Manual Metal Arc (MMA) Welder is also referred to as Shield Metal Arc Welder (SMAW). Informally, it is called a stick welder. It uses a consumable electrode covered with a flux. The flux creates a shielding effect that protects the weld from contamination. In MMA welding, AC or DC is used to form an electric arc to fuse the metal.
This process is simple and probably world’s most preferred welding method. It was the first widely adopted welding technique and because of its versatility and simple operational qualities and requirements, many still prefer it over other methods. MMA is one process that dominates the other processes in the industry. Metals like aluminium, nickel, copper can be welded with the MMA process but it is preferred for ferrous metals. These include high alloy steel, stainless steel, cast iron, ductile iron, and carbon steel.
MMA welding is used extensively in many countries across the globe. It is a versatile option and is popular in steel construction and industrial fabrication. For some time now, Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW) is gaining popularity and may one day replace MMA. But for now and the immediately foreseeable future, MMA is the dominant welding method. It offers the benefits of low equipment cost with wide usability. Small businesses and beginners prefer it the most since it is economical and easy to learn. Yet, this process is by no means ill-suited for advanced work. It can create infrastructural masterpieces in the hands of an experienced user.
The welders themselves have evolved over time, with new technology bringing in more features. Modern MMA welders are often portable machines than can be easily carried around. Over the past 15 years inverter technology has become the popular choice for MMA (Arc) welders. Inverter machines are lighter than traditional Manual Metal Arc machines and have a cleaner more stable arc.
While using an MMA welder the choice of electrode also matters. It depends on the welding material, welding positions, and welding quality. The stick or electrode is covered with metal mixtures called flux that ‘decomposes’ in the process, creating a protective shield around the weld. The composition of the electrode matters a lot. It is generally manufactured in various grades according to the metal that has to be treated.
Although it is popular and effective, MMA welding requires serious attention to precautions like all welding processes, perhaps even more so. The user has to work with an open arc that can cause burns and severe skin damage. Protective measures like gloves and safety helmets with auto darkening visors must be used for safety and comfort.