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While the MIG (GMAW) process has taken the metal manufacturing industry by storm, the stick electrode (MMAW) still remains the choice for many applications.

The versatility of the MIG process makes it well suited to many of the welding applications undertaken in small and medium engineering enterprises. In fact, if the sales hype is to be believed the MIG process has all the answers and can be owned for a reasonable price, with the benefits of low diffusible hydrogen, good strength and toughness combined with low cost wire.

While the MIG process is productive, it does come with extra costs. There is the added cost of the gas, cylinder rental and delivery plus the OH&S issues with lifting and moving gas cylinders to where the job is need to be considered, as does the associated costs, such as back injuries and lost productivity. These are all issues that the small and medium enterprise owner needs to consider.

So while there is no argument that the MIG process is versatile, it is not the only option. It is imperative that the correct process be selected to suit the application and material type and that the actual cost consideration is weighed up against the overall job.

Take the stick electrode (MMAW) process. While it often gets buried in the MIG hype, the stick electrode remains a cost effective and viable option for many non-critical and critical applications. The Australian Defence, Petro-Chemical and Power Generation industries are heavy users of the stick electrode process. The stick electrode (MMAW) process is equally suited to general maintenance and repairs such as maintenance of earth moving equipment, specialist building maintenance or conveyor repairs. With the advent of inverter design DC power sources, the stick electrode process is undergoing a phase of regeneration.

The low cost, portable DC inverter type power sources, combined with the vast range of stick electrode types provide the small to medium enterprise with a versatile, simple and portable process that delivers consistency in weld quality.

Another significant issue, particularly for small to medium enterprises, is attracting skilled welding staff. The combination of a DC inverter and stick electrode process make it easier for less skilled staff to achieve acceptable weld deposits, thanks to the ease of arc starting and arc stability.

The Austarc 16TC low hydrogen electrode, distributed by Welding Industries of Australia, is of good standard when it comes to smooth running characteristics, arc stability, ease of use and metal toughness.

Manufactured using a unique twin coating extrusion process, the Austarc 16TC is designed for AC and DC power sources. When combined with a DC Inverter, there is a good combination for a range of welding solutions and one that is cost effective and suited to less developed skills.

The bottom line is that each business should weigh up the initial investment for the equipment, and the ongoing costs associated with consumables, gas and cylinder rental plus, the application and material type and importantly the skill levels of their current workforce.

So instead of leaving electrodes on the bottom shelf, the stick electrode process should be considered when evaluating next welding job or purchase.

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