As noted, GMAW is currently one of the most popular welding methods, especially in industrial environments. It is used extensively by the sheet metal industry and, by extension, the automobile industry. There, the method is often used for arc spot welding, thereby replacing riveting or resistance spot welding. It is also popular for automated welding, in which robots handle the workpieces and the welding gun to speed up the manufacturing process. Generally, it is unsuitable for welding outdoors, because the movement of the surrounding air can dissipate the shielding gas and thus make welding more difficult, while also decreasing the quality of the weld. The problem can be alleviated to some extent by increasing the shielding gas output, but this can be expensive and may also affect the quality of the weld. In general, processes such as shielded metal arc welding and flux cored arc welding are preferred for welding outdoors, making the use of GMAW in the construction industry rather limited. Furthermore, the use of a shielding gas makes GMAW an unpopular underwater welding process, but can be used in space since there is no oxygen to oxidize the weld.
To perform gas metal arc welding, the basic necessary equipment is a welding gun, a wire feed unit, a welding power supply, an electrode wire, and a shielding gas supply.
 Welding gun and wire feed unit
GMAW torch nozzle cutaway image. (1) Torch handle, (2) Molded phenolic dielectric (shown in white) and threaded metal nut insert (yellow), (3) Shielding gas diffuser, (4) Contact tip, (5) Nozzle output face
GMAW on stainless steel
The typical GMAW welding gun has a number of key parts—a control switch, a contact tip, a power cable, a gas nozzle, an electrode conduit and liner, and a gas hose. The control switch, or trigger, when pressed by the operator, initiates the wire feed, electric power, and the shielding gas flow, causing an electric arc to be struck. The contact tip, normally made of copper and sometimes chemically treated to reduce spatter, is connected to the welding power source through the power cable and transmits the electrical energy to the electrode while directing it to the weld area. It must be firmly secured and properly sized, since it must allow the passage of the electrode while maintaining an electrical contact. Before arriving at the contact tip, the wire is protected and guided by the electrode conduit and liner, which help prevent buckling and maintain an uninterrupted wire feed. The gas nozzle is used to evenly direct the shielding gas into the welding zone—if the flow is inconsistent, it may not provide adequate protection of the weld area. Larger nozzles provide greater shielding gas flow, which is useful for high current welding operations, in which the size of the molten weld pool is increased. The gas is supplied to the nozzle through a gas hose, which is connected to the tanks of shielding gas. Sometimes, a water hose is also built into the welding gun, cooling the gun in high heat operations.[8
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