If you’re having unique or complex parts built, you’re more than likely using a metal fabricator to help get the job done. But all too often, we’ve seen engineers receive finished parts that weren’t fabricated correctly — either the wrong material was used, or the tolerances were off, or it didn’t function how it was supposed to once assembled — you name it.
One way you can avoid these setbacks is by understanding how your metal fabricator approaches building your parts.
In this blog, we’ll go over the differences between MIG and TIG welding so that you know when they should be used, and provide you with an example of what we’re talking about.
Each method has its pros and cons depending on the material being worked with, and understanding how they are used could help you get parts you need — every single time.
Let’s dive in.
MIG Welding vs. TIG Welding
Metal Inert Gas (MIG), also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), uses a semi-automatic or automatic arc to weld. In this process, an electric arc forms between an electrode and a metal. To perform the weld, the arc is formed between the metal and a continuously fed filler electrode. The MIG welding process requires a direct current positive electrode (DCEP), also known as reverse polarity.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) is technically called “gas tungsten arc welding” (GTAW). This process of welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to deliver the current to the welding arc. Having an inert gas (typically argon) will protect and cool the tungsten and weld puddle. TIG welding uses a filler material for build-up or reinforcement.
Advantages, Disadvantages, and Applications of Each Method
Each method has its advantages and disadvantages depending on the project and the material. Here’s a quick overview of them:
- TIG welding is typically viewed as having a stronger weld strength when compared to MIG welding.
- MIG welding is the faster of the two methods, which helps create shorter production times.
- TIG is the clear winner here as it is known to have better precision and weld aesthetics than MIG.
- TIG welded joints are stronger than MIG welded joints. TIG welders can better penetrate the metal. Along with that, the TIG weld beads contain fewer holes and other defects that can negatively affect the weld.
- Now for the big one, cost. MIG is typically faster than TIG welding, therefore lowering the cost of production time.
Now that you know more about the advantages and disadvantages of each method, let’s discuss which method should be used based on the material you need welded.
MIG welding is known to be best for materials ranging from 24-gauge up to 1”+ thick. It is best suited for aluminum, carbon steel, and stainless steel. MIG welding can also work with other alloys, as well as combination metals.
TIG welding is known for its precision and clean welds, but it excels at welding the following materials: Steel, stainless steel, chromoly, aluminum, nickel alloys, copper, magnesium, brass, bronze, and gold.
Why You Should Check Which Your Fabricator Uses
You should check which your fabricator uses because it could save you money, hassle, and provide you with a better product in the end. So how do you make sure your fabricator is using the correct method for your budget, and what affects that decision?
Material compatibility is another important factor to consider when selecting a fabricator for your job. As mentioned earlier, MIG and TIG welding are best for different materials. Some may overlap between the two, but you should consult with your fabricator on which method would be better for the material used in your part.
For example, either method can work on stainless steel, so deciding which method is right for you could depend on factors such as the thickness of the stainless steel, the appearance preferred for the weld, and the cost of the overall run of the project.
Project complexity is another big factor that should be considered when discussing the method to be used with your fabricator. TIG welding is known to be a more complex method that requires greater precision and experience than MIG welding.
As you already know — time is money, which is why you should check with your fabricator to see which method they will be using for your project. The amount of time a fabricator spends on your project will greatly affect the cost of your project.
To go along with project complexity, the fabricator’s skills and experience will also play a big role in whether or not they are the right fabricator for the job.
A skilled fabricator knows the right questions to ask about your project to get down to the correct technique that should be used. Along with suggesting the correct technique, a skilled fabricator can point out areas of improvement and make sure the project is completed to its full potential and with the highest quality welds.
Pro tip: If your fabricator is going to use the TIG method, you should make sure that they have the training and experience to properly execute the welds to provide you with the part you need. TIG welding often requires more skill because there are more issues to control, such as using two hands to weld and using a foot control.
Project scalability can also play a part in making sure you choose the right fabricator. If your demand increases for the project you are working on, will the fabricator be able to keep up while still providing a quality project?
As mentioned earlier, each method has its pros and cons, but deciding which method to use should be a discussion between you and your fabricator. If you are looking for a quicker weld, MIG might be your best choice. If you are looking for precision and superior weld strength, your fabricator should consider TIG welding.
Which Method is Best for Your Project?
There are a lot of factors that go into deciding whether your fabricator should be using MIG or TIG welding. It’s important to consult your metal fabricator on which welding technique will be best for your specific part.
At Impact Fab, we take time to discuss your project with you in-depth while discussing the method that will be used. Even if it means sending you to a different fabricator, we will do whatever it takes to make sure you get the part you need.
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