How Does A MIG Welder Work?

how mig welders work

MIG welding is a form of arc welding involving metal and inactive gases used to join two separate steel or aluminum pieces together using the transfer of heat. MIG stands for Metal Inert Gas. The process is sometimes referred to as GMAW in some circles, which stands for Gas Metal Arc Welding.

There are three things that need to be present for a weld to be considered MIG:

  1. An electrode to fill the joint between the two pieces of steel or aluminum to be connected.
  2. A source of power, typically a relatively stable and high-voltage power source to run a welding device.
  3. A shielding gas that works to protect the welds from getting into contact with airborne contaminants and dust.

Let’s take a deeper look into how MIG welders work, to better understand the mechanisms being manipulated and modified to join two pieces of metal into one uniform weld.

How MIG Welders Work

The processes of MIG welding is regarded as a semi-automatic process, as the outcome of a weld relies partially on the skillset of the operator to regulate the amount of welding being performed. This doesn’t mean that an unskilled welder is incapable of operating a MIG welder. After all, the process is relatively simple as far as ensuring the right settings: Set the voltage and use the right electrode. The skill level truly comes in with the quality of the weld. This is where the professionals are separated from the amateurs.

A MIG welder works by transferring the metal wire being used to the joint between the two pieces of metal (aluminum or steel). There are four ways to accomplish this process: globular, pulsed spray, short circuit, and spray:

  • In globular transfers, the welding material transfers across the arc weld in larger droplets. Generally, these droplets are larger than the diameter of the electrode being used in the MIG welding process.
  • In pulsed spray transfers, the power supply cycles between high spray transfer currents and lower background currents. This allows for super-cooling of weld pools in the background cycle.
  • In short circuit transfers, the electrode touches the metal and short circuits. This causes the metal to transfer as a result of the short. This typically occurs between 20 and 200 times per second.
  • In spray transfers, tiny molten droplets of super heated metal are sprayed across the arc. This works similar to the spray that comes out of a garden hose when the opening has been restricted.


how mig welder works

Let’s dive a little bit deeper into the three requirements necessary to form a MIG weld as outlined above:

MIG Welding: The Electrode Wire

Electrode wires used in MIG welding depend on the types of materials to join. While some welds come with the wire and flux fused together, others require feeding of the wires through a nozzle as you pull the trigger through the process. This is basically how a MIG welder spits molten metal out to weld two pieces of steel or aluminum together.

Setting up this electrode requires that the user begins an  arc by clamping it to the welding project, though. The metal is then held inside the welder itself, as MIG welding is classified as wire-feed type welding. Then, MIG welders allow users to adjust feed rates of wires. For this reason, users should first perform a test bead on a scrap piece of metal. This allows fine tuning of feed rates for the strongest results in the final weld. The most common electrode thicknesses for MIG welding work ranges between 0.023″ and 0.045″. However, some are thicker than this, especially if being utilized for heavy-duty or industrial applications.

MIG Welding: The Shielding Gas

There are two possible shielding gas sources in MIG welding:

  • The shielding gas can originate from chemical reactions in flux, or
  • The gas could come from a tank connected to the welder

The main source of the shielding gas in a MIG welder is the connected gas tank, which also contains mixtures of two inert gases: argon and carbon dioxide. This gases come from manufacturers. Yet, the main reason for using inert gases is so the gas doesn’t react with the metal, causing contaminants to compromise the structure and integrity of the weld.

When a user pulls the trigger on their welder, the gases are pumped through the welding cable, coming out the same nozzle where the welding wire is actively fed. Nevertheless, with this, the inert gas combination creates a type of shield, protecting the arc weld.

MIG Welding: The Power Source

MIG welders use DC (direct current) power sources to produce heat. However, how MIG welders work is dependent on the heat settings chosen. Yet, several voltage selections exist for users to select the option that will produce the best weld based on their needs. If a user selects a heat setting that is too high, they might find themselves with a burnt or unusable weld. This shouldn’t discourage these users, though. Even the most seasoned welding professionals make mistakes. Finally, these adjustments in heat rates for MIG welding power sources are made through modification of voltage rates to meet specific welding needs.

Looking to compare MIG welders? We feature six of the highest rated and best power-to-dollar ratio MIG welders on the market:

Lincoln 210 MP Review

lincoln 210 mp review mig welding

Lincoln Electric has long been an American manufacturer of solid electrical equipment. They have been well-known for their production of high quality TIG and MIG welders. The Lincoln PowerMIG 201 MP is no exception to this. It is known to be an extremely versatile welding tool. This is mainly due to a variety of factors, including a wide range of power options.

lincoln 210 mpThe Lincoln 210 MP provides a maximum duty cycle of 40 percent at 100 amps. Amongst the tricks of the trade for this welder include MIG, flux core, DC TIG and DC stick welding. It is truly a workhorse, and it’s no wonder why it’s referred to as a Swiss army knife of a welding machine.

The PowerMIG 210 MP can weld both steel and aluminum metals measuring up to 3/8 of an inch and 3/16 of an inch, respectively. Welding hobbyists, contractors, independent welders, and instructors will find this a useful welder. The 210MP is high performing in a wide variety of tasks. Our Lincoln 210 MP review focuses on the features, pros and cons of the PowerMIG 210 MP Lincoln welder. Our focus at Tool Guides Hub is always to assist potential buyers in making informed decisions.

Now is a great time to see why the 210 MP made our list of best MIG welders, and determine whether you want to pull the trigger on one today!


Lincoln 210 MP Review – Description and Specs

lincoln 210 mp reviewThe PowerMIG 210MP measures 19 x 10.8 x 14 inches and weighs approximately 40 pounds. This makes the device compact and highly portable, simple to carry from job site to job site. It has dual voltage inputs, supporting both 120V and 230V. This makes it possible to use with any common power supply. For this reason, it can be used for welding tasks both in homes and at higher power industrial sites.

The welder has an intuitive push-and-turn digital control mechanism. This can easily reduce hassle of welder setup and usage. According to one Lincoln 210 MP review, the welder is more user friendly than other welders in its class due to the sheer ease of setup. This is also made possible by the presence of the Ready, Set, Weld feature that comes with all Lincoln welders.

The large color display on this welder easily walks new users through the setup process. This, in conjunction with its intuitive push-and-turn digital controls, makes the advanced options and setup for this welder simple to access and modify. As far as one Lincoln 210 MP review is concerned, the 210 amps of this welder provide the power needed to handle almost any job with ease.

MIG welding jobs, for example, can be performed on stainless steel wire measuring up to 5/16″ thick. The same can be done for aluminum up to 3/16″ thick. For flux core material, the Lincoln 210 MP can handle the largest jobs, and can handle up to 5/32″ stick electrodes. The DC TIG works through the welder’s Touch Start technology. Additionally, the 210 MP’s readiness for any material is also possible in part to its sturdy sheet-metal housing.

Features of the Lincoln 210 MP

As one of the most versatile and powerful MIG welders on the market, the Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP boasts an impressive list of features, including:

  • The “Ready. Set. Weld” digital color display makes setup simple, guiding you through each step in the process while providing experienced welders with advanced options and settings.
  • Inverter technology makes the unit both lightweight and efficient.
  • Dual voltage inputs (120V or 230V) allows for easy connection to any common power supply.

The unit also includes a comprehensive package of accessories:

  • Magnum® PRO 175L Gun (10 ft./3.0 m)
  • 120V and 230V input cables
  • Work cable and clamp electrode holder
  • Regulator
  • Gasless nozzles
  • Gun cable liner (pre-installed in gun)
  • Spindle adapter sample (2 lb.)
  • Spool of SuperArc® L-56® Mild Steel MIG Wire Sample (1 lb./0.45 kg)
  • Spool of Innershield® NR®-211-MP Flux-Cored Wire (0.025 in./0.6 mm)
  • Contact tips (0.035 in./0.9 mm)

Specifications of the Lincoln 210 MP

  • Brand name: Lincoln
  • Model: PowerMIG 210 MP, K-3963-1
  • Height: 14 in.
  • Length: 19 in.
  • Width: 10.8 in.
  • Duty Cycle: 40% @ 100A, 25% @ 200A
  • Input Voltage: 115V/230V
  • Process Type: Flux Core, MIG, Stick, TIG
  • Product weight: 40 lb.
  • Weld Thickness: 24 gauge – 3/8 in.
  • Wire Feed Speed Range: 50-500 ipm
  • Welding Amperage Range: 20-220 A (230V), 20-140A (115V)

Pros and Cons of the Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP

lincoln 210 mp tig reviewThe first advantage of this welder is its ability to tackle several different types of welding tasks. This makes it suitable for those who need to weld different types of metals with different strategies. Secondly, this welder is incredibly portable given its compact size and weight. It is, therefore, easy to carry around from job to job. This welder also comes with intuitive digital controls and a large color display that makes it easy to setup and operate.

What this all means is that the PowerMIG 210 MP does not require advanced skills to operate. This makes it suitable for a beginner to use quickly and efficiently. The adjustable power input makes it possible to use at any common plug at a home, or a heavier duty plug on an industrial site. The strong and sturdy metal build of this welder assures durability as well.

However, no welding machine is perfect, although some come close. According to one Lincoln 210 MP review, the Power MIG is much higher priced when compared to other welders. Also, the performance of this welder in its TIG and stick welding is low in comparison to its MIG welds. Additionally, the fact that it does not have inverter technology means that you cannot power it with a generator.

Other Lincoln MIG Welders

If the Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP doesn’t quite fit your needs, the Lincoln family of MIG welders includes several other options with a wide range of features.

Lincoln PowerMIG 140 MP MIG Welder

This affordable, versatile multiprocess unit can handle MIG, DC TIG, Stick and Flux-Cored household welding tasks. The 120V input connects easily to standard home outlets, and the PowerMIG 140 MP is capable of MIG welding 30-140 amps, DC TIG welding 10-120 amps and stick welding 25-90 amps.

Its simple two-knob operation allows even beginning welders to easily control wire feed speed and voltage, and a single button makes process selection changes a snap. At less than 35 pounds, this lightweight, compact welder is perfect for jobs around the house and on the go.

Lincoln PowerMIG 180 Dual MIG Welder

The 64-pound PowerMIG 180 Dual MIG Welder offers dual 120V and 208/230V input power capability, making it an outstanding welder for use at home, in the shop or in the field. It’s powerful enough for sheet metal and light frame auto body work as well as light industrial and farm applications.

Patented split wire guides deliver optimal wire alignment, while dual gear-driven drive rolls consistently provide positive traction. The PowerMIG 180 is equipped with Lincoln’s Diamond Core Technology, which ensures minimum spatter and a forgiving arc.

The no-hassle tool-free design allows fast and easy input power changes, wire spool mounting, wire drive service and polarity changes for the ultimate in convenience.

Lincoln Power MIG 256 MIG Welder

For more demanding jobs, the Lincoln PowerMIG 256 raises the bar for MIG and flux-cored welding in light industrial, maintenance or repair settings. Like the PowerMIG 180, it includes high-performance Diamond Core Technology and Lincoln’s 100 percent wire supporting split wire guide system. The digital display makes it easy to monitor your voltage and wire feed speed.

The kit also includes a 15-foot Magnum PRO gun and cable, extended-life Copper Plus contact tips and the Coil Claw cable management system to keep everything organized and in its proper place. At 245 pounds, this welder isn’t made for portability, but it delivers the power you need for heavy-duty welds at home or in the shop.

Alternatives to the Lincoln 210 MP

If you like the features and performance of the Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP but want to know how it stacks up against comparable welders in its class, consider these options by other well-known manufacturers.

Miller Electric Millermatic 211 MIG Welder

The Millermatic 211 is known for its user-friendly setup, but with its new Advanced Auto-Set feature, it’s also more versatile, offering five different wire and gas combinations along with .024, .030 and .035-inch wires. Like the Lincoln 210 MP, the Millermatic uses inverter technology to deliver high-performance arcs in a portable, 38-pound unit.

Multi-voltage plug design lets you connect to common 120V or 240V receptacles without needing any tools—simply choose the plug that fits the receptacle and connect it to the power cord. Its proprietary “Smooth Start” design has earned the Millermatic 211 a reputation as the best-starting machine in the small MIG category, while its newly enhanced cast-aluminum drive system with calibrated tension knob provides consistent feeding and easy setup for up to 15-foot MIG guns.

Hobart Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder

The Hobart Handler 210 MVP MIG Welder packs a maximum of 210 amps into a small, portable case that weighs in under 80 pounds. A wide range of voltage settings and infinite wire feed speed control let you calibrate the machine for each individual job, while fine control of output parameters mean improved arc performance, better bead appearance and minimal clean-up.

Similar to the Millermatic 211, the Handler 210 connects to both 115V and 230V power receptacles without requiring tools; simply select the plug that fits the receptacle. An industrial cast aluminum wire drive system delivers durable, professional-grade wire feed performance, while the quick-select drive roll provides three grooves for easier setup: two for different size solid wire and a third for flux-cored wire.

Tweco Fabricator 3-in-1 211i MP Integrated Welding Package

The Tweco Fabricator 3-in-1 211i MP Integrated Welding Package is an impressive, compact multiprocess welding system that includes MIG, Stick, and TIG welding capabilities. The 58-pound portable unit is ideal for light to medium fabrication of steel, stainless steel and aluminum in a wide range of settings.

Inductance control allows for consistent arc stability and spatter control, while the infinite voltage control settings deliver outstanding starting performance with every weld.

Recommended Accessories

While the Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP comes with nearly every accessory you’ll need for the welding process itself, you will need to invest in a few essential safety-related items before you fire up your welder and get to work.

  • Helmet: Wearing a high-quality darkening helmet while welding is non-negotiable. Not only does the helmet shield your face and neck from high temperatures, but it also helps prevent debilitating eye damage that can occur with exposure to the welding arc’s powerful infrared light.
  • Gloves: A thick pair of welding gloves protects hands and arms from electricity, high heat and metal spatter during the welding process.
  • Welding jacket: A flame-resistant cotton or leather jacket creates a protective barrier between your upper body and the heat and sparks produced by the welding torch. The jacket’s fit should permit full range of motion without creating gaps that expose your skin or clothing to high heat or flame.
  • Fire extinguisher: An A-B-C rated extinguisher should be close at hand to manage any kind of fire you may encounter.

Additionally, you may want to consider adding these items to your workshop as time and funds allow:

  • Cart: A quality cart keeps your welder, gas cylinders and accessories secure, organized and ready to use. You’ll want a model that includes smooth-rolling wheels, locking casters and plenty of space for dry storage of tips, grounding clamps and other supplies.
  • MIG light: A MIG light illuminates your work area, allowing you to weld more safely in tight, low-light areas (such as under a car).
  • Angle grinder: After welding a joint, an angle grinder comes in handy for grinding the weld bead down, especially during root and fill passes in pipe welding. Angle grinders can also be used to prepare base metal surfaces by removing rust and other oxides before grinding.
  • Chop saw: A good chop saw enables you to precisely cut stainless steel, aluminum and other metals and consistently create 45-degree miters.

Wrapping Up the Lincoln 210 MP

The Lincoln 210 MP welder is more than suitable for hobbyists, educators, and contractors wanting a durable machine to handle different tasks. It is also a great choice for those anticipating more than just MIG welds.The 210 MP works great with TIG and stick welding as well.

However, if your tasks are only centered on MIG welds, this might be too much for you, and it can be recommended to go for a more MIG focused welder, like one of the many models from Hobart Welders.

Lincoln Electric has a long history of building powerful, high-quality welders that deliver outstanding performance and unmatched customer satisfaction year after year. The Lincoln PowerMIG 210 MP more than lives up to this lofty reputation, providing a reliable option for beginning and experienced welders alike. With its versatile capabilities in MIG, TIG, stick and flux core welding, there’s not much you can’t accomplish with this lightweight yet mighty machine.