Gas Metal Arc Welding and Other Welding Alternatives

Gas metal arc welding (GMAW), also called metal inert gas welding, has been around since the 1940s and is one of the most common types of welding. This article will cover the process of gas metal arc welding and some effective alternatives.  

What Is Gas Metal Arc Welding?

GMAW creates an electric arc between a consumable wire electrode and the piece of metal you’re working on. The arc creates a weld pool — the molten metal formed during the welding process — by heating the working metal and the electrode. The welding gun continuously feeds the wire electrode through it alongside a shielding gas, typically inert gasses like argon or carbon dioxide, that protects the weld pool from contamination by the atmosphere. 

man using a metal welder

Key Components of GMAW

A GMAW welding setup consists of the following elements:

Welding Power Source and Wire Feeder

A GMAW gas welder uses a continuous voltage power source to create a stable arc length during welding. The wire feeder constantly feeds the electrode wire — the welding wire — through the welding torch at a controlled rate. You can adjust the feeding rate of the welding wire depending on situational parameters, such as the thickness of the material you’re welding. You need both a continuous power supply and feed rate to create a stable arc and uniform weld bead. 

Welding Torch and Welding Wire

The welding torch is the tool gas welders hold in different welding positions to direct the welding wire and the shielding gas to the weld pool. Torches provide easy handling and precision control during the welding process.  Though torches can be air-cooled or water-cooled, the water-cooled torches are used to prevent overheating in high-heat applications. 

The welding wire is usually made of the same metal as the working piece or a compatible material if the same material is not available. You can buy welding wire in different materials and dimensions to suit your project. Welders commonly use mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and flux-cored wires, depending on the composition of the working piece. 

Shielding Gas

closeup of shielding gas. behind, metal welding

Gases in the atmosphere, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and water vapor, can weaken the weld quality if they come into contact with the weld pool. A shielding gas forms a barrier to prevent gases in the air from coming into contact with the welding pool. The torch delivers the shielding gas from a canister through a regulator and flowmeter, then through the welding torch to the weld area. Shielding gases include the following: 

  • Argon (Ar)
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
  • Argon-Carbon Dioxide Mixtures
  • Argon-Oxygen Mixtures
  • Helium (He)
  • Specialty Gas Mixtures

Applications of GMAW

GMAW is widely used in many commercial applications, including underwater welding, construction and infrastructure, the automotive sector, shipbuilding, and aerospace engineering. It’s also popular among artists and custom fabricators. Artists can use GMAW to create metal sculptures, furniture, and custom metalwork. The ability of welders to handle a range of metals and thicknesses when using GMAW makes it suitable for creative applications.

laser welding metal joints

Applications of Fiber Laser Welding

Fiber laser welding, just like gas metal arc welding, is used in a variety of industries due to its portability and seamless welding. Products like OMTech’s fiber laser welding gun are essential to the electronics, medical, construction, and automotive fields—along with many more industries! 

Fiber Laser Welding vs. Gas Metal Arc Welding

Fiber laser welders create quicker, smoother welds than gas metal arc welding. Fiber laser welding guns fire a concentrated laser beam to melt the material together at the joint, forgoing the constant need for welding wire. 

With the OMTech Handheld Fiber Laser Metal Welding Machine, you can quickly weld thin to medium-thick metal sheets for fast and aesthetically pleasing results. Additionally, the laser reduces the risk of thermal distortion and damage to the surrounding material, creating precise and near-perfect welds. 

Is Laser Welding as Strong as Arc Welding? 

Laser welding is as strong as arc welding, if not stronger in most cases. Ensuring sufficient material selection, joint preparation, laser welding settings, and post-weld treatment is crucial to achieving the best welds for any method. 

laser welding metal

Not only is laser welding typically stronger than arc welding, but it’s also faster. Laser welding jobs tend to go much faster than traditional welding methods without requiring multiple passes to seal the welds. As noted before, laser welding usually results in less damage and contortion to the working materials—allowing for more precise and aesthetic jobs. 

Why You Should Go With Laser Welding 

Although GMAW is good for many types of custom metal work, isn’t practical for many applications and isn’t as precise as laser welding. In many cases, a high-quality fiber laser welding machine is the better choice. 

One of the disadvantages of laser welding is the initial investment. However, OMTech’s Handheld Fiber Laser Welder comes at an affordable price with additional financing options. Harness the power of quick and precise metal welding with OMTech’s fiber laser products. 

Whether you’re looking for a fiber laser welder or a fiber laser cutter for metal fabrication, OMTech has the solution for your metal-working needs. Reach out today to learn more about our fiber laser products for metal!