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Stainless steel plays an important role in many building projects. It comes in so many forms and undertakes plenty of industrial processes before becoming a usable end product.
There are several ways to fabricate stainless steel into different forms, and one of them is through welding. Among the various welding processes, MIG welding is one that always comes to mind.
Can you weld stainless steel with a MIG welder? Do you need to hire professionals to weld stainless steel? After answering these questions, we shall be discussing the basics of stainless steel MIG welding to help you decide whether or not to learn the process.
Can You Weld Stainless Steel With a MIG Welder?
Every time you hear about MIG welding, it will usually refer to mild steel welding. Mild steel is a metal alloy of iron and carbon. On the other hand, stainless steel is an alloy containing iron and chromium, but it also sometimes has nickel in the mix.
The primary difference between the two is mild steel is less resistant to corrosion than stainless steel. Other differences include variations in ease of fabrication and malleability.
Since mild and stainless-steel alloys have large amounts of iron, both can undergo MIG welding processes. The real question is whether you have a solid stainless-steel alloy or a stainless-steel coating. You should apply different welding practices on stainless steel versus mild steel with a stainless-steel coating layer.
MIG Welding Stainless Steel Fundamentals
Those with zero to minimal welding experience seldom see welders working on stainless steel, making them wonder if it is even possible. The short answer is yes, as long as you have the appropriate equipment and follow the right techniques.
At first, your outputs will certainly not be flawless, but like any other skill, practice brings you closer to perfection. For starters, have a good read about the proper equipment and materials for welding stainless steel. Then, learn about good MIG welding practices, and understand the most common slip-ups you should avoid.
Required Tools and Consumables
If you are to learn about the basic procedures for MIG welding stainless steel, you must first understand the welding tools and consumables you need. To help you get started, the following is a list that can help you prepare for fusing stainless steel components.
Everything is available for purchase online. All you have to do is read between the lines and get the best bang for your buck.
The best welders for beginners can come in kits with protective gear and other essential accessories. Some of them even have multifunctionality, offering different types of welding techniques in a single device.
The keyword you are looking for is MIG welding if you want to learn how to weld stainless steel. Avoid self-shielding flux core welders that do not require external gas tanks.
Stainless steel welding requires the shielding gas used in MIG welding for the best output quality. Furthermore, choose a MIG welder that offers features and freebies that are specific for stainless steel welding.
Most MIG welders come with a welding gun. As you move forward with learning the basics of welding stainless steel, you might want to improve your output by getting better welding guns that work well with your MIG welder.
You don’t have to get the most expensive one for your first few months of practicing. However, you will surely want to improve your equipment as you get better.
While a welding gun can last as long as the MIG welder itself, it has some parts that will need replacement now and then. One of those parts is the gun tip.
A gun tip wears out with use, as it sits at the point where the most heat and external contamination could occur. Replacement tips will always come in handy every time your welding gun does not deliver the best results. Be sure to have some on your kit before you start working on a project.
A welding wire is a thin metallic rod that goes through a welding gun. It works as an electrode. Electricity ignites it to create a heated arc that fuses metal pieces together.
When it comes to welding stainless steel, it is practical to use the same material for the welding wire. However, you can also use the cheaper mild steel welding wire. Just keep in mind that using mild steel as a filler will expose your workpiece to faster corrosion.
It will be easier to start learning MIG welding with a gun liner, as it is both one of the simplest and most important components of a MIG gun.
A gun liner guides the consumable welding wire from the wire feeder to the gun tip. Since welding wires come in different sizes, so do gun liners. Choose the correct gun liner size for the wire to maximize your MIG equipment’s performance.
A wire feeder is an auxiliary component of a MIG welder. It provides better control over the feed rate of welding wires, and it helps produce improved welds overall.
The wire feeder is not an essential component of a MIG welding kit. As such, you can start welding stainless steel without it. However, it can go a long way in helping you maintain weld quality if you are planning many welding projects.
While you can do away with a wire feeder, you should not pursue a stainless steel MIG welding project without shielding gas. Shielding gas greatly improves the quality of any output weld by preventing any extensive external contamination.
With shielding gas, your welds will have minimal to zero pores that can reduce their structural capabilities. Additionally, shielding gas reduces the amount of spatters in and around your weld pool.
Tri-mix gas is the best shielding gas option for MIG welding stainless steel, according to many experts and experienced welders. Tri-mix shielding gas comprises 90 percent argon, 7.5 percent helium, and 2.5 percent oxygen.
For some beginners, tri-mix shielding gas may be quite costly. The second-best option for MIG welding stainless steel shielding gas is 98 percent argon and two percent oxygen or carbon dioxide.
Metal Brush and Other Cleaning Equipment
The best way to clean and prep a stainless-steel surface before MIG welding is by using a metal brush. You can have several metal brushes with varying bristle thicknesses to remove debris of varying sizes.
Additionally, you can completely remove dust and small particles using a piece of flannel. A metal brush can also come in handy after creating a weld joint. You can easily remove tiny beads sticking to the metal surface after every spatter.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
Like any other welding project, there are risks of errors that can hamper productivity in stainless steel MIG welding. You can avoid making unnecessary expenses by understanding these common mistakes.
All MIG welding tasks require sufficient grounding to produce a stable arc and prevent excessive or inadequate heating issues. To provide proper grounding, place the grounding connection as close to the arc as possible to make it more efficient.
Even if your MIG welder has the correct amperage capacity, be sure to have the right welding gun to go with it. Your welding gun should sufficiently handle the duty cycle and amperage capacity of your welder.
Insufficient Wire Length
Aside from choosing the correct wire diameter, estimate the right amount of welding wire you need for a particular welding task. Cut your welding wire to a length that can produce adequate wire feeding and arcing.
Incorrect Feeding Speed or Voltage
If you are using a wire feeder, use just enough feeding speed to supply your welding gun. Otherwise, you might end up with a pile of messed-up welding wires that can end up being put to waste.
Additionally, use the right amount of voltage on your MIG welder. Having a high enough voltage will produce just the right amount of heat you need to create the perfect arc.
Too Much Wire Tension
For wire feeding to be effective, you should also match the type and size of weld wire with the drive roll tension. Having too much stress on your weld wire may result in a very slow feeding speed that can ruin your weld output.
To sum things up, stainless steel is one of the best materials the fabrication industry has to offer. There are many ways to deploy stainless steel into a project, and with a little bit of practice, you can use it for many applications.
Can you weld stainless steel with a MIG welder? Definitely, yes, as long as you learn about the basic tools and materials needed for the task. Before you embark on any stainless steel MIG welding project, complete your set of equipment and understand the most common mistakes that can impede your productivity.
Remember, with any fabrication project, health and environmental hazards are rarely nonexistent. It would be a plus to invest in reliable protective gear and mitigation measures to protect yourself and your surroundings.
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