MIG welding is an extremely popular method of welding used for low alloy steel. It is perfect for everything from simple home repair projects to larger industrial workings. It is relatively easy to learn, which is why many beginning welders use it as their go-to technique.
However, there are some benefits and disadvantages inherent in MIG welding compared to alternative welding processes and equipment types. Knowing these will assist users in welding properly and producing the results they strive for. For even more information check out our post Almost Everything You Need To Know About MIG Welding. Let’s hop in!
What is MIG Welding?
In its simplest form, MIG welding is nothing more than a process where electric arcs join two metals together. The arc is formed between the metal piece being worked on and a wire electrode. This electrode is pushed through a MIG spool gun connected to the welder. Each welder has a shielding gas, protecting the weld point and the arc from damage due to the surroundings.
There are four main components that comprise a quality MIG welding setup:
- An electrode: diameter, packaging, and composition
- Process variables, such as voltage, travel speed, metal transfer and current
- Equipment, like welding guns, wire feeders and power sources
- Shielding gases, with factors like flow rate, composition and purity
Users can handle materials with variable thickness. Using one depends on the task you are looking to complete, though. The first step that should be taken is deciding upon which MIG welder tool is perfect for your needs. Luckily, Tool Guides Hub has all the answers you could possibly need for your next MIG welding project. Have a look around!
Benefits of Specific MIG Welders
MIG welders come in a wide variety of styles and types. It’s important to know the benefits and types to find a model and phase valuation that suits your specific needs. The main types of MIG welders are one phase, combination one-and-three phase, and three phase.
- One-phase welders have an average power rating of 115 to 230 VAC. Most likely, these welders will be seen in home garages, and used for lighter fabrication work, art pieces, or standard repairs and maintenance. Tool Guides Hub suggests you use these welders for simpler jobs with thinner materials.
- Three-phase or combination one-and-three phase welders have far more versatility compared to one-phase MIG welders. They have the capacity to perform the same tasks as one-phase welders, but can also be used for standard fabrication work or construction processes.
Advantages of MIG Welding
If you are a beginner welder, it is highly suggested to get a MIG welder to start. There are some substantial benefits to these welders over alternatives. These will be experienced firsthand once welding techniques begin to be learned. Here are some of the strongest advantages of MIG welders:
Quality and Versatility
Most first-time welders begin with MIG welding as it can be used for multiple metals. This includes such options as high-quality stainless steel, nickel, aluminum, and more. The welds for these metals are substantial in quality, and spatter produced is minimal.
Additionally, MIG welding guns can be bought for automatic, semi-automatic, and manual welding options. Most have electronic switches, which can turn the device off and on with ease. This makes MIG welding far simpler and safer for beginners to use.
Alloys are not Lost
One of the additional benefits of MIG welding is that it causes almost no alloy elements to be removed through the process. Maintaining the integrity of these elements makes the welding process far more efficient and cost-effective.
Lack of Steep Learning Curve
One of the main reasons why beginners select MIG welding over alternatives is its simplicity. It is easy to learn MIG welding with less than 24 hours of work. Trainers can provide basic training processes in quick 20-minute sessions. Most of the time training is spent cleaning the weld after the project is completed!
Also, MIG welders have increased visibility. This makes the welding processes faster and simpler. Welders have more control over their work due to the automatic feed wire. With a MIG welding tool, welders make perfect welds, dependent on the material thickness.
Cleaner and More Effective
MIG welding utilizes shielding gases for the arc welding process. What this means is that the welder maintains their alloys and metals when it is sent across the arc. Unlike stick welding, with MIG welding there is rarely any slag to be removed. MIG also produces incredible welds.
After a fast clean-up process, the MIG welder will be in working condition in a fraction of the time compared to alternatives. This is mainly due to the minimal necessary cleanup.
Increases in Work Productivity
Many welding machines that run MIG state that they increase productivity. Again, this is due to factors such as not needing to spend time chipping away and cleaning up slag, constantly changing rods, and repeatedly brushing the welds. With MIG welding tools, welders can work cleaner and faster.
Additionally, MIG welds use constantly fed wires. This allows the user to utilize both hands freely when welding. This results in far faster turnaround times, higher quality finished welds, and improved speeds overall.
Lower Hydrogen Deposits
Unlike their competing flux core welding options and stick electrodes, the solids with MIG welding do not pick up moisture. Because of this, this welding type produces consistent welds due to lower levels of diffusible hydrogen.
MIG welding has far faster processes than alternative and older welding methods. This is one of the reasons why it is the most popular wending strategy amongst beginners and professionals alike. MIG welders use semi-inert gases (MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas) such as carbon dioxide. This is more commonly used nowadays for the welding processes for steel.
Disadvantages of MIG Welding
Much like any welding processes, MIG welding has some disadvantages. We would be too biased if we failed to include these. Here are some things that will need to be considered to ensure your welds are as efficient as possible.
Shielding Gas Issues
While the shielding gas assists in improving the quality of welds, the shielding gas bottle can become a bit of a distraction for beginners. The bottle tends to get in the way of the welding process, and it can take some time to adjust and even more time to replace.
We at Tool Guides Hub suggest that greener welders begin welding slowly, to ensure they have the chance to get used to working with shielding gases and the bottles that go along with them.
Limitations of Positions
Advanced welders may find MIG welding to be a bit limited. Due to its higher heat inputs, and the fluid welding puddle that is formed, MIG welding is not suitable for overhead or vertical welding.
While some welders have no need to ever weld in any position besides horizontal, it is important to keep this factor in mind when buying a MIG welder. Make sure that it can accomplish all jobs that are planned for it.
As seen all throughout Tool Guides Hub, MIG welding tools are in no way cheap. They are expensive, can become complex, and in some cases come at the sacrifice of overall portability. Additionally, purchasing shielding gas canisters, replacement tips, electrodes and nozzles can add up quickly. It’s important to set up a budget before purchasing a MIG welder to ensure that, with accessories included, you can get one that is within your price range.
As MIG welding tools are not as portable as some alternatives, they aren’t suitable for moving around for outside projects. Additionally, the wind will wreak havoc upon the shielding gas emissions, and will directly impact the quality of the weld. So, your MIG welder will have a rough go popping outside to repair a broken tractor. However, it’s a wonderful tool for automotive work in a garage or indoor/covered environment.
Necessary Preparation Times
Before you can get started welding with a new MIG welder, the material you are welding needs to be fully clean of rust and dirt. This improves the welding quality and helps the welder to remain safe through the entire process. If the base metals are contaminated in any way, you will have a rough time properly joining the two pieces of metal together.
Thick Material Utilization
Thin materials are no sweat for MIG welders. However, welders will have a difficult time welding thicker pieces of steel or other metals. With a MIG welder, you might not experience the proper heat penetration necessary to have a resulting solid weld.
Rapid Cooling of MIG Welds
The metals that are used by MIG welders cool down far faster than alternative welding techniques. As the slag is not covered, the cooling rate is far higher.
Different MIG Wire Sizes
Typically, MIG welders will come with flux cored wire. Therefore, you will need to purchase MIG wire to ensure that it joins the different metals together properly. As a simple rule of thumb, the thicker the metal, the thicker the wire needed for the project.
If you are looking for the highest quality of welds, it is far better to crank the machine up with more power and a thinner wire compared to a thicker wire and a lower power setting. Here are the ideal purposes for the wires that should be used for specific projects:
- 0.23-inch wire should only be used for small welding machines when welding thin sheet metal, ranging from 24 gauge to 16 gauge.
- 0.3-inch wire typically is what comes with a MIG welder. It is a solid overall choice when working with sheet metals up to 1/8th of an inch.
- 0.35-inch wire works for metals up to 1/4th of an inch, and is one of the best choices for beginners just getting into the MIG welding scene.
- 0.45-inch wire works for metals thicker than 1/4th of an inch. This wire type is typically used for industrial style MIG welding.
MIG Welding Gas Types
MIG welding is very well known for its gas-type versatility. Welders can utilize different types of gases when welding away on their metalworking projects. Three of the most commonly used are pure argon, argon mix, and carbon dioxide gases.
- Pure Argon should only be used for nonferrous metals such as copper, aluminum zinc, etc. Argon creates a narrow bead because it creates a low thermal heat conductivity. This gas will give you a good penetration in the center of the weld but won’t be effective enough to penetrate through a steel joint.
- Argon Mix gas uses a mixture of carbon dioxide and argon to produce high-quality welds. This gas mixture gives you a suitable arc sized stream that minimizes spatter and gives great penetration.
- Carbon Dioxide is a cheaper alternative than the Argon Mix gas. The only problem is that CO2 gives you an unstable arc and produces a lot of spatter.
Closing Thoughts on MIG Welder Advantages and Disadvantages
It doesn’t matter if you’re a hobbyist or a professional, having a MIG welding device will make your projects run more smoothly. Knowing both the advantages and disadvantages will help you utilize the welder’s skills while working around their limitations. Ultimately, with a bit of practice, you’ll find that your MIG welder will help you join any piece of metal faster than any other welding method!