A Pipe and tube network in an industrial facility.

Many crucial industries including oil and gas, biopharma, and food and beverage, rely on the elaborate networks of pipe or tube systems to ensure a continuous supply of material while enduring high temperature and pressure conditions. The demand for high standards from the pipe and tube system means their fabrication has to be done precisely and consistently to uphold the metallurgical properties of the high-quality metal being used. 

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) have been considered the most popular and reliable welding processes for many metal fabrication projects. However, when the choice has to be made between TIG vs. MIG welding in pipe and tube fabrication, operators have many project-specific requirements to consider, such as the material type, joint design, and weld quality. 

So today, we will compare TIG vs. MIG welding in pipe and tubes and explore the advantages of using each welding process in delivering quality results.  

Comparing TIG vs. MIG Welding in Pipe and Tube Applications

Joining pipe and tube sections may seem like a simple task. Still, it requires intricate attention to detail and precision in selecting welding parameters, such as heat input, travel speed, electrode angle, shielding gas, and many others. 

The implementation of these critical parameters can be done reliably with the use of welding processes like TIG and MIG. These arc welding processes are known for their ability to produce welds with minimal defects, but they may have differences in approach.  

TIG Welding 

TIG or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) uses non-consumable electrodes to weld metals. When pipe and tube welding, TIG provides the advantage of precision weld parameter control. The ability to adjust the heat input, gas flow rate, and weld speed reduce the chances of weld overheating or underheating, providing adequate penetration to form a strong weld. This control is also why TIG is preferred for welding thin-wall pipes or tubes to avoid issues like burn-through or distortion. 

MIG Welding

MIG or Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) uses consumable wire electrodes and shielding gas to create an arc. The process is faster and more efficient, making it suitable for large-volume production. The weld produced is usually strong and durable but not devoid of defects, given the lack of precision control. Thus, it is unsuitable for welding thin metals as a lack of heat control may lead to pipes and tubes being prone to issues like distortion and burn-through.  

The table below shows the general comparison of TIG vs. MIG welding. 

Comparing TIG vs. MIG Welding
TIG Welding (GTAW) MIG Welding (GMAW)
Electrode type Non-consumable tungsten electrode Consumable wire electrode 
Metal Ideal for welding thin metals Suitable for thicker metals 
Shielding gas Argon, helium  Argon, helium, carbon dioxide
Weld speed Slower welding speed Faster welding speed
Weld appearance Narrow and precise weld beading Wide and flat weld beading
Welding position All welding positions including overhead or vertical welding  Flat or horizontal welding position 
Cost Higher cost Lower cost (compared to TIG)
Defects Low risk of induced weld defects  More prone to defects and spatter 
Preferred polarity Direct Current Electrode Negative  (DCEN) Direct Current Electrode Positive (DCEP)

Operators can select between TIG vs. MIG welding in pipe and tube by comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each process based on the table above to suit the quality and productivity needs required for the project. 

Addressing Pipe and Tube Welding Challenge With TIG and MIG

Pipe and tube welding is challenging since each welding application comes with a different set of requirements. For example, some applications may require the use of thick pipes, while others may require the use of thin tubes with corrosion-resistance properties. Each such application requires a different set of criteria to select the welding process. Additionally, the pipe and tube welds also have to pass the different sets of industrial quality standards. 

Choosing the best method between TIG and MIG welding processes ensures reliability when fabricating pipes and tubes while achieving productivity goals. Things to consider include:

  • Weld Quality: Both TIG and MIG are capable of producing high-quality and durable results. TIG welding, in particular, with its weld control ability, produces a cleaner, stronger, more consistent, and aesthetically pleasing result with fewer weld defects.  
  • Structural Complexity: Welding pipe and tube systems can mean working with complex shapes like bends, angles, or corners, as well as reaching out to difficult-to-access or low-clearance spaces. TIG welding is more versatile in such a scenario, especially when paired with orbital technology. The TIG torch can easily access such complex areas to create welds that are consistent with the rest of the welds. 
  • Weld Speed: Industrial pipe and tube welding projects do face the issue of time constraints. When quick turnaround is desired, MIG welding is much faster due to its continuous wire feeding ability, higher deposition rate, and less complicated welding setup. Even for thicker metals, MIG welding creates a wider weld pool and deeper penetration, enabling faster weld completion. 
  • Material Compatability: Both MIG and TIG are compatible with welding pipes and tubes of a wide range of metals, including stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, etc. However, for highly reactive metals such as titanium, TIG is a better process for its ability to provide an excellent shield to produce clean and pure welds. 

Select The Right Process For Your Pipe and Tube Welding Needs

Both TIG and MIG welding processes are excellent choices for creating high-quality welds, each with its unique advantages. The choice will ultimately depend on the quality and productivity need that your application requires. For a more complex and quality-strict weld, TIG can be the go-to process, while MIG is for faster and more efficient needs. An effective comparison between TIG vs. MIG welding in pipe and tube applications will help you select the process needed to achieve the specifications required to meet industrial standards. 

Arc Machines, Inc. has been the leading provider of welding solutions for decades. Our wide range of welding solutions, including weld heads and power supplies, are ideal for increasing the quality and productivity of your pipe and tube welding results. Contact us to identify your needs for TIG vs. MIG welding in pipe and tube applications. To learn more about our products, contact sales@arcmachines.com. For service inquiries, contact service@arcmachines.com. Arc Machines looks forward to providing the equipment and services your project needs.

Engineering Department | Arc Machines, Inc.

The first engineers at Arc Machines were also part of NASA’s Apollo program, and we continue to hold our staff to those that level of drive and quality. Not only do we produce the best welding machines on the market, but we can also build customized machinery—tailored to your operation.

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