Sheet metal components that include two or more components of sheet metal, or profiles and shapes that cannot be cut or formed from a single sheet of material and thereby are impossible to be manufactured as one, may well rely on welding to combine all individual sheet metal components into the final fabricated product.
Highly skilled welders with high levels of knowledge and inspection experience are needed to produce high quality, robust, clean and aesthetic welds, particularly with stainless steels and aluminium, that consistently meet the customer specifications.
For complex fabrications that demand high precision, greater control and tight dimensional tolerances the main aim is to avoid distortion and burn-through while ensuring necessary mechanical strength for the application. To do this, metal fabricators need to select the correct welding techniques, employ the latest technology and use skilled and qualified staff .
Two of the most common sheet metal welding techniques include MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding & TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding. This article will explore the main differences between the methods and for what applications metal fabricators are most likely to employ the two methods.
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is an arc welding technique whereby a continuous feed of solid wire electrode is fed through a welding gun and into the welding pool at a set speed. This heats the desired area on the sheet metal components, causing it to melt and fuse the metals. A shielding gas also passes through the welding gun to avoid contamination of the welding pool.
MIG welding is suitable for a variety of materials such as mild steel, stainless and aluminium. It is a more than acceptable standard for many fabrication requirements, often favoured for its versatility, speed and cost-effectiveness.
Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding is a welding process which uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to deliver the current to the welding arc. Similar to MIG welding, a shielding gas is used to protect the heated area from contamination.
TIG welding is commonly used for stainless steel components, thin gauge mild steel and non-ferrous metals such as magnesium, copper and aluminium. It is preferred for clean, aesthetic weld results but is significantly more complex operationally and requires a higher level of skill. As a result, TIG welding is often a more expensive metal welding solution.
For metal fabricators, successful sheet metal welding includes selecting the appropriate welding method after considering matters such as material, productivity, burn-through, distortion, excessive heat-affected zones, weld appearance and secondary finishing methods.
Considering the above differences, typical applications for each method often differ.
Typical examples of products that are created by MIG welding aluminium and thin-gauge steel include the manufacture of power distribution units, HVAC systems, retail stands, electrical enclosures and various other metal cabinets.
On the other hand, TIG is favoured by metal fabricators for the sheet metal welding of stainless-steel products and components where an aesthetic appearance is key. For example; automotive parts, food processing equipment and cosmetic appliances such as catering and washroom products.
As leading sheet metal fabricators, KMF offers extensive MIG and TIG welding services. We currently house 20 welding bay facilities (six dedicated to stainless steel) and operate two fully automated, ABB robot MIG and TIG welding cells, accompanied by stud and spot-welding machinery that enables KMF to fulfil almost any customer requirement.
Recognised as a core skill for our business, our award-winning apprenticeship training programme has a strong focus on high-level welding, and our welders work 24/7 to deliver coded welding to desired standards and in-house dye penetration.
Selecting the most efficient welding solution should be carried out on a case-by-case basis, and therefore our expert New Product Introduction Engineers will take time to determine the best materials and welding processes required for your specific design and product application.
For more information or to discuss high-volume MIG welding as part of your fabrication project, please get in touch via our contact page or call 01782 569060.
KMF is a leading UK metal fabricator specialising in light-gauge fabrication for global OEMs.
Manual and automated MIG and TIG welding of ferrous and non-ferrous materials
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