What is the difference between a MIG welder and a wire feed welder?

Welding is a crucial process in various industries, and there are different types of welding techniques and equipment available to accomplish the task. Two commonly used welding methods are MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding and wire feed welding.

While they may seem similar, there can have differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the dissimilarities between a MIG welder and a wire feed welder, highlighting their unique features, applications, and advantages.

MIG Welder

A MIG welder, also known as a Gas Metal Arc Welder (GMAW), is a welding tool that utilizes a consumable electrode wire to create an electric arc and join metal pieces together.

It operates by feeding a continuous wire electrode through a welding gun, while a shielding gas, typically a mixture of argon and carbon dioxide, is released to protect the weld pool from atmospheric contamination.


MIG welding is versatile, as it can be used on various metals, including steel, aluminum, and stainless steel.

Advantages of MIG Welding:

  • High welding speed and efficiency
  • Easy to learn and use, making it suitable for beginners
  • Provides a clean and aesthetically pleasing weld bead
  • Can be used for both thin and thick metal sheets
  • Minimal post-weld cleanup required

Wire Feed Welder

A wire feed welder, also referred to as a Flux-Cored Arc Welder (FCAW), is a type of welding machine that employs a continuously fed electrode wire with a flux core. Unlike MIG welding, a wire feed welder does not require an external shielding gas.


The flux core in the wire electrode generates a shielding gas when heated, protecting the weld pool and preventing oxidation. Wire feed welding is commonly used for outdoor applications and in environments where wind or drafts may interfere with shielding gas coverage.

Advantages of Wire Feed Welding

  • No need for an external shielding gas, making it more portable and versatile
  • Suitable for welding in outdoor and windy conditions
  • Good penetration on thicker metals
  • Can be used on a variety of metals, including mild steel and stainless steel
  • Higher deposition rates compared to MIG welding

Difference between a MIG welder and a wire feed welder

A MIG welder and a wire feed welder are both types of welding machines that use a wire electrode to join metals together. However, there are some key differences between the two.

A MIG welder, which stands for “Metal Inert Gas,” uses a wire electrode that is fed through a gun, which is then heated by an electric arc to create a weld.

“MIG Stands for Metal Inert Gas which is type of Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW).”

Both MIG welders and wire feed welders rely on a wire feed system to supply the welding material. In MIG welding, a copper or aluminum wire feed system is commonly used along with an inert gas shielding system to protect the weld. The electric current is applied to the feed material while the weld pool is still in its liquid state, ensuring a strong weld.

MIG welding, also known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), utilizes a consumable wire electrode that is mechanically fed. It requires the use of an externally applied shielding gas to prevent air from reaching the molten weld puddle.

Another type of wire feed welding is flux-cored arc welding (FCAW), which involves a wire electrode that contains fluxes necessary for the welding process. This produces welds similar to the stick electrode or shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) process. FCAW is sometimes mistakenly referred to as “gas-less MIG.”

In modern MIG welding, pure inert gases like Argon or Helium are rarely used for mild steel. Instead, a gas mixture called C-25, consisting of 75% Argon and 25% CO2, is commonly used for mild steel fabrication. While pure CO2 is cheaper, it often leads to lower quality welds.

It is theoretically possible to weld mild steel using a bare steel rod electrode made from a common steel wire clothes hanger in a stick welding electrode holder.

However, achieving satisfactory welds would require flooding the weld area with a significant amount of shielding gas. The flux coating on a shielded metal arc welding (SMAW) electrode serves the purpose of generating significant CO2 to shield the weld puddle.

Material Welding is run by highly experienced welding engineers, welding trainers & ASNT NDT Level III bloggers. We strive to provide most accurate and practical knowledge in welding, metallurgy, NDT and Engineering domains.