MIG vs. TIG Welding- The Main Differences Explained

Introduction

Understanding the difference between TIG welding and MIG welding is crucial to the success of any welder.

Let`s start by defining the acronyms. TIG welding stands for Tungsten Inert Gas welding while MIG is the acronym for Metal Inert Gas welding. The two welding techniques, as expected, yield different results. This explains why it is crucial to have an understanding of what TIG and MIG welding entail, to ensure you know which type suits your needs better.

In this read, we will break down and compare MIG and TIG welding to ensure that you know the nitty-gritties of the two types of welding.

TIG vs. MIG Welding in a Nutshell

Before we even get to analyzing the differences between the two welding techniques, it is crucial to understand some of their similarities. Both techniques usually heat metals until they melt to a liquid state. Afterwards, a filler material is used to conjoin the metals in both MIG and TIG welding.

When welding using the MIG technique, you will feed a metal wire that is connected to an electrode to meld your project in place. Short-circuit welding is an empirical aspect of MIG welding as the metal wire is designed to run the filler material through both the torch and the liquefied metal.

Once the weld puddle is fully formed, the gun releases the inert gas, which serves to protect the puddle by keeping out other atmospheric elements. Thus in MIG welding, the inert gas shields the puddle, allowing you to proceed with your welding activities.

Compared to the TIG technique, MIG welding is faster and easier for first-timers to learn, which explains why it is more common in metalwork shops.

On the other hand, TIG welding utilizes a tungsten electrode, which is strategically designed to run an electric current through the various metals you are working on. The metal will liquefy once the TIG electrode subjects it to melting-point heat. Your role as the welder will be to dip filler material manually into the formed puddle, which will consequently begin the joining process of the two metal pieces.

In TIG welding, the filler material and torch as usually separate, meaning you will be required to use both hands.  Point to note, though, a filler material isn’t a requisite in TIG welding.  The presence of a foot pedal will help you to control the electric current that passes through the torch. Since TIG welding does not usually splatter, it is possible to manage cleaner finishes when using the technique.

Both TIG and MIG torches produce electric arcs between the electrodes and the material, thus melting the metal to allow for a combination with the filler material.

Regardless of the welding technique you decide to use, it is hugely important to ensure you weld on clear, clean surfaces. Debris or dirt must be wiped off for your welding activities to yield the desired results.

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What are the Main Differences between TIG and MIG Welding?

Both MIG and TIG welding have their advantages and disadvantages. You have to consider factors such as available working materials, your overall welding experience, budget and duration to complete your welding project.

Below are some of the main differences between the two welding techniques

Difficulty

If you are relatively inexperienced in welding, the TIG technique might prove abit too cumbersome due to the need to hold the filler material in one hand and the welding torch in the other. With MIG welding, you will be required to feed the wire continuously, which is fairly easy compared to TIG welding.  Experienced welders can use both hands interchangeably when TIG welding, however, for first timers, using both hands can prove difficult and even risky.

 Technique

Technique is arguably the greatest difference between the two welding techniques. With TIG welding, you will be required to feed the weld with a separate filler substance or material while handling the torch with your other hand. MIG welding, contrastingly, requires a welder to continuously feed a wired electrode to the devices spool gun in a bid to form the weld.

 Object Thickness

TIG is more often than not effective for thin metals while MIG has better welding ability for thick metals. When it comes to usability in different metals, MIG is the preferred option as it can be used on stainless steel, aluminum and even mild steel. While TIG welding is also compatible to such metals, it works better when used on thinner metals.

Project Size

Since TIG welds produce cleaner and more precise welds when used on thin metals, they are appropriate for small projects that don’t require continuous runs. MIG welds, on the other hand, work better when used on large projects that use thick materials.  MIG welds are appropriate as they can perfectly handle continuous runs and produce outstanding welds.

Speed

If you are working on a welding project with short deadlines or one that require high rates of production, we recommend MIG welding as it is fast and thorough enough. TIG welding is slower, but it is more appropriate for projects that require precise welding.

Control

MIG is appropriate for beginners as it is easy to operate. TIG welding can prove to be fairly challenging as one needs to use both hands to balance the materials. You must also be experienced enough to use TIG welding successfully.

Costs

Due to the use of precision-enhancing tungsten, TIG welds tend to cot more than MIG welds.

Appearance

If you want neat, precise finishes, then TIG welding is the best option. TIG welds are more often than not used for ornamental and artistic purposes as they leave clean, neat finishes on metal surfaces. MIG is appropriate for industrial welding and on surfaces that don’t require much beautification.

Now that we have discussed the main differences between TIG and MIG welding, let`s proceed to look at the main features of each techniques` make up or if you prefer, components.

TIG Weld Components

Electrode and Gas Shielding: The weld pool is made by an arc that is shaped by the electrode tip. You need to ensure that the electrode tip is in good condition when welding. The gas lens helps protect the weld pool and the arc in the torch nozzle. The gas used is normally argon which is controlled by the size of the nozzle

Filler Material: TIG filler rods usually come in a variety of sizes and materials. You should, however, ensure that the rod matches the specific material that is being welded. The size of the filler rod is usually determined by the thickness of the material.

Foot Pedal: The foot pedal regulates the electric current that makes it to the torch. The harder you press on the foot pedal, the greater the electric current released to the arc. Pressing the pedal enables you to increase the rate of welding.  Be keen on how you handle the pedal as you will need proper skills to manage the increased speed and heat.

Torch: TIG torches come in different designs. Some torches have the control buttons and on/off switches while some designs place such buttons on the foot pedal.

Power: The power source for a TIG welder can either be DC or AC. Some designs usually come with switches to select the preferred current. When dealing with material like aluminum, an AC power source is recommended. DC power sources will provide stronger arcs; however, you should clean the work piece to ensure the gas shield functions as required.

Backing Bars: Backing bars are crucial in cooling the weld area. Backing bars are usually made of aluminum and copper and help disperse heat from the welded piece. Some models also come with backing bars that are water-cooled. The cold water helps speed up cooling by circulating around the welded piece.

MIG Weld Components

Torch: The torch is instrumental to the functioning of the MIG weld as it provides the gas protecting the weld pool and the arc. The torch also transfers electric current to the weld`s wire. The torches can either be water or air cooled. Expect to pay more for water-cooled torches as they are more effective in cooling.

Electrode: The type of project determines the electrode used. Large welding projects will require electrodes with wide diameters.

Power: MIG welds usually use DC power due to the need for constant voltage.

Gas Shielding: the arc and weld-pool protecting gas is normally made of Carbon Dioxide and Argon.

Wire: MIG welds usually have various wire- feed systems ranging from push-pull, spool-on-gun to pinch rolls.

Conduit: The conduit is crucial to the functioning of the wire-feed system and should be kept straight and short to allow for proper feeding.

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Benefits and Disadvantages of MIT and TIG Welding

Having an understanding of the various advantages and demerits of the two welding techniques will help you make the right choice that meets your needs.  As we have established in our earlier discussion, MIG and TIG have several advantages and challenges depending on the type of use you want to put them to. Read on to uncover some of their main advantages as well as demerits.

 Advantages of MIG welds

Welds Fast: MIG is preferred by many welders due to its ability to create welds in impressive speeds. You can complete large projects in much-reduced time frames due to the powerful nature of MIG welds.

Affordable: MIG welds are cheap to acquire compared to TIG welds and their equipment used are usually easily accessible and affordable as well. This makes it possible to complete welding projects without breaking the bank.

Clean Welds: MIG produces clean welds which require little to no post-weld monitoring and maintenance. You don’t have to stress about cleaning the weld.

Appropriate for Large Projects :Unlike TIG welds, MIG welds are usually appropriate for large projects as they can weld thick metals with ease. They can also be used for thin metals, which makes the MIG welds highly versatile.

Disadvantages of MIG Welds

Potentially Harzadous: Compared to TIG, MIG welds tend to emit more fumes and heavy smoke which is harmful once exposed to the human body for extended periods. MIG users also need to take extra caution as the technique usually leads to occasional sparks when it makes contact with hard metal surfaces. You must have proper safety gear when using MIG welding.

Rust: MIG is more likely to lead to rust deposit once oxygen reacts with metal surfaces exposed to moisture

Environmental Limitations: It is normally difficult to use MIG welding outdoors as the gases involved are potentially hazardous

Several requirements : Although MIG can weld various metals, the metals can only be welded if the right type of wires and gases are availed. This limits the usability of the welding technique, more so for people with limited resources.

Not Ideal for thin metals : MIG welds , due to their superior power, can easily burn through thin metals. This limits their versatility and usability in a metalwork shop.

High Risk: MIG welding is high risk due to risk factors associated with wire burn-back and arc stability.

TIG Pros

Great Control: The presence of a foot pedal allows welders to adjust the level of heat and overall speed.

Low maintenance: TIG welds don’t require much electrode maintenance. You only have to clean the electrode surfaces before using the welds.

No filler needed: TIG welds do not need filler material for successful welding

Increased precision: TIG welds usually have greater quality as they produce neat and aesthetically appealing welds.

Environmentally friendly: The repetitive usage of TIG welds does not expose you or the environment to harm.

TIG Cons

Costly: It will cost you more to purchase TIG welds due to their low rates of deposition and more refined finishes.

Usage difficulty: Only experienced welders can use TIG welds due to their highly complex mechanism.

Fairly slow: Due to the high level of precision required, it takes longer to complete projects using TIG welds.

Requires extra clean surfaces: Welders must put in more cleaning work on the welding surfaces before using TIG welds. This is more often time consuming as it can derail the commencement of a project.

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When do we use TIG and MIG Welding?

The technique you decide to use on your welding project can make all the difference. Selecting the right option can save you time and energy while also increasing the durability and quality of the final output.

As such, it is important to understand when to use MIG and TIG welds

Applications of MIG Welding

  • MIG Welding is appropriate when dealing with thick metal that requires intense welding work. However, remember to smoothen or grind your surface once you are done welding to leave the surface looking crisp.
  • MIG welding occurs continuously, making it appropriate for heavy projects that require fast-enough completion.
  • When you need welding assistance, MIG welds are appropriate since they have triggers , which help control the welding leaving one hand free for managing other welding materials.
  • Suitable for long projects due to their capabilities to yield for long periods and ease of handling.

Applications of TIG Welding

  • Appropriate for thin or slim metals.
  • TIG welding works best for projects that require top-level precision.
  • Technical welds work best with TIG welding
  • Can be used for slim, hard to reach surfaces
  • Appropriate for projects that don’t have tight time-frames.

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Welding Safety

  • When undertaking your welding projects, it is crucial to prioritize safety as welding is a high-risk activity, especially for inexperienced welders. As such, you should always put on the necessary protective welding equipment to protect yourself from unforeseen injuries.
  • Here`s what you need to do to keep yourself safe when welding:
  • Put on a welding helmet to protect your face and eyes from sparks, radiation, burns and bright lights that could result from welding. Ensure that all exposed areas are well covered with fire-resistant material.
  • Always wear earmuffs as they will help reduce welding noise and consequently prevent hearing problems. You should also consider wearing fire-resistant earplugs.
  • Having a respirator on standby as you weld will help protect your lungs from oxides and harmful fumes.
  • Ensure that your welding area is free from highly flammable objects as they stray sparks can easily cause fire once they come into contact with such surfaces.
  • You should always wear fire-resistant and well-insulated rubber boots and gloves to prevent burns or shocks. Ensure that the gloves fit perfectly to protect your hands.
  • Another crucial safety tip is to ensure that you leave no skin surface uncovered to prevent sparks from causing burns.

The surest way to guarantee your safety when welding is to ensure that you strategically angle the weld such that the sparks move away from you. Wearing clothes made flammable material like synthetic fibre can expose you to the risk of burns, and you wouldn`t want that!

Now that you know everything about TIG and MIG welding, the ball is in your court to select the technique that best suits your welding project. We urge you to prioritize safety by observing the safety measures mentioned above.

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