TIG vs. MIG Welding – What’s the Difference?
There are various welding processes that you can use for your projects, and because they are as different as the welds they create. you need to make sure that you choose something that suits your particular situation.
The four most common welding processes are stick, arc, TIG and MIG welding, but the last two are the most confusing given their many similarities.
Many people tend to have difficulties deciding whether to go for TIG or MIG welders, but this often mostly due to lack of enough information on what each offers and how they differ.
In this guide, we aim to expand your understanding of the two welding processes by highlighting their main differences.
TIG Welding Overview
TIG or the tungsten inert gas welding makes use of a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce the electric arc that will be required to make the weld. This welding process is more complicated than the MIG welding and will hence come with a steeper learning curve.
Also unlike MIG welding, you will not need to add any additional metal when welding, but if you want to you can still add the additional metal by using a separate filler rod.
With the TIG welding, the weld will be done through an electric current that will be released on the electrode's metal tip. And the welding can either be automatic or manual depending on the particular tools you are using.
Overall, the main components required for TIG welding are the AC or DC power source as it can use either, a TIG torch, the foot pedal that controls the electricity that goes to the torch, electrode and gas shielding, backing bars and the optional filler material.
The welds that you get with the TIG welding will be more aesthetically appealing, and the welding process also tends to be cleaner with little to no splatter. Many users will appreciate the precision that this welding process delivers.
However, TIG welding comes with a steeper learning curve and might not be very ideal for beginners. Also, this welding process tends to be relatively more expensive when compared to MIG welding.
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MIG Welding Overview
MIG which stands for the Metal Inert Gas is a relatively simpler welding process that anyone can learn within a short time which makes it perfect for novice welders.
This welding process will make use of a special gun to feed a consumable electrode at a predetermined speed. With this welding action, an arc is created between the electrode and metal that you are welding, and hence melting the wire before fusing it with the base metal to create a strong weld.
There will also be a shielding gas for this welding process to protect the weld from oxygen and other atmospheric contaminants that can damage the electrode, welding metal or arc. Besides the shielding gas, other components of MIG welders include a DC power source, consumable electrode, welding torch, conduit, and filler metal.
Overall MIG welding is also more affordable when compared to the TIG process, and it will also be more ideal for a wider variety of welding applications which makes it more versatile. Better yet, with this welding process, there will be less post-welding maintenance required.
But despite the increased versatility, the MIG welders will not work with as many materials as TIG, and they are also not very good for use in wet or windy conditions.
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How it Works
Non-consumable tungsten electrode is used to heat the material to create a weld puddle
Uses a spool gun to feed wire electrode at a constant speed and also emits shielding gas when welding
Electrode Type Used
Non-consumable tungsten electrode
Consumable metallic electrode
AC or DC
Welding kitchen sinks, toolboxes, pipe welding, and other heavy welding tasks
Welding mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum and different material thickness from thinner gauge sheet metal to heavy gauge metal plates
Up to 5 mm
Up to 40 mm
Ease of Use
Steeper learning curve
Easier to learn and use
TIG vs. MIG Welding
What you choose between the TIG and MIG welding processes will have a huge impact on the outcome of your project, and so you cannot afford to make the wrong decision. But besides knowing the projects that each will be good for, you also need to understand their other differences. Here is an overview of these differences.
1. How it Works
The first thing and also what should be obvious for potential users is that the two welding processes use a relatively different work mechanism which is the main factor that sets them apart.
A typical TIG welding set up will consist of a power source, TIG torch, foot pedal, electrode and gas shielding, backing bars and the filler material.
TIG is an arc-based welding process just like MIG, but instead of the consumable electrode that the latter uses, it will use a non-consumable one. When welding you will have independent control over the three main components are heat, gas, and filler which allows for more welding precision.
MIG welding will include shielding gas, a power source, consumable electrode, welding torch, conduit, and filler metal.
These welders are designed to use a spool gun to feed a spooled electrode wire at a constant speed. This action results in an arc between the electrode and the metal that you are welding which is what then melts the wire and fuses it with the base metal to form a weld. These welding machines also emit a shielding gas to protect the welded area.
2. Electrode Used
Besides the difference in the working mechanism, these welding processes will also use different kinds of electrodes.
TIG welding uses the non-consumable tungsten electrodes which means they will not be used up when welding. And so with this welding process, you will only need to refill the gas and add more filler if you still prefer to use it.
MIG welding will use a consumable metal electrode which also doubles up as the filler, and so you will need to have several electrodes when welding which often means extra cost for you.
3. Power Source
While both the TIG and MIG welders are electric tools that will require plugging in to operate, they do not entirely use the same power source.
TIG is built to cater to almost any kind of user, and so they will allow you to choose between DC and AC. With these welders, you can handle almost any type of material as you will be able to use the current that suits it which is a significant advantage.
When using the MIG welders, you will not have this advantage as they will use DC with reverse polarity. But, given that DC is suitable for welding most common metals, this might not be a very significant shortcoming for many users.
4. Best Uses
There are various kinds of projects that might require you to do some welding, and there are also various materials to deal with. But, different welding processes will also be ideal for different projects. Hence, as you try to choose between the TIG and MIG welders, you need to understand the best uses of each.
The TIG welding process works with a wide variety of materials from stainless steel to non-ferrous metals like copper and magnesium which means it will be very useful for a wide variety of projects.
However, it is often best suited for short technical welds as using it for larger projects can be quite expensive and more complicated. Hence, if the jobs you are doing entail short and simple things like tools boxes, sinks and pipes it will be perfect.
In addition to this, TIG is often the most preferred welding process for artwork and crafts that requires welds and for automotive projects.
MIG welding is a more straightforward affair when compared to TIG. And this means it will be perfect for everything from hobbyists and DIY tasks to professional use.
Also, you can use this welding process for both thin and heavy gauge metals, and it will be ideal for different kinds of metals from mild steel to aluminum. And unlike TIG, some models will also excel at welding cast iron.
Because MIG welder tends to be easier to manage than the TIG welders, they can also handle longer production runs and will also work much faster. Overall, these welders are better suited for bigger projects.
5. Metal Thickness
As you try to decide which between these two welding processes to go for, you will also need to know the metal thickness that each can handle.
Overall, the MIG welders will be ideal for both thin and thick metals as they have more effective power regulation. Hence, you can easily reduce the power to ensure you can weld thinner metals without the risk of burning through it. All in all, MIG can handle material that is up to 40 mm thick which means it will be ideal for almost any welding job.
TIG welders, on the other hand, seem to excel when it comes to thin metals and will not work very well with thicker metals and certain metals types like cast iron. A good TIG welder should be able to handle metals that are up to 5 mm thick.
6. Ease of Use
Since the MIG and TIG welders will differ in the mode of operation, it should also be clear that they will also differ when it comes to ease of use.
With that said, the MIG welders will be much easier to use when compared to the TIG welders, and even novice users will not have any difficulties figuring out the basics and should master the technique after just a few uses.
TIG welders will require you to hold the torch with one hand and the filler with the other, and it will also require precise timing and coordination which can make welding a harder task especially for the inexperienced users.
Cost is always a factor when trying to decide which welding process to choose, and so it should always be at the top of the mind. And here, you will need to watch out for both the initial purchase cost of the welder and the cost of operating it.
Overall, TIG is a more expensive welding process than MIG because some welders can cost as much as double what you would pay for the latter.
While you can get a simple MIG welder for as little as $100, you will need to spend at least $300 to get a simple TIG welder. And if you prefer the high-end and more feature-rich welding machines, expect to spend around $400 on MIG and upwards of $700 for TIG.
Your choice of welding process will have a huge impact on the outcome of your project, and so you cannot afford to go wrong. And when it comes to picking between the TIG and MIG welder, knowing their key differences should make your choice easier.
These differences will include things like how they work, speed, the electrodes they use, metal thickness and the cost of buying and operating the welders.
From these differences, the TIG welding process will be more appropriate for more experienced welders looking for something highly precise for short-run projects. And the MIG will be more ideal for continuous production runs and novice users as it is easier to master.