19 Sep 2023

What’s the difference between MIG and TIG welding?
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MIG & TIG Welding Explained

TIG and MIG are two of the most commonly used types of welding. Whilst both of these methods have their unique set of advantages, their use cases are different. We’re here to dive into the differences between TIG and MIG welding, so you’ll know how to identify them, as well as know which of these methods may work best for your welding project.

What is MIG welding?

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, is also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW). It involves using a continuous solid wire electrode that’s fed through a welding gun. The wire is consumed, while an inert gas is used to shield the weld area from atmospheric contamination and aid the welding process. 

MIG welding is known for its high speed and versatility, and is commonly used in industries such as ductwork fabrication, construction, and other forms of engineering. MIG welding is typically used to weld denser materials, or for projects that will take longer to complete.

What are the advantages of MIG welding?

1. It’s fast

The continuously-fed electrode during a MIG weld is what makes the process generally faster than other welding methods. The electrode is generally fed through a welding machine or spool-gun MIG torch.

2. It’s easy to pick up

At least compared to the likes of TIG and stick welding. MIG is (generally) easier for beginners because getting set up is far simpler – you really only need a wire feed system, a welding gun, and a gas cylinder – making the process relatively straightforward in terms of set-up.

3. Less passes required

MIG welding allows you to deposit a larger amount of welded metal in each pass of the MIG torch. While this advantage may be less noticeable if you’re doing a small weld, it becomes far more noticeable when doing long, intricate welds. Plus, fewer passes not only save time but also enhance overall efficiency, which is particularly advantageous for welding professionals, as it can make your project far more profitable.

4. It looks great

Sometimes, aesthetics matter. At least that can be the case depending on the client we work with. If you want your welds to look flawless – then with good technique, you can create a virtually mess-free weld that looks amazing.

What are the disadvantages of MIG welding?

1. May not be suitable for thicker welds

MIG is known for its versatility, but it may not be the best for thick welds. You may need to use flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) or submerged arc welding (SAW) instead.

2. Can look unattractive

Obviously, the higher your skill level, the better a MIG weld (or any weld for that matter!) will look. However, whilst it’s easy to pick up MIG welding, it can be harder to master and achieve that clean look.

3. Limited positioning

MIG welding is suitable for flat and horizontal welding positions, it can be more challenging for vertical and overhead welding.

What is TIG welding?

Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW). TIG welding involves the use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the weld. The electrode creates an “arc”, and separate filler material may be used to join the materials together.

TIG welding is highly versatile and is commonly used for precision welding when it comes to our fabrication projects. It’s great for bespoke solutions and it allows our welders to create intricate and high-quality welds. TIG welding is known for its ability to create clean, aesthetically pleasing welds and is even popular among the welding art community.

What are the advantages of TIG welding?

1. Weld various types of metals and alloys

If you need to weld aluminium, copper, stainless steel and the like, then a TIG weld is often favoured. 

2. Great for clean welds

TIG welding is great if you need precision, which is great for immaculate welds, especially when aesthetics are an important factor for clients. TIG welding empowers welders to meticulously manage the temperature of the weld puddle, affording them exact control over the formation of the weld bead. 

What are the disadvantages of TIG welding?

1. It can be a slow process

TIG welding is one of the slowest welding methods, which can feel laborious if you’re working on a fairly big project. This is because the machine deposits metal at a slower rate than other methods.

2. There’s a big learning curve

TIG welders need a high level of skill for good welds. Mastery of TIG welding isn’t just about technical proficiency but also finesse in the manipulation of welding equipment. Welders need steady hands and impeccable hand-eye coordination to craft flawless, high-quality welds. Plus, the welder’s ability to completely control the deposition of filler metal and the torch’s movement speed along the joint assumes pivotal importance in consistently achieving welds that are both precise and visually pleasing.

MIG and TIG welding – a comparison

1. The process

MIG welding is a semi-automatic process where the welding wire is continuously fed through the welding gun. TIG welding, on the other hand, is a manual process where the welder controls the welding wire more directly.

2. The speed

MIG welding is generally faster than TIG welding, making it a preferred choice for high-production projects. TIG welding, on the other hand, is slower but provides greater precision and control.

3. The weld’s appearance

MIG welding tends to produce a less aesthetically appealing weld compared to TIG welding. TIG welding produces cleaner, smoother welds, making it ideal for applications where appearance matters.

4. The materials used

MIG welding is suitable for a wide range of materials, including steel, stainless steel, and aluminium. TIG welding is particularly effective for welding exotic metals, thin materials, and non-ferrous metals like copper and brass.

5. Skill required

MIG welding is generally easier to learn and master compared to TIG welding. TIG welding requires more skill and practice to achieve consistent and high-quality welds.

6. Cost

MIG welding equipment is generally more affordable compared to TIG welding equipment. Additionally, MIG welding wires tend to be less expensive than TIG welding filler rods.

7. Strength 

TIG welding often yields stronger welds compared to MIG welding due to its narrow, concentrated arc, which facilitates superior metal penetration. However, MIG welding can also achieve robust welds with techniques like grinding or cutting a V-shaped groove into the joint before welding.

Which is better – MIG or TIG welding?

This is quite difficult to answer, as TIG and MIG welds are used in different applications and cases. If aesthetics and strength are important, a TIG weld may be more suitable, but if you require a project to be done quickly, then a MIG weld may be better. MIG is also an easier welding method, so if your welder doesn’t know TIG yet, then MIG will usually suffice depending on the project.

When should I use a MIG or TIG weld?

MIG welding is great for sheet metal welding (such as our high integrity ductwork) and thick materials, whereas TIG is useful for thin materials and alloys.

Frequently asked questions about MIG and TIG welding

Is MIG or TIG welding better for beginners?

MIG welding is better for beginner welders – and is even used by hobbyists and artists! TIG welding, whilst more aesthetically pleasing to look at, has a far steeper learning curve and requires a good amount of patience, steady hands and skill to learn.

Is MIG or TIG cheaper?

MIG is often a cheaper form of welding compared to TIG, because the latter is much slower and uses slow deposit rates. It also requires much longer working hours to complete, but depending on the job, a TIG weld may be more suitable, especially if you’re working with thinner metal.

What is the easiest welding to learn?

MIG welding is easier to learn than TIG. This is because MIG welders use a feed wire that runs through the machine at a pre-selected speed, making the process relatively fast and producing consistent welds the more you get used to it.

We hope this has given you a well-rounded view of MIG and TIGH welding. We use all kinds of welding techniques here at Airmatic, because after all – no project is the same. Need to talk to us about your ductwork or welding needs? Contact Airmatic today to find out more. 

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