What is Submerged Arc Welding?

Jessica Reed

Submerged arc welding, often abbreviated SAW, is a specific and popular type of arc welding where the area being melted and welded is covered by a blanket of flux. This provides welders with several advantages, from reducing UV radiation to providing a higher quality weld. Traditional arc welding uses an electric current to create an arc of electricity between an electrode and the metal being worked on. This electrical arc melts and joins the materials together, and the electricity can be provided by either a direct current (DC) or alternating current (AC).

Welding involves connecting two metal objects together permanently.
Welding involves connecting two metal objects together permanently.

The difference between traditional arc welding and submerged arc welding is the layer of flux that covers the materials. Flux is a material that, when melted, creates a pathway for the electrical arc to travel through. The arc travels from the electrode, through the flux, and to the material that needs to be welded. This method can also use either a direct or an alternating current.

In submerged arc welding, flux creates a gas shield for the site aiding in bonding the metals.
In submerged arc welding, flux creates a gas shield for the site aiding in bonding the metals.

There are many advantages to this type of welding. Since the weld is submerged, it prevents hot materials from splattering and splashing back. The flux also helps prevent high levels of UV radiation from being emitted. Pressure is not needed to create the weld since the electric current does the work. Not only does it provide these advantages over other forms, this type of welding is excellent for quickly joining thin metal sheets and creates good fusion between materials.

This process can be performed both indoors and outdoors, wherever it is most convenient to place the equipment. To ensure the flux stays in the proper position, the welding must be done on a flat and horizontal surface; otherwise, the flux might move and cause an improper weld. When done properly, submerged arc welding will produce results that are both high in quality and look good.

There are disadvantages to this method, however. While it helps prevent splattering and radiation, the materials it can be used on are limited. Steel and stainless steel are the most common types that work with this type of welding, along with certain nickel based alloys. There is also some concern about the safety of the flux, since potentially dangerous residue can be left behind.

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Discussion Comments


Buying our submerged arc welding machine was the best thing I ever did for our business. I was able to get all kinds of new work from clients who needed really precise welds on their steel parts.

Welding is one of those things that a lot of people can do, but not many people can do well. Anything you can do to distinguish yourself from the crowd as far as quality or working with exotic metals will make you more marketable.


I prefer to do this kind of welding outdoors. It works well enough indoors, but the smell of the burning flux is horrendous. Working in a fabrication shop is already not known for its soothing aromas, and adding a bunch of burning chemicals to the bouquet is not my idea of a fun day.

I prefer to work outside anyway. There are all kinds of interesting outdoor welding jobs that are more interesting than working in a shop. I like working on big stuff like ships and water towers, and those things don't exactly fit in a shop. Or if they do, I'd hate to see the shop.


@anon128870 - I think that MIG welding would have different effects on a pressure vessel, or any other kind of structure, depending on what that structure was made of. MIG was originally designed to weld aluminum and similar metals, although you can weld other things with it.

I've never done submerged arc welding, but from what I understand it's a bit more complicated than your run-of-the-mill MIG or TIG weld.


how effective is MIG welding process for welding of pressure vessels so as to obtain 100 percent radiographic welding?

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