Stick welding refers to the common welding system that uses an electrode designed to be burnt away as it channels electricity. As the electrode burns, its coating produces flux gases to protect the weld from oxygen; the welder replaces electrodes as needed throughout the project. Stick welding is an easy type of welding to learn and practice and is used for iron and steel-based metals. AC and DC current are the two stick welding power options.
AC stands for alternating current, the type of current found in house outlets. Alternating current cycles produces waves of electrical current that are balanced out by troughs and peaks. AC current became popular because it is safer for many types of appliances. The reference to hertz in electricity comes from the AC frequency pattern.
While AC current is common for home appliances, is not used as often for professional stick welding. One of the main problems with AC current is the constant cycling of electricity, which creates varying waves of electricity when the arc has connected. This leads to potential outages and sticking problem, and may create more splatter. However, for certain alloys like aluminum or magnetized metals, the AC current may be more efficient.
DC electricity is direct current, or a steady state form of electricity that forms one primary flow of electrons. This type of electricity does not reverse its flow to create the wave pattern seen in AC current. DC power comes from independent sources of electricity with a streamlined focus on only one application, such as batteries.
DC current is used more often in professional welding because it creates a smoother weld line without the cycling effects that AC creates. DC current is especially useful for iron and steel, the metals used most often with stick welding, and creates faster, more controlled welds on thin metals than AC current does.
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