Specializing in Gas Metal Arc Welding
Also known as metal inert gas (MIG) welding or GMAW, gas metal arc welding uses a consumable electrode to weld alloy metals. The electrode is fed continuously through a gun, which puts out a shielding gas to prevent environmental contamination. The weld is created as the electrode melts into the space between two pieces of metal.
MIG was developed in the 1940s for use on metals that contain no iron, such as aluminium, copper and nickel, and has since been applied to steel due to its ease of use. It was further refined in the 1950s and ‘60s and became popular in industrial settings.
Welding Equipment Needed
There are a number of components to buy when setting up a gas metal arc welding rig. The welding machine itself is essential: this is the power supply for the rest of your equipment and controls the arc. You will also need a welding gun, a wire (electrode) feeder, a gas regulator and a ground clamp.
The welding gun is specialized for MIG welding and serves many functions. It initiates the arc, puts out the shielding gas and, in conjunction with the wire feeder, carries the electrode from the spool to the welding surface. Some guns hold the electrode spool inside, which is often used when welding aluminium. Other wire feed systems are the add-on wire feeder, which is used on high-production jobs, and a suitcase wire feeder, which generally has all the components except the bottle of shielding gas. Gas regulators and ground clamps are extremely important and are also easy to come by.
Uses for MIG Welding
MIG is a popular method of welding due to its high speed and its portability. It is also adaptable to robotic welding, which is becoming more common in manufacturing, although human welders are still needed to monitor and maintain the equipment. Because of its ability to create welds of different thicknesses, MIG welding is also often used in steel construction settings. If absolutely necessary, it can even connect different types of metals together; however, this creates a weaker weld and requires careful planning.
Pros and Cons of MIG Welding
There are several advantages to MIG welding, one of which is that it is easy to learn. It is also a quick and efficient way of welding, and emits less welding fumes than other methods. MIG also has its cons, however. It is susceptible to porosity, a weakening of the weld, if gas becomes trapped inside the metal. It is also prone to creating dross if the weld is contaminated by oxygen.
How to Learn Gas Metal Arc Welding
The first step in learning this method of welding is finding out your state’s requirements for training. You will also want to know what industry and employer requirements there might be. Some employers may require only a short training course, while others may ask for intensive training and experience. Once you’ve determined what type and level of training you need, you can begin looking for courses. These are usually found through your area’s welding union or through community and trades colleges. Apprenticeships offer on-the-job training and experience and can provide a paycheck at the same time.
Working as a MIG Welder
The most common places to find MIG welders are in the automotive, construction and manufacturing industries, but its versatility makes it popular in many situations. The initial equipment purchase is expensive; however, with proper maintenance, your machine can last for years. Maintain your knowledge, as well. If you keep up-to-date with changing technology, MIG can offer you many different options for the future.