What is the difference between MIG welding and arc welding? This is one of the most asked questions about welding. In truth, arc welding refers to any welding process that relies on an electric current.
As such, Metal Inert Gas welding or MIG welding falls under arc welding. However, to most people, arc welding is Shielded Metal Arc Welding, which is also referred to as stick welding. For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume arc welding refers to stick welding.
In this regard, we will be comparing stick vs mig welding. We will look at what each welding process entails and offers. Also, we will go over each welding process’s pros and cons. Finally, we will look at the similarities between the two.
Introduction MIG welding
Let us start by looking at what Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is all about. MIG welding entails the feeding of a solid wire through a welding gun and into the weld pool. The weld pool joins the two base materials together.
Apart from the welding wire, a shielding gas is also fed through the welding gun. This shielding gas can either be argon, carbon dioxide, or a mixture of the two. The purpose of the gas is to protect the weld pool from atmospheric contaminants.
The shielding gas mentioned above is supplied from a pressure gas tank. As such, to weld using this technique, you require a welder and a gas tank. Thus, the equipment you need includes the welder, a gas tank, a regulator, or flow meter.
Also, as with any other welding process, you need a welding wire. The latter can be in the form of solid wire or a flux wire. A flux core wire is hollow and contains flux materials inside. These flux materials generate a shielding gas when burned.
Thus, some welding wires do not require an external gas tank.
How does MIG welding work?
As mentioned above, MIG welding uses an electric current. The current is used to create a short circuit between a positively charged solid wire and a negatively charged cathode. The cathode in this scenario is the metal being welded.
A non-reactive gas or inert gas is also fed through the welding gun. The gas and the circuit weld the metal and allows them to mix. When the heat is removed, the weld pool cools and solidifies, forming a new piece of fused metal.
Pros of MIG welding
- Is one of the easiest to learn welding processes
- Produces high-quality weld with minimal slag since there is no flux material being used
- It is a versatile welding technique and can be used to weld both ferrous and non-ferrous metals
- Produces high quality at a much faster rate
- The end product has a clean look and has minimal spatter
Cons of MIG welding
- This process cannot be used for vertical or overhead welding due to its high heat output
- Cannot be used for outside welding projects
Introduction to stick welding
Stick welding is a very common welding technique. In this technique, the electrode is covered in compounds and metal powder. A binding agent is used to bind these powders and compounds to the surface of the solid rod.
Similar to MIG welding, an electric current passes through the rod to establish an arc between the rod and the metal to be welded. The heat generated causes the covering of the rod to decompose, in turn creating a gas that shields the weld pool from atmospheric contaminants.
There is no need for an external gas tank in stick welding. All you need is a welding machine and the electrode. Stick electrodes come in different sizes. The size of the wire used determines the voltage and amperage to be used.
How it works
An electric current that can either be Alternating (AC) or Direct (DC) passes through the flux-coated electrode. At the point of contact with the base metal, it arcs. As the wire melts the flux coating creates a cloud of gases around it.
It is this cloud of gases that protects the weld pool for contaminants in the atmosphere. When the molten metal cools, the cloud of gases settles on the pool, forming slag. The slag has to be removed to reveal finished weld.
Pros of Stick welding
- The equipment used is easy to use and inexpensive
- No external shielding gas required and thus is convenient
- Can be carried out outdoors in windy or even rainy conditions
- Can be used on painted on even rusted metal surfaces
- Changing electrodes for welding different metals is easy
- Is not ideal for welding certain types of thin metal
- Slow compared to other types of welding techniques
MIG Welding vs STICK Welding
The mig vs. stick welding is one that still rages on. Both are great welding techniques that yield strong welds. However, some differences make them suited to different tasks. In this section, we are going to look at these differences.
Which one Can Penentrate Easily in Ramble of Mig vs Stick
The first round of the Stick vs Mig battle is metal penetration. Both processes offer high penetration. However, amp-for-amp stick welding has an edge. MIG may require higher amperage to penetrate thicker metals.
Also, to get a deep penetration with MIG, you need to clean the metal surface first. Stick welding offers high penetration, whether the metal surface is rusted or dirty.
Which is cheaper mig vs arc welding? The equipment used for MIG is usually pricier than the equipment used for stick welding. However, for high production in a shop setting MIG welding may be less costly.
Thus it depends on what your needs are. Ultimately though, stick welding is less expensive and more portable than MIG welding.
Safety and welder quality
The quality of welder has more to do with the welding machine you opt for. Both processes have a great selection of welding machines you can choose from. When it comes to safety, MIG has more safety requirements.
As mentioned previously, MIG welding has a high heat output. Therefore, it cannot be used for overhead or vertical welding. Stick welding does not have such a high heat output and is thus a bit safer for overhead welding.
Mig Welding vs Arc Welding: Which Is Better For What?
MIG is a cleaner welding process that produces beautiful welds. Stick welding is a more rugged weld process. For general welding projects such as farm work use stick.
MIG welding is mainly used in fabrication. The reason being that it requires a clean and unpainted metal surface. Also, it excels when it comes to welding non-ferrous metals such as aluminum.
For outdoor works where you are dealing with rusted, painted, and even dirty surfaces, stick will be the ideal option.
The next round in this STICK welding vs MIG welding is how beginner-friendly the two are. Generally, MIG is easier to learn compared to stick welding. However, this is not to say stick welding is difficult.
In terms of weld strength, both produce strong welds. Nonetheless, with MIG welding, you can create a good looking weld that is not strong. This is mainly for beginners. An aesthetically pleasing weld is not always a strong weld. This is something you should keep in mind.
Which Metal To use - In Battle of Mig vs Stick Welding
MIG welding is used mainly in fabrication works. Standard MIG welding machines may struggle when welding thick metals. Trying to weld thick metals such as cast iron may destroy your MIG machine.
Stick welders, on the other hand, can weld thicker metals. But are poor at welding thinner sheets of metal. A standard AC stick welder will burn through metals thinner than 1/8 inches. MIG welders can weld metals up to 24 gauge in thickness.
When welding using an MIG welder, you must ensure that the surface is clean. Unlike stick welders MIG welding does not work on dirty, rusted, or painted surfaces.
Indoor & outdoor Use : Mig Or Arc
When it comes to arc vs mig welding conditions, they are both suited to different environments. MIG welding is primarily done indoors. Stick welding is done outdoors.
Due to the use of shielding gas, MIG is not suited to outdoor welding. Wind and rain causes interferes with the shielding gas resulting in a poor weld. Stick welding on the other hand, produces thick smoke and fumes, thus it is best done outside.
The appearance of the weld
MIG welding is predominantly used in fabrication and sculpting. The reason being that this method produces an aesthetically pleasing weld. The same cannot be said about stick welding. With the latter, you get a lot of slag and spatter, and the finished weld is not aesthetically pleasing.
Stick welding does not require an external gas tank to supply the shielding gas. Instead the gas is created the flux coating burns. MIG welding does require a gas tank to provide the shielding gas. In MIG welding, a solid wire with no flux coating is used.
Stick and MIG welding are two of the most common welding methods out there. And while they have their similarities, they are primarily different. Stick welding is more functional and rugged and is used for general purpose repair works.
MIG welding is more refined and produces more aesthetically pleasing welds. It is used mainly in fabrication works and sculpting. So if you are wondering which is better mig vs. stick welding? It all depends on your welding needs.