Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding requires skill and knowledge to do it well. You might think that TIG welding is easy because some welders make it look so. Maybe you also have some experience with other welding processes, and you think you can carry over the skill set to TIG. These are the common assumptions most aspiring TIG welders hold.
It's time to put those assumptions aside and be open to learning (or reviewing) the fundamentals of the TIG process. Then, you'll have a firm grasp on how all the TIG welding parts come together to create something sturdy and functional.
Let's start with two things: the torch and the machine.
TIG Welding Torch Parts Names and Purposes
The TIG method of welding is distinct from other welding processes because of its welding torch. The TIG torch is smaller than most welding torches, and TIG welding small parts such as the tungsten rod, gas lens, and collets separate it from other welding processes.
Here are some of the names of the TIG torch's small components that are responsible for that quality TIG weld.
The body is the part that holds everything together and is the largest part of the welding torch.
The body of the torch is a combination of two individual parts.
The upper part is called the insulator. It is where you connect the gas lens and the tungsten, the parts that are essential for generating the arc needed for welding. The upper part is called such because it doesn't conduct electricity. This way, you can hold the torch without getting electrocuted.
The bottom part serves as a handle to grip on to control the arc's direction and switch it on or off.
Also known as tungsten housing, this part connects to the back of the torch after the tungsten is inserted and serves as tungsten's insulator. The back cap protects you from touching the tungsten, which may electrocute you. It also protects the tungsten from outside elements that might come in contact with it and affect the purity of the weld.
The O ring acts as a sealant that keeps gas from leaking out of the back of the torch. The role of the O rings on TIG welding is crucial as it prevents gas wastage and keeps the flow concentrated on the tip of the torch where the arc is, thus maximizing its shielding function and reducing costs.
The tungsten's stability is important because of the demand for high accuracy and finer weld of the TIG welding process. The collet fulfills this role by acting as a stabilizer that surrounds the tungsten rod holding it in place, making sure there is no open space when the rod is inserted into the insulator.
The collet body is the main collet, and it adapts the hole insert on the insulator. Apart from keeping the tungsten intact, another function of the collet body is to control shielding gas coverage that's coming out of your torch. Managing the gas coverage affects the quality of weld as the shielding gas protects your arc and base metal from outside elements that may affect the finished weld.
The collet body has two kinds: the standard collet and the gas lens. The gas lens has a higher cost but yields better quality than the standard collet, which yields a more turbulent gas flow toward the arc and the workpiece.
The shield cup's role in the TIG torch is to enclose the tungsten rod and let the gas envelop it, thereby “shielding” the rod and the arc from outside elements. It directs the gas toward the workpiece, ensuring that it is shielded to yield a clean and smooth metal weld.
Shielding cups vary in materials. Some shielding cups are made of ceramic, and some are made of glass.
Shield cups also come in different forms: some shield cups act as a cover for the gas lens, while some are for the standard collet body.
The tungsten electrode is the main material that produces the arc and the most important part of TIG, also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). Tungsten electrodes or tungsten rods are used in GTAW because they have a high melting point (about 4000 degrees).
Tungsten is capable of withstanding the temperatures needed for TIG welding aluminum and other ferrous and nonferrous metals. Because of tungsten's superior heat resistance, it is nonconsumable. That means the tungsten isn't included in the finished weld. However, it does get shortened from grinding the tip to form a different arc.
Different Parts of a TIG Welder Machine
Another thing you need to acquaint yourself with is the parts of the welding machine. These include the parts that are on the welding machine and the ones that are hooked onto it.
Understanding the parts and their function is your first step to becoming a skillful welder. Knowing the pieces and how they all work together will bring you insights into how you should work with the welding machine to produce great TIG welds.
Front Control Panel
The front panel is where all weld settings are done. The basic TIG welder for sale should have the primary voltage control knob and the power switch. This knob adjusts the current according to how thick your workpiece metal is, and the control panel will have a display where you can see the amount of voltage.
Multiprocess welders, meanwhile, have several controls such as wire feed speed setup, process change switches, polarity, and metal thickness settings.
The torch assembly includes the torch hose and the different components therein. For the TIG welding torch, you'll get a lighter torch that you can hold like a pen.
TIG torches have different sizes, the smallest being 9 and the largest being 26. The more sophisticated ones also have a gas- or water-cooling feature, which keeps the thin TIG torch at even temperatures so that you can weld for prolonged periods.
The handle also has a gas control switch that will give you more control over how much gas will flow through the torch.
Commonly known as the work lead, this cable is connected to the machine and clamped to the workpiece metal. Another one connects to the torch hose. In some cases, the torch hose directly connects to the device, eliminating the use of another work lead for the TIG torch.
The work lead that connects to the torch brings the electric current to the electrode tip and creates an arc. When the arc touches the workpiece metal, the other work lead that is clamped to it returns the current back to the power source, completing the electric cycle.
The power input cable connects to the outlet where the welding machine gets its source of electricity, which the machine then feeds the torch. Some machines can work with a 120-volt or a 240-volt power outlet. Multiprocess machines can handle both voltage inputs.
The voltage that a machine can handle will affect the maximum amperage it can produce. Thus, this affects how your TIG torch welds look in varying metal thicknesses.
Also known as a regulator, this meter feeds you information about how much gas is flowing from the gas cylinder to the tip of your welding torch. In shielded gas welding, shielding gas is an integral part of the whole welding process. The flow meter gives you insights into how much gas you’re consuming and how much you have left before you have to refill the gas cylinder.
Sophisticated flow meters with multiple gauges measure liters per minute and gas pressure (PSI).
Shielding Gas Valves and Hose
TIG welding is a shielded gas welding process, so it will always involve gas cylinders. The gas valve is where the gas hose connects the gas cylinder to the machine—this is the gas inflow. Another valve with a hose connects to the TIG welding torch handle—this is the gas outflow.
Most machines have gas valves on the front and back. This type of valve design makes it ergonomic for you to use. You can set the gas cylinder behind your TIG machine and have more room in your workspace to move around.
The essential part of the machine is, of course, the welding machine itself. The welding machine manages the outflow of voltage coming from the outlet to manageable levels. It uses this energy and feeds it to the TIG torch to generate the arc.
The welding machine also ensures that the current flows according to what you have set, whether it is an AC or DC. This voltage and current management makes it safe for you to weld using electricity.
Final Thoughts on TIG Welding Parts
Now that you have familiarized yourself with the different parts of the torch and the machine, you're on your way to getting a good start in TIG welding.
The parts are just one of several fundamentals that you need to know. But this should be enough to get you started with familiarity instead of blindly fumbling with the torch and the machine (because who reads the manual, right?).
This snippet of knowledge will give you the confidence to explore your TIG equipment. But, more importantly, it will let you appreciate and enjoy the first time you turn on your first TIG welding machine.
Now, go weld some stuff and have a blast!