Shielded Metal Arc Welding

shielded metal arc welding

Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) is one of the most commonly used welding process. SMAW dates back to the 1890s and today is taught to students in welding classes and widely used in numerous industries. 1 Why has this process remained so popular over the years?

What Is Shielded Metal Arc Welding?

SMAW is also known as stick welding. Some welders also simply refer to the process as SMAW. Unlike tungsten inert gas welding (TIG) and gas metal arc welding (GMAW), which use tanks of inert gas to protect the weld, SMAW relies on electrodes coated with inert materials that vaporize into shielded gas once the electric arc is struck. The process can be used with either direct or alternating current. A layer of slag (byproduct of some arc welding processes) forms which also serves to protect the weld from contaminants like dust. A welder must chip off the slag once it cools. 2

Why Is Shielded Metal Arc Welding a Commonly Used Process?

Two reasons for shielded metal arc welding’s popularity are the simplicity of the equipment and the versatility of the process. 3 Compared to other welding processes, SMAW equipment is pretty basic. Usually, all a welder needs are two welding cables, a welding transformer, a work clamp, and an electrode holder. The types of SMAW welding electrodes outnumber the sizes and types of filler (metals that that need to be added to make a weld) of any other process. Thanks to this wide variety of electrodes, a welder can use one machine for a range of metal types of various thicknesses. 4

Which Industries Use Shielded Metal Arc Welding?

Numerous industries use shielded metal arc welding. These include shipyards, heavy metal fabrication shops, and structural steel welding facilities. 5 SMAW is used in structural welding, which has applications in the construction, manufacturing, petroleum, and mining industries. Structural welders play a large role in shaping city skylines because they work on the metal framework for buildings and skyscrapers. Welders also rely on SMAW for repair work in the shop and the field. 6 7

Shielded Metal Arc Welding Takes Skill

Shielded metal arc welding may be one of the most popular welding processes, but it still requires a level of skill to perform. When welders are not proficient in the process, welding mistakes can occur. Fortunately, welding training programs offer instruction in SMAW, equipping students with a skill they can use in a host of industries. 8


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4 – Title: Welding Principles and Applications; Author: Larry Jeffus; Delmar Cengage Learning; Seventh Edition; Textbook page 8
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