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What is the MMA Process?

The MMA (Manual Metal Arc welding process was first developed in Russia in 1888 and comprised a bare metal welding rod. In the early 1900s, the coated electrode was introduced when the Kjellberg process was invented in Sweden. In the UK the Quasi arc method was introduced. The use of the coated electrode was slow due to the high production costs but the demand for higher integrity welds led to the process becoming increasingly used.


The material is joined when an arc is created between the electrode and workpiece melting the workpiece and the electrode to form a weld pool. At the same time, the electrode has an outer coating sometimes called electrode flux which also melts and creates a shield over the weld pool to prevent contamination of the molten pool and assist in establishing the arc.


This cools and forms a hard slag over the weld which then needs to be chipped away from the weld bead upon completion or before another weld bead is added. The process allows only short lengths of weld to be produced due to the electrode length before a new electrode needs to be inserted

in the holder. The quality of the weld deposit is highly dependent on the skill of the welder.

The power source provides a constant current (CC) output and can be either AC (alternating current) or DC (direct current).

 MMA Welding Machine

MMA Welding Machine

The design of the MMA welding inverter is such that the operator extending arc length will reduce the welding current and shortening the arc length (reducing the arc voltage) will do the opposite i.e. increase the current. As a guide the voltage controls the height and width of the weld bead whilst the current controls penetration, therefore the welder manipulates the electrode to achieve a satisfactory weld.


The power used in the welding circuit is determined by the arc voltage and current.

The voltage (V) is determined by the electrode diameter and the distance between the electrode and the workpiece. The current within the circuit is dependent on the electrode diameter, the thickness of the materials to be welded, and the position of the weld. Most electrode information will show details of current types to be used and the optimum current range.


MMA welding power sources that can TIG weld are often referred to as droopers or drooping characteristic power sources. They are typically basic selector type, magnetic amplifier control, or engine-driven units with a robust design as they are often required to work in extreme conditions.

The characteristic of the output shape gave rise to the term “drooper”.


Modern welding inverter power supplies however can overcome these problems and provide excellent characteristics and performance as the curve can be controlled electronically for each process.


The small relatively cheap AC sets are generally used in the DIY or small maintenance functions and some larger AC sets often oil-cooled may be used in heavier industry but the DC output set are now the most common in use.

 Zirconiated Tungsten Electrode

 Zirconiated Tungsten Electrode

Electrode manufacture means that not all DC electrodes can operate on AC power sources but AC electrodes can operate on both AC and DC. Direct current (DC) is the most commonly used mode. Control of AC units tends to be moving iron core or switched transformers.

DC output power sources can be used on many material types and can be obtained in wide current ranges. Controls of these units vary from moving iron core control to the latest inverter designs. Inverter design has brought many advantages as they are:


• Very lightweight and portable compared to their predecessors

• Very energy-efficient power supply and offer energy cost savings


• Able to provide higher outputs for lower inputs

• High levels of control and performance


In general, it is preferable to weld in a flat or horizontal position. When welding in position is required such as vertical or overhead it is useful to reduce the welding current compared to the horizontal position. For best results in all positions maintaining a short arc, uniform movement, and travel speed in addition to consistent feeding of the electrode are required.

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