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If you’re new to welding, you may have heard of the different types and wondered why MIG welding is used so often. You may have discovered that it’s one of the most popular welding techniques. But why? What makes MIG welding so popular? What is MIG welding in the first place? And what sets it apart from other popular welding techniques, such as TIG welding?
Read on to find answers to these questions and more. In this article, we’ll discuss the top ten benefits of MIG welding and how to make your MIG joints look professional.
Top 10 Reasons to Use MIG Welding for Projects
MIG welding is often the welding technique of choice for automotive repairs, pipe welds, and sheet metal welds. It’s also popular among do-it-yourselfers and hobbyist welders.
There are many, many benefits of MIG welding. Let’s take a look at the top reasons welders might prefer MIG welding over other techniques.
MIG Welding is Efficient
In MIG welding, a wire is fed through the MIG gun, providing a continuous stream of binding material. This means you won’t have to start and stop as often as you would with other welding techniques, which in turn allows you to work more quickly with fewer interruptions.
You’re also able to put down more of the binding metal with each pass of the gun, which can end up saving you a ton of time. MIG electrodes have efficiencies as high as 92-98%, much higher than other types of welding.
In short, MIG welding is one of the most efficient, time-saving methods of welding you can do.
MIG Welding Saves Money
For businesses that employ professional welders, using MIG welding will potentially cut down on equipment and labor costs. Since the work can be done more quickly over other styles of welding, your welders will be able to get more projects done in a shorter period of time.
In addition, MIG welding equipment generally costs less than equipment needed for other types of welding, which is good news for both professionals and hobbyists.
Considering the various ways MIG welding saves you money, many welders agree it’s one of the most cost-effective welding techniques out there.
MIG Welding Works for Most Metals
MIG welding is good for most welding jobs because it effectively binds the majority of metals you’ll be working with. MIG wires are most often used to create a reliable bond on stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum.
MIG welding is preferred in the automotive industry partly because it is so effective for these common metals.
MIG Welding Can Be Done Quickly
We’ve already touched on this above: MIG welding simply doesn’t take as long as other types of welding. Because the process is so efficient, you can finish quick projects even more quickly, as well as reduce the time spent on longer projects.
As mentioned above, the time-saving quality of MIG welding can also save businesses money. If you’re a hobbyist, you can find smaller blocks of time to work on projects and get more done without committing to a large amount of time. This may make it easier to get started on projects as well as finishing them.
MIG Welding Produces a Great Bond
While the bond quality of MIG welding isn’t necessarily superior to other types, it is every bit as good. MIG welding produces solid, reliable bonds on almost any type of metal. It works equally good for spot welds as it does for large sheet metal seams.
MIG welding produces a bond reliable enough for pipes and car parts while requiring less effort, time, and money than other welding techniques. No wonder it’s such a popular choice for a variety of welding needs.
MIG Welding Has a Wide Range of Uses
MIG welding is great not only for welding different metals, but it also works for a variety of different applications. You can use MIG welding techniques whether you’re a professional welder using a high-speed robotic application or a do-it-yourselfer using a basic semi-automatic welding setup.
MIG welding is ideal for nearly any size job and several different welding applications. Since MIG welding can handle most average-sized jobs, you don’t need to buy a lot of extra equipment for a lot of different welding techniques. This is great for self-employed welders and hobbyists who may not have the space or the finances for lots of different types of equipment.
MIG Welding Equipment is Cheap and Readily Available
As mentioned earlier, MIG welding equipment is relatively cheap compared with other types of welding equipment. The feed wire, in particular, is much cheaper, and MIG welding uses much less wire than other other techniques for any given job, which saves you even more money.
In addition, since MIG welding is so popular, the tools and materials are relatively easy to come by. You may be able to order them online, and they’re easy to find at most local welding supply and tool shops.
MIG Welding is Safe and Clean
Most welding techniques produce fumes which may cause breathing and lung problems over time. With MIG welding, the amount of fumes are greatly reduced, making it a much safer type of welding.
MIG welding also produces a lot less splatter than other welding techniques, as the welding wire binds cleanly and easily to the materials being welded. This process makes it safer because you don’t have a ton of junk splattering all over the place. It also makes cleaning up much quicker and easier.
MIG Welding is Simple Enough for Beginners
Even if you’re new to welding, MIG techniques are simple enough to pick up and start using relatively quickly. The process is easy and almost self-explanatory, and it doesn’t require a lot of skill to produce a decent-looking weld.
As easy as MIG welding is, there are lots of online tutorials for beginners. These tips and tutorials will help you avoid common mistakes and give you a solid understanding of MIG welding before you get started. We’ll take a look at some of these tips a little later on in this article.
Combine the simplicity of MIG welding with the factors we’ve already discussed, such as cost efficiency, safety, and availability of equipment, and it’s easy to see why MIG welding is such a popular welding style choice for beginners.
MIG Welding Can Bond Different Thicknesses
If you need to bond two or more materials of different thicknesses, MIG welding is the way to go. MIG welding produces a strong enough seam to effectively join thin materials to thicker materials without damaging either material.
Of course, you’ll want to use discretion when binding different thicknesses. If one of the materials is too thick and heavy, it may put a strain on the thinner material and the weld, which may eventually result in the bond wearing out.
What Makes MIG Welding So Useful? It’s Method.
MIG is so useful for a broad range of applications because of the way in which it actually works. MIG stands for “metal inert gas,” but is also called “gas metal arc welding” or “wire welding,” and both of these terms are more accurate to the process of MIG welding.
MIG welding involves feeding a wire electrode through a MIG gun. The gun creates an arc between the wire and the metal being welded, melting both and applying the melted wire as filler metal to strengthen the bond. The gun’s contact tip, which is usually made of copper, continuously feeds the wire through, providing the current needed to heat up and melt the wire.
The welding gun also produces an area of “shielding gas” to protect the wire and work area from dust and other particles in the environment, thus the Metal Inert Gas name. There are different types of shielding gas meant to be used with different types of metals, so it’s important to double check that you’re getting the right kind before you buy anything.
The shielding gas flows out through a nozzle on the end of the gun, surrounding the wire and protecting the material being welded. Not only does this protect the area from outside contamination, it also prevents the metals from interacting with any elements in the surrounding environment.
There are various methods of applying the filler metal in MIG welding, and each method requires a different level of energy and is used for different projects. These different methods are referred to as:
- Short circuit mode
- Spray mode
- Globular mode
- Pulsed mode
Despite the different modes of metal transfer, the polarity and voltage used in MIG welding is standard. MIG welding guns use a direct current electrode that is positively charged. The wire is in constant contact with a source of voltage. The voltage can be adjusted depending on the project, but the current always flows from the metal being worked on through the welding gun.
Is MIG Welding Better Than TIG Welding?
Another common type of welding is TIG welding. TIG stands for “tungsten inert gas” and is a common term for “gas tungsten arc welding.” As the name suggests, it is similar to MIG welding in that both welding methods use an arc to create the weld.
So which welding technique is better? The short answer is, it will depend on the project you’re working on. In general, MIG welding is good for a wide variety of projects, but there may be instances when TIG welding would be preferable.
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between MIG and TIG, both in how they function and what they are used for.
What is TIG Welding?
The TIG welding process is very similar to MIG welding. The main difference is in the electrode. MIG welding uses a continuously-fed wire, whereas TIG welding uses metal rods. TIG is a more specialized form of welding and generally takes more time to learn than MIG welding. The process also takes much longer than MIG.
In general, TIG has several disadvantages when compared with MIG. These include:
- Cost: MIG welding equipment is cheaper and more widely available, and the process takes less time than TIG welding.
- Efficiency: TIG is a much more involved process than MIG. It requires using both hands and sometimes a foot to perform different actions all at once. It also requires a lot of stopping and starting.
- Uses: TIG welding works for a larger range of metals than MIG welding, but it doesn’t work well for thicker materials and materials of different thicknesses.
Applications of TIG Welding
Despite the advantages of MIG welding, TIG welding has its place. As mentioned above, it can be used for welding a greater variety of metals. These metals include:
- Stainless steel
- Mild steel
- Copper nickel
Because TIG welding works for so many different metals, it’s often the preferred process of professional welders and machine shops. TIG produces excellent high-quality welds and is sometimes used for welding needs at shipyards and nuclear power plants.
So which is better: MIG or TIG? MIG welding is probably best if you’re new to welding, a do-it-yourselfer, or you only expect to be working with stainless steel, carbon steel, and aluminum. But for those who work with lots of different metals or in more specialized fields, TIG welding may be the way to go.
How to Make Good MIG Welds
If you’ve just started MIG welding, you may be thinking that it’s not as easy as you expected it would be. Though MIG welding is great for beginners, that doesn’t mean you’ll be producing perfect welds by the end of your first day.
That said, there are some tips you should keep in mind that will quickly improve the quality of your welds. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to create MIG welds that will last and look good.
Clean the Base Material
Cleaning your workpiece is essential to getting a strong bond out of your weld. Before starting, make sure the base material is free of any oil, dust, dirt, and other contaminants. If there’s any rust or other stuck-on materials, you may want to use sandpaper or some other abrasive to remove as much of the contaminants as possible.
Use the Correct Wire Size
The wire size will depend largely on the size of your project. That said, some wire sizes are more common and seem to have a wider range of applications.
The most commonly used wire sizes are .035 and .045. These two sizes can be used for a variety of base material thicknesses.
That said, for thin materials, it may be a good idea to try an even smaller wire size, such as .025. If your wire size is too large, it creates a bigger arc and may burn through your base material.
Use the Proper Voltage
Depending on the type of welding gun you use, you will probably need to set different voltages for different jobs. Thicker materials will obviously require larger voltages, which will produce a deeper weld. Lower voltages will produce a thicker weld that won’t go as deep.
Understanding the proper voltage and how to set voltage on your MIG welder is important for producing quality welds. Setting voltage too high or too low may cause the weld to burn through the base metal or prevent it from adhering properly.
Hold the Gun Close Enough to the Base Material
The space between your welding gun and the base material is also of great importance. This distance, known as stickout, should usually be about ⅜ of an inch. If you hold the gun any further away, the wire electrode will have to travel farther to meet the base metal. This will decrease the heat and may diminish the effectiveness of the shielding gas.
It’s best to hold the gun with both hands and support your arms in such a way that you can move the gun smoothly and steadily.
As with any skill, the best way to get better is to practice. Make sure you have the right equipment and understand the correct motions, then practice these motions as often as it’s practical to do so.
Remember, MIG welding is fairly easy to learn, but even once you’ve mastered the basic techniques, it’s important to keep practicing so you can develop muscle memory and avoid losing your newly-acquired skills.
MIG welding is used frequently by professionals and hobbyists alike. It is a popular choice for welding because it’s highly versatile, easy to learn, and both time- and cost-efficient.
Of course, it takes practice to get good at it, but MIG welding is an excellent option for beginners. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just picking up a welding gun for the first time, chances are, MIG welding will help you get the job done.
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