Comparing Welding Types: TIG vs. MIG vs. Stick vs. Arc

Today, there are several types of welding processes some of which are quite simple while others are somehow complicated. There are, however, four standard welding processes that every beginner welder should be aware of. These are;

Each of these processes have unique benefits and shortcomings, as there is nothing like” best process” and in addition to this,no single welding process can be suitable for all applications. As such, it is important for you to have a better understanding of these 4 processes to establish which one best suit your needs.

With that in mind, this article will equip you with a better understanding of these specific welding processes, how each process works, application of each process, and some of the advantages and disadvantages that come with each process. This will assist you in matching your needs to a specific process.

Let’s get started!

MIG Welding: An Overview of MIG Welding; How does it Work?

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MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding is a relatively simple process to learn and you will only require a short period of time to master the basic concepts. Ideally, the complex concepts of MIG largely involve setting the parameters of the welder and choosing the right shielding gas.

MIG uses a specialized gun to feed a line of electrodes at a constant, predetermined speed. This action creates an arc between the electrode and metal you want to weld, which melts the wire and fuses it with the base metal resulting into a strong weld.

This welding process also involves a shielding gas which protects the weld area from atmospheric contaminants such as Oxygen and Nitrogen which can damage the welding metal, the electrode or the arc if they come into contact.

Application of MIG Welding

MIG welding is a straightforward process which means that it can be applied in many situations and it can be used to weld thin and thick layers of metals.

Most MIG welders have a wide range of power output which enables you to regulate the amount of power so that you can work on thin metals without running the risk of a burn-through.

In the same way, you can increase the amount of power to enable you work on thick metals resulting into strong,great looking welds.

Benefits of MIG Welding

  • Wide application.
  • It generates aesthetically appealing welds hence it can be used for making sculptures.
  • The welding gun is easy to use and to control as you only have to pull the trigger to start the feeding process and release the trigger to stop.
  • In addition to this, the gun holds all the material you require for welding.

Downsides of MIG Welding

  • Not strong enough for certain materials such as cast iron.
  • It tends to be too powerful on some metals such as aluminum.
  • It requires that you use clean materials.
  • It cannot be used in wet or windy setup.

TIG Welding: An Overview of TIG welding; How does it Work?

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TIG welding is also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW). This welding process is more sophisticated as compared to MIG. This welding process involves a TIG torch/gun that comes with a non-consumable tungsten electrode which is used to heat up the weld material resulting into a weld.

The ability to control the torch, using the right current and operating at the right speed is what is what makes this process physically demanding. This requires that you use both hands and a foot pedal which can sometimes be tricky but it produces precise welds when done correctly.

The ability to control the torch, using the right current and operating at the right speed is what is what makes this process physically demanding. This requires that you use both hands and a foot pedal which can sometimes be tricky but it produces precise welds when done correctly.

Just like MIG, the weld area must be kept free from contamination by a shielding gas, in most cases,argon is used,and sometimes a filler metal is used instead.

As mentioned earlier, the process involves a non-consumable electrode hence no feeding is involved and as a result, you don’t have to replace the electrode. You will only be required to refill the gas tank as a standard maintenance procedure.

Application of TIG Welding

TIG can be used to weldmany materials although it is limited to materials of certain thickness. It works perfectly on thin metal resulting into precise welds that require very minimal cleaning.

The tungsten electrode used in TIG welding is thinner than the ones used in other processes allowing you to come up with thin and precise welds.

This process works with many materials such as stainless steel, alloy steel and non-ferrous metals like magnesium, copper, and aluminum, but unfortunately, it does not work on cast iron.

TIG welding is the perfect choice for short-run technical welds as long runs projects tends to be more complicated and costly. So if your task involves something small like repairing a sink, you are better off with TIG. In addition to this, this process is preferred for most automotive projects and artwork like designing ornaments.

Benefits of TIG Welding

  • The cleanest process and it does not produce splatter or waste.
  • It produces aesthetically appealing and precise welds.
  • The foot pedal allows you to control heat input.
  • High degree of precision is possible with TIG.
  • Perfect for automotive fabrication.

Downsides of TIG Welding

  • It is time-consuming, takes time to master the art hence it is not beginner friendly. As such beginners are advised to start off with other processes as they take time to advance to TIG.

Stick Welding: An Overview of Stick Welding; How does it Work?

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Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW) popularly known as stick welding has been practiced for many years and has been the most popular welding process for workshop and home-related welding projects.

It is a simple process that involves a consumable and flux coated electrode where the welding arc is created between the electrode and the working materials.  The power supplied heats up the electrode making it to melt, and that heat intensity is what join all the parts together. You will be required to replace the electrode frequently during the welding session.

The flux coating is disintegrated to surround the weld area which acts as a form of protection from contaminants, eliminating the need for inert gases.

Most stick welders are available in DC, AC, or AC/DC depending on the type of metal being welded.  Stick welding is an economical welding process which produces strong welds and it is capable of working on rusty and dirty metals.

Application of Stick Welding

Stick welding has wide application in the construction industry due to the nature of its strong welds. It works perfectly on thick materials including some of the materials that might prove impossible with other welding processes such as the cast iron.

It is also appropriate for other heavy-duty applications such as heavy repairs, heavy steel constructions,and pipes. It also works perfectly on most alloys and joints and the good thing is that this method can be used indoors or outdoors, in very unfavorable conditions, like strong wind.

As we mentioned earlier, stick welding is great for thick materials and it can weld metals of 1/16” or even more. As such it is a good choice for everyone from a DIYer for various maintenance chores to hobbyists.

Benefits of Stick Welding

  • Great for thick materials
  • Produces strong welds
  • Can be used in bad weather
  • Appropriate for heavy-duty construction tasks.
  • It works well on the tough cast iron.
  • No shielding gas is required
  • Works with all current types

Downsides of Stick Welding

  • Not appropriate for thinner materials because the high amount of heat can burn through the workpieces
  • Some clean-up is required to clear the flux.
  • The need to change the electrode impairs productivity
  • Leaves behind some slag and spatter.

Arc Welding: An Overview of Arc Welding; How does it Work?

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The last welding process is the arc welding which is also known as flux-core welding. Arc welding is very similar to MIG welding in that both processes use a consumable electrode that requires to be fed constantly with wires in order for it to form a welding arc.

These two processes differs in that while the arc welding uses a flux core to produce the shielding gas,the  MIG uses an external gas source.

In addition, the arc welding features a concept known as dual-shielded welding which makes use of an external gas source to supplement the flux core forming a second shield.

Just like other processes that use a consumable electrode, you will have to change it every now and then and also you don’t have to refill the gas if you just intend to use single shielding.

Application of Arc Welding

Arc welding generates a lot of heat and as such, you should consider using it on thick and heavy materials that can withstand such heat without running the risk of a burn through

As such it is majorly used for heavy repair and machinery alongside other similar equipment such heavy steel construction.

Benefits of Arc Welding

  • Very efficient with just little clean-up
  • Allows for out-of-position welding.

Downsides of Arc Welding

  • Not recommended for thin metals as the extra heat can easily lead to a burn-through.
  • This process leaves a slag behind so you will still need to do some cleaning.

In Conclusion….

Maybe you are asking yourself this question, “So which process do I use?”

Actually, well would say “it depends!”

If you need a process that is easy to learn and for doing bodywork then you are better off with MIG. TIG allows you to have better control and it produces aesthetically pleasing welds with great precision.

If you want to produce strong welds, then stick and arc welding will come in handy also allowing you to work in unfavorable conditions.

All in all, the final decision is yours to make but you may want to ensure that you go with a process that fits your needs the most.

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