Welding machines come in all shapes, sizes, and capabilities. Knowing which welding machine to use depends upon the working environment and technology application. Low-voltage welder’s work well for home or garage use and the high-voltage equipment handles industrial applications.
Beyond those two considerations, there are a lot of other factors affecting the decision when buying a welding machine.
Material being welded
The first consideration when buying a welding machine is the type of material(s) it will be used on. Welders are versatile tools adaptable to many applications, but the type of material being welded is critical to know. Metal material that can be welded includes:
- Steel – Mild, Low Carbon, Alloy, Hardox, Wrought Iron, Chrome Moly, Cast Iron, Manganese, Corten
- Aluminum – 1,000 through 7,000 series alloys
- Brass – Cartridge, C330, C360
- Gold – Jewelry grades
- Copper – Oxygen-free, Tough pitch, Phosphorus deoxidized
Thickness of material being welded
The different materials that can be welded come in a variety of thicknesses. Depending upon the material, the thickness will determine the amount of power required to produce the desired weld. Simply put, the thicker the material, the more voltage and amperage a welder must be able to produce to create a strong, clean weld across the surfaces. Here are some examples of the differences required for welding various thicknesses of steel and other metals:
- 1/8″ Mild Steel – 110V
- 1/4″ Mild Steel – 220V
- 1/8″ Aluminum – 110V
- 1/4″ Aluminum – 220V
- 1/8″ Stainless Steel – 110V
- 1/4″ Stainless Steel – 220V
The angle at which the weld is being applied is an important factor when deciding on a welding machine’s specifications. Welds laid down on flat, horizontal surfaces are very different than welds on vertical or angled surfaces. Wire flow rates, gas or chemical mixes, and other factors are important to consider when welding positions vary. Because each welding material flows differently when heated and applied, the science behind creating the proper gas/chemical mix, filler materials, and other considerations must be used to produce the strongest and best-appearing welds.
Types of Metal Welding Machines
There are three types of metal welding machines. Each is designed and engineered to work on a variety of materials with many optional features available to customize welding methods. Depending upon the type of material being welded, each welding machine has distinct features and benefits that can aid in producing the right results. The three types of metal welders and their best applications are:
Metal Inert Gas (MIG) welders are also known as Metal Active Gas welders or Gas Metal Arc welders. In metal shops and repair businesses, they’re also known as “stick welders”. MIG welders use a metal electrode, or “stick”, to create an electric arc between the workpiece and the electrode. According to Zach, the expert at Weldingpros, MIG welders are used for everything from security doors and handrails to ornamental pieces and artwork. The electric arc heats the electrode and the metal causing them to fuse together. By moving across the workpiece surface, a constant bead of molten metal is created that is slowly continued across the surface fusing the two pieces being welded.
Tungsten-electrode Inert Gas (TIG) welders are different from MIG welders because the electrode, or stick, doesn’t melt into the weld as it does with a MIG welder. TIG welding was created in the 1930s for use in the aircraft construction industry to join together magnesium workpieces. In the 21st Century, TIG welding is used in the aircraft, automobile, and HVAC industries extensively. The ability to create clean welds without metal spatter makes a TIG welder the preferred tool for auto repair and delicate, ornamental welds.
Sheets of metal those overlays each other can be welded using Spot welding techniques. In this welding method, the metal workpieces are welded via an electrical current that flows through the metal from two electrodes placed against the workpiece opposite each other. When high-voltage electricity is passed from one electrode to the other, the resulting heat is sufficient to liquefy the metal in the workpiece and form a weld. Spot welders are used throughout industry in manufacturing, welding shops, and many trades due to its ease of use, reliability, and low cost.
There are other considerations to take into account when buying a welding machine. These are the five most important areas to think about:
Low prices on foreign-built machines are not an indication of value. Offshore products tend to break down easily and can be hard to get a replacement or repair parts. Differences in electric load management and other operating issues can also be problematic. It is best to review individual product attributes, options, and user testimonials before deciding on which welding machine to purchase.
Ease of use
Beginners will be much happier with a “plug and play” welding machine that comes ready to work out of the box. More complicated equipment is always available to upgrade into as there are many different types of welders available at local equipment supply houses and online internet vendors. Gaining experience using different types of welding machines on a variety of work materials will help in making the correct equipment decisions going forward.
A portable welding machine is a great tool but care must be taken when deciding what type of portable welder is best. The working environment determines a great deal of the portability issue as some welding machines work with a generator that runs on gasoline and others are strictly plug-in designs. Continuity of power is important in welding machine performance and selecting the right kind of power source can be critical.
Home welders with weekend projects normally require a 110 Volt power source. Larger capacity welding machines can take 220 Volt power to work with thicker material or extended “duty cycle” use. Some welding machines allow operators to switch between 110 Volt and 220 Volt power. In either case, the operator needs to determine exactly how the welder will be used to decide on the proper power level.
Understanding how a welding machine works is just as important as taking adequate safety precautions when using a welding machine. The use of proper safety equipment and protocols along with maintaining a clean work area free of debris and impediments is vital to producing top-quality weld time after time.
Whether a welding machine is used in an industrial setting or sitting on the bench in the garage at home, its use should be a source of pride and expertise when the welds cool down. Everyone knows the old welder’s sayings about being able to mend a broken heart or repair the crack of dawn. The science of welding offers an unlimited learning opportunity with new techniques, materials, and equipment being invented every day. Join millions of other welders and discover everything this amazing tool can create, build, and repair.