Competition between the various types of welding will never cease to exist within our usually peaceful workshops. Within the metal world, there is no argument more prominent or fiery than the TIG vs MIG welding debate. In an attempt to demonstrate the practicality and usefulness of both, we will investigate both welding forms to review their pros and cons, and uses in the field and present factual information surrounding what TIG and MIG welding actually are.
What Is the Difference Between TIG & MIG Welding?
MIG welding and TIG welding are the most common types of arc welding. The two methods have similar functions but vary in technique.
MIG welding is faster, but it’s more difficult to control and requires a machine operator to do all the work. TIG welding is slower, but it’s more versatile and can be done by hand or with a machine. TIG welding is a more difficult process than MIG welding because it requires more skill and experience to master.
The following table compared the differences between these two welding processes.
|Tungsten Inert Gas welding
|Metal Inert Gas Welding
|Non-consumable, static tungsten electrode.
|Continuously fed wire is consumable electrode
|Additional filler material needs to be fed manually.
|The wire electrode melts and acts as filler material.
|Works best for autogenous welding
|Suitable for homogenous welding.
|Quality of weld is aesthetically pleasing
|Average in appearance
|Suitable for thin sheet metal
|Suitable for thicker workpieces
|Slow welding speed
|Higher learning curve
|Easy to learn
What is TIG Welding?
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding is the technique of utilizing an electrical arc between a tungsten electrode and a metal workpiece, with the final objective of joining metal together. Filler wire is generally used to bridge the metal together and is fed into a molten weld pool manually by the operator thus, producing a weld. Different types of shielding gases (the most commonly used is argon) are also necessary to protect the weld pool from contaminants present within the air around us.
TIG welding is possible with most weldable steels however it is most commonly put to use with stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. A well-produced TIG weld should consist of some vibrant colors, a consistent bead, and slight proudness.
TIG Welding Pros
Food-grade metal products, for example, require extremely high standards of cleanliness and there is no better welding technique to use other than the TIG which doesn’t produce the messy droplets of molten (splatter) as MIG welding does. Welds appear very uniform and tidy making the final clean-up an easy job and more, are aesthetically pleasing.
The aesthetics of TIG welds are famous and are utilized because of this in the automotive, aerospace, and artistic industries alike where beauty is important. The aerospace industry in particular enjoys TIG for its precision. TIG is an accurate process as it allows the operator to have a high level of control over the welding arc with its light and flexible handpiece and stable arc.
Lastly, an often overlooked benefit of TIG is its flexibility of use in a variety of spaces. Unfortunately, it is common for the operator to need to weld in a tight or uncomfortable space. TIG thrives in these locations because of the small-sized handpiece making it an extremely mobile piece of tooling.
TIG Welding Cons
With the combination of a good mentor, patience, and knowledge theory it will likely take the average person over 3 months of 8 hours a day / 5 days a week to become an efficient operator. This is particularly daunting for any beginner and is a commitment to uptake therefore, the time necessary it takes to learn to TIG weld is without a doubt a huge con.
Time and Cost of Labor
Something also not particularly great about TIG is the cost of labor which is typically much more expensive than the likes of MIG. TIG requires a very skilled operator (aka an expensive operator) and the actual process of welding is by far the slowest of all. Also not cheap are the many consumables necessary for the preparation of welding from the start to finish.
In the middle of this also are the problems associated with when the machine becomes faulty or is damaged. TIG machines are expensive to purchase and when the inevitable problems of wear and tear appear, the price to hire a professional to repair whatever is going on is likely to be more than the labor of the TIG operator.
What is MIG welding?
Like TIG, MIG welding is the act of joining two metals together utilizing a MIG welding machine; however, there are some significant differences.
MIG welding (or Metal Inert Gas) makes use of an electrical current that runs from a continuously moving electrode. This electrode is also the filler wire, which is fed at a constant speed from the tip of the MIG torch when a trigger is pulled by the operator. When the wire makes continuous contact with steel, the positive and negative electrical connections force the wire to melt into molten steel which is then deposited onto the workpiece, thus a weld is formed.
MIG Welding Pros
As MIG objectifies a continuous welding process it makes it possible to weld without pausing and still produce good, strong welds. A roll of filler wire, as we explain is produced relentlessly from the machine, can be up to lengths of over 1 mile long. Now nobody can weld 5000 feet in one sitting, but it definitely allows much more flexibility to produce work at speed when compared to TIG welding which is remarkably tortoise-like with its pace.
A second plus is that the process of learning to MIG weld is a fairly basic and straightforward process.
It is perfect for the beginner and it can be possible for someone who has never welded before to lay a decent weld with just 1 hour of practice. This is because MIG allows the operator to view the weld pool extremely clearly, to hold the handpiece is very stable with the choice of being able to use 1 or 2 hands and many machines have automatic settings for heat and wire speed. This makes MIG the perfect option for beginners and professionals alike.
Also, for those on a budget. When purchasing a MIG machine, maintaining its parts, and replacing welding consumables, the costs are all generally low.
MIG Welding Cons
MIG is not a great welding process for joining lighter materials. This is because MIG machines are designed to be operated hard and fast while producing solid weld joints with deep penetration. Thin projects which require precision are not the strong point of a MIG weld.
Alongside this, the beauty and overall reliability of MIG welds are not all that great. They can without a doubt look decent and be very sound structurally, however, the focus of MIG welding is to get things done on time. With this thought in mind, welding problems such as wire burn back and arc instability are common, and therefore an increased presence of lower qualities of precision and aesthetics as a result.
TIG vs MIG Welding Strength
The strength of welds is something of the utmost importance. After all, it is the weld that holds the two pieces together.
So, which is stronger: MIG or TIG?
Generally, TIG wins in this situation being the overall more durable, strong, and cleaner weld than MIG. Due to the slow and precise nature of TIG, the operator literally has much more time than when MIG welding to observe what he/she is doing. This decreases the chances of the operator making mistakes and missing important moments during the welding process concluding with a more hardy weld.
That being said, MIG welds are by no means weak and are regularly used in structural engineering works.
When to use TIG vs MIG Welding?
Use TIG welding for,
- Projects where precision, cleanliness, aesthetics, longevity, and quality are important factors.
- When welding thinner material as burn through occurs much less.
- When concerned about one’s health and the environment, it is the more eco-friendly welding method.
Use MIG welding for,
- Production and construction work where speed is important.
- In situations where overall costs of labor and consumables need to be kept to a minimum.
- As a beginner or a person training a beginner how to weld, MIG is by far the best option.