Welding Types – Explaining TIG, MIG and Stick Welding

Welding has a complex history that spans centuries of growth and development for both industrial and personal use. Cost of materials and efficiency of use have created many different methods and styles of equipment to be used in welding. The type of welding used varies based on the material, weather conditions, and skill of the welder.

The biggest evolution in welding has been narrowing the focus of the heat. Laser welding allows a very precise area to be melted and then solidified without effecting the surrounding area. Compare this to the old image of a blacksmith working in a forge and you can see how far along this process has come.

Welding with a laser is very expensive but there are various other types of welding that are more accessible and still incredibly effective. Three of the common types of welding I’m going to discuss are:

  • TIG Welding
  • MIG Welding
  • Stick Welding

Each of these methods are appropriate for different situations.  Although there are more welding types than just this list, lets take a deeper look at these three types to determine which should be used for each situation.

TIG Welding

TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas. The technical name is Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW). In this type of welding, a non-consumable tungsten electrode is used to bring the current to the weld. Both the tungsten and the weld area are protected by an inert gas, commonly argon, to prevent any atmospheric contamination.

Developed in the 1940’s, TIG welding was mainly used as a quicker way to weld airplane parts. It is still used on airplanes today, along with bike frames, race car parts, and golf clubs among many other things.

The application of TIG welding would normally be used on stainless steels, nickel alloys, aluminum, magnesium, titanium, cobalt, and copper alloys. Something that distinguishes TIG welding machines is the use of a “throttle” to control the amperage. This feature allows you to soft start and soft stop the heat from the machine.

The process is similar to using an oxyacetylene torch, in that you will be using a filler rod. The rod is being fed with one hand while the other guides the torch. The process can be slightly slower than other types of welding and it is important that the metal is very clean. However, TIG welding is one of the most versatile types of welding and can be used on almost any type of metal. Click here to take a look at some videos about the process of TIG welding.

MIG Welding

MIG welding is Metal Inert Gas welding, also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW). In this process a wire connected to a source of direct current acts as an electrode to heat and join the metals. To protect the work area from contaminates a shield gas is passed through the welding gun at the same time.

Similar to TIG welding, MIG welding was developed in the 1940’s but was primarily used for welding aluminum and other non-ferrous metals. Developing further over the next couple decades, MIG welding has become the most common industrial welding process.

Because it uses a shielding gas, MIG welding is more susceptible to outdoor conditions like wind and rain. The machines are usually a little more complex and do require their own learning curve. However, once comfortable with the process, MIG welding is known for its speed and efficiency since you only need to use one hand while welding.

MIG welding is used a lot in the automobile industry because it is able to create long, continuous welds with little splatter. For more information and several videos check out this page from weldingtipsandtricks.com.

Stick Welding

Stick welding’s more formal name is Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW). Probably the most accessible from both a budgetary and skill level, stick welding is very versatile due to its portability and reliability. The weld is created when an arc is struck between the electrode and the work piece, creating a weld pool and depositing a consumable metal electrode into the joint.

The protective coating of the electrode acts a shield to prevent any atmospheric contamination. This makes stick welding a more accessible practice for outdoor uses or other situations where wind and other contaminates could cause you difficulty.

Developed earlier than both TIG and MIG welding, stick welding became more accessible in the 1920’s but continues to develop its speed and efficiency. Stick welding is primarily used on irons and steels but can also be used on other materials such as aluminum and copper alloys. Another benefit to stick welding is that the metal does not have to be as clean as when using TIG or MIG welding.

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