Flux Cored Arc Welding (FCAW): Learning the Basics


Have you wondered, "What is flux core welding?" or "What is a flux core welder?" Also known as flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), it’s a type of welding suitable for both indoors and outdoors, enabling welders to meld metals and other materials together by applying heat and pressure.

During flux core wire welding, a continuous hollow wire electrode is fed through the welding gun. There are two types of flux-cored arc welding: gas-shielded and self-shielded. The gas-shielded method is similar to the popular welding process gas metal arc welding (also known as GMAW or metal inert gas [MIG] welding).

However, the self-shielded process is only similar to GMAW in the type of power supply it uses. Unlike GMAW, self-shielded FCAW does not require an external shielding gas.

The flux compound within the wire protects the weld pool by forming a gas as it reacts with the welding arc, making FCAW an ideal type of welding for materials contaminated with dirt and rust.

Keep reading to learn more about flux core welding basics and processes.

What Is Flux Core Welding Used For?

Flux-cored arc welding is a good technique to use on materials that are no thinner than 20 gauge, including carbon steel, low-alloy steels, high-nickel alloys, cast iron and stainless steels. The flux-cored wire is powerful and able to penetrate thick weld joints. For this reason, it can also prove more productive than other types of welding.

FCAW is often used in the construction industry, since this semiautomatic type of welding can be used outdoors, has a high welding speed and is easily portable.

FCAW can be used for projects like:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Construction
  • Water tank repairs

When a welder needs to work outdoors or on contaminated materials, FCAW can produce high amounts of welds in a short amount of time.

However, FCAW isn’t ideal for everyone or every project. Let’s discuss the advantages and disadvantages of flux core welding.


  • Increased mobility: Since flux-cored welding contains its own shielding method, it doesn’t require an external gas and can be transported easier.
  • High deposition rate: The rate of deposition in flux-cored welding is the highest of any welding method, increasing productivity. Deposition rate refers to the amount of filler metal melted into the weld joint.
  • Versatility: Flux-cored welding can be performed in a variety of positions when the right filler material is used.


  • Fumes: FCAW needs to be performed in a well-ventilated area because it produces a large amount of fumes from the high deposition rate.
  • Cleanup: Flux-cored welding is a process that produces slag, a layer of byproduct that takes time to be removed after a weld.
  • Expense: Equipment used in FCAW processes tends to be more expensive and complex, including the electrode wire.

How Flux-Cored Arc Welding Works

Wondering how to weld flux core wire and the specific process? We have you covered.

Flux Core Welding Process

In FCAW, an electric arc unites a continuous filler metal electrode with the base material. As the welding process happens, the shield gas provided by the flux protects the weld pool from oxidation and other atmospheric elements.

After the weld is completed, there is slag that must be removed. Welders need to account for the time to remove slag to make the weld look clean. The welder should remove the slag between each pass.

Flux Core Welding Techniques

There are a few different processes a welder can use when performing flux-cored arc welding. As previously mentioned, these variants include self-shielded FCAW and gas-shielded FCAW.

Different fluxing agents provide different benefits to the welder. Self-shielded FCAW is typically used outdoors because FCAW using a separate gas shield would have issues with wind potentially blowing it away.

Flux agents used in gas-shielded processes are designed to help deliver deeper penetration and work with out-of-position welds. Gas-shielded welds are also known as dual shields because flux-cored welds already rely on the electrode for shielding.

Flux Core Welding Patterns

There are a variety of welding patterns that can be achieved with flux-cored welds. High and narrow welds, for example, can be achieved by using a backhand flux core welding motion.

There is a stringer bead method that deposits weld beads in a straight line, as well as a weave bead technique that forms a zigzag pattern.

Flux Core Welding Wire Types

Wires for flux-cored arc welding differ depending on whether the process is self-shielded or gas-shielded. Self-shielded wires, or FCAW-S, don’t need an external gas cylinder. They are often used for portable jobs but do tend to produce more smoke and spatter.

Gas-shielded wires, or FCAW-G, require an external shielding gas. They are easier to control and produce aesthetically pleasing welds. They’re typically used in shop settings, since outside the gas could blow around.

FCAW-G wires tend to be less expensive than FCAW-S wires. Both wires are typically available in diameters ranging from .035 to 7/64 of an inch.

Flux Core Welding Polarity

The polarity for flux-cored arc welding processes depends on whether they are self-shielded or gas-shielded. Most gas-shielded welds work best with a direct-current electrode positive (DCEP) polarity. When using a self-shielded process, direct-current electrode negative (DCEN) polarity is used.

Flux Core Welding Equipment

To achieve a flux core weld, you will need:

  • A power source (welding machine)
  • Welding gun
  • Welding wire
  • Wire feeder
  • Welding cables
  • Ground clamp
  • Chipping hammer

In addition to these tools, the welder should wear safety equipment, including an auto-darkening helmet, gloves and protective clothing.

Flux Core Welding vs. Other Types of Welding

Flux core welding is often compared to stick and MIG welding, and while it can be similar to these methods, it’s also unique in many ways. Let’s discuss how.

Flux Core Welding vs. Stick Welding

The primary difference between stick welding, also known as shielded metal arc welding (SMAW), and flux core welding is the physical structure of their electrodes.

Stick electrodes are metal rods coated in flux. As you weld, the metal center melds with your metal base while the flux casing melts and releases gas to protect the molten metal from contamination.

Flux core electrodes have a metal exterior that contains flux on the inside. Additionally, FCAW electrodes come in a spool and are fed through a semiautomatic welding gun managed by the welder. On the contrary, stick electrodes are long rods attached to an electrode holder managed by the welder’s hand.

Both welding types are self-shielded, removing the need for a gas agent like carbon dioxide. Because stick welding does not require a gas shield, it is also portable and fit for outdoor use.

SMAW also leaves behind slag that requires cleaning between each pass. However, it has a lower deposition rate than FCAW, making for a slower process. Stick welding is common in construction, pipelines, shipbuilding and underwater welding.

Flux Core Welding vs. MIG Welding

MIG welding, also called gas metal arc welding, uses a welding gun that is fed a solid wire from a spool. FCAW also receives a wire from a spool, except the wire is tubular instead of solid.

The shielding process is another difference between these welding types. As indicated by its name, GMAW requires a gas shield to protect the weld pool. The welding gun contains a nozzle that sends gas through it along with the welding wire to ensure a clean process.

Because MIG welding requires a gas shield, little splatter occurs, minimizing slag and making for an overall cleaner weld. However, it’s not fit for outdoor use as a draft can easily blow away the gas shield. It is also less portable because it requires transporting both the MIG machine and the shielding gas.

MIG welding is more expensive than FCAW and less compatible with various welding positions due to a high heat input. However, the MIG machine eases use, making it simple to learn.

MIG welding is also more versatile, as it can be used on multiple metals and alloys. Industries like manufacturing, automotive maintenance and production, pipe welding, construction, and shipbuilding use this type of welding.

Flux Core Welding Frequently Asked Questions

Is Flux Core Welding as Strong as MIG?

Because flux core wire is tubular and MIG wire is solid, many are inclined to believe MIG wire is the stronger of the two. However, both flux core and MIG welding wires meet the American Welding Society tensile strength standard of 70 KSI. Measuring which weld is stronger would come down to analyzing the welder’s skill.

Is Flux Core as Strong as Stick?

The stronger weld would depend on the wire used to perform the process. Both flux core and MIG wires come in various tensile strengths. However, the wire you select should correlate with the tensile strength of the metal you’re welding.

Aside from this, determining which type of weld is stronger would depend on the welder’s experience and technique. Both welding techniques can penetrate thick metals. Therefore, the kind you choose boils down to efficiency and comfortability.

Do You Push or Pull Flux Core?

The flux core welding motion naturally produces slag. Therefore, it’s best to pull away from what you've welded. Pushing the wire will cause the flux to become trapped in the melted metal.

Flux Core Welding Classes

Flux-cored arc welding is one of the main components of the Welding Technology program at Universal Technical Institute (UTI). In the program, students are introduced to welding tools including hand grinders, pedestal grinders, plasma cutters, CNC pipe cutters and more. State-of-the-industry equipment is provided by Lincoln Electric, a leading brand of welding equipment.

Students learn subjects like general safety and safe operation, math that’s practical to welding industry fabrication, welding theory, metallurgy, advanced welding machine functions, the science behind welding, and hands-on welding applications. Students take a specific FCAW course, which builds upon stick-welding skills so they learn how to perform overhead, vertical, and horizontal welding operations.

Students then apply those skills in Welding Applications I, where they use blueprinting and planning skills to fabricate specific projects using FCAW welding.

“Students choose this program because they like to work with their hands,” says Edward Lopez, Welding technical team leader at UTI Rancho Cucamonga.1

Attend One of Our Welding Campus Locations

FCAW is just one of the welding processes students learn while training at UTI. They also learn how to perform three other kinds of arc welding processes in the labs at one of our campus locations nationwide:

You can click on any one of the locations listed above for more specific information about each campus and what benefits they have to offer. To find out more about the Welding program, contact us.

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1 ) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.
2 ) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit www.uti.edu/disclosures.

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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