There are many different types of welding currently in use in 2023. In this article we’re going to explore the different types and what they’re most commonly used for.
Welding in some form or other has been around for centuries. We might not think of the blacksmith in a medieval town making a sword as a welder, but that’s what he was. Welding techniques are much more sophisticated today than they were 1000 years ago, but the basic principles remain the same. The idea is to melt and fuse metal into a new and better creation.
1. MIG Welding
Metal inert gas welding or as it’s more commonly known, MIG welding, is one of the easier types for most beginners to grasp. The welding process involves a welder feeding a metal filler material into a wand to bind two different pieces of metal together. During this process, gas is released around the welding wand to protect the metal from outside gases and prevent oxidation.
This type of welding is best for indoor use but other than that small limitation it’s actually quite a versatile option. It can be used with many different types of metals and that makes it a popular choice for welders at different experience levels. Common uses for this welding technique include car and recreational vehicle repairs and bodywork.
Check our recommendations for the best MIG welders in 2023.
2. Stick Welding
Stick welding has been around for decades, but it has gone through constant cycles of improvement. This is another easy to learn style that can be a great method for teaching new welders the ropes. The one caveat with this method is that it can be a bit messy compared to other common welding techniques.
During the stick welding process, an electrode filler metal (stick) is used to join two metals together using a metal arc weld. The material that the stick is coated in creates a flux when heated releasing gases that protect the newly welded joint from oxidation and strengthens the overall weld.
We’ve already mentioned that learning how to stick weld is straightforward, but that’s not the only advantage of using this type of weld. Since it uses an electrode without gas it’s ideal for using outside. You’ll find many companies with heavy-duty outdoor equipment will use this weld as it works well on most surfaces without having to clean them first. It’s also common in the shipbuilding industry and in various applications of structural repairs.
3. TIG Welding
TIG welding uses a gas tungsten electrode during the weld. The electrode reaches high temperatures, but it doesn’t melt and so it’s considered a non-consumable. Once the electrode reaches high temperatures an electric arc forms and begins to melt the base metal being welded. There’s no filler material being used – just the two pieces of base metal being joined together by melting them into one piece.
Where things get complicated with this welding technique is that you have to use a separate gas tank to create the atmosphere around the weld that will protect the process from oxidation. It can be difficult to strike the right balance sometimes. Also, because of the need to introduce gas as an independent process, this technique is best used indoors – the slightest breeze can cause havoc with your weld.
What makes it all worthwhile is the clean welding produced with very little need to clean up afterwards. TIG welding is great for repairing and making machines with small metal parts such as bicycles and lawnmowers.
Check out our pick of the best TIG welders for home and professional use.
4. Plasma Arc Welding
With plasma arc welding the weld is created using extremely high temperatures. The gas is placed under pressure in a wand until it reaches these high temperatures and creates a plasma. Ionization is then introduced creating an electric arc that easily melts the base metal you’re working on. No filler is needed in this process as the Plasma ARC actually melts the base metals it comes in contact with allowing them to fuse together.
Plasma arc welding creates a strong bond on both thick and thin pieces of metal because its a deep weld that penetrates the base structure of the weld. The equipment used in this type of welding can be expensive and that’s why it’s often used in heavy industrial and manufacturing settings. For most companies to justify the expense of high-end plasma arc welding equipment they have to have large scale operations.
There are budget plasma cutters you may find at Home Depot, Lowe’s or Amazon – these are great for DIY enthusiasts and small business that aren’t working on welding projects all of the time. You can also check our recommendations for the best plasma cutters available for professionals and hobbyists and the best budget plasma cutters under $500.
5. Electron Beam & Laser Welding
When you think about electron beams and lasers it probably conjures up images of a favorite Science Fiction movie or a top-secret government program. Electron beam and laser welding techniques aren’t Science Fiction, but they do use expensive cutting edge welding equipment that can create some of the strongest and cleanest welds in the industry. You won’t find either one of these techniques being used at Mom and Pops Weld Shop.
With electron beam welding a high-speed beam of electrons creates a great deal of kinetic energy in the form of heat that can then be used to weld two metal pieces together. This is a clean welding process that creates a high strength finished process. The equipment used is usually automated machines with a hefty price tag.
Instead of electrons, laser welding uses a laser as a heat source. Laser welding can be used on many different types of steel, aluminum, and titanium as well as plastics. This is another clean welding technique and another expensive one. Because of the price tag, it’s more common to find laser welding in use in industrial settings such as the car industry.
6. Electroslag Welding
Electroslag welding is a complicated weld that is performed by machines. The machine in this process does not weld joints together – it fuses thin metal plates together by using high heat to melt the base into a molten state. The electrode used in this process is copper which you feed through a tube that also happens to be consumable so it has the dual purpose of being part of the original process and acting as a filler as you go.
The idea is to work along a seam and the electro slag replaces that seam with a strong weld that is banded together with an underlying metal. It’s not an easy technique to master and that’s why this welding process is usually left to machines for reliability. Because of the complicated nature of this welding technique, it’s only used in some very specific applications involving carbon steel and very thick sections of metals.
7. Flux Welding
Many welders consider flux welding to be MIG welding’s big brother. There are some similarities, but also some important differences. Both require a wire electrode that is fed through the welding wand, but with the flux welding type that wire is also made of flux that when heated generates gas. This gas is then used as a protective barrier preventing oxidation from happening and increasing the strength of the barrier. There is no need for an external source of gas which also helps to simplify the welding process.
As flux welding generates a lot of heat it can be used in a lot of different applications. It even works well on thick metals that other types of welding processes would struggle with. Normal uses include industrial settings and repairing heavy-duty outdoor equipment. It’s also used in industrial maintenance and the shipbuilding industry.
8. Atomic Hydrogen Welding
Atomic hydrogen welding sounds like it involves a complicated process, but like other welding techniques, the underlying principles are actually fairly straightforward. It does involve high heat and can be effective, but it’s actually an older welding technique that isn’t used in many settings today.
Hydrogen gas is used in the process as a protective barrier around the tungsten electrodes used during the welding process. Because of the high heat present, it can be used on thicker metals, but this type of welding has been largely replaced by MIG welding because the latter is more efficient and versatile. When it was a widely used technique, it was used in many different applications that used stainless steel products.
At this point, you should now realize just how diverse and robust the welding world really is. There are welding types such as MIG welding that are easy to learn and require little training, but there are also welding techniques that are quite complicated such as electron beam welding. Depending on the type of welding process that your company needs to employ the costs may be minor or they could require the purchase of expensive automated machines.
For those of you looking for a good welding machine for home or garage use check out this article for our recommendations.