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Most welding processes require the generation of high local temperatures to enable metals to be joined. The type of heat source is often used as the basic description of a process type, e.g. gas welding, arc welding.

One of the main problems in welding is that metals more readily react with the atmosphere as their temperature increases. The method of protecting the hot metal from attack by the atmosphere is the second most important distinguishing feature. The techniques range from flux coverings, which form a protective slag, to inert gas shields. In some instances the atmosphere is removed altogether by using a vacuum.

Some processes have been developed for very specific applications while others remain flexible and cover a wide range of welding activities. Although welding is used principally to join similar and even dissimilar metal parts it is also used increasingly to repair and rebuild worn or damaged components.

There is also a growing range of applications for the “hardfacing” of new parts, which provides surfaces with resistance to corrosion, abrasion, impact and wear.

First introduced in the late 19th century, the arc processes remain the largest and most widely used group of welding techniques. As the name suggests the heat source is an electric arc established between the parts to be welded and a metallic electrode. The electrical energy, converted to heat, generates an arc temperature of some 7,000°C (10,000°F), causing the metals to melt and join.

Equipment can vary in size and complexity, with the main distinction between the arc processes being the shielding method used and the type of consumable or filler metal employed. Arc processes include Manual Metal Arc, Gas-Shielded Metal Arc, Gas-Shielded Tungsten Arc and Submerged Arc Welding.

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