I don’t remember at what age I started welding. But what I clearly do remember is that it felt super confusing and messy at first. Relate with me? Sure you do.
It’s okay if you are finding yourself struggling to choose between TIG vs MIG welding. Most of us do. Both are arc welding techniques which have a lot in common. For example, both methods involve producing electric arc to heat, melt and fuse metals.
Both methods are profusely applied in several industries including, automotive, maritime, aerospace, plumbing, construction, and nuclear industries. To determine which is better, MIG or TIG welding, you need to get your basics right.
To help you do that, I shall start by defining the ins and outs of MIG and TIG welding for you. After that, we’ll move onto drawing the significant differences between these two techniques.
Here we go:
- MIG Welding: An Overview
- TIG Welding: An Overview
- What Is the Difference between MIG and TIG Welding? – Explained in Detail
- MIG vs TIG Welding: Which Is Better?
- Reviews of the Best MIG and TIG Welders on the Market in 2020
- Reviews of 3 Best MIG Welding Machines of 2020
- Reviews of 3 Best TIG Welding Machines of 2020
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
MIG Welding: An Overview
MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas, which is also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GTAW). The technique got its name due to the use of shielding gas and metal rod as the electrode in the process.
In MIG welding, the welder continuously feeds a consumable metal wire through a gun at a pre-selected speed to the welding zone. This builds up an arc that heats up the workpiece, melts it and joins it with the wire electrode.
Inert gas supply is used to protect the weld pool from atmospheric contamination. Carbon dioxide is the most commonly used shielding gas used in MIG welding due to its easy availability and low cost. The use of helium, argon, and oxygen is less common.
TIG Welding: An Overview
TIG or Tungsten Inert Gas Welding, in all honesty, is a work of art that requires a high level of skill and precision. I’d suggest using a pure tungsten rod as an electrode for aluminum welding. For this method, the welder has to feed the long tungsten rod with one hand and operate the torch with another.
The constant supply of current makes the rod conductive which consequently melts the workpiece. Using a filler metal is optional in autogenous welding. However, for methods that do require a filler, the welder has to dab the filler into the molten puddle with one hand.
He will also have to pulse a foot pedal constantly to control the heat input. TIG welding also needs the use of inert gas supply (Helium or Argon) to safeguard the weld from the ravaging effects of atmospheric gases. If done properly, TIG can produce neat, aesthetically superior welds with minimal to zero spatters.
What Is the Difference between MIG and TIG Welding? – Explained in Detail
There’s one way to put an end to the MIG vs TIG welding dilemma- clearly marking the differences side by side. Since the fundamentals of both techniques are similar, beginners can struggle to choose the right method for their welding project. That’s where I come to help. Below, I have focused on the different aspects of MIG and TIG welding:
MIG welding requires uses a flux-cored consumable metal wire as the electrode. The wire is continuously fed to the welding zone through a spool gun which results in fast-feeding.
In TIG, a long tungsten rod is fed by hand to the welding zone which is much longer. While this results in cleaner welds with minimal cleanup, this is not practical for high volume projects.
Another point to note here is that a feeding wire is optional for TIG but mandatory for MIG welding.
MIG welding uses a feed wire which is located right inside the gun and moves through it continuously to melt and form the weld.
TIG, on the other hand, uses long tungsten rods to fuse the two metals together directly. You also need to apply the filler by hand in case of TIG.
MIG arc is wider and covers a much wider area compared to its TIG counterpart. The heat, although higher than TIG in absolute terms, is spread out over a much larger space. Thus TIG is more suited for tasks requiring precision and deeper penetration of heat.
TIG is more efficient in general, because of its ability to generate more concentrated heat for the same amperage, resulting in finer welds.
Types of Shielding Gas Used
To protect the weld, TIG welding uses a mix of Helium and Argon gases as the shielding gas. The composition of the shielding gas is different for MIG welding, as it either uses plain Carbon Dioxide (CO2) or CO2 mixed with Argon.
Level of Difficulty and Control
TIG requires you to hold and constantly feed long Tungsten rods while welding is underway. This not only involves using both of your hands, but it’s also a highly technical process apart from being cumbersome. It requires a fair amount of skill and mastery to do properly.
In case of MIG welding, the feed wire is constantly and automatically fed through the welding machine itself. Therefore, the effort, skill, and precision needed from the welder are far less. MIG can be thought of as the ‘automatic transmission’ variant of welding, if TIG is considered as the ‘manual transmission’ version.
Metal Type and Thickness
TIG is mainly suited for thin or very thin metals, such as aluminum. It’s better to apply TIG welding on such thin metals instead of MIG, since the margin of error is very low. You can even fuse two dissimilar materials using this method.
MIG, on the other hand, can be used for both thin (where precision isn’t the top-most criterion) and thick metal plates like steel. MIG is more versatile than TIG as it also works great on aluminum, copper, magnesium, silicon bronze and several other types of metals.
Type of Current Used
DC current with a constant voltage is generally used with MIG welding. TIG welding can, however, be performed with both alternating (AC) and direct (DC) current.
Using DC with TIG welding results in a smoother output, thanks to a more stable arc, less spatter, and easier welding as a result.
Weld Bead Quality
TIG offers a significantly higher-quality bead. It’s tighter, uniform and spatter-free. An experienced MIG welder might come somewhat close, but can never match the bead quality of a decent TIG weld.
Other than a light polish, most TIG welds don’t require any other finishing work on them, as a result. In comparison, MIG welds tend to be bulkier and less tidy.
TIG welding, being a much slower process that focuses more on accuracy, also costs more than MIG welding. However, it’s not the consumables which add to the extra cost but the process itself, mainly due to the extra time involvement and the requirement of a highly experienced user.
Prep work is also less in case of MIG. It’s a viable low-cost, high-speed alternative to TIG welding when precision is not the need of the hour.
MIG vs TIG Welding: Which Is Better?
When it comes to cost, MIG wins the round easily. It’s significantly less expensive than TIG welding. It’s the same story when it comes to speed, as MIG is clearly the faster process among the two.
The ability to work with both thick and thin metals adds to the flexibility of MIG welding. MIG is the way to go for larger projects where a high production rate is a must.
TIG, on the other hand, is best suited for smaller projects where accuracy and finish matter more than anything else. It’s the best option for thin metals, which can break and get deformed very easily if you’re not careful with your MIG welder.
Apart from that, TIG saves you from having to worry about applying an additional layer of finishing on top of the weld in most cases.
For large-scale industrial production, MIG is the preferred option. Whereas trickier scenarios, say sculptures or other artistic objects demand the help of the more sophisticated and expensive TIG welding.
Reviews of the Best MIG and TIG Welders on the Market in 2020
Now that you have (hopefully) decided which welding method is ideal for your job, it’s time to get your hands on the right machine for the task. Welding tech has evolved immensely over the last decade. As an industry veteran who has had the opportunity to work with various machines over the years, I think I am qualified to offer some helpful insights.
To help you find the best MIG and TIG welder that match your skill level and welding needs, I have narrowed down your options to 6 models in total.
Reviews of 3 Best MIG Welding Machines of 2020
Here are my top 3 MIG Welders that effectively meet all the parameters of a high-performance welding machine:
If you are on the lookout for a medium-heavy unit that handles thicker metals with ease, this one definitely deserves your attention. With the SpoolRunner 100 gun (which needs to be purchased separately), this beast can fuse ¼” aluminum and ⅜” steel sheets at lightning speed.
You can even weld thicker metals by choosing the higher settings. The unit supports dual voltage- 115V domestic and 230V. I’d suggest choosing 230V to get the most out of this machine while handling thick metals.
The unit has a selector switch on it which allows you to manually switch between 4 and 8-inch reels. Its drive roll features 2 grooves for 0.030-0.035” wires. Most users have agreed that you should set it up with 0.030 flux core wire, irrespective of the material thickness.
The powerful little machine will let you swap the .030 with .035 if needed without having to change the rollers. Note that this unit can support up to 10 lbs spool inside.
Dual voltage support (115v-230v) and a 7 position voltage tap switch along with 20% duty cycle for 90 amps and 30% for 150 amps make this device suitable for most welding applications.
In this price range, most units require a separate tool for switching between two separate voltages. Setting up and getting started with 210 MVP is a cakewalk, in the truest sense of the term.
With its infinite wire speed control, incredible control, deep penetration and user-friendly interface, even someone with zero experience can churn out decent welds. With a little practice, you will be able to complete your tasks with minimal cleanup and spatter.
First-timers will get to learn a great deal about the different settings needed for different metal types and thicknesses from the extensive guide printed on the side of the machine.
The flexibility, power and remarkable arc steadiness that this unit offers make it suitable for professionals as well those who want a compact unit with a little extra capacity for small-scale commercial projects.
The small but hefty unit weighs about 79 pounds, meaning you will need a cart to move this machine around your workstation.
Hobart Handler 140 is a great lightweight, affordable MIG welder for beginners, hobbyists as well as small fabrication shop owners.
All you need is a flux core wire to get started with this machine right out of the box. The setup hassle is practically zero. If you want to weld with gas, just purchase a spool of solid wire and a gas tank. Then reverse the polarity on the welder and get started.
With the right wiring and gas combination, you will be able to weld stainless steel and steel sheets of varying thickness using this MIG welder. Fusing ¼” mild steel with 0.030 wire in a single pass shouldn’t be an issue.
While the 10 ft gun included with the welder can weld aluminum, it’s best used on mild steel. However, you can successfully weld aluminum without a spool gun by making a few small tweaks. For example, use argon gas, run a 0.035 aluminum wire and reduce the speed setting to 60.
Having said that, if you prefer to be precise, you should rather opt for the model that supports a spool gun.
Handler 140 is a dependable unit even for demanding tasks like automobile repair and pipe fabrication. You can tell that the makers have put a lot of effort into the build quality just by looking at the unit. The all-metal side panel, steel-forged outer shell as well as the build quality of the gun command respect.
The wire feed knob is extremely easy to turn. This means even a tiny movement could change the settings, so you got to be extra careful. I would have also preferred at least 7 voltage adjustments while this unit offers only 5. However, for DIY projects, this should be more than sufficient.
It is an entry-level MIG welder, easy to carry around and use for small-scale home projects. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles you’d find in professional-grade machines, but you will definitely get your money’s worth.
This unit is compatible with flux-core wire welding, which is fine if you are still learning the ropes. The torch wrap included with the unit can fit a .030 Tweco style tip. You shouldn’t have any problem using .035 wire with .035 tip as well, if needed.
The welder comes with all the basics you’ll need to get started, including a small amount of wire. You can easily switch between a 2 lb and a 10 lb spool on this device.
The package also includes two adapters: 20A and 15A and supports standard 120 voltage. With a decent output of 140 amp, it can handle a wide range of low to moderate-intensity projects. You can weld ½” to 3/16” mild steel and 11 g steel tubes with minimal spatter without much prior experience.
The dials are smooth and don’t lock into position, which means infinite voltage and feed speed control. I wasn’t seriously expecting this feature at this price point. A great touch indeed.
Special mention goes to the operating manual that explains different settings and material thickness combinations. The chart is the ultimate starter guide for anyone who wants to take up welding as a hobby without having to go through rigorous training.
My only beef with the machine is that it doesn’t support welding with gas. So you will have to stick to flux-cored welding only with this machine.
Reviews of 3 Best TIG Welding Machines of 2020
TIG welding is not for the faint-hearted but when done right, the results can make you go “mamma mia!”. As you might already know since we have already discussed, TIG welders cost considerably higher than MIG units. Finding a solid, feature-packed TIG welder at a reasonable price is not an easy feat. But after hours of relentless hovering around the web, you can find pretty much anything you want.
After some deep digging, I could finally zero in on 3 TIG welders that stood out for their attractive features, price-tag, and flawless performance.
The AlphaTIG is really an all-rounder in the mid-range welding machine category. It can weld anything from thin sheets of metal to even thick fillets. You can expect to weld not just aluminum, but every metal a standard TIG machine is capable of handling.
Though it’s priced very aggressively, it definitely fares well against much more expensive machines from top-tier brands like Miller and Lincoln. The high-frequency non-touch torch is great at forming arc without any contamination.
Additionally, no matter the thinness of the material, the precision of the welds is uncompromised, which is great to see at this price point. If you don’t prefer using the foot pedal, you have the choice to use the extremely useful finger switch.
There are multiple options to change the voltage, torch cup, tip size, and many other things. You can also tweak its settings to make it more suitable for various needs. Moreover, you can easily ramp up or bring down the amperage, tweak things like the pulse arc, square wave sizes, etc.
Although this mid-priced welder performs extremely well under a myriad of welding scenarios, it can’t match premium machines in certain segments like low amperage welding.
The supplied gas regulator is also not the best you can have. But you can definitely upgrade to a better aftermarket regulator to avoid leakage and other build quality-related issues down the line.
Dual voltage TIG welders are considered to be top-tier weldings machines. And we all know that no top-tier stuff comes cheap. The model I am reviewing is one of the best entry-level AC DC TIG welders you can find today. Here’s why:
It has hit the sweet spot between price and performance. The unit is compatible with both 120V and 240V, meaning you can use it anywhere to fuse different types of materials with ease. From varying thicknesses of stainless steel to thin cast aluminum, it can create tight welds on just about any material a standard TIG welder can handle.
Apart from the usual accessories, the package also includes a size #26 TIG torch whose build quality has left me pleasantly surprised. The build quality of the welder itself is top-notch. The switches are robust and controls are well laid out.
Every major component, from the foot pedal down to the gas regulator is engineered with a great deal of care. If this is your first TIG machine and you’re okay to pay the price for years of uninterrupted performance, give it a look. I mean it.
I have to admit that the learning curve for the unit is a bit steep. It does have a lot of features we don’t use for regular projects. But if you are a keen learner who wants to hone their skills, the possibilities are endless with this machine. If you are serious about welding, this machine will grow with you.
First-timers might find some features redundant. You might require a bit of practice and watch a couple of YouTube videos to fully grasp all the configurations. Apart from this minor drawback, I don’t see why I should not recommend this powerful and highly versatile welder.
The Weldpro offers more than just TIG welding. It’s a multi-process welder which simply means that it can handle TIG, MIG and Arc stick welding all in the same machine.
The price tag might raise your eyebrows but here’s the thing: Weldpro is still among the cheapest multi-process welders considering they belong to a premium segment of welders.
The model offers an enormous amount of accessories, attachments and features that help it live up to its ‘3-in-1’ tag. Its synergic adjusting feature determines the amperage and wire feed based on the welding process, which is perfect for beginners.
If TIG welding is your primary requirement, you won’t be disappointed since it comes with true-lift TIG welding. It can be used for TIG welding at between 15 – 120 Amperes, giving you enough room to work with different kinds of welds. One obvious benefit of lift TIG welding is the ability to braze dissimilar metals using the TIG brazing method.
Although it’s a great tool for beginners, it lacks the wide range of adjustment for technical things such as finer voltage and amperage adjustments that more premium models offer. Even for a beginner, the settings could take some getting used to.
Some of the safety features include high temperature and overload protection. Its dual digital display is a nice touch, which lets you easily set the voltage and amperage for repetitive welding tasks.
And while the build quality is not the best in the game, it does come with a decent two-year warranty, which secures your investment for some time.
There’s no major drawback with the Weldpro other than the limited adjustability for the wire feed, minor voltage adjustments and the average build quality. If you can live with those things, you’ll definitely get a very capable welder that’ll be ready for most types of welding and handle them with reasonable efficiency.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are a few TIG vs MIG welding-related queries I have answered to help you get more insights before you finalize your purchase:
1. MIG vs TIG – which one is the best welder for beginners?
MIG is the obvious choice for beginners, as it doesn’t require you to use both your hands at the same time and is a much faster and less tiring process.
2. MIG vs TIG – Which one gives you stronger welding?
TIG typically results in stronger welds than MIG welding. TIG welds are considered to be the highest-quality welds among all welding processes.
3. Is there any similarity between MIG and TIG welding?
They both can run on DC, and weld thin metals (although MIG does that with less accuracy). Some kind of shielding gas is required for both processes. Also, both are able to join only conductive metals.
As you can probably understand by now, both MIG and TIG welding have their places in the grand welding puzzle. One of them is not necessarily better than the other in all aspects, and which process you finalize upon depends on your personal requirements and budget.
For low budget, low accuracy, high production projects, MIG is hard to beat. However, for projects demanding precision and uniform output, TIG is the way to go, especially when budget is not the most important factor.