The main difference between TIG and MIG welding is that one uses a consumable wire electrode (TIG) and the other uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode (MIG). The MIG welding process produces an electric arc between consumable wire electrodes and the workpiece metals.
MIG and TIG welding fuse two pieces of metal together with the heat of an electric arc, which melts a molten puddle between them. As the weld puddle hardens, it becomes one piece.
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Filler wire is fed into this molten puddle to help the separate metals stick together while giving the weld substance. Gas is used to shield the liquid metal from impurities. Contaminants such as air can cause bubbles to form, and the weld will lose strength and won’t hold together as well.
In the TIG welding process, the electric arc is formed between a non-consumable tungsten electrode and the workpiece. The heat generated by the arc melts the metals and forms a weld. We will discuss all the major differences between MIG and TIG welding here.
Heat and/or pressure are used to form a durable joint between two pieces of material when welding. Industry professionals use different welding techniques to create the desired assemblies depending on the part and production specifications.
Among the most common welding methods are MIG and TIG. We compare the two in the following blog post, describing what each entails, their advantages and disadvantages, the materials used, and typical industrial applications.
There are a couple of acronyms for this popular process. Metal inert gas (“MIG”) is the most commonly used term. Others call it gas metal arc welding (“GMAW”).
MIG can be difficult to describe. In general, MIG welding uses a semi-automatic or automatic arc to weld. It also uses a continuous wire electrode and shielding gas, which are fed through a lead to a welding gun (sometimes called a torch).
Welding with tungsten inert gas (TIG) is sometimes referred to as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW).
In TIG welding, an arc is also used to weld. The main difference between MIG and TIG welding is that MIG uses a non-consumable electrode and separate consumable filler material. As the non-consumable tungsten electrode produces an arc, you must manually feed a “rod” of filler material into the weld puddle with your second hand.
Application of MIG
MIG welding is easy to learn, relatively straightforward to perform, and capable of joining materials such as aluminum, mild steel, and stainless steel.
In addition to its effectiveness for thicker metals, MIG welding is typically used when aesthetics are not a priority.
Applications for TIG
A TIG weld produces more precise results than MIG welding, can be used to join thinner materials and can be used to weld aluminum, copper, steel, titanium, and more.
Therefore, TIG welding is widely used for jobs requiring precision, such as aerospace, motorsport, industrial structures, and production line manufacturing.
In addition to these general differences, there are a number of key differences based on properties, cost, ease of learning, etc.:
- Weld Strength
As a result of the narrow, focused arc produced by TIG welders, TIG welded joins are usually stronger than those produced by MIG welding. Also, when applied correctly, TIG weld beads have few holes and other defects that can weaken the weld. Despite this generalization, MIG welds can still produce strong welds with good penetration by grinding or cutting a V-shaped groove into the joint before starting to weld. MIG welds will also be stronger if the travel speed and torch positioning are good.
- Weld Speed
MIG welders generally provide faster welding speeds in a production setting because air-cooled MIG welders automatically feed filler material into the weld pool and have a rounder, broader arc, which dissipates heat more effectively. By contrast, TIG welders are unable to move the weld puddle as fast or supply enough filler rod to compete with MIG welding speeds. In addition, air-cooled torches used in TIG welding can get too hot during prolonged welding runs, requiring them to be cooled or replaced with more expensive water-cooled torches.
- Shielding Gas
In both MIG and TIG welding, shielding gases are used to ensure quality welds. The shielding gas protects the puddle from reactive gases found in the air, which can cause impurities in the weld. Due to the tungsten electrode’s vulnerability to reactive gases like oxygen or CO2, TIG welds are typically protected by pure argon gas. In most cases, MIG welding is performed with a blend of argon and carbon dioxide (typically 75/25%), as the carbon dioxide stabilizes the arc and assists with penetration. Depending on the application, these general shielding gas rules may differ.
In TIG welding, helium, hydrogen, or nitrogen may sometimes be mixed with argon, whereas in MIG welding, 100% pure argon is used when welding aluminum and pure CO2 can also be used to increase weld penetration and lower costs. In addition to shielding gas flow rates, MIG welding typically uses 35 to 50 cubic feet per hour, while TIG welding uses 15 to 25 cubic feet per hour.
- Weld Aesthetics
With less or no spatter, TIG welds usually only need a light polish to remove any discoloration. With little or no spatter, TIG welds tend to be more attractive than MIG welds. Unpainted welds (such as those welded in steel or aluminum, for example) can be enhanced with TIG welded stacks of ‘coins’. Even though an experienced welder can still create good-looking MIG weld beads, MIG welds have a less desirable appearance. MIG welds are often fine for applications where aesthetics are less important or where the welds will be coated, covering their appearance.
- Process Difficulty
MIG welding is much easier to learn and master than TIG welding. TIG welding requires the use of two hands, one moving the welding torch and one feeding the filler rod into the weld pool. Furthermore, the amperage can often be controlled with a foot pedal. Although these various movements provide greater control, they can also be hard to master. Metals to be joined must also be clean and well-prepared, and welders tend to consider TIG as a more advanced welding method. By contrast, MIG welding is easier to learn because there is no foot pedal to master and the filler material is automatically fed through the welding gun, so you only need to use one hand to complete the welding process.
Because of the lower deposition rates associated with TIG welding, as well as the necessity for more experienced welders, TIG welding costs more per foot of bead. In addition, TIG welding requires more prep work, which also adds to the cost. In addition, MIG welding supplies and machines tend to be less expensive than TIG welding. All of these factors combine to make TIG welding more expensive.