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Argon is used to create a stream of ionised gas (the welding arc).

In the MIG process, the generation of this arc allows spray transfer to be achieved. Spray transfer is a very efficient mode of transfer, allowing more weld metal to be deposited than with dip or globular transfer. Carbon dioxide is added in various amounts to improve the shape of the weld bead. In the welding arc, carbon dioxide dissociates into carbon monoxide and free oxygen, and it is this dissociation and recombination that adds energy into the weld pool. This energy melts more of the parent material, improving the fusion characteristics of the weld. The higher the level of carbon dioxide in the shielding gas, the larger and more rounded the weld-bead penetration area becomes. Oxygen is added to reduce the surface tension of the molten metal and reduce droplet sizes. By reducing the surface tension, it allows the weld bead to spread out or 'wet in', lowering the height of the reinforcement. This not only uses less welding wire, lowering the cost, it also reduces the stress at the toe of the weld where cracks can occur.
Steel/stainless MIG mixes don't work with TIG 'cause CO2 and O2 both oxidise the tungsten which isn't supposed to be a consumable. The energy and wetting out thing don't apply to TIG as the filler wire is added seperatly instead of transfered across the arc Aluminium is inert gases only (argon or argon + helium for more heat) regardless of process and, generalising, TIG is pure argon regardless of material- there are various TIG mixes but they're about improving things (speed/appearance/cleanliness) and relatively spendy i.e. a lot of the time/for many of us add more to costs than they provide in benefits

As I already mentioned, plain argon is used for GTAW (aka TIG) welding of almost anything. Plain argon is used for GMAW (aka MIG) welding of aluminum. Want to MIG weld steel of pretty much any 'flavor'? Low carbon steel, high carbon steel, stainless steel, etc, etc? Then you do NOT use pure argon to MIG weld steel. You can use a 75% argon 25% carbon dioxide mix commonly called C25 for short-circuit transfer welding on 'plain' steel. You can use plain carbon dioxide for most welding on plain steel, with usually a bit more weld spatter than C25 and a bit 'harsher' arc and a -little- bit more penetration than C25 if your welder can run the needed extra arc voltage with the CO2. If you are going to MIG weld thin stuff like auto sheet metal and such, then C25 is the 'classic' shielding gas to use. If you want to MIG weld stainless steel, then usually a different gas mix is used. Commonly tri-mix or for 'bigger' machines then 98-2. If you want to MIG weld thicker steel with a machine that has more power than the MM130, then different gases would typically be used there as well in order to use the spray-transfer mode instead of the lower-energy short-circuit transafer mode. Two typical choices there would be 98-2 argon-O2 or 95-5 argon-CO2. Unless you -need- the portability of a smaller tank, then I'd suggest keeping the nice big tank. The cost to refill it, on a per volume basis, is MUCH lower than the cost to refill a smaller tank. Most of the cost of refilling a tank is not the gas itself (helium and helium blends excepted) but the labor. Filling an 80 ft3 tank here is about $40, and you are filling a 240 ft3 tank for $60. 3x the gas for 1.3-1.5x the raw price, yielding a gas price of 1/2 compared to the smaller 80 ft3 cylinder. Want more portability for whatever reason? Keep the big 240 ft3 cylinder in the 'shop' and get an 80 ft3 cylinder for portability. A filled 80 ft3 cylinder is about $200 with C25.

Short answer : Using pure argon to MIG steel results in 'bad' welds. Longer answer : Using pure argon to MIG steel results in incomplete and lower penetration, poor 'wetting', possibly an incorrect metallurgy of the welded filler, and other 'bad' weld symptoms. Also, check the filler wire gas mix specs. There are -NO- ER70S-6 (standard solid wire steel MIG wire spec) that call for using 100% argon as the shielding gas when doing GMAW aka MIG on steel. Argon-CO2 blends or plain CO2 or argon-O2 blends for GMAW on regular steel. See

Shielding Gases for Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW)

Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW) is used to weld all commercially important metals, including steel, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel. The process can be used to weld in any position, including flat, vertical, horizontal, and overhead. It is usually connected to use direct current electrode positive (DCEP). It is an arc welding process that incorporates the automatic feeding of a continuous, consumable electrode that is shielded by an externally supplied gas. Argon Carbon Dioxide Helium Argon-Oxygen Mixtures -- Praxair's StarGold Blends Argon-Carbon Dioxide Mixtures -- Praxair's StarGold and Mig Mix Gold Blends Argon-Carbon Dioxide-Oxygen Mixtures -- Praxair's Stargon CS and RoboStar CS Blends Argon-Carbon Dioxide-Nitrogen Mixtures -- Praxair's Stargon SS Blend Argon-Helium Mixtures -- Praxair's HeliStar Blend Argon-Helium-Carbon Dioxide Mixtures -- Praxair's HeliStar Blends

Tig welding (Tungsten Inert Gas welding) is probably the most versatile arc welding process. Its less complex to master, but it can be a slow process. Tig welders also tend to be more expensive. There are two types of Tig welding equipment:

DC output welding current (cost-effective method used for most applications including the Tig welding of steel, stainless steel and copper) AC/DC output welding current (more costly method used for Tig welding aluminium and aluminium alloys. TIG welding works by striking an arc between a tungsten Tig welding electrode and the workpiece. A separate Tig welding filler wire can be added to the weld pool as necessary. The weld pool is protected from oxidisation by pouring an inert welding gas (usually argon) over the weld pool. This welding gas is usually turned on and off by the Tig welder. DC Output Tig welding equipment has two sub types:

Scratch/touch start Tig welding equipment - The more basic option, relying on the tungsten Tig welding electrode touching down onto the job, then lifted off to form a welding arc (similar to MMA welding). Its really an arc welding inverter with a scra tch start Tig welding torch added. The downside is that the tungsten Tig welding electrode will attempt to stick to the workpiece when touched down and the Tig welding torch is permanently live. We usually only recommend this type of Tig welding equipment to customers who want to arc weld or carry out occasional basic Tig welding.

High frequency start Tig welding equipment - This Tig Welding equipment uses a burst of high frequency (HF) to establish the welding arc. Its easier and more precise than a scratch start Tig Welder and doesnt require the tungsten Tig elec trode to be touched down. An HF start Tig Welder may also have additional useful features such as slope down and post gas flow. Tig Welder Control Features:

Slope up: Where the Tig Welder starts the welding arc at a very low current then smoothly brings the welding power up to the level set by the operator. The slope up time on some Tig welders is pre-set and cant be adjusted whereas others allow the slope up time to be set manually. Slope down: Works the same way until the torch trigger is released at the end of the weld. Here the Tig welder fades the power down instead of suddenly stopping. The advantage is that, because the weld pool solidifies more slowly, the centre of the weld is prevented from sinking (or cratering) which can result in pin holes. Pre / post welding gas flow: Pre welding gas flow is where the Tig welder turns on the gas before the arc ensuring a good welding gas shield. Post welding gas flow is where the Tig welder keeps the welding gas flowing after the arc has extinguished. (Prevents the hot tungsten Tig welding electrode from oxidising as it cools.) Pulse welding: Pulse welding is a relatively new method that gives the operator more control when Tig welding very thin material. The Tig Welder emits a burst of higher power to achieve penetration, followed by a burst of lower power to prevent blow through. Pulse welding can also penetrate thicker material whilst limiting weld size. AC frequency control: Some AC/DC Tig welders have AC frequency control - the speed at which the polarity of the Tig welding torch switches from positive to negative. It is measured in Hz (switches per second). Tig welders with fixed frequency usually switch at around 70 - 100Hz whereas Tig welders with variable frequency have a range of around 50 - 250Hz. The frequency focuses the Tig welding arc (like focusing a torch beam). The higher the frequency, the more focused the weldin g arc. For example higher frequency might gain greater penetration on thick aluminium when repairing a crack in a casting while lower frequency would be used on thinner sheet aluminium where the heat of the welding arc needs to be spread to avoid blow through.