What is MIG Welding? – 5 Important Things To Know

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MIG welding is very popular both among professional welders and hobby welders alike. That is because it is a very strong method of welding and is also fairly easy to use. It uses inert gas to ensure the quality of the welding, as well as two base materials and solid wire to make the welding very strong.

What is MIG welding? MIG welding is the process of using solid wire into base materials to create a strong bond. It also uses a shielding, inert gas to protect the welding from contamination. MIG stands for metal inert gas, which indicates the metal and gas used in the process.

MIG welding is great for many purposes, including small workshop projects, detailed work, and welding that involves many different types of metals. It also has many advantages and disadvantages depending on what you are using it for. Here you can find information about why you would want to use MIG welding and what you should and should not use it for.

what is mig welding?

What is MIG Welding Used For?

Here is a fantastic intro on what MIG welding is, and what it’s used for. Enjoy!

MIG welding has many different purposes, but for the most part, it is suited to doing detailed and small-scale work. It is great for preserving quality and high productivity because of the small machine required to weld it, and the metals that make it extremely strong. Some of the more specific uses for MIG welding are:

  • Fabricating small structures: When fabricating small structures using welding, MIG welding is used to provide detail and quality in the weld without damaging the structure. It is also a very clean way of welding and therefore does not produce as many chemical by-products during the process.
what is MIG welding?
  • Using various metals and alloys: MIG welding has the capability to work very well with all different kinds of metals and alloys. Because of the shielding gas that is used during the process, all the materials are protected. No matter how different they are, they remain clean and undamaged. This makes it an all-purpose and varied method of welding.
  • First-time welders: MIG welding is great for first-time or hobby welders because it is not that complicated as a process, and you can produce very good welds without all that much skill. This makes it attractive as it does not require courses or training, and it can be done rather easily. And once you advance in your welding skills, you can still use MIG welding for higher-level work.
  • Detailed work: MIG welding uses a small handgun and creating a strong weld does not require too much skill. Because of this, welders can focus more on craftsmanship, and this allows them to create much more detailed and delicate welds. Many small workshop welders use MIG welding because it allows them to be very creative.
What is mig welding used for?

For the most part, MIG welding is extremely versatile and a method of welding that can be used by everyone. Whether you are just messing around at home, or are an artisan welder doing detailed work, MIG welding is a method that will produce great results.

But even though MIG welding is best suited for small scale, strong work, it is not very great for thin material. MIG welding produces a relatively thicker weld, as opposed to TIG welding which would be much better suited to thin sheets of metal or steel.

What is the Difference Between a MIG and TIG Welder?

In the vast realm of welding, there are many ways to weld. Each different way to weld suits a different purpose, and it is no different four MIG and TIG welding. They have their similarities and small differences, and one is better to use over the other depending on what kind of work you are doing.

What is TIG Welding?

what is tig welding?

Firstly, for an in-depth look at what TIG welding is, check out our article on it here.

MIG and TIG welding methods are very similar but also extremely different in the way that they perform the welding process.

TIG welding is the use of non-cancerous tungsten electrodes, which are used to send an electrical current to the welding arc. During the process, the materials are protected by an inert gas, and after welding, the weld is cooled down and stabilized using an inert gas.

TIG welding is much more suited to delicate and thin pieces of metal and uses a different method of producing heat. It also uses the inert gases in slightly different ways to MIG welding and uses tungsten specifically rather than any random metal. MIG and TIG welding are very similar but serve slightly different purposes.

Neither method is better or worse than the other, it just depends on what kind of welding you want to do.

Differences Between MIG and TIG Welding

differences between mig and tig welding

The key differences are in the way that the arc is used in the welding, in the usage of the inert gas, and in the type of material that is used. MIG and TIG welding both use an electrical arc, shielding gases, as well as the solid wire. The differences in the usage are:

  • Arc usage: MIG welding uses a solid piece of wire that is constantly fed through the gun, and then it melts to form the weld. TIG welding, on the other hand, uses heated rods diffuse metals directly together. In the end, it all comes down to the type of job you are doing and what kind of finish you want on your weld.
  • Shielding gases: TIG welding uses inert gas not only to shield the metals from contamination during the welding process. It is also used to cool them down and stabilize them after the welding process. MIG welding, on the other hand, only uses the inert gas to shield the metals during the welding process.
  • Material type: TIG welding stands for tungsten inert gas, and this form of welding uses tungsten electrodes instead of metal wire. In MIG welding, whatever metal or arc you choose is passed between the base metals. Whereas in TIG welding, a tungsten electrode is used to deliver an electric current to the welding arc.

The key difference you will need to remember is that TIG and MIG welding are used for slightly different purposes. MIG welding is used for small scale work that requires solid quality. On the other hand, TIG welding is used for extremely delicate welding materials, like thin sheets of stainless steel or aluminium.

What Do I Need for MIG Welding?

For most people, welding can be daunting especially as a beginner. But even though it seems complicated and rather dangerous, if you have the right tools and materials it is not that hard.

You will also need certain welding specific protective gear, as the by-products of welding can be harmful and very toxic. Some of the basic items that you will need when you begin MIG welding are:

  • Welder: When you are starting out, you will want to buy and invest in a decent welder. A good welder can cost anywhere from $200 to $600, and the voltage and type of welder that you choose will play a part in that. There are also other things such as the thickness of the welder that you should check.
you need a welding machine to begin mig welding

When choosing your welder, be sure to check the amp output of the welder, because that can affect the thickness of the weld. The thickness can then affect what welding you do at all. Generally speaking, the higher the amp output, the thicker the weld will be. Some examples of good welders are:

  • Lotus: The Lotus welder is an aluminium wire feeder. It comes with the wire feed, and it produces high quality and stable welding. It has adjustable wire feed speed, voltage, and easy connectivity.
  • Forney: The Forney welder gives you full control over the voltage and wire feed speed, and it is a lightweight, portable welder. It is rugged and is a great welder for a beginner. Later on, you might want to upgrade to something more heavy-duty, but that is only if you go into welding more professionally.
  • KICKINGHORSE: The KICKINGHORSE welder is an efficient, easy to use, and high-quality welder. It is a good welder for beginners and veterans and allows total control of the voltage, welding arc, and the wire feed.

For our recommendations on the best MIG welding machines available, check out our post here to help make your life easier.

  • Inert gas: The key to MIG welding is the inert gas that is used during the process. So, before you begin, you will need to buy a filled tank of some sort of inert gas. CO2 or argon would probably be the cheapest and safest bet for you. CO2 by itself would be cheaper but adding some Argon would give you a better finish on the weld.

A full tank gas can cost from about $200 to $400 but is absolutely necessary for the process. On the upside, a full tank will last you quite a while, as it can be used on multiple Some good CO2 and argon gas tanks are:

  • 25/75: This welding gas tank is full of 25% CO2 and 75% Argon. It is a large, full tank and will last quite a while before it needs to be replaced. All the gas information is on the tank so when you begin welding you can follow the instructions.
  • 100: This gas tank is full of 100% Argon. The gas tank is full, with all the information printed on the tank. It follows all regulations and is guaranteed to provide a fun experience while welding.

When it comes to welding gases, 100% Argon and the 25/75 blend are the most common. They work exceptionally well, and though they are not quite as cheap as a 100% CO2 gas tank, they provide much better-quality welding. There are other types of welding gases, but they are most commonly only used for specialized types of welding.

For specific makes & models that we like, check out our recommended welding tanks here.

  • Welding helmet: A welding helmet is a protective shield against the sparks and splatter of welding. It is imperative that you always use one while welding. They not only protect you from the metal splatter, but also from radiation burns. The UV and infrared light given off when welding can cause serious burns on your face, eyes, and neck. The helmet has a glass shield that protects you from that. Some good types of welding helmets are (oh, and to see what we call good and why, check out our welding helmet buying guide here):
you need a welding helmet to begin mig welding
  • Lincoln Electric VIKING 3350 Welding Helmet: The Viking welding helmet has the sensors, auto-shading, and durability that every welder looks for in their gear. It has a UV protective shield, and it provides a clear view of your work. It also has an auto-darkening coating and is perfect for MIG welding. For more information on the pros & cons, check it out here.
  • Hobart 770890 Auto-Darkening Welding Helmet: The Hobart 770890 welding helmet is a full cover, adjustable range helmet that has auto-darkening shades. It is very functional and comfortable and has a clear viewing panel. Hobart is a well known name with a very reasonable price tag. Check it out here for more specs and details.
  • YESWELDER LYG-M800H Welder Mask: This is one of the cheaper helmets out there, but it still does a great job. It has an auto-darkening, extra cover lens, and it has a full face and neck coverage. It also provides a clear view in full color and protection from harmful UV rays. It is also one of our recommended gear best-buys, so click here to check it out here.

A welding helmet is a necessity when welding purely because of all the dangers involved. By not wearing a helmet, you are risking all kinds of injuries and damage to your eyes.

  • Ground clamp: The way that MIG welding works, you will need to complete an electrical circuit to power it. For this, you will need a ground clamp which will complete the electrical circuit to create the arc. You will need to clamp it to clean metal so that you can get the best results.
  • Wire feed: You will also need a solid wire which will feed through your base materials to create your weld. The solid wire feed should either come with your welder or in a separate box. If you are experimenting and want a different metal or type us wire feed, you can order that separately online. The important thing is that the size of the wire feed fits the welder.

These are essentially the basics of what you will need to start welding. What can change is the type of welder you use, the type of gas you use, the type of wire you use, and your actual welding medals. They are all personal choices based on what kind of weld and finish you want.

It is perfectly fine to experiment and try out different things with welding but remember that welding is dangerous and that the wrong combination of metals and gases could be extremely toxic. So, having a respirator and welding helmet are very important.

What are the Advantages of MIG Welding?

advantages of mig welding - stainless steel pipe from a racing car was easily welded using mig welding techniques

Like all types of welding, there are advantages and disadvantages to MIG welding. Many of these depend on simply what you are doing and what your end goal is. But MIG welding is simply the better choice for many reasons, and maybe not the best choice for other reasons. Some of the advantages of MIG welding are:

  • Welds most metals: MIG welding tends to be very versatile and applicable to all kinds of metals and alloys. This greatly contributes to it being used by many beginners and veterans. The great thing is that it can work with all different kinds of metals and steels, and still produce good quality welding.

The only limitation that MIG welding has in terms of materials is finding the right wire size. You can only weld with a certain metal if the wire size of that metal matches your welders. It is uncommon, but there are some metals that are not found in particular sizes.

  • Easy to learn: MIG welding is very popular with beginners to welding because it does not take all that much skill or time to learn. With the rolling machine and a gas tank, and a little bit of instruction you are all set to go. And once you begin welding with one, you can use it way past the beginner stages and into more advanced welding.
  • Strong welds: MIG welding uses both base metals and a solid wire that is fed between them. This makes the welding very strong and stable, intern creating high-quality welds. MIG welding uses a slightly thicker wire than other types of welding processes, and this gives the welding more backing and strength.
  • Nice looking welds: Beyond the fact that they are strong and easy to use, MIG welding is also very pleasing to look at and is aesthetically sound. It does not create much gunk around the welding, and if done well, the welding is very neat and pretty.
  • Not much weld splatter: Unknown to many people, welding produces quite a lot of splatter from the welding materials. But MIG welding produces very little splatter, and this makes the entire process easier and cleaner. The unwanted splatter can end up damaging the weld, so the fact but there is no splatter increases the chance of producing good welds.
  • Not much toxic gas: Most kinds of welding also produce a lot of toxic gas during and after the welding process. Toxic gas can be the result of the metals and gases mixing, or just the heated materials. Either way, they’re very harmful and should not be inhaled. MIG welding uses a tank of shielding gas during the process, so it does not produce toxic and gas and is much safer.
  • Clean: Without any of the unwanted splatter, toxic fumes, and general hassle that come with most kinds of welding, MIG welding does not produce much of a mess. Ordinarily, the space in which you weld would become covered in a sheen of metal gunk and fuels. But with MIG welding, that is not the case, it is a very clean process and leaves you with both a clean weld and a clean space.

MIG welding is very useful for a variety of people because of its many advantages. But it also has many downsides that can become problematic for a lot of people. In the end, it is up to you to choose whether you can spend the time and money required to do MIG welding.

What are the Disadvantages of MIG Welding?

disadvantages of mig welding - surface metal needs to be clean due to sensitivity to contaminents

Along with all the advantages, MIG welding also has quite a few disadvantages. It has issues right from the convenience of the actual machine, to the requirements of the materials. So, although MIG welding may have many outside, it has many downsides as well. Some of the disadvantages of MIG welding are:

  • Need for clean materials: MIG welding can generally become problematic and difficult because of how well you need to maintain the materials. All the metals used in the welding process must be clean and free of all contaminants. This means storing them in airtight, dark spaces with no moisture. It is not impossible, but certainly makes doing regular MIG welding a bit of a hassle.
  • Sensitivity to contaminants: MIG welding uses inert gas to make the finish on the welding cleaner and to make an overall better weld. But because of this, during the welding process, the weld is very sensitive to contaminants. Even prolonged exposure to oxygen can be bad for the materials and weld.

So, the area in which you are welding must be extremely clean and free of any type of unwanted gases or moisture. Otherwise, they would cause the weld to have a bad finish, or in some cases not work at all. Your materials might also rust or deteriorate when exposed to the contaminants.

  • Portability: MIG welding requires relatively large and heavy machinery. The actual welder, the gas tank, and all the metal that you will need to do the welding or not conducive to travel. It is much more suited for a workshop or permanent fixture space, rather than being moved around.
  • Wire feed mechanism: The wire feed mechanism used in MIG welding can be pretty tricky to use. It requires two base metals, and the third solid wire to be fed through them. The wire must be in pristine condition, and fed through correctly, or else the welding will not come out well. This just makes it a little harder to get your welding work started.
  • Maintenance: MIG welding can be very tiresome in its upkeep. It has many parts, and all of them must be kept in pristine condition. Right from the welder to the wire to the metal used. It must all be serviced regularly and maintained, else you could lose all your equipment and materials to rust, moisture, or contaminants.
  • Equipment cost: Getting started as a MIG welder can be a challenge because of how much all the equipment and materials cost. You will have to invest in a welder that can go from the hundreds to the thousands easily. Then you need the wire, metals, all the different kinds of clamps, and of course the electricity to power it. Over time this can cost a lot if you are not in the welding business for profit.
  • Unequipped for large structure: MIG welding is great for smaller, strong, and detailed work. But this means it is not able to do very large-scale welding. It can be used for projects up to a certain size, but if you are a professional welder doing all kinds of work it is not ideal. In that situation, you would need to be familiar with multiple welding methods.
  • Radiation: When MIG welding, the welding arc gives off different types of UV, visible light, and infrared radiation. In small amounts, this is not particularly bad, but over a long period of time, it is. It can cause cataracts, pains, and sensitivity in the eyes and the surrounding skin. Long term exposure can also cause skin diseases and even cancer.

Despite all the downsides, MIG welding is one of the more favorable forms of welding. Because besides people who need to do large-scale welding work, not many people would want to deal with other, messier types of welding. Just make sure you are ready for the cost and effort it takes to go steady with MIG welding.

In Conclusion

MIG welding is a method of welding that uses inert gases to shield the weld from contamination. It is a relatively safe and clean method of welding, and it produces quality results. It is best suited for smaller, more compact welds, and will give them a clean and aesthetically pleasing finish. It can also work very well with all kinds of metals and alloys and is somewhat of an all-purpose welding method.

And though MIG welding has many advantages including its strong, clean welds and reduced production of toxic fumes, it has downsides as well. It can be hard to transport the welder, and all the equipment can be fairly high maintenance.

It all just comes down to whether MIG welding suits your needs, and how much time you want to put into the maintenance and care of your materials and tools.

Sources:

Benjamin

Hello, I'm Ben and welding has been a great outlet for me creatively for over 5 years now.

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