MIG vs TIG: What’s the Difference?

by Aug 6, 2019Tips

There are many different welding types to best suit different project needs. Two of the most popular welding techniques today are MIG (Metal Inert Gas) and TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas). What’s the difference between these two? That’s what we’re going to look at, starting with the history of both welding types. At the Short Iron Store in Fort Worth, we like to know everything there is about different metals and how to work with them, and we enjoy sharing that knowledge with our customers. If you need metal supplies in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, stop by our shop to browse our huge onsite inventory!

mig welding fort worthWhat is MIG Welding?

MIG welding is a welding process where the arc is initiated between a consumable wire and the piece being welded. The wire is continuously fed through the MIG gun’s handle, which the user controls by using the trigger, a pedal, or a dial remote. As the wire melts into the weld pool, it can build up the weld to meet project specifications. To prevent oxygen and moisture from causing flaws in the weld, a shielding gas — usually carbon dioxide — is used with MIG welding. Argon and helium also work, but carbon dioxide is less expensive. MIG welding is also called Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW).

What is TIG Welding?

TIG welding uses a tungsten electrode inside the welding torch. The arc occurs between the electrode and the workpiece. As the welder works, they keep the electrode about ⅛ of an inch away from their workpiece to keep forming a constant weld puddle. TIG welding can be done with or without a consumable filler rod. Manual TIG welding requires high skill and good technique to produce a visually appealing bead, while filler rod use requires excellent hand-eye-foot coordination to work the pedal while welding.

MIG and TIG: The Early Years

TIG became an official welding process in the 1940’s, when it was known as “Heli-arc”, or arc welding that used helium as a shielding gas. Workers found it difficult to produce clean results until technological advancements allowed the current to be reversed to DC Electrode Negative (DCEN). This resulted in cleaner welds, but non-ferrous metals were still a challenge. When AC (Alternating Current) came along, its constant direction changes made welding much easier. Finally, the creation of the high-frequency arc starter eliminated the need to bang the tungsten electrode against the workpiece to start a weld.

MIG welding came about during the Post WWII era. Thanks to a post-war building and affluence boom, there was a high demand for automobiles, ships and buildings. Factory workers and welders were hired to fill the demand. Thanks in part to the advancement of the MIG welding technology. In the 1950’s, the use of CO2 as a shielding gas made MIG welding the preferred welding process. Flux core welding was presented as an alternative to MIG welding, but MIG outperformed it by producing the cleanest welds.

The Differences Between MIG and TIG Welding

MIG and TIG welding have similar origins and similar uses, but they also have a few important differences:

  • Shielding Gases. MIG welding typically uses CO2 gas, while TIG uses argon gas.
  • Speed. MIG welding is the faster process of the two, and is often used in automated welding applications.
  • Precision. TIG outshines MIG when it comes to looks and precision, but it takes a skilled welder to produce the best-looking results.

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