Being part of an effective welding workforce requires precision, knowledge about metals, safety, equipment handling, and settings. Every welding process has its challenges. But some aspects of them make one more demanding than another. So, what is the easiest route to follow?
MIG welding is the easiest of all other branches of welding. Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW) comes next. TIG welding makes it on top for the difficulty, dexterity, and keenness required. Even other techniques like gas or stick welding can be easier with the right training.
In this article, I’ll highlight some points about the most common methods and help you figure out why MIG is easy and others are not as much.
MIG Welding is the easiest welding to learn
You won’t believe me if I tell you this. Just bring a MIG setup, plug in the welder, and start. I’m not saying that the bead you can lay without some practice will be very good. But it won’t be so ugly either, considering your first-time performance.
You shouldn’t worry about the way how a wire electrode will be fed. The electrode is fed through a spool gun, and the feeding is a continuous action which requires less of your nimbleness and more of your focus.
The electrode is designed to be in a roll of wire. With MIG welding, no long filler or welding rod is there to make the job too laborious. I think you want to start with a shielding gas which enables you to make clean welds without requiring you to chip slags.
You press the specific trigger, and the gun starts feeding the wire coming out of the nozzle. This starts the arc immediately and the gas starts to flow. Within a few months of activity, you’ll be able to create beautiful, smooth welds. That is how things go.
Another advantage is that you can take your project outside just as easily as inside. But that takes you to grasp the techniques of using flux core wire. I know what I’ve mentioned just now is another part of the job, but I’m telling you more about it anyway.
Flux-Cored Arc Welding Is Considerable Too
This welding process is not a completely separate one for it is fundamentally MIG welding but with the requirement to use flux-cored wire as the electrode.
Unlike MIG welding, the required shielding gas is sourced from the flux core in FCAW. This difference makes it possible for you to weld in windy conditions. Both processes have their ways to shield the electrode from the contaminants.
The best thing about FCAW is that you won’t need days, let alone months to learn this. Once you are good at MIG welding; you can take on this one in less than a day, I mean only a few hours, just to get yourself comfortable with the process.
The difference in productivity is really worth your attention. If the material is not the deal-breaker and you are okay with both processes, you can expect at least 3-4 times greater productivity with the latter, FCAW.
Now that the easiest way around welding is known to you, you might be curious to learn why other processes, especially the popular TIG welding process cannot be considered easier or less rigorous than MIG.
Why Is TIG Welding More Difficult Than MIG Welding?
TIG welding is arguably the most difficult process. It is the reason I’m going to bring it up at the outset. I’ll start with the toughest aspects first.
TIG welding is performed with a relatively low deposition rate. It means there is no quick way to do things. For the process to occur appropriately, a set pace is required. So, patience is an essential quality.
You use one of your hands to feed a filler material onto the machine and another hand to operate the torch. That is how TIG welding is carried out. Many welding units require a foot pedal which is used by the operator to control the amperage.
You’ll only have one leg to stand firm and three (two hands and one leg) out of four of your limbs will be busy during the process. It is about a high level of nimbleness which may not be an easy undertaking for beginners.
Part of becoming a good welding professional is to know how to weld with different metals, not just steel or aluminum. TIG welding is not the ideal type for this purpose because some metals, especially the thinner ones, are not good for the process.
Also, dirty metals are off the list for they might result in bad welds. For someone who is only learning, keeping these things together at a time may not be easy.
The last thing I would like you to know about this process is that you cannot separate the welded metals into two parts easily. Even experienced professionals cannot guarantee that they can take the welded products apart without causing serious damages to each of them.
There are always chances for improper techniques, unbalanced heating, or contamination to occur and result in defective welds, which only mean the waste of three things – money, labor, and materials.
Why Is Stick Welding More Challenging Than MIG Welding?
Stick welding workers have to know how to handle specific tasks such as setting the current, keeping the length of the arc within limit, maintaining the right angle of electrode, and the speed of travel.
Again, I’m talking about the hardest thing – to initiate and maintain the arc. It takes some time for one to learn how to control and arc and put it to the user’s advantage.
Without any disrespect to apprentices or learners, I can tell that most people are not quite aware of the fact that the majority of stick welding units run only on a 220V outlet. A 110V outlet which is more commonly available is not suitable.
Heat control and weld puddle are some of the mandatory welding topics. With stick welding, both tasks become very difficult as the process itself is responsible for creating smoke and slag which hinder a beginner’s effort to grasp them. You’ll have to chip the slag properly from the weld beads. The task may sound simple, but it requires some skills too.
Additional Read: MIG Vs Stick Welding
What Makes Plasma Arc Welding (PAW) Harder Than MIG Welding?
Both PAW and TIG welding are similar in that they require pointed tungsten electrodes and no additional filler materials. A plasma torch has the electrode positioned inside, and this sets the process apart from TIG.
One of the factors that limit a beginner’s options to pursue PAW is the startup cost which is too high for a learner to afford. The equipment is expensive, and so is the training. Should you get yourself some expertise in the process, intensive practice and dedication are mandatory.
Another problem is the heat-affected zone (HAZ) which is an unwanted byproduct of the process. Arcs generated through plasma may reach 5 times the heat (temperatures) of typical arcs and create relatively wider HAZ.
It means someone without experience won’t find it easy to take attempts to ensure lesser HAZs through shorter exposure of the metal to that heat.
While working with a plasma, you might risk yourself some serious exposure to noise, infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Although these problems are not unknown to welding professionals, they are just too dangerous for beginners who might not always remember using adequate precautions.
A plasma torch is similar to the one used for TIG welding, but it is still bulky enough to make a manual welding process more difficult. If it is mechanized welding we’re talking about, you need greater concentration toward the torch movement for consistent performance.
Maintaining the standoff correctly, you can ensure the correct arc flow. Then again, it requires some attention to the material thickness. Failure to do this may be the reason for a damaged torch or workpiece.
Fortunately, you can use standoff devices for hand-held cutters or automatic height control feature for mechanized systems. So, I think the standoff won’t be a big deal.
Is Gas Welding Any Easier?
Few people would argue the ease and consistency that can be achieved from this method. But my point is all about consistency which doesn’t come so easy.
At the early stages of learning, you would lose either strength or appearance of the weld because keeping up both of them is what experienced fellows are capable of.
In addition, the combustibility of acetylene and oxygen is one thing that you may not be able to keep in mind every time you light the torch. Having an open flame around is not a good idea unless you know how to control it, and that my friend, takes time.
Electronic Beam and Laser vs. MIG Welding: Which One Is the Easiest?
I’m bringing up the word ‘precision’ to help you reach a verdict here. MIG can be an acceptable process, but EB and laser are ever more effective in terms of penetration, weld purity, HAZ, and precision.
After knowing how to focus the electron beams or lasers with great accuracy, which usually takes a lot of time, you can weld virtually anything between small and large.
Don’t jump into a commercial or professional joint before doing MIG welding at least for 5-6 months, just in case, you’re wondering how long one should commit to the learning stage.
I think I have a few more suggestions about MIG welding. Since wire feeding is very important, select the proper settings for the drive roll and the tension. Consult a senior welder to understand the correct placement of the contact tip recess (the tip’s position within the nozzle).
Do your research and gather knowledge as much as possible about the shielding gas. With time, you’ll become familiar with the suitability of different gases to the wire. Also, you should take a lot of trials to ensure that the wire stays directed at the weld pool’s leading edge.
Finally, I want to bring up the concerns for safety because you’ll be exposed to some undesirable hazards such as arc rays, electric shock, noise, fumes, hot parts, etc. Be careful about choosing your outfit while on the job.
Feel free to send more queries about MIG or other types. I promise to answer like a friend. Safe welding!