MIG, TIG, or Stick Welding? How to Know Which Process to Use


Welding is essential in creating everything from small objects, tools, and parts for machines to large structures, buildings, and skyscrapers. Many types of welding processes perform specific effects and results for a wide range of projects.

As this technology advances, various welding machines and techniques achieve specific results in many settings, including construction sites, manufacturing plants, and small worksites.

Three of the most common welding techniques are MIG (inert metal gas), TIG (Tungsten inert gas), and stick welding. Depending on the type of job or function you’re working on, getting familiar with each of the 3 types of welding processes and the benefits they provide for each task is essential.


MIG Welding: Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)


Gas metal arc welding, also known as MIG or GMAW welding, uses a thin wire fed through the welding machine, acting as an electrode. As this wire moves through the welding equipment and to the welding site, it’s heated to achieve the desired welding effect, with gasless (flux core) or with gas (MIG).

MIG, or metal inert gas welding, is typically cost-effective when you invest in the equipment, though supplies can become expensive over time. Gasless MIG welding requires a specific type of wire that is more costly, while gas MIG wires are more complex, yet it costs less and creates more refined, cleaner lines.

The power source for MIG welding requires a constant voltage from a direct-current power source, which produces heat that allows for two metals to be fused with a wire electrode. MIG also uses a shielding gas with the wire electrode, and this type of welding process is most common in industrial settings, including working with large bore pipes and plates.

GMAW or MIG welding applies four main metal transfer methods: short-circuiting, spray transfer, globular transfer, and pulsed spray.


Short-Circuiting MIG Welding


Short-circuiting is when the wire contacts the base metal quickly by tapping many times per second, which results in minimal splatter and sparks. For this reason, short-circuiting is favorable in various welding positions, including narrow and small spaces.


Globular Transfer MIG Welding


Globular transfer creates a more comprehensive, rougher bead due to a larger metal droplet, which increases the amount of residue and splatter surrounding the project. It’s best to weld metal using this method for thick metal plates positioned in a horizontal direction.


Spray Transfer MIG Welding


This method applies consistent, small molten metal droplets to establish a continuous contact arc weld, which minimizes splatter. Spray transfer welding works best when it’s used on thick and flat horizontal metal, including stainless steel or sheet metal.


Pulsed-Spray MIG Welding


The pulsed-spray welding technique is similar to the spray transfer method, except for using a high-low current pulse. This welding process allows for small cooling periods in between, which refers to a lower voltage and a cooler weld or “cold welding” that remain high in heat, though comparatively cooler than the standard welding temperature.

While all welding uses extreme heat during the process, pulsed spray welding alternates between a lower heat and high heat for the desired effect.


TIG Welding: GTAW or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding


One of the most widespread and versatile types of welding is TIG welding, or GTAW, known as gas tungsten arc welding. The TIG arc welding process is adaptable for various projects, though it can take a while to achieve good results, which makes it initially challenging for most people.

While the Tungsten arc welding process is more difficult to master and considered less productive, it’s worthwhile due to high-quality welding. This type of welding is ideal for large-scale objects, where greater control is required during the process.

TIG welding is ideal for combining thick pieces of non-ferrous metals, such as stainless steel. This arc welding process uses a fixed consumable or tungsten electrode, which creates the weld. Typically, it takes significantly longer to achieve in comparison to stick welding, flux-cored arc welding, or MIG welding processes.

When you use the TIG welding process, it’s essential to determine the composition of the base metal, as non-ferrous metals have various melting points, which should be considered before you choose a welding method. This type of welding requires precision and a well-trained eye, especially when you weld aluminum, which offers potential for intricate, detailed work.


Stick Welding: SMAW or Shielded Metal Arc Welding


Stick welding is also known as SMAW or shielded metal arc welding, and it’s one of the most popular types of welding processes used in various settings. SMAW or covered electrode welding uses a fixed-length electrode with an electric power source to fuse various metals.

The covered electrode’s core is a solid metal rod covered by mineral compounds and metal powders that combine to form an agent that allows them to bind or “stick” to the electrode’s surface. This solid-state welding conducts an electric current with the core rod to the arc while providing metal filler for the fusion or joint.

There are variations in stick welding, which include using an alternating or direct current, the size of the stick welder, and the types of electrodes that set the arc voltage requirements. The overall range for stick welding voltage is between 16 to 40 volts, and the amperage required ranges between 20 and 550 amps.

Whether you use direct or alternating current, the power source must be able to maintain and control the current level within a range that produces a result while responding to the variables during the welding process.

Shielded metal arc welding provides arc stability with a covered electrode so that molten metal is shielded from the atmosphere as they create gases. This shielding also provides controls for the chemical composition, mechanical properties, and structure of the weld metal, including the electrode. The type of electrode covering varies based on the type you require for the metals used and the desired effect.


Work With Our Welding Experts


When you work closely with our welding experts at Sunbelt Rentals, you’ll find a great selection of welding and plasma cutting equipment for all your projects. There are significant benefits to renting welding equipment for your next construction site project or custom products, including the following:

  • High-quality equipment that’s available for a wide range of project welding, including machines for plasma arc welding, seam welding, flash welding, friction welding, and other specialized equipment for a variety of unique projects and results
  • Safety equipment for personal projection and advice on which welding options are best suited for your construction site or facilities
  • Ongoing phone and online support address any issues or specific needs for your worksite or equipment, including scheduled maintenance and repairs to ensure consistent quality results
  • On-site maintenance ensures your welding machines and equipment perform optimally to minimize downtime and improve productivity

You’ll find a wide range of welding equipment and supplies to set up your upcoming project, including welding screens, inert gas flow meters, helmets, cables, oxygen tanks, and everything you need for your industry.

Sunbelt Rentals provide the experts you need to provide the best solutions for automotive manufacturing, entertainment venues, retail spaces, utility equipment, and more. Sunbelt Rentals aims to provide a customized solution based on every customer’s needs, whether you need machinery and tools for a large construction site, manufacturing plant, or specific projects and worksites.