Tig vs Mig Welding: What Is the Difference?

Welding is the process which heats metals and allows them to be joined together. There are a number of types of welding that can be used to join metals together. Here we will discuss two types of welding: TIG vs MIG welding.

A Little About TIG Welding

Before we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s learn about each of these types of welding. TIG means tungsten inert gas. Its name refers to the way the current is provided to the welding arc, which is through a tungsten electrode. The tungsten electrode is non-consumable. The electric arc is tight, and inert gas shields it from the atmosphere.

Benefits and Disadvantages of TIG Welding

TIG welding can be used on several metals. It is a very controlled and precise form of welding. The welds it produces are small and soft, which means they can be worked with a hammer and dolly. Some TIG welders allow you to control the heat with various methods by using a foot pedal or another control on the torch itself. These controls allow the precision of TIG welding mentioned earlier.

TIG welding can be difficult to learn. The TIG welding process is complex and requires multitasking to its fullest degree. You must hold the torch properly, control the welding current, keep the correct distance between the electrode and what you are welding, and move the torch steadily. In addition, you must add the filler with your other hand when it is appropriate and dab the rod where required. The complexity of the equipment also means it is expensive to purchase.

MIG Welding Explained

In our discussion on TIG vs MIG welding, let’s talk about MIG. MIG welding is a form of metal inert gas welding. It is used on aluminum and other non-ferrous (or non-iron) metals. MIG welding consists of a process by which a metal wire connects to a direct current and serves an electrode to join two metal pieces. Inert gas (traditionally argon) passes through the welding gun at the same time as the wire electrode. The inert gas protects the weld from contaminants in the air.

Benefits and Disadvantages of MIG Welding

MIG welding is quick and produces long, continuous welds. It is faster than another form of arc welding known as stick welding. When MIG welding was created back in the 1940s, inert gas was quite pricey, which made this technique impractical for welding steel.

As the MIG welding process has developed throughout the years, it can now use semi-inert gases. Carbon dioxide is one such inert gas that is commonly used. As a result, MIG welding can now be used in the process of welding steel. MIG welding produces a clean weld with little splatter. This is because of the shielding gas which protects the welding arc. MIG welding can be used on many metals and metal alloys.

MIG welding differs from traditional stick welding. MIG welding requires complex equipment. There are several components that make up the MIG welder including a source of direct current, a source of inert gas, and the wire electrode. It is better to perform MIG welding in a controlled environment. Performing MIG welding in an open area could affect the gas used in the MIG welding process.

TIG vs MIG Welding

Let’s get down to the basics here as we discuss TIG vs MIG welding. TIG welding is a form of gas tungsten arc welding, also called GTAW for short. MIG welding is called gas metal arc welding, also called GMAW for short. We will discuss some TIG and MIG welding basics, including the parts of each welder, along with techniques for TIG vs MIG welding.

TIG

Man doing welding

Photo from Pixabay

TIG welding provides a high-quality, precise weld. It provides a good looking, clean result. It also works on thin metals. TIG welding can be used on any metals that conduct electricity. This includes steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It also includes brass, chromoly (a steel alloy), copper, magnesium, and titanium.

TIG welding uses long welding rods you feed into the weld puddle. TIG welding uses an electric arc. TIG welding is considered slower but a more delicate technique. The TIG welding technique is considered versatile because of the large number of metals you can weld.

Parts of TIG Welder

As we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s discuss some parts of the TIG welder to familiarize you with these components:

  • ​Work lead or ground cable with clamp – contains the electric torch on its end and attaches to the workpiece or metal surface
  • ​Gas line which carries the inert gas
  • ​Gas bottle with regulator containing the inert gas
  • ​Electric torch

The electric torch contains the following inner parts:

  • ​Tungsten rod – the electrode which can be sharpened to a point or ball
  • ​Copper collet – holds the tungsten rod and helps to adjust the tungsten rod length
  • ​Ceramic cup – comes in a variety of diameters; holds and directs the gas around the tungsten

TIG Techniques

Please note that the techniques discussed here are not considered a comprehensive how-to guide for TIG welding. They are meant to compare the different techniques used by TIG and MIG welders.
  • ​Hold the torch in your dominant hand. Work from your dominant hand side and out to your other side.
  • ​Position the torch 1/8 of an inch from the surface of the metal.
  • ​Initiate the arc.
  • ​Tip the torch 15 to 20 degrees away from the direction of travel.
  • ​Center the torch along the seam of the metals.
  • ​If filler material is required, bring it in at an angle that is as low as possible without hitting the tungsten.
  • ​Move along the seam and add filler if required.

​MIG

Sparkling welding rod

Image from Pixabay

​MIG welding is often considered relatively easy to learn. It produces clean welds without slag (waste). It can be used on metals of various thicknesses. MIG can be used on steel, stainless steel, and aluminum alloys.

MIG uses a continuously feeding wire to produce the weld. The feeding wire burns, melts, and fuses both the metals. Like TIG welding, MIG welding uses an electric arc. MIG welding can be used on many types of metals, from thin to thick. MIG welding is considered a quick welding technique. The MIG welding technique is considered a better choice for most home-welding projects because of ease of use and the wide variety of applications.

Parts of TIG Welder

​As we discuss TIG vs MIG welding, let’s discuss some parts of the MIG welder to familiarize you with these components:

  • ​Work lead containing the electric torch with the wire inside
  • ​Nozzle directs the gas to your weld
  • ​Gas bottle with regulator containing the inert gas
  • ​Contact tip feeds the wire
  • ​Work clamp completes the circuit by attaching to metal
  • ​Roller feeds the wire

​MIG Techniques

​Please note that the techniques discussed here are not considered a comprehensive how-to guide for MIG welding. They are meant to compare the different techniques used by TIG and MIG welders.

  • ​Use a two-handed grip on the MIG welder gun.
  • ​When welding sheet metal, use a 45-degree angle to hold the gun about 3/8 on an inch away from the joint.
  • ​Tack a joint between 3/4 of an inch to one inch apart prior to finish welding.
  • ​After tacking, use a hammer and dolly to align the edges.
  • ​Minimize distortion by welding in short sections.

Conclusion

Factory welder

Image from Pixabay 

TIG and MIG welding are both methods for joining metals together. While TIG is a form of gas tungsten arc welding, MIG is a form of gas metal arc welding. As discussed here, both forms of welding have their place in metalworking today. TIG is generally considered a more precise form of welding that can be more difficult to learn. TIG welding can be used on many metals, including more unusual metals such as magnesium and tungsten. MIG welding produces a clean, quick weld and can be used on many metals of different thicknesses. It uses a feeding wire to produce the weld.

No matter which type of welding you do, either TIG or MIG welding, you need the correct personal protective equipment, also called PPE. PPE for welding includes, but is not limited to, welding helmets, goggles, flame-resistant gloves, flame resistant aprons or jackets, and protective footwear. Welding helmets can protect welders from arc rays and weld sparks. Welding helmets do not protect the eyes from flying debris such as grinding fragments and wire wheel bristles, so wearing goggles is also important for those who use welding equipment.

The type of gloves worn depends upon whether you do TIG or MIG welding. Because TIG welding is more delicate, lighter weight gloves are generally recommended than what is used with MIG welding. Some other common welding PPE includes a welding cap, earplugs, a respirator, long pants, and face shields. Consult your local regulations and welder owner’s manual to find out what PPE is appropriate for you and the welding application you are using.

We hope we have provided an adequate overview of the difference between TIG and MIG welding.

​Featured photo via Pixabay

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