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So you’re wanting to try your hand at MIG welding, and you’re wondering about the contact tips. Are they all made the same? How are they made, and what materials are used? Do they come in different sizes and voltages, or are MIG tips universal?
MIG welding contact tips are not universal. In size, they range from .024” to .094”. They are made from different metal alloys. They are even designed differently: some are drawn, others are drilled. Each MIG tip is designed for a specific wire size and voltage, and specific welding materials.
So what are the differences between MIG welding tips? And how do you know which tips to use for which projects? Keep reading to find out all you need to know about MIG welding contact tips.
Are MIG Welding Tips Universal?
MIG welding tips are not universal. They come in many different variations, and each variation is designed for a specific range of uses.
Some of the most obvious difference between MIG contact tips include:
- Size. The size of a welding tip refers to the thickness of the wire it’s designed to feed. The higher the number, the thicker the wire, and the thicker the wire, the more heat that is generated by the gun.
Larger tips and thicker wires generally mean you’ll get the job done faster, but it’s important to check the ratings and recommendations on your welding gun before deciding what size to use.
Sizes range from .024” to .094”.
- Material. Many MIG contact tips are made from the standard copper, but other materials may be used as well. Copper-chrome-zirconium alloys are often used, as is stainless steel. Some MIG tips are also silver-plated.
We’ll take a closer look at the materials used later on in this article.
- Design. The way in which a tip was made can contribute to how long it will last. Many manufacturers create MIG tips by drawing the metal into the tip shape using a mandrel, in a process called drawing. Others drill out the tip hole and inside the tip to create a smooth surface. This process is known as drilling.
In general, drilled tips are much more well-made and longer-lasting. We’ll take a closer look at these two methods later on in this article.
What Thread is a MIG Welding Tip?
MIG welding tips come with different threads depending on design of the welding gun.
Threads range from M6 to M12, with the lower sizes generally correlating to the amperage of the gun. Smaller-thread tips are used on lower-amp guns, while larger threads are used on higher-amp guns.
What are MIG Welding Tip Sizes and Conversions?
MIG contact tips come in a variety of sizes which may be identified by either millimeters or thousandths of an inch. Some of the most common sizes can be found in the chart below, sized in both millimeters and inches for easy conversion.
|Size in millimeters||Size in inches|
|0.6 mm||.023 in|
|0.8 mm||.030 in|
|0.9 mm||.035 in|
|1.0 mm||.040 in|
|1.2 mm||.045 in|
What are the Voltage Ranges for Each MIG Tip?
The voltage range will depend more on the gun and the wire being used. In general, smaller tip sizes are used for lower amperage guns while large tip sizes are used for higher amperage guns.
What Materials are Used to Make MIG Welding Tips?
- Copper. Standard copper tips are most often used in hand-welding tools. They have the greatest conductivity of any contact tip, but they are also most susceptible to wear and tear and may have to be replaced more frequently than other tips.
- Copper-chrome-zirconium alloy. Most often used for robotic welding and hot wire feeding in laser welding, copper-chrome-zirconium have a much higher heat tolerance than plain copper tips. It is not as conductive as plain copper.
- Silver-plated copper. Silver-plated copper tips last longer than plain copper tips and are also more conductive. They can cost as much as 50% more than plain copper tips, but the improved lifespan and performances makes the cost worth it for many welders.
- Silver-plated copper-chrome-zirconium. These heavy-duty tips can last even longer than regular silver-plated tips, as they won’t begin to wear until they’ve experienced temperatures of nearly 1,500 degrees F! They are quite expensive and are typically used in robotic welding.
- Stainless steel. Stainless steel tips are mainly used for cold wire feeding in laser welding processes. They are not very conductive, but they are extremely durable against wear and tear.
How to Know Which MIG Tip to Use
With so many different variations, how can you determine which type of contact tip you should be using?
There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing your MIG welding tips. Below, we’ll look at two of the most important factors.
Drawn vs. Drilled
As mentioned above, drawn tips are drawn into the correct shape and size with a mandrel, while drilled tips have been bored and smoothed out with a drill.
In drawn tips, the metal doesn’t settle and harden evenly. This produces small dips and ridges in the metal that in turn can produce a range of problems, such as micro arcing, uneven heating, and burnback.
Drilled tips last longer because they have a smoother surface. This smooth surface allows for even heating and consistent wire feeding. Drilled tips may last as much as two or three times longer than drawn tips, making them more worth the money you spend on them.
Type of Welding
The size and type of tip you use will depend largely on the type of welding you do. As mentioned above, copper tips are good for the average hand welding tools and techniques, copper-chrome-zirconium alloys are good for robotic welding, and stainless steel tips work well for laser welding.
The tip size you need will also depend on the type of gun you use. Be sure to check the ratings on the gun so you understand what tip and wire sizes it’s designed to use.
Techniques for Making Your MIG Tips Last Longer
- Use the appropriate tip size. This may seem obvious, but it’s an important point because using the wrong tip size can cause all sorts of problems, including poor current transfers, hotter tip temperatures, and wire jamming. Always make sure you use the correct size tip for the gun and wire.
- Don’t change tips until the gun has cooled. Trying to change tips on a hot gun can not only make you burn yourself, but may result in cross threading the tip. This will destroy both the tip and possibly the neck of the gun.
- Make sure the tip is tightened correctly. If a tip isn’t tightened all the way, the current transfer will be weak. This can result in overheating and poor wire feeding, among other problems. Always tighten the tip as much as possible.
Understanding MIG Welding Tips
From the materials used to the size to the manufacturing process, welding tips are made to many different specifications. Each type of tip has a specific range of jobs that it’s most appropriate for.
Having the appropriately sized and designed contact tips is an essential part of any welding job. Using the wrong tip can not only destroy the tip more quickly, but may damage your welding gun as well.
Always do your research beforehand to make sure you’re choosing the right MIG welding tips for the job.