MIG vs TIG Welding: Differences, Aluminum

Different projects require different tools and methods, including any welding project you might have. Welding has different types, and it is important to choose the right one if you want to get the results you envision.

Among these types, MIG and TIG are the ones people get confused with the most. Aside from the nearly identical names, anyone with an untrained eye will think that their process is also the same. In reality, there are notable differences between the two. You must understand this before choosing one over the other in your projects, such as those involving aluminum.

If you are confused about MIG vs. TIG welding, don’t worry. You are not alone. Clearing this confusion is our goal, so stick around if you want to know more about it.

Differences

Because both MIG and TIG use an electric arc to heat and melt the metals and fuse them using filler material, many use them interchangeably. They believe that there are no noticeable differences between the two methods anyway. That is why they go for the most convenient or economic one.

Admittedly, it is easy to confuse them with each other. Aside from the method we mentioned above, they also both require a bare electrode and a shielding gas. These prevent the metals from being contaminated or undergoing oxidation. Also, both methods can only be used on conductive metals.

But these are where their similarities end. The most noteworthy differences between MIG and TIG welding are in terms of the following:

Operation

The easiest way to differentiate the two is through their operation. When they both use a filler material, they vary in how it is done.

Using a consumable wire-fed electrode is what mainly differentiates the two techniques. With MIG, the wire electrode is directly fed into the spool gun. It allows one-handed operation.

On the other hand, TIG is also known as GTAW. It requires a two-handed operation because the tungsten electrode used is non-consumable. There must be a filler applied To meld two metals together. In this case, it is a separate TIG filler rod. One hand operates the torch with the electrode, and the other hand holds the filler rod.

Note that it is also possible to fuse metals without any filler with TIG.

Difficulty

The differences in operation or handling result in varying degrees of difficulty. Since the filler material is directly fed into the spool gun, most people find it easier to do MIG. When used with a filler rod, TIG requires a two-handed operation. The torch is simultaneously used with the filler material, which. It may be too complicated for beginners!

MIG is also called welding’s “hot glue gun.” It means it is easier to learn than TIG. You only need to press the trigger to start and stop like a glue gun.

Equipment

While both MIG and TIG require a shielding gas source and power supply, they require different equipment. The former involves using a spool or welding gun and a feed wire unit. TIG involves using a torch, a non-consumable electrode. You also use a foot pedal connected to the electrical supply and different filler material in the form of a rod if needed.

Filler and Filler Replacement

Both methods typically use a filler, but these fillers and filler replacements vary. Fillers in TIG consist of a rod measuring 60-180mm with 1 to 3 mm diameter. The filler in MIG is a long wire with a 0.5 to 2 mm diameter and is wound in a wire pool. Because the filler rod in TIG is shorter than the longer wire used in MIG, it will require more frequent replacements.

Speed

Because of its uncomplicated operation, MIG has the advantage when speed is important in your project. It is ideal if productivity matters more than quality. On the other hand, the slower TIG may be better if quality and attention to detail are important.

Thickness of Material

Aluminum and steel are both mild and stainless. They are suitable for MIG and TIG. Their difference lies in the thickness of the material. If you are fusing thicker ones, MIG is recommended because it can do so faster. On the other hand, TIG is more suitable for thinner materials.

Project Size and Type

In terms of the type and size of the project, TIG  is suitable for small-scale ones that involve thinner materials. But for larger projects that involve thicker materials, MIG is ideal. It means it can be great in a lot of industrial settings.

Appearance

If the quality or appearance of the weld is crucial for you, TIG is the best choice. Its finish is a lot cleaner, offering a smooth finish free of defects while ensuring a reliable joint is made.

Cost

The overall cost is higher with TIG. It’s not just because of the materials and equipment required but also because it is more time-consuming. In contrast, MIG has cheaper and easily replaceable parts and is more cost-effective because you finish projects much faster.

Application

MIG is considered more diverse because it can easily be used in different applications. On the other hand, TIG can also be done on a wide variety of projects. Its overall costs make it impractical. That is why it is typically only used in some areas like automotive and stainless steel applications.

Knowing these marked differences will allow you to easily choose which one is more appropriate for your project.

Which Type is Best?

Now that you know their major differences, you may wonder which type is considered the best between MIG and TIG. By now, you know that there is no straight answer for that.

MIG is your best option if:

  • You require high-strength bonds that require only minimal cleaning and sanding.
  • Speed and accuracy are essential.
  • It will be done indoors, as the shielding gases used are not ideal for outdoor use.
  • You require only minimal fumes, especially for continuous operations.
  • The metals are thick, but they can also be used on thinner metals. When working on thin metals, care is crucial to avoid burning through them.
  • Your project involves heavy-duty work and longer operations, allowing you to work on more pieces in a short time.
  • Minimal defects are important, as its continuous operation lessens starts and stops.
  • One-handed operation is a must.

On the other hand, go for TIG if:

  • You need beads that are aesthetically pleasing and offer a beautiful finish.
  • Attention to detail is required.
  • You require your work to be spatter-free, resulting in a cleaner finish.
  • The work area is extremely clean.
  • You will only work on a small project.
  • Environmental hazards are a concern, as TIG is considered more eco-friendly because of the minimal. Fumes and sparks it generates.
  • It does not involve cast iron.
  • You need more control.
  • Spatter-free work is your goal.
  • Stronger joints are needed.
  • Less maintenance is needed, as TIG does not require sanding and cleaning in-between jobs.

For general use, MIG is recommended because of its easy operation and versatility. TIG is more appropriate for the more experienced craftsmen and those that require neater results.

The Pros and Cons of MIG

PROSCONS
  • You appreciate minimal cleaning.

  • Speed is important to you.

  • You do a lot of outdoor work.

  • Thicker metals

  • You want a hand free for other things.
  • Not as aesthetically-pleasing

  • Less eco-friendly with more waste

  • Less control

  • Less strong bonds
  • The Pros and Cons of TIG

    PROSCONS
  • Stronger bonds

  • Very clean finish

  • Spatter-free

  • Eco-friendly

  • Less maintenance
  • Not as fast

  • Less optimal for outdoor work 
  • MIG vs. TIG welding: Aluminum

    If you are working on aluminum, you need to know which method is best. If it is your first attempt to weld aluminum, you may think any type will work. It is not the case in reality. Unlike other steel alloys, aluminum is harder to work with due to its high conductivity and low melting point. The oxide film on the aluminum surface and its alloys have a higher melting point than aluminum. It makes it tricky to work with, even for experienced pros.

    Not only that, but certain types of aluminum alloys require specific filler materials before they can be properly welded. Also, the pre-weld and post-weld processes vary because of the oxide film present.

    These factors make it impossible to use a single type of aluminum and all its alloys. That is why like other metals, the best welder for aluminum will depend on its purpose.

    In most cases, TIG is used when aluminum is involved. This is primarily because a person has more control over this method, which is crucial to preventing the aluminum from overheating.

    Since a filler rod is used, you can easily use a filler similar to the aluminum alloys you are working on. This allows a cleaner result on the aluminum and prevents feedability issues with wire feeding.

    TIG welders suitable for aluminum typically have the following characteristics:

    • AC-Powered is more suitable when dealing with the oxide film on the aluminum surface.
    • Output Power (in Amperes) – the ideal range is 5 to 230 amperes.
    • Featuring a Low Amperage – its arc stability must not exceed 10 amperes.
    • Duty Cycle – should ideally be 50 to 80 percent. Depending on what you need, it can differ because different manufacturers have found workarounds involving this aspect.
    • Pulse Welding – having a pulse mode offers better control in terms of heat.

    You can also use MIG, but it is more complicated to do so. While there are different types, only pulse and spray arc welding can be used for aluminum. The filler material should also be similar to the alloy being welded.

    While the shielding gas may vary depending on the alloy, 100% argon is generally recommended. Also, this is preferably done with thin aluminum sheets only due to the amount of heat required.

    MIG equipment should have the following features to be applicable to aluminum:

    • The gas supply should be pure argon; the welder must not have a gasless flux core.
    • Design – a spool gun that allows the use of a coil with wire or one that has a short Teflon liner and wire feeding system with a smooth roller that is U-shaped.
    • Duty Cycle – will depend on your environment; this is crucial, especially if the workspace is hot.
    • Protection from OverheatingMIG welders are at risk of overheating when used with aluminum. It’s why safeguards should be in place.

    It is safe to say that TIG is best used with aluminum from all these. The major issue lies in its operation. Since handling this equipment require skill and experience, only trained users can work with it. If you are not yet familiar with this method, you should use MIG for your work involving aluminum.

    It is important to avoid methods that require a flux, as it will likely result in porosity in the final result.

    What Do You Use TIG For?

    Despite MIG being seen as more versatile, it does not mean that TIG is limited. A TIG piece of equipment can be used in various materials and for various purposes.

    In particular, this is used with different materials and on projects where precision and control are required. These include:

    • Small, precise welds
    • Critical joints
    • They make different kinds of joints, such as butt joints and T-joint. It can also be used for a fillet weld and lap joint.
    • They are great for working on non-ferrous metals, including magnesium and copper. It’s good for aluminum alloys and stainless steel also. However, it’s good for thin sections only.
    • Tubings with small diameters and thin walls, such as those used for bicycles
    • Aerospace
    • Automobiles
    • They are great for working on conventional metals like copper and nickel alloys, gold, titanium, brass, and cobalt.
    • Making repairs
    • Arts and crafts, such as sculpture-making
    • Work that is considered tricky, such as working on round objects and making s-curves.

    What Do You Use a MIG Welder For?

    Compared to TIG, there are more uses for a MIG machine because of the easy handling. Among the many materials and applications you can use it for are:

    • Various metals and alloys, such as stainless steel, silicon bronze, carbon steel, nickel, aluminum, copper, and nickel.
    • Use it for joining thin to medium thick materials.
    • Create different joints, including T-joint, butt weld, and lap joint.
    • Work in various positions.
    • Home and industrial work
    • Doing repairs
    • Pipes
    • Equipment rebuilding
    • As overlay of coating that is wear-resistant
    • Surface reinforcements, such as train tracks that are worn-out

    Now that you know the basics of MIG versus TIG welding, hasn’t it become easier for you to choose which one to use for your next project?

    Is TIG welding harder than MIG?


    In simple words, yes. Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is more difficult to learn than Metal inert gas welding. It is the case because it requires the use of both hands and a foot. Your hands will be busy holding the torch and the filler material. At the same time, your leg will be busy controlling the flow of electricity with your foot. This is why an absolute professional is preferred for the job when TIG welding is involved.


    Why would you use TIG over MIG?


    TIG is preferred when cleanliness and smooth finishing are vital for the job. It is because MIG welding might leave behind splatters. It’s due to the high-quality appearance in the results that makes it the first choice for ornamental design and artistic projects. The level of detailing in TIG welds is also much better than in MIG.



    What welder is best for aluminum?


    Aluminum is one of the hard metals to weld because of its high heat conductivity and high melting point. TIG welding is considered best for welding aluminum metal. It is because aluminum’s tricky metal can only be handled with the nifty welding techniques of TIG welding. But if you’re opting for thinner gauges of aluminum, MIG welding can also be used.



    Is TIG welding stronger than MIG welding?


    Gas Tungsten Arc welding (GTAW) or TIG welding is the strongest type of welding known. No wonder it takes a long amount of time to finish the process. Different materials call for different types of welds to be used depending on factors like metallurgical properties and thickness. Some metal combinations like aluminum and steel or aluminum and copper cannot be fused at all. Be sure to do your research!

    Let’s go over MIG welding basics, which is relatively simpler than learning TIG welding.


    How to: How to MIG weld?

    1. Do a safety check


      Let’s start by wearing our welding masks and rubber gloves. Get safety shoes as well. Try to wear leather for most of your clothing. If you can’t find leather jackets or pants, at least wear cotton. It ensures the fabric isn’t too flammable. Wear fully covered shoes. Set up your welding station in a well-lit and ventilated area. Pro tip: Remember, you can never weld galvanized steel. This will produce a highly dangerous carcinogenic gas.

    2. Clean the metal

      It’s a good idea to get any dirt and debris off your metal surface for the best results. You may feel this is unimportant, but it certainly matters in the welding world.

    3. Put on the right settings.


      Your flame for welding has to be just right. If you’re burning holes in your metal, it means you have the power too high. If you’re welding splattering and spurting, your power settings are low. You want smooth welding that sounds like continuous buzzing, and that’s how you’ll know you’ve got the right setting.

    4. Test it out


      You should ideally test out your settings on pieces of scrap first. When you’ve confidence in it, go in for the next kill.

    5. The final weld


      When you’ve got the hang of it, bring the final project to the table. Join the metals together and grind down the edges to be welded together beforehand. Now in a sewing motion, weld together the pieces. You can follow that if you’re more comfortable in another kind of motion.

    6. Grind down the bump


      When you’re done, you’ll find a bump where the welding was done. You can choose to grind it down with a grinding wheel on an angle grinder or keep it as is. Voila! You’re done with your first MIG weld!

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