SMAW vs. SAW - Unveiling the Key Differences

Published on 10 June 2024

5 min


SMAW vs. SAW - Unveiling the Key Differences

When it comes to welding processes, there are various techniques available to achieve strong and reliable bonds between metals. Two commonly used methods are Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) and Submerged Arc Welding (SAW). While both techniques have their own merits, understanding the differences between SMAW and SAW welding can help you choose the right method for your specific welding needs.


In SMAW (also known as stick welding), an electrode with a flux coating is manually operated to create an arc between the electrode and the workpiece. The heat generated by the arc melts the electrode, forming a weld pool that solidifies to create the joint.

On the other hand, in SAW, a continuous wire electrode is fed mechanically into the welding zone, while a granular flux is poured over the weld area to create a protective blanket. The arc is completely submerged beneath the flux, hence the name "submerged arc welding."


While SMAW is known for its portability and ability to work in various positions, making it a popular choice for on-site welding projects. It is one of the oldest and most versatile welding processes, widely used in industries ranging from construction to fabrication.

SAW is often used for long, straight welds on thick materials and is particularly effective for high-production welding.

Level of Automation:

SMAW requires skilled operators to control the electrode and maintain the arc manually. This manual control provides a level of precision and adaptability but can be more time-consuming and less efficient for large-scale projects.

SAW, on the other hand, can be easily automated, allowing for continuous, high-speed welding with minimal operator intervention making SAW ideal for high-volume production lines where speed and consistency are crucial.

Quality of Welds:

SAW generally produces cleaner and more uniform welds compared to SMAW. The submerged arc and the granular flux shield the arc from impurities in the atmosphere, resulting in minimal spatter and a well-protected weld pool. This makes SAW highly suitable for applications where weld appearance and quality are critical, such as pressure vessel fabrication and pipe welding.

Heat Input:

The heat input during the welding process varies between SMAW welding and SAW welding .

SMAW tends to generate higher heat, leading to a smaller heat-affected zone (HAZ). While this can be advantageous for certain materials, it may also increase the risk of distortion and heat-related issues.

SAW, on the other hand, has a lower heat input, resulting in a larger HAZ. This reduced heat input minimizes distortion and can be beneficial when welding heat-sensitive materials.


SMAW and SAW welding processes have distinct characteristics that cater to different welding requirements. SMAW offers versatility, portability, and the ability to work in various positions. On the other hand, SAW provides higher efficiency, cleaner welds, and excellent automation capabilities. Selecting the right welding method depends on factors such as the project scale, material properties, and desired weld quality.

Whether you opt for SMAW or SAW, it is crucial to consider the specific needs of your welding project. At D&H Secheron, we guide you with the key differences between these techniques, so that you can make an informed decision and achieve successful welds that meet your expectations.

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