Do you know your laser beam welding from your plasma? Your shielded-metal arc from flux cored arc welding? Confused? Don’t be. There is so much information out there about welding and the different processes that it can become overwhelming.
As well as being overwhelmed by choice, it’s also important to select the right process for the job, as using the wrong type of welding process can have detrimental results.
In this blog, we break down the three most popular types of welding – MIG, TIG and Stick/MMA – so you can choose the right method for you.
What and why makes each welding process different?
There is a myriad of different welding processes that offer varying results and can be used for different jobs. Therefore, it’s important before you begin any project to do your research, so you choose the best equipment for the job.
The three most common welding methods are MIG, TIG and Stick/MMA with each having its own set of benefits and limitations, so choosing the right process initially will save you time and money in the long run.
Unfortunately, there is no one-size fits-all when it comes to welding. Different jobs will require different methods, for example larger jobs will require simpler welding methods like MIG or Stick, while intricate work fits TIG method best.
Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is more commonly known as MIG (metal inert gas) welding and it is relatively straightforward to master the basic technique.
MIG welding involves the filler metal being fed through the torch cable whilst gas is expelled around it to shield it from outside elements.
The filler metal is a consumable wire fed from a spool and also acts as the electrode. When the arc is created from the tip of the wire to the base metal, the wire melts becoming filler metal and creating the weld. As the wire is continuously fed through the torch, you can dial in your preferred speed.
This means it’s a quick and versatile process that can be used to weld many different types of metal at varying thicknesses and, when done correctly, produces a smooth and tight weld that is visually appealing.
However, as the gas is expelled around the torch shroud to shield it from the elements, this means it is not great for outdoor use.
The two most time-consuming aspects of this method are selecting the correct shielding gas and setting the parameters on your machine. However, once these are done it largely becomes a ‘point and shoot’ process, often referred to as ‘the hot glue gun of welding’.
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TIG welding or Heliarc and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), is where the electrode is non-consumable and made of tungsten. What makes this type of welding popular is that it is one of the few types that can be done with no filler metal – meaning it can be done by using only the two metals being welded together (autogenous).
TIG welding is clean, efficient, and as beautiful as welding can get. Artists use this method, while ornamental welding professions prefer TIG for its precision and overall clean look.
When doing TIG welding, a gas bottle is needed in order to provide the constant flow of gas needed to protect the weld, meaning this type of welding is best performed indoors and away from the elements.
This process has very little waste or splatter and therefore leaves an aesthetically pleasing weld. However, this is very difficult to achieve and is only recommended for highly skilled welders.
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Shielded-Metal Arc (SMAW) welding is also known as MMA (Manual Arc Metal) welding and is a process that originates from 1915 and continues to be updated and improved to this day.
This popular form of welding has remained so as it is simple and straightforward to learn, as well as having a low operating cost.
When stick welding, an arc is created that connects from the end of the stick to the base metals, melting the electrode into filler metal and creating the weld.
The stick is coated in flux that creates a gas cloud when heated up and this protects the metal from oxidation, as it cools the gas settles on the metal and becomes slag.
Since it doesn’t require gas, this process can be used outdoors, as well as in adverse weather conditions.
This type of welding also works well on rusted, painted, and dirty surfaces making it great for equipment repairs. Additionally, there are different types of electrodes available and they are easy to swap, making it simple to weld a variety of metals.
However, although popular and easy to do, it doesn’t create the neatest of welds as it splatters easily, making cleaning up a necessity, so it isn’t a great welding process for thin metals.
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Making the right choice
We now know that for larger jobs, MIG welding offers a fast, efficient, and easy process that has various applications. The process produces results that aren’t as messy as Stick/MMA but are not as clean as TIG.
Stick welding is great for beginners because it’s relatively uncomplicated and affordable, so if you need a quick weld that isn’t highly visible and doesn’t require a neat bead it’s the right choice for you. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the finished result won’t be the cleanest weld.
On the other hand, if you need the final result to look clean, neat, and perfect and you have time to put into the job, TIG welding is the way to go. This method is perfect for art, ornamental designs, stainless steel, and automotive work.
Ready to get started? Make sure to explore our welding equipment to find the right machine for you. Still unsure on which welding process would work for you? Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to discuss what we can do for you.