TIG Welding Aluminum- Give Your Metal Some Mettle

The wedding anniversary is just around the corner. You are almost done creating the ornamental piece for your wife, ready to surprise with your DIY project filled with love. All you need is a sturdy yet aesthetically pleasing finish to the bits and pieces that you have braided together so affectionately. What could be a possible fix?

Have you heard of TIG Welding Aluminum? Not yet? Are you scared of the details and technicalities? How about an article that explains the science behind the process, the requirements, positives, negatives, and the outcomes? Well, let’s dive right in!

The Nuts and Bolts – What is TIG Welding Aluminum:

The abbreviation TIG stands for Tungsten Inert Gas, a description of a process where metals are mended or fused through GTAW, or Gas Tungsten Arc Welding. The system essentially comprises an arc formed between the power source, the welding torch, the base metal to be bonded, and a feeding rod.

In simple words, an electric charge is built up and utilized to heat up, melt and fuse the base metal of your choice. The nozzle from your torch points the electric flow to the aluminum sheets, which then get soldered, while you feed more metal from the side for a sturdy, robust weld. All this occurs in an inert atmosphere rendered by a guarding gas.

Now that you know about the basics let us find more about the different elements taking part in the nitty-gritty of the process.

Controlled settings – The Shielding Gas:

Welding is a reasonably complicated process. With so many factors coming into play, you require an inert or a non-reactive environment for a contamination-free operation. Aluminum is also a highly combative metal. Its highly negative redox potential makes it react with the acids, bases, water vapor, and even air that it will touch.

Thus, the need for an operational environment where no such rejoinders may occur as you continue to join and fuse your sheets or rods. A shielding gas such as Argon proves to be ideal for the process. However, helium is also widely used, as are helium and Argon mixtures.

A high-pressure cylinder usually provides the gas for the process. With a knob for regulation, you can fix the pressures according to your requirements.

 To-The-Point – The Electrode:

Welding aluminum is a fairly technical process. It would help if you had a sturdy tip and a precise nozzle to cut through intricate details and fuse up the highly conductive metal. Tungsten electrodes get used in TIG Welding Aluminum. They are inconsumable, meaning they will not get depleted as you weld along.

TIG Welding Aluminum

The high melting point of Tungsten helps get the job done without having to constantly feed in metal through the nozzle, unlike MIG and Stick welding. You may adjust the length of the electrode protruding out of the torch by manipulating an end cap, so you can decide on the size you desire.

The width of the nozzle also comes into play for accurate soldering and connecting. The diameter of the tip will determine the heat panned out from the equipment. Smaller diameters mean lower currents and less heat.

So choose a diameter depending on the thickness of base material, the accuracy of work required, and the type of fusions you want to accomplish. Ceriated and lanthated Tungsten electrodes are also popular among welders for the variation in charge flow they offer.

The crux of it All – The Base Metal:

Since we are talking about aluminum welding, your base metal will be sheets, coils, or aluminum pipes. We have already established that aluminum is highly reactive. It will also be helpful to know that aluminum is an excellent conductor. It acts as a heat sink. So, it will evenly distribute any heat applied to the metal. Thus you will have to go Hot and Fast as you move along.

Aluminum also tends to get an oxidative layer over the surface. This layer has a melting point higher than the metal itself. Thus, you need to clean or scrape off the layer before you begin the welding process. A stable solvent or degreasing agent works best. However, many use preheating as a part of their preparatory process.

The Current Games – AC Flow:

Welding usually requires machines or equipment operating on AC or DC. While both may work well with aluminum welding, we recommend alternating current to achieve the best results. As the positive and negative terminals get switched back and forth between the nozzle and the base metal, extra power and heat get generated.

This high-energy process ensures precise results and a cleaning effect unmatched by DC flow.

Alternative current has a high frequency that helping cut through the layers on the metal. The constant power source will help overcome any short-circuits produced by will or accident. It also generates controlled heat levels and has an excellent oxide cleaning mechanism for most built-up compounds.

The Braking Effect – Controls:

Not all parts along the metal will require the same level of current or electric energy. Heat starts to build up as you move along your base metal sheet, leading to less power requirement towards the end. Thus, the system comes with apt foot controls or thumb wheels that let you alter the current stream according to your requirement.

Of course, it will take experience to determine the exact amount of electric charge required for a fixed metal thickness. Still, charts and guides are available, and you could also learn from tutorials and your senior welders.

We have discussed the different parts and accessories required to perform TIG welding. Let us roll through the process for better understanding.

How to TIG Weld Aluminum:

We will keep it short and sweet. Take your base metal. Choose a solid and compatible filler material. Stabilize your hand, maintain a close circuit and using the electrode on your nozzle, start heating the metal. Form a short course at first through a high-frequency stream of electrons.

How to tig weld aluminum

Once the contaminants get broken through and a robust cloud forms, it will carry the current through for an effortless forward flow. Ensure coordination between the tip and the feeding metal for an even bond.

Why TIG Weld?

Here are a few advantages that TIG Welding Aluminum has over other methods:

  1. You may get by without a filling material or use the one you deem best
  2. Precise and top-notch welding results
  3. An all-position welding procedure
  4. You can handle an extensive array of metal
  5. Works great on thin materials
  6. Less waste production and splashes
  7. Controlled and efficient fusion
  8. It is a reasonably expensive procedure

The downsides:

Is TIG welding all sunshine and rainbows? Well, there certainly are some drawbacks that include:

  1. Cumbersome setup making it not so portable
  2. It needs a controlled setting, as shielding gas does not work well outdoors
  3. The aluminum base needs to be cleaned properly
  4. Expertise required
  5. Time-consuming process

Some Tit-Bits:

Welding is a heavy-duty process. Here are some preventive measures that you need to take before you can fuse the joints on your latest project:

  1. Wear adequate personal protective equipment. A safety helmet, thick pair of gloves, protective shoes, jacket, and secure eye goggles are essential to keep any burns or accidents at bay.
  2. Clean the aluminum thoroughly before you begin welding. This process would entail getting rid of the impurities and cutting through the oxides.
  3. Store your metal base with care. It would help if you protected it from any heat, moisture, or contaminants for the best results.
  4. Preheat the aluminum to 100-200 degrees (not more than 220 degrees) to start the process effortlessly.
  5. Keep the process fast and hot to avoid breaking up the metal. Touch and move along to increase your range and get better results.

TIG vs MIG:

You must also have heard about inert metal gas used for welding. It is different from TIG because it requires feeding a metal through the electrode to be melted and added to the welded material. It is faster than TIG and considerably less pricey. However, it does not pan out the precision and the fine detailing you can get through TIG.

Winding It Up- The Conclusion:

The pointing, angling, coordinating, paddling, and welding through are what you need to get there. That is all about TIG Welding Aluminum, it takes to fuse up sturdy ensembles that will last long and make aesthetically pleasing products. Just ensure your safety, start with a fresh mind every day and put your heart into the process.

A clean slate, snazzy equipment, and reliable guidance will help you go a long way. And if you still doubt your skills, practice, practice, practice, and practice. Take your metal and sweep the world off its feet with your creative expression. Happy welding, and a good day to you!

About Dave Walker

Dave Walker, a professional welder who has been welding from an early age. Now aims to help others by making them learning skills and finding them new opportunities. He has written for many welding blogs and helped many pursue their welding goals by helping them in choosing the best welding tools of the time.

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