Specializing in Flux-Core Arc Welding
Flux-cored arc welding, or FCAW, is a method of welding that joins material using a wire electrode filled with a metal mixture called flux. There are two FCAW processes, one which is self-shielding (FCAW-S) and the other gas-shielded (FCAW-G). While the outer part of self-shielding electrodes melts between the two pieces of metal to form the weld, the flux disintegrates into gas that protects the weld from oxygen contamination. Slag is also created to cover and further protect the weld. FCAW-G involves the use of both a flux-filled electrode to create slag and an external supply of shielding gas to protect the welding pool.
Equipment Required for Flux-Core
The equipment needed for flux-core welding is similar to the equipment needed for gas metal arc welding (GMAW): a welding gun, a wire feeder, connecting cables, a power supply and electrode coils. What FCAW does not need that GMAW does is an external supply of shielding gas. The gas is created by the electrode’s internal flux as the wire is consumed, so you will only need a gas tank if you are performing gas-shielded FCAW.
Uses for Flux-Core
Flux-core is a practical alternative when GMAW cannot be used, and its versatility and ease of use make it a common technique in the construction industry. It is effective on thick steels and can be used for position welds; because it produces its own contamination shields—gas from the electrode and protective slag over the weld—it is suitable for almost any environment. Gas-shielded FCAW, although only suitable for indoor welding, has the advantage of creating an overall cleaner weld than self-shielding FCAW.
Pros and Cons of FCAW
As with anything, flux-core welding has its upsides and downsides. One of these upsides is its productivity: unlike stick welding, where the welder needs to stop regularly to replace the electrode, the continuous coil used in FCAW requires fewer replacements. That said, replacing the coil can be somewhat time-consuming.
Unfortunately, the FCAW process cannot be used with thin metals or the majority of non-ferrous metals. It is, however, effective on thick steels and is useful for any sort of position weld. FCAW-S is also suitable for outdoor use, which gas metal arc and gas tungsten arc (GTAW) welding are not.
How to Learn Flux-Core Arc Welding
If you decide to learn FCAW, the most important information to start with is what your state requires for training and certification. You’ll also need to be aware of what training different industries and employers expect. When you’re ready, you can find courses through your local welders’ union or through technical colleges, and gain field experience through apprenticeships. Welders who are already familiar with GTAW can usually pick up FCAW quickly, as the process is nearly the same.
Working as a Flux-Core Welder
Welding is a steady, reliable career with a variety of career paths to follow, but you will most likely find yourself working in construction. You can gain an advantage in the job market by learning GMAW as well, which is much easier to pick up when you already know the FCAW technique, and you will be more in-demand if you earn the reputation of being conscientious and hard-working. Maintaining both your equipment and your work connections help you along, as well. Ultimately, your success as a welder is up to you.