Tungsten inert gas (TIG) welding is also called gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW). It is a welding process that uses a non-consumable electrode that delivers the current to the welding arc. Then the tungsten electrode and the weld puddle receive protection from the inner gas, which is usually argon. You are using a filler material for reinforcement or building up a seam.
Anyone who has ever used an oxy-acetylene torch can transition TIG welding techniques rather quickly. This process uses an electric torch, and the welder’s hand feeds the filler rod into the weld puddle.
What makes this process so unique is the option for a soft starting and stopping the heat. Some welders prefer to use the accelerator pedal when working at a bench, while others like to use the fingertip controls on the torch. That makes it possible to keep a customized approach available even if you’re working in a position that would be considered out-of-position.
If you’re thinking about learning how to weld, then these are the TIG welding advantages and disadvantages to consider when reviewing this approach.
List of the Advantages of TIG Welding
1. TIG welding offers more precision.
Once you know how to correctly use a TIG welder, you will discover that the welds are more precise when using this approach. The achievable outcomes typically have a higher quality to them when compared to other welding techniques. It is a difficult skill to learn for many people because you must hold the welding torch in one hand and the filler material in the other for a successful result.
Most beginners need to take a class or go through a training process to reach their full potential with TIG welding.
2. TIG welding uses a cleaner process.
TIG welding uses an inert gas that gives you a variety of options for a wide range of metals. This creates an advantage of a lesser environmental impact than other welding methods. Argon is relatively safe when it escapes into the atmosphere, so you have less to worry about when trying to put together a nice seam. If you want to go green with your welding work, then the GTAW method is the best one to choose from.
This welding process leads to less lag when creating a bead. That means fewer imperfections develop when utilizing the proper TIG welding technique.
3. You can operate a TIG welder in almost any position.
TIG welding provides an advantage in the fact that you can use this technique in several different positions. You have the ability to weld upward, downward, or to the side with this technique. That option is not available for every welding process since some of them require you to point the torch downward. If your job involves installing an overhang or working in an awkward position, then this technique is going to be the one that you want to use.
4. TIG welding allows you to choose the precise amperage for your work.
TIG welding won’t produce the same small flaws that other techniques create because you have more control over your amperage. Instead of being forced to use higher amps with your work, the cleanest cuts possible come through this process because of its exacting nature. That means you can create excellent lines with robust strength while taking the same amount of time to create your joints.
5. You have more control over the heat produced by the welder.
TIG welding uses a pedal to help you control the heat that gets produced by the unit. There are fewer issues with burning the metal or discoloration with this process since you are always working the system. Since you don’t need any filler material to create your bead with this process, it gives you time to create complex results in a short time.
The pedal works a lot like what you find with an automobile. As you press down slowly with your foot, then you’ll receive the heat levels needed for a nice weld. Once you get the hang of this process, the amount of splatter that occurs is quite minimal.
6. You can weld more metals and alloys with TIG welding processes.
TIG welding processes are useful for welding Chromoly, aluminum, steel, nickel alloys, stainless steel, copper, brass, magnesium, and even gold. That means you can use this technique to repair almost any kind of equipment at home. The precise bead control that you receive is ideal for those times when a cosmetic weld is necessary, especially if you’re working on an automobile.
7. There are fewer fumes and less smoke when TIG welding.
TIG welding doesn’t produce fumes or smoke when you start working a puddle. The only exception to this rule is when you start working some metal that contains contaminants or elements that could be hazardous. You’ll want to do a good job of cleaning your base materials before you get to work to avoid any potential problems. Oil, paint, zinc, lead, and grease can all create problems for you if you’re not careful, including a poor bead that leads to an inferior result.
8. You don’t need to purchase multiple shielding gases to work efficiently.
Argon gas is typically used for most TIG welding applications. It is useful because you can use it to shield all metal types and thicknesses. That means you can spend less on supplies since this one gas can handle all of your projects when you can perfect this technique. It doesn’t produce sparks if the metal is clean either, enabling you to work in confined areas without compromising the integrity of your work. That makes it one of the most versatile processes that you can use today.
9. The cost of a TIG welder is comparable to the other methods.
If you are purchasing your first TIG welder, then here’s some good news. You’ll discover that the prices are about the same for this process when compared to MIG or stick units. Although some stick welders are a little cheaper, you’ll have more flexibility by following the TIG welding process. An entry-level unit is about $150, while professional-grade welders tend to be in the $400 to $750 range.
You also have the option to purchase 3-in-1 or 5-in-1 models that combine all of the various welding techniques. Those units cost about 25% more, but they’re also cheaper than paying for the equipment individually.
List of the Disadvantages of TIG Welding
1. TIG welding is more expensive than the other processes available.
The welding cost that uses the TIG techniques are much higher than they are for MIG welders because the process is slower. You must also manage low deposition rates, which get measured in pounds-per-hour deposited at a specific welding current. You can avoid the maintenance expenses and cost of purchasing new wire when choosing this option, but that gets countered by the cost of the rods you must buy.
Unless you must have clean, aesthetically-pleasing welds for your work consistently, it is usually cheaper to choose a different process.
2. Poor gas coverage can lead to contamination issues.
When the shielding gas doesn’t give you enough coverage while following the TIG welding process, then you can experience contamination issues. If there is too little or too much, then the aesthetics can go down dramatically. This disadvantage applies even when your ratios are good, but the shielding gas blows away in the wind.
Most people find that attempting to weld with an argon and carbon dioxide mixture almost immediately leads to contamination. A 100% argon shielding gas is usually your best approach. Then check your hoses and fittings for leaks to ensure a breach hasn’t occurred.
3. You need to remember the correct polarity for your welds.
TIG welding allows you to create a bead using direct current or alternating current. Some metals require you to choose the correct polarity and adjusting balance to ensure that you receive the intended result. If you don’t remember to change the settings when you switch metals, then a contaminated bead can be the result. On something like aluminum oxide, you might not even make your way through the top layer of the joint you want to form.
When you are TIG welding aluminum, don’t start creating a bead until you see a puddle form with a shiny dot in it. That indicates you’ve made it through the oxide so that it is safe to add filler.
4. Different manufacturers have their own quality standards that they follow.
When you start TIG welding, you’ll quickly discover that any filler rods you choose to use can have different qualities to them. If you purchase a 5356 filler from one manufacturer, then the properties could be different from others. This disadvantage can lead to issues with graininess in your final weld, especially when you’re working with aluminum.
Before you get started on a project, it always helps to check on the filler metal type that you need. Then clean the surface thoroughly to ensure that the results you achieve are what you want.
5. You can create craters in your work easily with TIG welding.
TIG welding can create craters at any time, and this disadvantage follows every other process. It happens most often with TIG when you reach the end of your weld. If you reduce power too quickly, then the puddle gets cold prematurely. You can also encounter this problem when removing the filler rod too quickly at the end of your work. Since this disadvantage often leads to cracking, you’ll want to fix it by continuing to feed filler rod while slowly reducing the current when wrapping things up.
Some TIG welders have a feature that automatically reduces current levels at the end of a weld to reduce this issue. They cost a little more to purchase, but the results are usually effective.
6. Overheating can be a significant problem when TIG welding.
Stainless steel and aluminum are challenging metals for TIG welders because of their propensity to overheat. When the material gets too hot, then it creates discoloration and degrades the corrosion resistance. It can even impact the mechanical properties of the part. If you encounter this error with your work, then there isn’t a way to save the piece. You must scrap it to start over.
These metals require you to learn a specific technique that involves increasing your travel speed, reducing amperage, and possibly shortening your arc length. You may also need to start learning the pulsing capabilities of your equipment.
7. Oxidation can form around your weld rather easily.
If you don’t maintain careful control of your weld, then oxidation can occur on your metal without much effort. This disadvantage is called “sugaring,” and you can see it happen around a weld when oxygen gets into the process. You need to remember to back purge the weld with your shielding gas or reduce your amperage to avoid this issue. If it still develops when you’ve taken these steps, then there could be a leak in your supply.
8. TIG welding focuses on technique.
If you don’t use the correct techniques when using the TIG welding process, then inferior outcomes are going to follow you all of the time. These welds take longer to complete, and it takes extra time to make sure that your equipment is working properly. You must also clean the metals that you plan to work on when using this process, or it will not create an aesthetically pleasing result.
When you know that the metals you are going to be working on have contamination, then a stick welding apparatus is likely the better choice. You must use both hands and at least 1 foot to be successful with this approach. It is not unusual to see some welders standing on one leg while working.
9. Cutting work is a challenge when using TIG welding processes.
It can be challenging to take apart two products that were welded together in the past without destroying each one of them when using this welding approach. Although a successful result is possible, it usually requires the attention of an expert professional to complete the work. Even then, there isn’t a guarantee that the final result will meet your expectations. That means once you have completed your weld with TIG equipment, they aren’t generally useful for future applications.
TIG welding provides you with a diverse set of tools that you can use on a variety of metals. Almost every technique and material can have a bead created on it when using this equipment, and manual or orbital services are available in this category.
Although the cost of the materials and equipment for this process is relatively affordable, you must be skilled or experienced to create consistent results. If you’ve never picked up a welder before, then this technique might not be the first one to learn. When you perform it incorrectly, contamination, inclusions, and unbalanced heating can cause warping or something worse.
These TIG welding advantages and disadvantages are essential to consider when you have specific work to complete. If you’re not sure if this option is your best choice, then it may be wise to purchase equipment that can give you access to every technique instead.
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.