Although learning to weld is daunting at first, learning the difference between a few welding processes is a great place to start. Once you know a bit about the different welding processes, you’ll be able to visualize how they impact your project.
What’s the difference between TIG welding and MIG welding? The difference between TIG (tungsten inert gas) and MIG (metal inert gas) welding is that TIG welding uses a tungsten metal rod to fuse two metals directly together, while MIG welding uses a feed wire through a spool gun to weld two metals together.
You’ll need to know a bit more about how these processes work and what their strengths and weaknesses are before deciding which one is right for the kind of weld you want to produce.
The Difference Between TIG Welding and MIG Welding
While there are many other kinds of welding, TIG welding and MIG welding are two of the most common processes. While inexperienced users are better off learning MIG welding first, understanding how TIG welding is used can help beginners explore how different forms of welding can change future projects.
While MIG welding uses a consumable filler wire or a wire that melts down into part of the weld itself during the process, TIG welding uses a tungsten rod, which is non-consumable and acts as an electrode to produce a small arc that creates the weld pool without always needing to add filler material.
- MIG welding is far faster to learn because it regulates some variables in your weld. It uses a spool gun to feed filler wire into the weld at the rate you set. You can also set the heat the arc is producing, which is referred to as the “amp,” to one temperature when using MIG welding.
- TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten rod to create a weld pool. You must use a foot pedal to control the heat of the arc. To add filler when using this type of welding, you need to feed the wire into the weld pool by hand. This requires much more coordination than a MIG weld.
Shielding gases protect the electrode from outside gasses that can cause the melting pool to oxidize, resulting in a weaker weld. They can also make a difference in the fume generation rates of your weld as well as spatter control.
TIG welding always uses 100% argon as its shielding gas composition, whereas MIG welding can use a blend composition of carbon dioxide, helium, and argon (Lincoln Electric). Gasless MIG welding, also called flux core welding (FCAW), uses flux material, a mix of carbon and silicate, for a result similar to that of a gas MIG weld.
Overall Ease of Use
While TIG welding gives you more control and precision in your weld, MIG welding is much easier and faster to perform. Understanding the pros and cons of each process can make it easier to figure out which one is best for your next welding job.
How to Choose Which Welding Process to Use: MIG vs TIG >> Tutorial video
Why MIG Welding is Better for Inexperienced Welders
If you’re new to the welding game, MIG welding will probably be your best friend. People prefer MIG welding when they need a process that is straightforward, fast, and relatively cheap.
It’s known as the hot glue gun of welding for a reason. Here’s a bit more on what the tool does that makes a beginner’s life easier:
- Because the MIG welder creates a larger, hotter arc, it can weld base materials together even if there is some debris on them. The TIG weld will not be able to get hot enough to weld through anything but perfectly clean base materials. This makes it the go-to choice for times when you don’t have the tools to remove all the debris from the base materials.
- The MIG weld allows you to set the heat of the arc and the speed at which the tool feeds the consumable wire. With TIG welding, the user has to manually control both these factors while welding, increasing your chance of making a mistake.
- The MIG weld is faster than TIG welding. TIG welding sacrifices speed for precision while making errors more obvious. While a MIG weld won’t look as good, you can work faster MIG welding, and worry less about mistakes than with TIG welding.
Why TIG Welding is Better for a Beautiful Weld
While MIG welding is more accessible to beginners, TIG welding requires much more patience and background knowledge. TIG welding will give beautiful, precise results, and sometimes that’s what you want. Here’s more on why TIG welding is still worth your time:
- TIG welding offers precision and control in ways MIG welding can’t. TIG welding allows its users to control the speed and depth of the weld. The user can lower the weld’s heat through the foot pedal, making it a great choice for more delicate, thinner metals.
- You can achieve an overall cleaner-looking weld with TIG welding than you can MIG welding. When working with physically smaller projects, you’re probably going to prefer a more detailed weld. TIG welding decreases the chance for weld spatter and allows for a cleaner, smoother looking surface.
Choosing TIG Welding vs. MIG Welding
The right welding choice for you will depend on what materials you’re using. TIG welding works on all metals and can result in the highest quality weld when performed correctly but doesn’t work well on thicker materials. MIG welding can be used on metals of any thickness but doesn’t produce as high a quality of a weld and works best on steel and aluminum.
The shielding gas involved in welding also makes a big difference in performance. They can add fumes to your environment, affect filler deposition, and affect the speed, accuracy, and even cost of your weld. You can read more about the effects of shielding gasses here.
TIG welding uses argon, which, due to its low reactivity, helps to limit welding splatter, a costly error to fix. Gas MIG welding typically uses carbon dioxide in its shielding gas composition, making your weld more prone to splatter and oxidation due to higher gas reactivity. All shielding gas can blow away in windy conditions, meaning the user has to avoid drafts when welding.
FCAW welding, or gasless MIG welding, replaces shielding gas with flux material composed of carbon and silicate to produce the same outcome as gas welding. This kind of MIG welding will yield the best results in a windy outdoor environment in comparison to gas MIG welding and TIG welding.
While both TIG welding and MIG welding have their strengths and weaknesses, they can both be the right choice for your next welding project. TIG welding gives you precision and a more beautiful weld while MIG welding is easier and faster to perform. You can find the right process for you if you know what you’re looking for in a welding experience.
Besides MIG welding and TIG welding, there are a few other types of arc welding processes like plasma arc welding and shielded metal arc welding. Tulsa Welding School’s site has information on more types of welding processes here.
Be safe when welding, regardless of what method you use. Here are some welding hazards and some safety equipment items that are important to know as you’re working.
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See the difference between MIG and TIG welding for yourself. This video below goes into the differences between these two processes and gives a demonstration of how each process performs under certain conditions.