GTAW or TIG welding is one of the most versatile processes available for welding because it can be used with metals that can’t be heated with an arc alone, such as aluminum and brass. It’s also typically more precise than other types of welding due to its ability to control both heat input and arc length.
TIG welding is a form of welding that typically uses gas to reduce the oxidation of metal. What type of gas is used for TIG welding and what happens when you don’t have any gas? Can you TIG weld without gas?
Let’s find out.
Does TIG Welding Require Gas?
Yes, for most situations it is a requirement to use shielding gas when TIG welding as it guarantees durability and strength. Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), commonly known as TIG welding is a way to weld with a tungsten electrode and a shielding gas, usually a mixture of argon and helium. It is however possible to TIG weld without shielding gas and sometimes a specific situation will mean that it is the only viable option for the operator.
What is the Purpose of Gas in TIG Welding?
Before tackling the question of whether or not it is necessary to use gas when TIG welding it is important to understand the purpose of the gas itself.
Shielding gases play an important role when it comes to TIG welding. The purpose of the gas is to act as a barrier against atmospheric contaminants, such as oxygen and humidity, which can enter your liquid metal weld pool and create weld deformities and reduce overall weld quality. In many GTAW applications, the shield gas also protects the weld zone from excessively high temperature near the electrode tip.
Alongside this, shielding gas also improves the weldability of metals by stabilizing the arc connection between the welder and workpiece and prevents your weld pool from spitting molten slag back onto your workpiece, welder or hands.
TIG Welding Gas
What Kind of Gas Does TIG Welding Use?
When compared to other welding processes, there are only a few types of gases which are possible to use for TIG welding. Argon gas is the preferred shielding gas for TIG welding. Argon which an inert gas is utilized regularly throughout the entire TIG welding world being favored for its versatility.
100% pure argon is a great option for welding all common metals as arc stability is well maintained allowing for clean, narrow and more precisely controlled weld joints.
Argon can also be mixed with helium at a ratio of 50/50. The argon-helium combination is for specialized projects and improves heat conductivity which in turn increases the speed at which the operator can weld. Different ratios of argon-helium are also available with 10% argon to 90% helium, but this is generally only useful for TIG welding with a direct current electrode negative setup (DCEN).
Hydrogen can also be used as a TIG shielding gas, but it is less regularly utilized for general welding works. However, hydrogen is an excellent shielding gas for TIG welding large stainless-steel projects where increased arc voltage and heat input are important.
Are the Same Gases Used for Welding MIG and TIG?
MIG and TIG welding can both use argon and helium for different situations. However, MIG does not work well with a 100% argon mix as it can impact the thermal conductivity and arc stability which will damage the quality of the final weld.
Instead MIG successfully combines argon with carbon-dioxide (CO2) with an average ratio of about 85% argon to 15% CO2. An argon-CO2 gas mix will help to produce aesthetically appealing welds which produce little molten splatter, which also reduces the cleanup process of MIG welding. This is with the exception of non-ferrous metal welding where pure argon is used. MIG also utilizes helium gas for the purpose of stainless steel and non-ferrous metal welding although the argon-CO2 combination is more often preferred.
You can learn more about MIG welding gas here.
Does TIG Welding Use More Gas Than MIG Welding?
TIG shouldn’t use any more or less gas than a MIG welder. The amount of time a TIG or MIG welder’s gas will last completely depends upon the regulator flow rate of the gas cylinder, which the operator will have set themselves. Both for TIG and MIG on average will use 10 – 40 cubic feet of gas per hour however this will vary as you adjust the gas flow rate to match the needs of your job at hand.
Gasless TIG: Can You TIG Weld Without Gas?
So, onto our title question: is it possible to actually TIG weld without using shielding gas?
Yes, it is definitely possible to TIG weld gasless however, as we have stated shielding gas plays an important part in the TIG welding process. Without shielding gas, it isn’t really considered welding as the structural integrity of the welded joint will be impacted. The weld will face the high risk of contamination and may result in weld cracking, porosity, and the joint not really joining and breaking in two.
Welding with a TIG machine (or any gas reliant welder) should never be executed without shielding gas when the welding is of importance in a way where a person(s) well-being, property or environmental factors are at stake. You should only do gasless TIG welding when the project meets this criterion and the joint is securely supported by other means.
To also note: only an experienced welder should consider TIG welding gasless as the process is even more difficult than the already challenging TIG welding method.
There are some reasons as to why you might have to TIG weld without gas. It could be that you have to weld in an outdoor environment and you do not have access to a stick welder (which is gasless). Or maybe you have run out of the shielding gas. Certainly, none of these reasons are valid go for gasless TIG, as there is a solution to each given situation.