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i am a student and we have just learned about that and basically it differs from which welding process your doing for example tig the heats shoots right up through the electrode when your welding with striaght polarity but that is what my teacher was telling us!!
I depends on what process you are using. With Tig, DCEN is used for welding ferrous metals, while AC is used for welding most non ferrous metals such as Aluminum
With GMAW, DCEP is the only polarity that can be used. With Fluxcore wires, the polarity will depend on what type of wire is being used.
With SMAW, various rods use different polarities. In general however, rods run on DCEP provide more penetration while those run in DCEN provide less. However, this is just as much a case of the type of flux used on the rods as the polarity.