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MIG, TIG, & Stick Welding: What's The Difference?


So, that's it: You've decided welding is a cool industry to join—training takes less than a year, the salary is good, and the techniques are interesting to you. Your next step is to find a welder training program near you and sign up for classes.

But before you step foot into the classroom, why not learn more about three types of welding you will be doing? Read on to see the differences between the processes, and get excited for a solid career as a welder.

What Is MIG Welding?

MIG welding, or Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding, is a welding style involving a continuous solid wire electrode being fed through a welding gun and into the weld pool. Also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), MIG welds are routinely used to join two base materials together.

MIG welding is unlike other welding processes, due to the standard voltage and polarity type that it uses. In layman's terms, the current flows in one direction from negative to positive. MIG welding is a versatile style used by welders of all skill sets and experience levels.

Most commonly, though, MIG welding is used by amateur welders for simple maintenance and repair welds. MIG welds can be done in a pinch, and don’t require a great deal of training or artistry. Because MIG welds are relatively quick and simple, this style is often perceived as a great starting point for beginners and those with little welding experience.

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What Is TIG Welding?

TIG welding, or Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding, is a more artistic process that involves combining metals together. TIG welding, also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), requires a tremendous amount of precision and skill. These welds tend to be much more intricate and time-consuming than MIG welds.

TIG welding can be used on a large amount of metals and alloys, more so than any other welding process. You can TIG weld on materials like stainless steel, aluminum, nickel alloys, copper, brass, bronze, magnesium, and even gold. This method is often used on things like bicycle frames, toolboxes, wagons, fenders on vehicles, door handles, and even lawn mowers. It can also be used on fine metallic artwork. TIG welding allows for clean welds while welders control the heat input by pressing on a foot pedal. Adjusting the heating or cooling of the weld puddle gives you the precise welding bead control. TIG welders are easy to set up, and are available in different amounts of power for heavy pipes and metals or lighter metals.

The main difference between MIG welding from TIG welding is power source and settings. MIG welding uses voltage when setting the machine. TIG and arc welding machines use amperage, or “constant amperage power supply,” to set the machine.

What Is Stick Welding?

Stick welding, also known as Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW), is the most common and popular form of arc welding. In this process, a welder uses an electrode and an electric current to join various types of metals. Basically, the welder will simultaneously melt both the metal joint and the electrode to fuse two pieces of metal together and fill the joint with filler metal.

The term “stick welding” is a common slang term used in the welding industry because the electrode that welds the metal comes in the form of a “stick.”

Stick welding can be used on a variety of metals, which makes it a very versatile and widely used style. However, it’s mainly used to weld iron and steel to maintain and repair heavy structures. Some industries like construction, aerospace, steel fabrication, mining, and manufacturing rely on stick welding.

More: How To Become A Welding Technician

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