Arc welding processes are as different as the workpieces they aim to create. Metal inert gas (MIG) welding and tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding are two techniques that produce varied results. Although they both form the weld using an electric art, the two are entirely different. It's best to first understand how these techniques work and differ from each other. If you have trouble choosing between MIG vs TIG welding, you have come to the right place. In this article, let us talk about the two in detail.
What is MIG Welding?
MIG Welding, or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), is the process of feeding a metal wire connected to an electrode to meld your project together. This is also known as the “glue gun” in welding terms. The wire runs filler metals through the torch and into the weld puddle. You also use a shielding gas in order to achieve a clean weld.
Carbon dioxide is the most common shielding gas for MIG welding because it’s much more affordable compared to argon or helium. Welders often use the MIG process because it's easier to learn and quicker to operate.
What is TIG Welding?
TIG Welding, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), is the welding process of using a tungsten electrode to run current through the metals. You will need both hands when dealing with TIG welding because the filler material and torch are separate. You also have a foot pedal that allows you to control the amount of electricity that enters the torch. One of TIG welding's significant advantages is it doesn't splatter during the process, which allows for a cleaner finish.
Both MIG and TIG torches produce an electric arc between the electrode and the material, which then melts the metal, combines it with the filler material, and forms a weld puddle. For best results, remember to clean and clear surfaces before welding.
MIG Welding Components
- Wire- The wire feeding systems include pinch rolls, spool-on-gun, and push-pull.
- Power- For MIG welding, the power is generally DC running on a constant voltage.
- Electrode- This will depend on your project. It's essential that you get the right composition and diameter for your MIG weld.
- Torch- The welding torch supplies the gas that protects the liquefied metal and arc. Then it carries the welding current to the wire.
- Filler Metal- The filler metal conducts electrical current to melt the electrode and flow into space between two close-fitting parts.
- Gas Shielding- Typically composed of carbon dioxide and argon, gas shielding refers to the gas that protects the liquefied metal and arc
TIG Welding Components
- Torch- A TIG torch can come in various designs. It can have an on/off switch and special command features that control the handle.
- Power- For TIG welding, the power can be AC or DC.
- Foot Pedal- The foot pedal controls the electricity that goes into the torch. The harder you push, the more electricity is released. This increases the heat of the arc and speeds up the process.
- Electrode and Gas Shielding- The electrode tip helps shape the arc. This component must always be in good condition. As for the gas shield, it is usually composed of argon.
- Filler Material- This refers to filler rods that come in various sizes and materials. It should match the thickness of the material you’re welding to ensure a problem-free weld.
- Backing Bars- A backing bar, aluminum or copper, helps cool the weld area at a faster rate.
MIG and TIG Welding Similarities
There are several similarities between the MIG and TIG welding processes. The electrical current can both be DC, for one. With MIG welding, the DC passes through the wire and forms an arc between the wire and the workpiece. In TIG welding, the current passes through the tungsten electrode and arcs to the workpiece.
Both MIG and TIG welding create an electrical arc, another similarity. This electrical arc creates a tremendous amount of energy that forms a controlled puddle of liquid to merge metals. Also, both welding processes use filler materials to close the gaps between parts and allow a cleaner weld.
MIG and TIG Welding Differences
Now, let’s talk about the differences in MIG and TIG welding processes: shielding gasses, welding application speed, automation, and precision. When it comes to shielding gasses, MIG welding doesn’t commonly use helium, argon, and oxygen, while TIG welding uses 100% argon gas.
Another difference between the two welding processes is how fast the weld can be applied. MIG welding can be done at a rapid pace, while TIG welding requires a continual manual application of the rod.
Lastly, for TIG welding, you can use a foot paddle or remote control to regulate the heat, making the weld more precise.
Pros and Cons of MIG and TIG Welding?
Once you know the basics about MIG and TIG welding, you may ask the questions, “is tig welding better than mig?” or “why tig weld vs MIG weld?” It's still best to learn their advantages and disadvantages before leaning towards one welding machine. To help you out, we have rounded up the pros and cons of both welding processes.
Pros of MIG Welding
- MIG welding is easy to learn.
- It’s less expensive since the equipment is more accessible.
- You can complete welds in shorter periods of time.
- You can weld with only one hand.
- It is suitable for all metal thicknesses.
- It produces a clean and smooth weld.
- It allows for different weld depths.
Cons of MIG Welding
- MIG welding causes temperature shock on metals.
- It is not as heavy-duty as TIG welding.
- It can produce excessive fumes and smoke.
- It can create rust deposits.
- It’s hard to use outdoors due to the gases involved.
- It may cause brittle joints in some materials.
- While it can weld different metals, each metal has specific requirements for the wires and gases.
Pros of TIG Welding
- TIG welding has a higher generality quality than MIG welding.
- It is more precise than MIG welding.
- There’s no temperature shock on metals.
- It is cleaner and more environment-friendly.
- It has different fillers for different types of metal surfaces.
- You have more control and precision over weld undercuts.
Cons of Tig Welding
- It is more expensive. TIG involves low deposition rates coupled with a slower process, which makes it costlier than MIG.
- It requires a clean surface. The welding surface needs to be thoroughly cleaned before you start any kind of TIG welding project.
- It is more complicated. It takes an experienced operator to properly execute a complex TIG welding process.
- It takes longer. This method takes more time to prepare and the welding process can last for extended periods in extreme temperatures.
- Each material has specific filler type requirements.
MIG vs TIG welding for cars
If you’re trying to restore a car body part, you can use a TIG welder because it’s slower and gives you more control. It’s best to apply TIG welding on an area that cannot easily be hit with a grinder. You can use MIG welding on large panels because it is faster. This principle is also applicable to TIG vs MIG welding body panels. However, we have a more detailed discussion below.
When Will You Use MIG and TIG Welding?
The global welding equipment market size is at USD 11.8 billion in 2018, which means the demand for welding equipment continues to increase each year. These machines are key equipment in different industries that knowing when to use MIG vs TIG welding helps in your project’s success.
You can use MIG welding for bigger projects because it’s easier to handle and operate for longer periods. If your project uses thicker, larger pieces of metal, you can simply go for the MIG. However, if your project uses thinner metals, TIG is the better choice. TIG is also good for projects like creating a toolbox or sink. Lastly, if you are creating artworks such as ornamental designs and automotive projects, then TIG is the way to go.
TIG and MIG are two welding techniques you can use for a wide range of projects. But as in any craft, it’s best to understand the advantages and disadvantages first before diving into your first weld. It’s also a good idea to establish the applications you’re going to take on for a little head-start. We hope this in-depth comparison helps!