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Welding Talk – TIG Cups; Ceramic of Glass?

If there’s one process that brings out personal preferences and polarises opinions about welding accessories and consumables, it’s probably TIG welding. Choosing between ceramic TIG cups and glass TIG cups demonstrates this perfectly. Maybe you’ve already chosen, or perhaps you’re still undecided and want to understand the differences better. If so, please read on…

To be honest, asking whether ceramic TIG cups are better than glass skips an important question about whether or not to use a gas lens (with its extended gas pocket) for TIG welding.

This will probably be when working with expensive specialist metals such as stainless-steels or titanium. They’re often the ones where material cost (if you get the weld wrong for lack of sufficient gas) hugely outweighs the gas cost itself. It’s a great subject for another article, but for now, we’re focusing on ceramic vs. glass. So, having made the assumption that you’re choosing some form of gas lens and ‘going large’ on gas, let’s look at the pros and cons of glass and ceramic TIG cups. But first, a basic refresher on gas lenses…

TIG gas lenses

Standard TIG collet heads give a usable but relatively unrefined spread of gas. For many TIG jobs they’re fine. However for some materials, reduced gas turbulence and improved shielding of the weld-puddle is particularly important. TIG welding ‘difficult’ metals, such as stainless steel, titanium or austenitic nickel-chromium-based superalloys such as Inconel, comes to mind.

Precise gas coverage

When you weld any of these, more precise gas coverage is critical. That’s where TIG gas lenses really earn their keep. As well as giving more stable gas flow, the lens, characterised by one or more layers of simple or swirled mesh to focus the gas, extends the argon pocket. This reduces the likelihood of potentially weld-killing contamination and allows longer tungsten stick-out. In turn, this improves access to tight precision weld zones and makes your electrode tip easier to see.

From normal collet body to TIG Zone

If you’ve a minute, please visit our TIG Torch Consumables & Spares pages. You’ll find a range of TIG cups starting with basic ‘normal’ collet body and ceramic cups and standard gas lens collet body and ceramic cup combos. The range also embraces large gas-lens collet body ceramic cups – all in distinctive ‘porcine pink’ ceramic.

At smaller diameters, you’ll struggle to find glass equivalents to ceramic. From experience, many TIG welders won’t need to move beyond ceramic for their welding. However, when it’s necessary to have larger diameter cups around a gas lens, you enter the realm of products such as CK Worldwide’s glass TIG cups.

Beyond these, at what’s arguably a pinnacle of gas lens performance and getting your tungsten into hard-to-access weld zones, ceramic dominates with beautifully engineered products such as the lightweight TIG Zone EVo-FLO Cover Kit with distinctive swirl-mesh screen.

Pros and cons of glass TIG cups

There is a common conception that glass TIG cups give better welds than ceramic ones. There’s a case for better weld zone visibility through glass – for instance, when ‘walking the cup’ during pipe welding. However, there’s a strong counter argument that the extended electrode with a larger diameter ceramic cup and gas lens gives similar visibility benefits. By the way, CK don’t recommend their glass cups for welding aluminium.

As so often with TIG, personal preference comes into play here. If you know and like glass TIG cups, they’re all you’ve worked with, and budget allows, then you’ll probably stick with them – naturally, we can help.

Pros and cons of ceramic TIG cups

On the other hand, ceramic TIG cups are inherently more durable compared to even the toughest Pyrex-branded glass cup; that’s just glass versus ceramic. There’s also a big price difference. If you’re only welding plate, save your money! Even a large gas lens collet body in a ceramic cup costs less than glass equivalents. And if you compare standard collet bodies and ceramic cups with glass, the latter can easily cost 30-times more. We can help you decide whether the difference is justified.

Ultimately, it’s down to personal taste

As so often with TIG welding, it’s ultimately down to individual preference, technique, budget and, to be honest, personal taste! Do your research, then talk to us and we’ll help you decide. That way, you’ll be welding with the TIG cup that’s best for you and your project.

Getting the best from large diameter TIG cups

Here’s something else to remember about larger diameter gas lenses, regardless of whether they’re within a ceramic or glass cup. We’re always stressing the importance of set up and it’s no different with gas lenses. Having opted for a gas lens within glass or ceramic, supplying insufficient argon to the cup’s greater internal volume can easily undermine the advantage of the larger diameter in the first place! That’s not just our view; manufacturers such as CK warn that gas lenses on standard gas flow may not perform as well as standard TIG torch set ups...

Want help choosing the right TIG cup?

Are you a TIG novice or a seasoned pro tackling super-trick TIG welding with titanium or other ‘oxygen receptive’ metals? Either way, our experienced team can help you make the right choice between ceramic and glass TIG cups – and we’ll never sell you anything you don’t need.

With decades’ experience in TIG welding and supplies, we have a great source of unbiased advice about TIG cups – from basic ceramic to the fabulous TIG Zone cup-and-lens combos.

Send us an email or call us for a chat!

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