A welder is a useful tool for accomplishing all sorts of welding that involves merging different types of material together.

In metal fabrication welding, having the right tool is necessary, for better weld quality. Sadly, a single tool is not capable of doing everything you want it to, and that is why there are many types of welders.

Let’s briefly outline and overview the various welding processes, highlighting the pros and cons of each, so that we can decide the most suitable process and welder type for a specific job.

Types of Welding

The most common methods for metal fabrication are MIG welding, Flux-Cored Arc Welding, TIG Welding, and STICK welding.

Plasma cutting is also considered a vital part of metal fabrication.

Each of the welding types has their own distinctive set of pros and cons, making each one ideal for some applications but not applicable for all jobs.

This video will help to explain the differences between the types of welding.

MIG Welding

mig welding

Image Source: instructables.com

In MIG welding, the welder uses a wire electrode that feeds the spool automatically at a constant preselected speed. Here the metals are joined by creating an electrical arc between the two metal pieces and a gas shield is used. This process is best for a high-quality indoor weld.

Benefits of MIG Welding

  • Easiest to learn— ideal for beginners
  • Good for all metals such as stainless steel, steel, and aluminum alloys; also applicable to a variety of materials
  • You can weld metals as thin as 26-gauge and also thick metal plates on multiple phases
  • You can weld in any position, even over your head
  • Shielding is provided by gas, so no slag removal is necessary— produces clean weld every time
  • Offers more welding speed in comparison to other processes
  • MIG is better than flux-cored if cosmetic appearance is considered

Limitations of MIG Welding

  • Several phases are required for thick metals
  • You can’t access much control over the weld when working on thicker materials
  • Not ideal for outdoor sites like farm or fields due to usage of gas and porosity risk
  • The equipment required is more complex and initially more expensive

Flux-Cored Arc Welding

flux cored arc welding

Image Source: millerwelds.com

Flux cored arc welding is a similar process as MIG welding. The only aspect that differentiates flux cored from MIG is that it doesn’t use gas for shielding.

Advantages of Flux Cored Arc Welding

  • Ideal for outdoor sites as it is less affected by drafts, so it is better than MIG for outdoor applications.
  • Lesser risk of puddle or porosity when compared to MIG
  • Can be done even on rusty and dirty materials
  • More portable as additional gas bottle is not necessary

Cons of Flux Cored Arc Welding

  • Slag removal is necessary
  • Flux cored arc is not very good for aluminum
  • Not recommended for applications related to auto-body
  • As MIG and Flux-cored are somewhat similar, almost all the MIG welders come with the Flux-cored feature, as the requirements are unpredictable in most cases. It’s best to have a wire feed welder that has both features.

A good quality MIG/flux-cored welder is usually available from $500.

Some of the best MIG/flux-cored welder: Hobart Handler 140, Lincoln PowerMIG 180, Miller Millermatic 211, …

TIG Welding

tig welding

Image Source: weldingtypes.net

TIG or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding is a process in which a non-consumable tungsten electrode is used to form an arc. The arc is shielded by gas. Basically, argon is used in TIG welding.

Benefits of TIG Welding

  • Ideal for welding vast range of metals including stainless steel, steel, cast iron, copper, chromoly, brass, and also some exotic metals like titanium and magnesium
  • Applicable for all-position welding, including overhead
  • Best for welding thinner metals but can also be used for thicker metals
  • Offers highest precision weld and aesthetic weld beads
  • Allows you to adjust the amount of heat input by using foot pedal or hand amperage control
  • No spatter or slag is formed

Cons of TIG Welding

It’s quite a slow process when compared to MIG or Flux-cored welding
Needs higher operator skill— not ideal for entry level welders
Best TIG welders are usually available from $800.

Some of the best TIG welder: Hobart EZTig 165, AHP AlphaTIG 200X, Everlast PowerTIG 200DX, Everlast PowerTIG 250EX, …

Stick Welding

stick welding

Image Source: wikipedia.org

Stick welding is also known as shielded metal arc welding.

This welding process uses a consumable and flux coated electrode, containing a metal that matches the base metal to be welded.

Pros of Stick Welding (Shielded Metal Arc Welding)

  • Best for steel, stainless steel or cast iron. Most of the materials can be welded
  • Ideal for outdoor sites as the weld is not affected by drafts
  • Can be done in any position; even in odd positions
  • Least expensive – no additional equipment is necessary

Cons of Stick Welding

  • Limited to 18-gauge for thin metals
  • Overhead welding is not possible
  • Only experts are capable of stick welding aluminum materials
  • Slag must be cleaned after every weld
  • Flux-cored is a contrast to stick welding as in flux-cored the flux wire is fed with metals. For this reason, it‘s known as inside-out stick electrode.
  • It’s more expensive.
  • Stick welding is a more versatile process as it’s applicable to almost all the materials.

The best stick welders are available at rates ranging from $350 to $5000.

Some of the best stick welder: Lincoln Electric AC/DC 225/125Everlast PowerARC 160STHThermal Arc W1003203 95S, …

Plasma Cutting

plasma cutting welding

Image Source: americanmachinist.com

Plasma cutting is a process in which metals of various thicknesses is cut using a plasma torch. During the process, a gas is blown at high speeds out of a nozzle, when at the same time an electrical arc is formed turning some of the gas into plasma. This plasma will be hot enough to melt the metals being cut.

Pros of Plasma Cutting

  • Allows you to cut any metal sheet or plate fast and accurately
  • Useful tool to use along with a welder
  • Only applied for cutting metals

Cons Of Plasma Cutting

  • Only higher-end, expensive tools are applicable for cutting thicker materials
  • Top-rated plasma cutters are usually available from $300.

Some of the best plasma cutters: Lotos LTP5000DHobart Airforce 500iHypertherm Powermax45, …

Which Welder Best Suits Your Application?

MIG Welders

MIG welders are used for applications related to general maintenance and repair, home, farm and ranch application, and auto-body workshops. In MIG welders you can look for features like thermal overload protection and auto-set function. You should also consider the duty cycle of the system. For example, a MIG welder with a duty cycle of 20% at 180 Amps will operate 2 minutes in 8 minutes of cool down time, whereas the same tool offers 60% duty cycle at around 113 Amps. The lesser is the power output the more is the duty cycle.

If you need a MIG welder for home based work then you can go for a welder with an output power of 140A. For industrial applications, a welder with 230A or more is good. But if you need a welding machine for both fields then a welder that can run on multiple voltages is ideal for you.

For more MIG welders in all categories, please check out these Mig welder reviews.

Flux-Cored Arc Welders

Flux-cored welders are a good substitute for MIG if weld appearance is not important. Also for outdoor metal fabrication for maintenance and repair, flux-cored welders are ideal. However, Flux-cored is not very much recommended for Auto-body workshops. Just like in MIG, a duty cycle of at least 40% to 60% is necessary for flux-cored welders, for thicker metal penetration. 115V flux-cored welder can weld metals up to 1/4 inch and 230V welder can weld up to 1/2 inch thick metals.

For more Flux-cored welders you can check the top Flux-cored welder reviews.

TIG Welders

TIG welders are good for materials related to aluminum. For those who have the urge to get high-quality weld every time, a TIG welder is the ultimate choice. TIG welders are mostly used for home repair, garage jobs, auto-body workshops, chassis or frame fabrication, preparing aluminum oil pans or stainless exhaust, metal art and sheet metal applications.

20% duty cycle is ideal for a typical hobbyist-type TIG welder, whereas an automatic setup for TIG may require a 100% duty cycle due to the possible longer welding times. 40% to 60% of duty cycles are ideal for many handheld TIG applications in construction and industrial sites. For small welding purposes based on home, a welder with 150A to 180A power output is suitable, and for heavier tasks you can go for 200A and for most complicated and industrial applications, a welder with 250A or more power output is best.

For more top-rated TIG welders in all categories, you can check out these Tig welder reviews.

Stick Welders

Stick welders are most useful and best appliances for all general construction applications related to various sites including maintenance and repair shops, shipboard installation or repairs, plant fabrication and repair, home, farm and ranch applications. You can choose between stick welders with only AC compatibility or both AC/DC. For better weld quality I personally recommend buying a stick welder with AC/DC feature.

In stick welders, you would also like to consider ‘Hot Start Function’. In stick welding, when the rod touches the work piece during arc initiation, the rod becomes prone to sticking as the voltage drops to zero. Hot start function helps to free the rod by boosting the current automatically.

For more Stick welders you can check out the top stick welder reviews.

Plasma Cutters

Plasma cutters are used in small workshops as well as large industrial sites that daily deal with metal cutting tasks. Keeping in mind the duty cycle and power output, the most important thing you ought to consider is the type of cut you need. For example, if you usually cut ½-inch thick metal, and only occasionally cut a little thicker metal, say 3/4 of an inch, then a ½-inch system will do for you. There are also a few high-end plasma cutters that have the same abilities of TIG and stick welders.

To know more about plasma cutters, please take a look at this Plasma cutter guide.

Other Types of Welding