understand how shielded metal arc welding works. First, the electrode briefly comes into contact with the workpiece, striking the arc, which results in parts of the electrode being passed onto the weld pool before the covering disintegrates and forms protective gases. With the power source connected to a circuit, one of its two output terminals makes a connection with the electrode either with alternating current or direct current. Additionally, SMAW electrodes contain covering with various elements and materials that allow the welding process to be carried out, as not having the covering would make the arc hard to maintain and cause the weld bead to be improperly shaped.
Shielded Metal Arc Welding Needs to Meet Three Criteria to Work
Since SMAW is something you’ll learn in welding technician training, it’s important to remember that there are three steps the electrode in any SMAW application must take to properly weld. These are the ability to shield both the weld metal and the arc, the adding of metal to the weld, and the ability to sustain the arc. Furthermore, SMAW has three additional functions when the covering is heated well enough, which are the formation of the shield for the metal and the arc; the covering ionizing so that it can support the arc plasma; and the fluxing of the metal so it forms a cover on the weld bead as it cools, eventually giving off gases to avoid any contamination to the weld.
There Are Many Upsides to This Type of Welding—and Various Things it Can Weld, Too
The advantages of performing SMAW for your welding career are vast. Not only can it suitably weld a number of different alloys, metals and steels, but it’s also a process with various other upsides, not the least of which are its simplicity and relatively inexpensive nature. For example, the SMAW process isn’t as draft or wind-sensitive as gas shielded arc welding can be, nor does it necessitate the use of auxiliary gas shields. SMAW can also be applied to various welding positions, as well as its electrodes being able to access, and be applied to, hard-to-reach areas such as blind spots. Given how versatile and productive the process can be, it’s easy to see how advantageous it is for many welding projects.
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