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Who Invented the MIG Welder? A Journey Through History

Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welding is one of the most popular and versatile welding methods today, but do you know who deserves the credit for introducing it to us?

Learning about the history of MIG welding and the evolution of the welding process through history can provide valuable insights and a deeper appreciation for this craft. 

In this article, I will be discussing the captivating history of MIG welding, the key inventors and contributors, and the evolution that transformed MIG welding into what we have today.

So, without any further ado, let’s get right to it.



The Invention and Development of MIG Welding: A Timeline

MIG welding’s journey began long before the invention of the actual welder itself. Let’s take a look at the key milestones in the development of this welding process. 

Early 19th Century

Welding technologies were still in their infancy and people were only familiar with forge welding and oxyacetylene welding. However, these welding processes were labor-intensive and required a high level of skill.

One can say that the process began soon after the discovery of the electric arc by Humphry Davy in 1800. 

Later in the 19th century, NG Salvianoff and CL Coffin invented the metal electrode that replaced the carbon electrodes and improved the welding process.

The 1920s

This decade introduced the Gas Metal Arc Welding techniques that laid the foundation of MIG welding. 

The GMAW was still in its early stages and was developed by PO Nobel of General Electric. 

The process used a bare electrode wire and direct current. However, it did not use the shielding gas which caused the welds to get contaminated. 

Then in 1926, GMAW processes were introduced which used bare electrode wire and inert gasses to shield the molten weld pool. However, the process was far from perfect and wasn’t suitable for practical use.  

Related: https://weldempire.com/mig-welder-without-gas/

The 1940s

MIG welding was invented by the Battelle Memorial Institute, in collaboration with H.E. Kennedy. 

The project was sponsored by Air Reduction Company and the work was conducted by Devers and Hobart. 

Kennedy was responsible for developing the specific technique which used a smaller diameter electrode and a constant voltage power source. 

They used a consumable wire electrode and an inert gas to produce a stable arc and a clean weld. 

However, the process had certain limitations. It relied on aluminum electrodes and the shielding gas that was used was argon. Due to the high cost of shielding gas, the process was limited only to non-ferrous materials. 

In simple words, it was an expensive welding process and there was no way to save money on it. 

Related: https://weldempire.com/what-gas-does-mig-welder-use/

The 1950s

In 1953, Carbon Dioxide’s application in welding was discovered and it soon gained popularity with GMAW. The main reason was, it was much cheaper than argon which made the welding process more cost-effective. 

The process was developed by Novoshilov and Lyubavskii who used a large diameter steel electrode and CO2 as shielding gas.

However, the use of this gas didn’t come without some drawbacks. The process caused high spatter and relied on higher heat input, which wasn’t encouraged by many professional welders. 

Due to high heat input and thicker electrodes, the welding process could not be used for thinner material. Once again, the application was very limited. 

Later in the decade, in 1958 and 1959, the short-arc variation of GMAW was developed which increased the versatility of the process and made welding of thinner materials possible. 

The process relied on smaller wire electrodes and a more advanced power supply. This process led to the development of a short-circuit transfer method. 

Professional welders immediately adopted this process because it required lower levels of heat and supported all-position welding. It soon became popular. 

The 1960s & 1970s

The GMAW continued to develop in the next decade. Inventors began experimenting with other gasses like oxygen and that led to the discovery of the spray-arc transfer method. 

So, the research and developments enhanced the welding process, increased its versatility, and made it a popular choice. 

The research and innovation of this decade also laid the foundation of pulsed spray-arc variation of GMAW that uses a high-speed transition between high energy peak current and low background current. 

In the 1970s, the GMAW went through additional development that included the introduction of thyristor power sources and significant contributions of the Welding Institute of the UK. 

The Welding Institute of the United Kingdom determined the relationship between wire feed speed and pulsed frequency which led to the invention of a one-knob control transistor. 

The knob controls were incorporated in MIG welders that controlled the wire speed feed and current input. 

The 1990s

Now that MIG welding had already reached advanced stages, it was going through major and innovative developments. 

The Surface Tension Transfer method was introduced by Lincoln Electric which uses an innovative power source that reacts to the requirements of the arc. The power works independently of the wire speed. 

MIG Welding Today

Today, MIG welding has become one of the most popular and widely used methods of welding. It is faster, more efficient, more accessible, more versatile, and easier to learn. 

Flux-Core Arc Welding (FCAW) is a variation of MIG welding that uses a tubular electrode filled with flux, which removes the need for shielding gas. 

The applications of MIG welding are vast and extend to various industries including everything from automotive manufacturing to construction. 

Personally, the knowledge of MIG welding’s history not only deepens my understanding of the process and appreciation for the contributors but also helps me find new ways to improve. 

Related: Flux Core Vs MIG Welding – Main Differences

Frequently Asked Questions

When was the MIG welder invented?

HE Kennedy is hailed as the inventor of MIG welding who introduced it in collaboration with Battelle Memorial Institute. The work was based on earlier works of HM Hobart and PK Devers.

Who first invented welding?

Nikolay Slavyanov was a Russian Empire Inventor who introduced electric arc welding in 1888. He used consumable metal electrodes and electric arcs. This was the second welding method, and the first one was carbon arc welding by Nikolay Benardos.

Why was MIG welding created?

The traditional welding process produced a lot of spatters and was not very efficient. So, there was a need for a cleaner and more efficient welding method, which led to the invention of MIG welding.

Wrapping Up!

To sum it all up, GMAW or MIG welding was officially introduced by Battelle Memorial Institute. Though the welding process had started earlier in those earlier stages it wasn’t fully functional. 

HE Kennedy was the key contributor to this process and the work was based on earlier works on Devers and Hobart. 

Over the years, there has been significant development and evolution of MIG welders that have brought it to its current version. 

Today, MIG welding is one of the most versatile and popular welding methods. A choice of professionals in a diverse range of industries and applications. 

The knowledge about the history of MIG welding helps us appreciate the evolutionary process it went through and also helps us understand the process better so that we can somehow contribute to its improvement.

Let us know in the comments how you think MIG welding could be improved further.

Sheila James

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