Buying a welding machine is a long-term investment, so it’s a decision not taken lightly. There’s a vast range of machines and manufacturers. Which machine is the right tool for the job, and what’s most important to keep in mind when buying?
Classifying welding machines - inverters and transformers
Welding machines can be classed into two general ways. The first way is inverters vs transformers. This is the most common way, used both by amateurs and pro welders alike.
Transformer welding machines are cheap and easy to use, but don’t guarantee high-quality welds, so are less popular. Aesthetic joints are only possible with the best electrodes on the market. On top of that, transformer welding machines use high power but provide low work stability. Their main advantage is high durability, so they’re perfect for work under tough conditions.
On the other hand are the more popular inverter welding machines. They’re usually small, light and easy to use. Their high efficiency and voltage drop tolerance are their main strengths. With inverters, you don’t have to use high-quality electrodes, and power consumption is low. Their operate based on AC to DC current flux.
Types of welding machines - welding methods
Welding machines can also be classified by the welding method used. So there are:
- MIG/MAG welding machines — often called semi-automatic and used during work with gas shielding. The gas shield lets us weld different types of materials. The weld seam is high enough quality for domestic use and in small workshops. MIG/MAG welding machines are often equipped with extra functions, such as wire feeder speed adjustment or the spot welding option. In the MIG method, inert gas is used, but in the MAG method, reactive gas is used. The weld seam is made of the consumable electrode, the wire, and the welded material as well. The MIG/MAG method is easy to master, so it’s perfect for learners.
- MMA welding machines — this method uses coated electrodes. It’s the most common method used by both amateur and pro welders. The heat of the welding arc joins the consumed electrodes and welded material. MMA machines are specially suited for work in hard-to-reach places.
- TIG welding machines — this method has the widest application in industry and welding workshops. It ensures high-quality welds. TIG machines are the hardest to master, so they’re more commonly used by pro welders. The joint’s made by the electric arc, similar to the MIG/MAG method. The difference lies in the use of electrodes which are non-consumable and made of tungsten. The welding is carried out with a shield of inert gas. The TIG method makes clean, precise weld seams, and joins thin materials, such as metal sheets. TIG machines can be used to weld in an MMA technique, too.
There are machines that blend different functions and let us use different methods to weld. Such 2in1 or 3in1 machines are suited for professional use. Instead of having a few welding machines, it is better to buy a 2in1 model, e.g. connecting the MIG/MAG and MMA methods. The 3in1 versions allow us to use all three welding processes.
How do you adjust welding machines to your needs?
After the choice of the right type of welding machine, buying the right equipment is most important. You need to think through a few factors before deciding. It’s vital to adjust the welding machine to your needs and skills. Before buying anything, ask yourself what kinds of materials will be welded, and how thick they are. For personal use, go with a MIG/MAG welding machine. It has the widest range of use for amateur welders and is perfect for simple jobs. Skilled welders would prefer TIG welding machines. They’re suitable for fixing more demanding tasks around the house. When shopping for the right welding machines, keep in mind:
- Duty cycle — or the welding machine’s efficiency. It means the amount of time when the welding machine can work nonstop in 10-minute cycles. This is marked in percentages, e.g., 70% efficiency means that after seven minutes of constant work, a welding machine should cool down for the next three minutes. For use in households, a welding machine with a 40% duty cycle will be enough.
- Amperage — As crucial as the duty cycle. The amperage is adjusted to the power outlet in the workplace and most of all, the thickness of the welded material. For sporadic use, this parameter can be less than 250A. For professional use, it should be at least 250 A.
- Additional functions — when buying a welding machine, check its additional functions that can really simplify your work. Inverter machines are often equipped with functions such as Arc Force, Hot Start, and VRD. The first regulates short-circuit current to keep a steady welding arc. This function is especially helpful for amateurs. Hot Start helps ignition by a short boost in the current. The VRD function protects the user from electric shock.
- Weight and dimensions — note the size and weight of a welding machine. You may need to move the equipment, especially during work in hard-to-reach places. For domestic use, small machines are best. In our selection, you can even find mini versions. An interesting option is a mobile welding machine mounted on a cart. These are best for garages and workshops.
- Easy use — welding machines can be adjusted with the use of knobs or an LCD display. For light work, the versions with easy-to-use buttons will be enough. If you need a welding machine for professional use, search for models that let you save your settings when needed. Digital displays let you change your settings based on the welded materials or method used.
- Power supply — when choosing a welding machine, the power supply is also important. It’s probably either 230 V or 400 V. The former is good enough for domestic use, but the latter is for bigger workshops or industrial plants where three-phase outlets are often installed. If a welding machine will be used in different places, the right choice has a 230 V/400 V power option.
The right choice of welding machine might be a challenge. For beginners, MIG/MAG or MMA equipment is best. For professional use, a quality TIG welding machine is right.
A wide range of different models is available here at Allweld. If you have any questions, our experienced staff are here and happy to help you make the best choice.