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What is TIG welding?

Tungsten inert gas welding (TIG welding) is another welding process that uses electricity to melt and join pieces of metal. TIG welding was invented in the 1940s to meet the challenge of welding magnesium and aluminium in the Californian aerospace industry. Since then, its popularity has grown phenomenally. This is largely due to its versatility, cleanliness and minimal finishing requirement. And its suitability for welding so many different metals. Read on to learn more…

TIG welding (aka gas tungsten arc welding or GTAW) is a sub-type of gas metal arc welding (GMAW). Although equipment details have evolved since its invention, the general principles of TIG welding remain unchanged.

TIG welding isn’t the easiest welding technique to learn and master, nor is it the cheapest. However, it will reward the effort you invest in mastering it. Make no mistake; the results that can be achieved with TIG welding really are amazing.

Have you read The R-Tech Welding Equipment Guide to TIG Welding yet?

How TIG welding works

TIG welding uses electricity to create an arc (a short circuit) between a non-consumable tungsten electrode (a positive anode) and the metal being welded (a negative cathode). The arc is shielded by a flow of inert gas, typically argon.

A non-consumable tungsten electrode

Unlike the consumable electrode wire in MIG welding, the high (c. 6192 °F or 3422 °C) melting point of TIG welding tungsten electrodes means they won’t melt during welding. Instead, the arc between the electrode and the work melts the parent metal. At the same time (unless it’s an autogenous weld, such as a temporary tack weld), the arc also melts a separate welding rod of filler metal to form the weld bead.

Inert shielding gas

Meanwhile, the molten weld pool is protected by an inert shielding gas. This is typically argon or an argon mixture, although experienced TIG welders may use helium for faster welding under certain circumstances.

The shielding gas is fed along a supply pipeline from the welding machine to the TIG torch that holds the tungsten electrode. As with other forms of electric arc welding, when the heat is removed, the weld pool cools, solidifies and forms a new piece of fused metal – the weld is complete.

Because of this, when using a TIG welder, you need to co-ordinate interaction of a hand-held TIG torch with a filler rod as well as varying the electrical current. Keeping the electrode the correct distance from the weld, holding the filler rod tip in position, keeping both in the shielding gas and adjusting the current all add to TIG welding’s complexity.

The versatility of TIG welding

That same complexity helps make TIG Welding so versatile for welding a diverse range of metals. Mild steel, stainless steel, aluminium, magnesium, copper alloys, titanium and gold are all TIG weldable. Even dissimilar metals can be TIG welded – and all with minimal mess.

Ever since the early days at California’s Northrop Aircraft Corporation, TIG welding has endeared itself to welders because of this versatility. And for its capability when handling tricky welds such as ‘S’ shapes, curves and corners. Or anywhere that welds will be visible, and where accuracy and finish are important – from a sports car chassis to your next DIY welding project!

Ensuring quality TIG welds

R-Tech’s managing director, Robert White, says: ‘Years of experience working with professional and amateur welders confirms that, of all the arc welding techniques, TIG welding consistently gives the best combination of quality and finish. Okay, TIG isn’t quite “plug-and-play-easy”, but it’s really worth investing time and effort to master. From the start of your TIG welding, do get into the habit of keeping your workspace safe, clean and tidy, and investing in clean, moisture-free, high-quality shielding gas from a reputable supplier. Remember, too, the importance of keeping work dry, using clean, good-quality, filler rods, and always keeping that shielding gas flowing while welding to avoid the porosity that ruins welds. Of course, for more helpful advice on TIG welding, choosing equipment and consumables, we’re always here for you.’

Email us now or call 01452 733933 for help with all aspects of your TIG welding

Pros and cons of TIG welding

As we keep saying, TIG welding is incredibly versatile and suitable for a wide range of metals. However, as with any welding process, TIG welding has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the main things to know when considering TIG welding:

Advantages of TIG welding

  • TIG welding is suitable for widely-varying metal thicknesses. It is even suitable for very thin materials that are difficult (or impossible) to join with other welding techniques.
  • Superior arc and weld puddle (or ‘pool’) control delivers clean, attractive welds when appearances count. Because heat input (determined by electrical current) is often controlled with a foot pedal, TIG welding allows you to heat or cool the weld puddle for precise control of the weld bead. This makes TIG welding ideal for cosmetic welds on sculptures, architectural features and in automotive work.
  • TIG welding is possible in any position: vertical; horizontal; overhead.
  • Minimal smoke and colourless shielding gas means it’s easy to see your workpiece while welding.
  • TIG welding is very clean, with less spatter, smoke, sparks or fumes than other welding techniques. Because of this, TIG welding requires minimal cleaning or finishing, so you save time and money.
  • TIG welds are extremely ductile (less brittle), stronger and more corrosion resistant than other welds.
  • The best TIG welding machines also allow you to do traditional stick welding. 

Disadvantages of TIG welding

  • TIG welding is relatively slow, especially when you’re starting out. Even done by skilled TIG welders, the process is often slower than other welding.
  • Because of its complexity, TIG welding comes with a steeper learning curve than other welding processes. As we keep saying, the rewards from mastering TIG welding are considerable, but you will need to put the time in and be patient while developing your TIG skills.
  • Because it’s critical to maintain a constant flow of gas over the weld pool, TIG welding can be very challenging outside the controlled (wind-free) environment of a workshop.
  • Compared to basic stick welding machines, a good TIG welder is more expensive. However, if you want to master TIG welding and reap its benefits, the investment in top quality kit, consumables and accessories is worth it.

So there they are, the main pros and cons of TIG welding. We say, don’t let this put you off investing in good-quality TIG equipment, practising hard and mastering the art and craft of TIG welding. Of all welding processes, TIG welding remains the most versatile. It’s also the one capable of delivering the neatest, highest quality, most impressive welds.

R-Tech Pro Tip – Mike at R-Tech says: ‘Expansion or contraction cracking on stainless steel TIG welds can often be avoided by pre-heating the metal to around 400°F (204°C).  

TIG welding equipment – the R-Tech way

We built our service for TIG welders like you on supplying reliable, high-quality equipment – every time. Every R-Tech TIG welding machine is easy to use, proven in the toughest welding environments and offers exceptional value – just read customers’ reviews. Then there’s the reassurance of our direct customer support. It begins with your first enquiry or information request and continues as you choose, use and add to your TIG welding equipment.

Forget the inconvenience and delays of going through distributors who don’t make and service welding equipment themselves. With R-Tech you deal directly with the manufacturer.

Built to last

All our TIG welding machines are robustly built in metal cases. What’s more, they all use the latest ultra-reliable inverter power components from American and German companies. These include class-leading Siemens IGBTs rather than inferior MOSFET electronics.

To keep whole-life ownership costs as low as possible, we design and build our TIG welders on a modular basis. That means they can be maintained and repaired at component level. We also supply them with industry standard detachable TIG welding torches so you won’t have to replace the whole welding machine in the (unlikely) event of an issue with a torch.

Trusted back-up and support

Finally, we back every R-Tech TIG welding machine with a no-quibble three-year ‘collect and return’ warranty and a reassuring 10-year duty of care. It all adds up to minimising the long-term running costs of your R-Tech TIG welder – while you get on with earning money from welding.

By the way, if your portable TIG welder ever needs to visit our – not very busy – repair department, we’ll lend you another machine free-of-charge so you can keep working or enjoying your hobby.

‘Great service from R-Tech bought new welder iv had a few of theirs in the past all great equipment i have a R-Tech tig for over 8 years great machine, i would and do 100 percent recommend the guys.’ – eKomi review (7 January 2019) 

TIG welding? We’re here to help

Whether you’re just starting, or a seasoned welding professional, we can help you with TIG welding. Our acclaimed support begins when you email or call us. Let’s talk TIG welding!

Email us now or call 01452 733933 for help and advice with all aspects of TIG welding, TIG accessories and consumables