TIG welding and MIG welding both use electric arcs, filler metals and shielding gasses to create a weld. But their techniques, applications and finishes are quite different. As with any welding project, success depends on choosing the right processes and equipment, so we created a list of reasons to choose TIG welding over MIG welding. (Click here for the reasons to choose MIG welding over TIG welding.)
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If MIG welding is known for quantity, TIG is its quality counterpart. It produces a fine, clean, beautifully crafted weld that’s the clear winner when details matter. It works very well on a wide variety of thinner-gauge materials like aluminum and stainless steel alloys, and is the process of choice for fine-tuned smaller projects like gunsmithing, tool boxes, repairs or ornamental pieces. It’s also growing in popularity across larger industries that require precision parts and equipment like transportation, aerospace and the military.
TIG welding can achieve this level of precision because the operator has more control over the gun vs. MIG welding. Unlike the MIG gun, which contains both the electrode and filler metal in one system, TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to form the arc. The filler metal must be added in separately, which allows the operator to precisely control the speed and depth of the weld.
Detail also comes from the operator’s control over the heat of the arc. Using a foot pedal, the heat can be brought down so that it doesn’t cause damage to thin, fine metals. As you can imagine, however, this level of precision doesn’t come quickly or easily. Using two hands and a foot takes more specialized training and experience than operating a MIG gun — it also takes a lot longer to create the weld.
TIG welding is a cleaner process on a number of levels. In the weld itself, the manual control of the filler metal eliminates the spatter that can come from MIG. And sometimes, TIG can be performed without using filler metal at all.
TIG welding is also better for the environment, and for its operators. MIG welding can cause a lot of smoke, fumes, and even sparks.
TIG welding is used in high-tech, high-impact industries like automotive and aerospace because of its ability to produce strong, quality welds on thin materials. Since the operator has manual control over the filler metal, the beads can be much smaller and cause less disruption in the surrounding metal. And control over the heat output means that the weld can be strong without burning through the parent metal and requiring rework.
TIG welding setups do use consumables, and they do need to be cleaned between jobs. In fact, a pristine torch, workpiece and workspace are essential to achieving the artistic finish that so many people love about TIG. But, since it doesn’t use a continuously fed wire, TIG welding eliminates the headaches that can come with using a number of moving parts, such as contact tip burnback and bird nesting.