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What Is Electric Welding?

Jul 2, 2021 ·

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Welding is a skill used in many industries, from automotive maintenance to manufacturing and construction. Skilled trade workers who possess the right amount of training and experience are sought after by employers.

Knowing different types of welding can help prepare you for the field and help your resume stand out when applying for jobs.

Electric welding works by utilizing an electric arc and filler metal with a stick electrode or wire to join materials together. Commonly referred to as arc welding, four different types of electric welding are taught in the Welding Technology program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI).

Keep reading to find out more about electric welding and the benefits it offers.

How Electric Welding Works

Electric welding works when an electrical arc is created from an intense amount of heat. This arc gets formed between a work piece and an electrode, which can be a rod or wire that is along the joint connecting the two.

The arc created works to melt the base metal and filler metal, which combines them into one material. The filler metal gets consumed during the process. A welding circuit gets created, which is a pathway that a welding output flows through — consisting of the electrode, work cables or leads, a power source, and the electric arc.

The electrodes used during the process may be either consumable or nonconsumable, depending on which method is used. A consumable electrode will become a part of the weld bond, acting as filler material. A nonconsumable electrode remains unaffected, as a separate welding rod or wire serves as the filler material.

Some of the equipment used to make electric welds includes:

  • Welding machines, including multi-process welders
  • Cables and leads
  • Cable connectors
  • Electrode holders
  • Chipping hammers and wire brushes
  • Protective clothing and face shields

Benefits of Electric Welding

Electric welding is one of the most common welding methods, and it offers many benefits to the user. It’s the predominant method used in industries nationwide for many reasons, including:

Higher Production Rates

The production rates for electric welding versus other processes are often much faster. Most arc welding machines don’t require preheating and produce higher levels of heat, which helps make for quicker welds. Setup also takes less time compared with gas welds, where gas torches and regulators need to be adjusted.


It’s easier to get more consistent and higher-quality welds with electric welding. The quality of the weld largely has to do with the higher temperatures generated during the process, which offer a better fusing of the metals and deeper penetration.


This benefit ties a bit into the speed of welds, but electric arc welds typically tend to be more efficient than other welding methods. Along with a higher production rate, they are more cost-efficient over time, especially compared with gas welds that require the frequent purchase of welding gases. Higher heat allows arc welding to be more efficient at melting metal and reduces the risk of distortion.

Types of Electric Welding

There are a number of electric welding methods used in the industry. Four of them are taught at UTI: gas metal arc welding (GMAW), gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) and flux-cored arc welding (FCAW).

Find out a bit more about these methods and an additional electric welding type below:

  • Gas metal arc welding (GMAW): Also referred to as both metal inert gas (MIG) and metal active gas (MAG) welding, GMAW utilizes constant voltage equipment to create heat from a direct current electric arc. Metals are heated by this arc between a continuously fed wire and work piece. The gas in the name refers to the externally supplied shielding gas, which could be inert (nonreactive) or active.
  • Gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW): This process is sometimes referred to as tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding. It uses a direct current or alternating current electric arc. It’s similar to GMAW in the fact that a shielding gas is used. However, GTAW heats objects using a tungsten electrode, which sends a current to the welding arc (in GMAW, a wire acts as a filler material).
  • Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW): In the SMAW process, also known as stick welds, metals are melted and joined together through an arc that is between a flux-covered metal electrode and work piece. The process utilizes constant-current equipment to create the necessary heat. The weldment is shielded from the electrode’s outer coating, known as flux.
  • Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW): Constant voltage equipment is utilized in the FCAW process, which creates heat from a direct current electric arc. Current is carried between a continuous hollow wire that features a flux compound, which works to protect the weld pool. There is an option to utilize an external shielding gas, but it’s unnecessary if the flux compound is being used as the shielding agent.
  • Resistance Spot Welding: Also referred to as spot welding, this process works to join metal together through the process of passing a current between electrodes that are positioned on opposite sides of the work pieces. No arc is generated during this method, and it is used primarily for welding two or more sheets of metal together using pressure and heat. Resistance to the metal with the flow of current causes the metal to fuse.

The Difference Between Electric Arc Welding and Gas Welding

Gas welding is often referred to as oxy-acetylene welding or oxy-gasoline welding. Instead of using electricity to generate heat like electric arc welding, gas welding utilizes flammable gases to do so.

This is the major difference between the two, although there are other differences between these techniques, including:

  • Temperature: The temperatures reached using electric welding are higher, ranging around 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit compared with about 5,600 degrees when using a gas welding method.
  • Speed: Electric arc welding has a higher production rate than gas welding.
  • Cost: Initially, electric welding costs more to set up than a gas welding system. In the long run, electric welding tends to be more cost effective. This is because you don’t need to buy gas cylinders as often.
  • Power supply: Gas welding does not require an electrical power supply for the process, unlike electric arc welds that need specific currents and frequencies.

Learn Electric Arc Welding at UTI

If you’re thinking about pursuing a career in welding, there’s no better place to start than at one of UTI’s campus locations.1 Get the training and experience you need at one of the campuses offering the Welding Technology program:

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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

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Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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