A Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welder is a welding unit that uses a DC constant voltage and current using a consumable electrode which takes the form of a flexible wire and is fed through a torch while protecting the weld from contamination with a shielding gas. Consumer MIG welders are built for steel while industrial MIG welders work well with aluminum, stainless steel and braze welding. The quality of a weld is highly dependent on the quality of the machine as cheap machines often experience inconsistent feeds. It is applicable to general purpose fabrications and maintenance, and is ideal for high volume repetitive production processes.
How to Use a MIG Welder?
A MIG welder has many different parts. These parts are the welder, the gas tank, the welding gun and the ground clamp.
- The inside of the welder usually contains a spool of wire which is held on with a tight tension nut that is lose enough for the wire to be pulled from the spool, and a series of rollers that pushes the wire out to the welding gun.
- The gas tank is usually behind the MIG welder and contains argon of a mixture of carbon dioxide and argon. The purpose of the gas is to shield the weld as it forms. Without the gas, the weld will splatter, look brown and generally not look good.
- The welding gun commands the greatest attention during the welding process. The gun consists of a trigger which controls the flow of electricity and the wire feed. The wire is further guided by a replaceable copper tip that is peculiar to every welder. The copper tips vary in size to fit the diameter of the welding wire that is in use. The outer part of the gun is covered by a metal or ceramic cup which protects the electrode and controls the flow of gas out of the gun.
The next is to ensure you are properly kitted for welding. This means wearing adequate welding safety gear. The welding gear includes:
- The welding mask which is to protect your eyes from the very bright light generated by arc welding. You can also go a step further by using a shielding screen to protect passersby who may be attracted to the light.
- Gloves and leather to protect yourself from molten metal splattering from the welding and your skin from the UV light produced by the welding. If you are not using gloves or leather, the next advisable option is to wear clothes made from cotton. Plastic fibers such as polyester will melt when they get in contact with molten metal and burn you.
- Avoid wearing open toes shoes or synthetic material shoes in the event of molten metal falling on your feet.
- Weld in a thoroughly ventilated area free from inflammable materials and ensure you have a fire extinguisher around.
Note that the safety precautions are not particular to MIG welding only. Adequate protection is pertinent for all welding processes. The next step is to prep your machine and the metal to be welded. If you want to have a strong clean weld, take out time to clean the metal and grind the edges of the metal to be joined. Test run the machine by running a bead on a piece of metal to get a feel of the process, decide on the power setting and the wire feed to use. At this point you are set to weld.
What is a MIG Welder Used For?
MIG welding is used in shops and factories that need a lot of jobs done and fast. It is easy to learn and has multiple job opportunities. suitable technique
- Automobile industries: MIG welding is most commonly used in the repairs and building of cars, vans, recreational activities and so on. This is because it can weld thin or thick metals which are an important component of automobiles.
- Construction: MIG weld is applicable to steel which a vital component used in construction of office buildings, bridges, homes and other edifices.
- High production manufacturing: MIG is fast and cost effective, which makes it well adept for mass production of item such as computer components, auto parts, ship parts and so on. It is also suitable for a large range of metals.
What is MIG Welding Process?
The MIG process was developed in the 1940s and is considered semi-automated, this means it requires basic welding skills. MIG welding requires three basic things; electricity to produce heat, an electrode or wire to fill the joint and a shielding gas to protect the formed weld from the atmospheric contamination. The process occurs when an electric arc is formed between an electrode is continuously fed into the weld gun and a metal work piece, heating up the metals, causing them melt and be joined. All the while protecting the weld area from containing by the use of an inert shielding gas.
What is the Difference Between MIG and MAG Welding?
While MIG means metal inert gas welding, mag stands for metal active gas and they are both described by the common term, GMAW gas metal arc welding.
The only difference is the kind of shielding gas used in both process. In MIG welding, only inert gases of argon and helium, singly or in a combination with oxygen, and it is used and on aluminum and other non-ferrous metals. Whereas in mag welding, carbon dioxide rather than inert gas and it is used only for welding carbon steel i.e. mild steel and it helps in penetration.
Although all other procedures remain the same in both MIG and mag welding, the typical shielding gas is a combination of argon, carbon dioxide and oxygen. The composition of the shielding gas has a substantial effect on the stability of the arc, weld penetration, welding strength, metal transfer and the amount of spatter. Mag is mainly used in the auto mobile industry while MIG is used in general welding activities.
Miller prides itself on being an industry leader and it shows in the Millermatic 141. Featuring the revolutionary auto set feature, the Millermatic 141 is one of the easiest mig welders to use. All that’s needed is to set the wire diameter and material thickness and you’re set to go. The unit weighs 51lbs., uses a 120V power input, an output range of 30 – 140A and a duty cycle of 20%.
- Automatic detection of a connected spool gun
- Welds 24 gauge 3/16-inch mild steel
- Automatically sets welder to the right parameters with the advanced auto set features
- A manual mode also allows you take control of your machine and set your own parameters
- Quick select drive roll makes set up quicker by offering three grooves
- It has a smooth start technology that ensures a spatter free, smooth start
- Automatically detects when a spool gun is connected.
Improvement: I found that the power input is not compatible with generators, the power cord could be longer and its more expensive than most welders of the same category.
Conclusion: The Auto-Set feature makes this machine easy to use even for beginners and versatile for experts and has a handle to carry around easily.
Hobart comes with another mind-blowing welding machine in this series. It is powerful and affordable and has the renowned Hobart durability and quality and the handler 140, Hobart’s most popular wire feed welder. The stylish and compact Hobart 500559 uses a voltage unit of 115 and has an output of 25- 140 amps. The multi-step transformer based machine has a duty circle is 20% at 90 amps, is extremely versatile and houses a spool of wire which acts like the filler material. However, the wire feed hub turns too easily and as a result makes a lot of noise. That notwithstanding, it is proficient on aviation and is preferred by professional welders and hobbyists equally for farm projects, auto body works and repairs.
- It isa MIG/ flux core welding machine.
- Comes MIG ready and easy to set up and use.
- Has an astounding control thanks to the quick release drive roll level.
- Can take care of 24 gauge to ¼ inches of mild steel sheets.
- Has a 5-year warranty period.
- MIG weld isn’t well suited for aluminum.
Improvement: It’s a little bulky at 57lbs. so you might want to invest in a cart. Also, it is not compatible with generators and the power cord is a little short at 5ft.
Conclusion: The Handler 140 has built-in safety features which keeps the machine protected while putting on a fantastic quality arc performance.
3| HIT140 AMP
The HIT 140-amps welder is powerful and versatile and compact and can be used around the house and in professional workshops. It uses the standard 120V plug which makes it easy to use anywhere. The single phased machine has an output range from 20 – 90 amps and peaks at 140 amps with a duty cycle of 20% at 90 amps. It comes in a complete with welding accessories included in the package.
- Unit is protected by an advanced thermal overload protection with an indicator to ensure longevity of the device.
- Maximum heat control with infinite heat settings
- It doesn’t come with a spool gun.
- Package includes a 6 ft. long MIG torch, 10 ft. Tweco MIG gun, a clipping hammer, a gas hose regulator, 10 ft. ground cable with earth clamp, a hex wrench, a wire brush and the face shield.
Improvement: It doesn’t come with a spool gun.
Conclusion: This unit works as smoothly as the more popular brands for less the amount.
Our Rating: 4.6/5
The Forney 309 MIG welder is an improved version of the MIG welder series and it shows it. It has an improved duty circle, longer warranty period and works amazingly well on thicker materials. The input voltage is 115V, the regular household current and produces a maximum output of 140 amps. The 56 lbs. one phased unit offers several upgrades from previous series such as the quick euro style disconnect torch, a longer gun with common consumables, and an upgraded despooler with a larger cabinet and easier spool access. Acceptable spool size is 4” and 8” and its ideal for farms, automotive, and around the house small welding repairs. The Forney 309 MIG welding machine sure is a topnotch industry welding machine of high speed and accuracy despite its easy to use features.
- Dual process machine of MIG and flux cored.
- It’s a gas or no gas welding machine.
- Comes with a flowmeter/ gas hose.
- Feed tube can kink and it’s not for hardcore professional projects.
Improvement: Feed tube can kink and it’s not for hardcore professional projects.
Conclusion: The 15ft power cable and the door chart makes this machine easy to use and well suited for moving around a workspace
Overall Rating: 4.6/5
Lincoln, again does not disappoint with this handy MIG welder. This welder is good for small household welding jobs and does up to 1/8” of mild steel comfortably. The Lincoln K2185-1 is great for beginners but may not satisfy the needs of professionals. Plugs into household 115V and 20A outlet, an output of 35- 88 amps and a duty cycle of 20% at 70A and 17V. It comes with a flimsy welding mask so you might want to get a better mask. Similarly, construction feels too light which makes it unsuitable for professional jobs.
- Adjustable continuous wire feed speed and selectable voltage ranges for accurate control
- Cold contactor safety feature keeps the wire ‘cold’ until gun trigger is pressed
- Takes a while to get used to and to adjust especially for the inexperienced welder
Improvement: Takes a while to get used to and to adjust especially for the inexperienced welder. Similarly, I don't think professionals will find it at par for difficult jobs.
Conclusion: This machine fits into the standard household plug which makes it the go to tool for household repairs.
The Goplus MIG 130 welding machine is a great option for weekend warriors and hobbyist. It is great for small home projects and can take .030 and .035 diameter of wire. The wire is always live so be careful where you lay your gun. A voltage and frequency of 110V and 60Hz, the 30lbs. machine can offer you many welding advantages around the house or outdoors in factories or on the farm. The caliber of the MIG welder sets it as a high-end product which gives full value for your money.
- It has a four heat setting.
- Comes with a face mask and a ground clamp which is good for occasional users. But for regular use, they both need to be upgraded.
- It’s a no gas welder and an automatic feed welding machine.
- Knob and switch to control the speed and heat output of the machine
- A major drawback is the wire is always hot therefore it requires more care.
Improvement: A major drawback is getting the wire into the MIG gun is difficult and it is always hot therefore it requires more care.
Conclusion: The MIG welder is set as a high end product thanks to it caliber and comes highly recommended.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
7| LOTOS MIG140
The Lotos MIG 140 competes favorably with other mig welders on the market. It can weld at industrial quality despite coming at a very affordable price, and has a maximum output of 140 amps. The Lotos MIG 140 weighs 54 lbs., uses a voltage input of 110V, has an output range of 30 – 140 A and a duty cycle 20% at 90 amps. It fits perfectly into the needs of the professional and the hobbyist. It can weld aluminum with a spool gun sold separately.
- Dual process machine of mig and flux core
- Spool gun not included
- Handles industrial standard 4” or 8” wire spools
- The welder is only suitable for small and medium projects
- Digital display and control panel makes it very easy to use and set up
- Easy change between +/- with the ground cable connector.
- Does not penetrate thick metals.
Improvement: Ground clamp is of poor quality, no door chart and MIG wire included
Conclusion: The super lightweight machine has a highly durable IGBT and it’s ideal for small- medium size jobs.
8| ARKSEN/ MIG-130
The Arksen MIG 130 is phenomenal. It penetrates and beads perfectly steel of 1/8-1/4 inch. The 38 lbs. MIG welder is a flux-cored wire no gas welder with as self-release metal inert gas while welding to prevent external contamination. It can be plugged into any household power source, has an output range of 50 – 120 amps and a duty cycle of 10% at 105 amps. You will need to get a good welding mask for this unit before welding though and its built for mild steel welding.
- Very competitively priced for those who need great quality on a budget
- Adjustable welding speed
- It has a thermal overload protection feature
- Wire feed has potential to stop working and needs special care.
Improvements: hard to find parts for
Conclusion: This is our budget MIG machine of choice but is limited in use.