Weld Design Menu
Shielded Metal Arc Welding SMAW, "Stick Welding" - this method is the most familiar and common type and is known in the trade as stick welding. A metal wire rod coated with a welding flux is clamped in an electrode holder connected to the power supply with a heavy electrical cable. The metal to be welded is also attached to the power supply. The electrical power is supplied to the work at a low voltage and high current and may be either AC or DC, depending upon the type of welding being done. An arc is struck between the rod and the work and produces heat in excess of 10,000 F, which melts both the material and the rod. As the flux melts, it releases an inert gas which shields the molten puddle from oxygen in the air and prevents oxidation. The molten flux covers the weld and hardens to an airtight slag cover that protects the weld bead as it cools. This slag must be chipped off to examine the weld.
To strike the electric arc, the electrode is brought into contact with the workpiece by a very light touch with the electrode to the base metal then is pulled back slightly. This initiates the arc and thus the melting of the workpiece and the consumable electrode, and causes droplets of the electrode to be passed from the electrode to the weld pool. As the electrode melts, the flux covering disintegrates, giving off shielding gases that protect the weld area from oxygen and other atmospheric gases. In addition, the flux provides molten slag which covers the filler metal as it travels from the electrode to the weld pool. Once part of the weld pool, the slag floats to the surface and protects the weld from contamination as it solidifies. Once hardened, it must be chipped away to reveal the finished weld. As welding progresses and the electrode melts, the welder must periodically stop welding to remove the remaining electrode stub and insert a new electrode into the electrode holder. This activity, combined with chipping away the slag, reduces the amount of time that the welder can spend laying the weld, making SMAW one of the least efficient welding processes. In general, the operator factor, or the percentage of operator's time spent laying weld, is approximately 25%.
The actual welding technique utilized depends on the electrode, the composition of the workpiece, and the position of the joint being welded. The choice of electrode and welding position also determine the welding speed. Flat welds require the least operator skill, and can be done with electrodes that melt quickly but solidify slowly. This permits higher welding speeds. Sloped, vertical or upside-down welding requires more operator skill, and often necessitates the use of an electrode that solidifies quickly to prevent the molten metal from flowing out of the weld pool. However, this generally means that the electrode melts less quickly, thus increasing the time required to lay the weld.