Aluminum TIG Welding – Advantages of GTAW and Special Process Considerations
Aluminum welding is a generally more difficult and involved process when compared to industrial steel welding. While there are a multitude of efficient welding processes that can be used for steel materials, aluminum welding is generally performed via the tungsten inert gas (TIG) or metal inert gas (MIG) methods.
In this article we discuss some of the unique characteristics of aluminum TIG welding services, along with some special considerations that welding technicians must keep in mind to ensure quality aluminum welds.
Aluminum TIG Welding Services Explained
TIG welding is more descriptively referred to as gas tungsten arc welding, or GTAW. This unique welding process is the preferred method for industrial fabrication projects involving thinner-gauge aluminum materials, as well as geometrically complex alloy parts such as custom joints, brackets, and structural assemblies.
TIG welding aluminum generally requires a higher skill level, more experience, and a more time-consuming process. However, compared to MIG welding services, TIG welding is capable of producing more highly-precise welds which are stronger and aesthetically superior.
Special Considerations for TIG Welding Aluminum Components
- Shielding Gas Required – Aluminum TIG welding requires the use of a shielding gas (generally argon) in conjunction with a non-consumable tungsten electrode. Unlike many alternative welding processes which can be gasless or self-shielding, a shielding gas is imperative for quality TIG welding services.
- Melting the Oxide Layer – The oxide surface layer of aluminum components exhibits a higher melting point than the aluminum material beneath. The oxide layer therefore must be removed prior to the welding process to ensure clean, consistent welds that are structurally sound.
- Aluminum Components Must Be Completely Clean – Aluminum’s natural oxide layer isn’t the only issue to contend with. TIG welding aluminum is a very delicate process and requires that the surface of all components is completely clean of all contaminants. Every surface must be absolutely free of all oils, residues, dirt, and debris to ensure a reliable weld.
- Specialized Welding Machine and Tips – TIG welding requires unique machine capabilities, therefore specific TIG welders (or welding peripherals) are required. Additionally, aluminum materials require a specific type of welding tip in order to produce consistent welds. Additionally, aluminum materials require a specific type of welding tip in order to produce consistent welds.
MIG Welding vs. TIG Welding
TIG welding is often considered alongside MIG welding services for many industrial fabrication projects. While either welding method will often suffice to technically get the job done, TIG welding offers some unique advantages and disadvantages in the aluminum fabrication process.
In the hands of a skilled welder, TIG looks better and seals better than MIG aluminum welding. MIG aluminum welding is preferred for thicker pieces of metal.
The Advantages of TIG Welding vs. MIG Welding:
- TIG welding is capable of producing precision aluminum welds with little to no spatter.
- Quality TIG welds offer a premium aesthetic appearance with minimum polishing required – especially for unpainted welds.
- The precision of the TIG welding process allows manufacturers to produce more tightly-controlled high-strength welds – especially for thin-gauge aluminum materials.
The Disadvantages of TIG Welding:
- TIG welding services are generally more complicated compared to MIG. TIG welding thus requires more highly-skilled welding technicians with more training.
- TIG welding being a more complicated process, it is often more time-consuming, requiring a lengthier production schedule than MIG projects.
- The increased labor time required combined with the specialized welding equipment and consumables will often render TIG welding services more expensive than MIG welding options.
Quality Aluminum TIG Welding Services for Reading, PA and Beyond
Alloy Fabrication has remained one of Reading, Pennsylvania’s leading providers of aluminum TIG welding services and other quality industrial fabrication solutions since 1987.