The best starting point when purchasing the Best Welding Machine is to match your personal needs with a suitable welder. It is also essential to understand the different welding processes and their limitations. Apart from the technical aspects of welding machines, consider other factors such as the build quality, warranty, and the accessories that come with the welder.
We shall start by going through the different welding processes, their applications, and their limitations before going through the key features of a welding machine.
Understand the Different Welding Processes
The first step when buying a welding machine is to understand the various welding processes, how they work, their applications, and their pros and cons. The goal here is to choose a welding process that suits your personal needs.
1. Stick Welding
Stick welding is the most popular welding process because of its simplicity and versatility. This process is also called:
- Shielded metal arc welding (SMAW)
- Flux shielded arc welding
- Manual metal arc welding
This welding process involves melting a consumable electrode (or what people call a stick or metal filler rod) using electricity. The electrode is held using an electrode holder.
The electrode is usually covered by flux that melts and shields the weld pool from contamination by the atmosphere. When you complete the welding, you will need to remove the slag formed by flux on the top of the weld bead.
Advantages of Using a Stick Welder
- Portable and affordable
- Perfect for outdoor environment
- Easy to learn and execute
- It can be used on metal with rust and dirt
Disadvantages of Using a Stick Welder
- Produce more slag and spatter
- Clean up needed after the welding
- Low-quality weld compared to TIG welding
2. MIG Welding
MIG welding process or Metal Gas Inert Welding (GMAW) just like stick welding process uses a consumable electrode. This process uses gas stored in a gas tank to protect the molten metal from environmental factors such as carbon dioxide and oxygen.
The arc created melts the electrode wire to form the weld. After removing the heat, the weld cools and solidifies. MIG welding machines are ideal for both home and commercial purposes. These machines work perfectly for metals such as stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum.
Where to use a MIG Welder
- In the automotive industry to repair vehicles and motorcycles.
- In the construction industry to weld steel
- DIY home projects
Advantages of using a MIG welder
- No slag and less splatter
- less welding fumes
- Great for thin metals
- Cleaner weld is formed
- More control over the arc
Disadvantages of using a MIG Welder
- The gas tank limits portability
- Easily affected by wind
- Requires a clean surface clean from dirt and rust
3. TIG Welding
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) or Tungsten inert gas welding (GTAW) welding process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode, while the arc is protected by a flow of inert gas, mostly argon or helium. The tungsten electrode used does not melt during the welding process.
The gas is usually fed through a supply pipeline from the welder to the TIG torch holding the electrode. Unlike stick welding, TIG welding is more versatile and expensive but produces immaculate welds.
Advantages of TIG Welding
- Produce very clean, and high-quality welds
- Can work with most metals
- Less fumes, spatter, and sparks are produced
- Easy to see what you are doing when welding, since there is less smoke
- Great for thin metals
Disadvantages of TIG Welding
- TIG welding machine is more expensive than stick welders
- Relatively slow and expensive
- Steeper learning curve
- Not easily portable
4. Flux-Cored Welding
Flux Core Arc Welding (FCAW) is like MIG welding. However, instead of using gas stored in a tank to protect the weld, it uses flux. The process uses a tubular wire that is filled with flux inside. This welding process is considered one of the most effective.
Advantages of Flux Core Welding
- High deposition process
- Easier to learn and execute than MIG and TIG
- The process has better shielding
- Best for joining thicker metals
- Convenient and portable
- Offer more flexibility with alloy metals
- Offer more improved arc stability
- It’s an all-position welding process
Disadvantages of Flux Core Welding
- Produces more smoke
- The FCAW wire is pricier
- Clean up required after the welding process
Best Uses for the Most Popular Welders
|Stick Welding||MIG Welding||TIG Welding||Flux-Cored Welding|
|Popular uses||-Farm repairs -Steel fabrication -Structural welding -Construction of ships -Oil and gas pipeline -Repair and maintenance work -Construction of steel structures -DIY projects Cannot be used for Aluminum or Titanium and thin metals||-Automotive -Fabrication of steel structures -Metal Designs -Sheet metal welding |
not ideal for: building applications and farm and outdoor welding
|– Aircraft construction -Auto body repairs -Automotive industry -Precision welds -Welding ferrous metals||-Manufacturing plants -Industrial piping -Shipbuilding -Railroads -Hard facing|
Apart from these four welding processes, there are more welding processes that includes:
- Laser Beam Welding
- Electron-Beam Welding
- Atomic Hydrogen Welding
- Plasma Arc Welding
- Submerged Arc Welding (SAW)
- Forge Welding
- Resistance Welding
What type of metals will you weld? What projects will you be handling?
Another consideration when buying a welding machine is your personal needs. The main consideration here is the projects you will be undertaking and the metal(s) you will be using.
While it’s a good idea to buy a machine that supports several welding processes and can weld the most metal types, single-process welding machines sometimes deliver the best performance in their respective fields.
Will you be dealing with just one metal, or do your projects involve different types of metals?
For instance, if you will be dealing with cast iron, your only option will be to buy a stick welder machine. The MMA or MMAW welding process is regarded as the best welding process for cast iron projects.
Cast iron is often used to make flywheels, gearbox cases, cookware, pipe fittings, cement mixers, farm equipment, washers, and brackets, among others.
This is the same case with welding aluminum. Unlike steel which can be welded using the three most popular welding processes, aluminum is best welded using an AC-TIG welding machine. This is to curb the introduction of impurities and prevent oxidation and porous issues.
You can also use a MIG machine but make sure it has a pulse welding feature and a spoon gun.
Tig welding is also the best for metals such as magnesium, brass, copper, and titanium.
The table below shows you different metals and the best welding process
|Metal||MIG welding||Stick Welding||TIG||Flux-cored welding|
Another consideration when buying a welding is your skill level.
It is best to start with the easy-to-use welder machine if you are a beginner. MIG welding is the best option for beginners since it is easy to learn and use. However, don’t just pick a MIG welder because it’s beginner-friendly; consider the type of metal and projects you will handle to ensure it can weld them.
Since MIG welding machines can weld various metals, it might be the only machine you will ever need for all your home welding needs.
When buying a welder, ensure you consider the power supply needs since the devices have varied power requirements.
110/120 Volt AC
This is the standard voltage provided to residential and commercial properties by energy companies. If you see a welder rated 110v, that is an entry-level welding machine for the most basic welding projects. However, only a handful of 110v welders are worth buying.
220/240 Volts AC
Most welders are rated 220/240 volts. These are machines that can handle both simple and complex welding projects. If you buy a 220/240V welder, you will need to check your supply’s rating and make proper adjustments if needed.
If you will be welding outdoors with no access to a power grid, you will need an engine-powered welder. These welders are powered by gasoline, liquid propane, or diesel generator.
Generator’s Key Features
Duty cycle of the Welder
One thing to note about welders is that they overheat hence the need to let them cool after some time. The Duty cycle of a welder refers to how long the welder can operate at the full output before letting it cool down.
If a welder has a 70% @ 300A duty cycle, it means it’s supposed to weld for 7 minutes at full amperage, then cool for 3 minutes in a 10 minute cycle. A welder with a 20% duty should run for 2 minutes, then rest for 10 minutes.
If you are a light welder, a 20% duty cycle will suffice. When the machine is cooling, you can be cutting or preparing the metals. For medium-duty welding, go for a 40-60% duty cycle and 60%-80% for heavy-duty welding.
Open-Circuit Voltage (OCV)
Also referred to as no-load voltage; open circuit voltage refers to the voltage that exists between the work piece and the electrode holder when there is no current flowing (no welding in progress).
For safety purposes, welders have a maximum OCV of 80V to prevent injuries when the welder is sitting idle. While high OCV is dangerous, it makes electrode ignition easier. The lower the OCV, the harder it will be to ignite the electrode, especially with stick welders.
Accessories the welder comes with
A welder will also come with different accessories when buying it. Some of the standard accessories that you will get include a power adapter, flow meter, gas hose, contact tips, Tig torch, and electrode holder. Note that what is included depends on the welding machine you buy.
Brand and Budget of the Welder
There are hundreds of welder models, all claiming to be the best in their category. However, not all of them are high quality. To avoid disappointments, consider getting a welder from one of the top brands in the industry. With a top brand welder, you can expect it to offer high-quality welding and will last for years. Most of the top brand welders cost more but provide value in the long run.
The leading welding machine brands include CRUXWELD, Miller, KEMPPI, PANASONIC, ESAB, Hobart Welders, Fronius, Lincoln Electric, and Eastwood.
Below is an average of how much welders cost.
- Entry-level welder – $200 to $400
- Intermediate welder – $500-$800
- Pro-level welder- $1000-$1200
What we have Covered in this Article
As you have seen, before purchasing a welding machine you need to consider personal needs to buy a suitable welder. Understand the different welding processes and the types of metals they weld, and the technical aspects of the welding machines.
Also consider factors such as the welding machine build quality, length of warranty, and what accessories that come with the welder that you want to purchase.