What is Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) or GTAW Welding?

UTI Profile Image Universal Technical Institute Jun 27, 2019 ·

TIG welding, also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), is a form of welding responsible for securing some of the world's most important equipment and machinery. TIG stands for tungsten inert gas. During the TIG welding process, a non-consumable tungsten electrode is used. The weld puddle and tungsten are cooled and protected with an inert shielding gas (like helium or argon), just like in GMAW welding (also known as MIG welding).

While MIG welding uses a continuously-fed wire that also acts as filler material, the tungsten electrode heats up the objects enough so they can form a bond. TIG welding enables the joining of objects without the use of filler, though a filler metal is commonly used in TIG welding. TIG welding can be used for direct metal-to-metal welds and results in neater, spatter-free welds that are generally free of defects.

TIG welding requires great precision. It's similar to welding with an oxy-acetylene torch, in that the welder holds the torch in one hand and feeds a filler rod into the weld pool with the other hand. The difference with TIG, however, is that the welder is also controlling the electrical current to the weld puddle with a foot pedal or other device on the torch at the same time. Technical skills are required in order to avoid overheating the materials, which can cause stress cracks and other welding issues, and to avoid touching the tungsten to the workpiece.

Benefits of TIG Welding

When TIG welding is done correctly, it results in greater weld control and improved quality and strength of welds. Because TIG welds are highly resistant to cracking and corrosion, they're usually used in critical operations, such as sealing spent nuclear fuel.

And, unlike other welding methods that produce chips of metal during welds, TIG welding results in a cleaner, more pristine look. It's particularly useful when welding thin or narrow sections of non-ferrous metals like magnesium alloys, nickel, brass, bronze, gold, copper,aluminum and titanium, as well as stainless steel. The TIG welding process does not cause a loss of filler metal alloys, and TIG welders can use a wide variety of welding filler materials during the process.

How Is TIG Welding Used?

GTAW welding first emerged in the early 1940s, when Russell Meredith created the process using a tungsten electrode arc and helium for the shielding gas. Today, TIG welding has many applications, including:

  • Race car fabrication and motorsports applications
  • Ship fitting
  • Bicycle manufacturing and repair
  • Aerospace and space vehicle manufacturing
  • Piping, repair tools and dies
  • Motor vehicle repair and construction
  • Diverse industries including pharmaceutical, nuclear and art

Generally, if the materials that are being welded are very thick, like thick pieces of sheet metal, TIG welding is probably not as effective as MIG welding would be. But if the materials are electrically-resistant and heat up quickly, TIG welding may be appropriate. TIG welding is also useful when a weld does not require filler metal, like in cases where thin materials are combined.

Like with any welding job, proper safety equipment is essential during TIG welding. TIG welding does not produce smoke, so the electric arc light is very bright and emits strong ultraviolet light. It's essential for TIG welders to wear opaque helmets with dark eye lenses and full head and neck coverage to shield themselves from ultraviolet light. TIG welders also need to be aware of air change in the room, to prevent against prolonged exposure to ozone and nitric oxide levels.

What TIG Welding Techniques Will You Learn in the Universal Technical Institute Welding Program?

Students in the Universal Technical Institute (UTI) welding program learn GTAW fundamentals and applications. In courses including Gas Tungsten Arc Welding and Welding Applications II, students master:

  • Characteristics and safety considerations of GTAW welding
  • Direct and alternating current methods in GTAW welding
  • How to build specific projects using previously learned blueprinting and project planning skills
  • How to perform multiple weld types in all positions

The lab work UTI offers enables students to practice GTAW welding and other welding types in a safe and supportive environment. Edward Lopez, technical team leader for welding at UTI Rancho Cucamonga, says, “Once students are out in the lab, and they start to piece together the theory portion and the hands-on portion, you see an instant understanding.”

Get more information on the UTI welding program here.
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