Buying your first welding machine or sourcing a replacement is often a complicated process. With online welding suppliers, the number of brands and types of welding equipment available is overwhelming and can be a real mine field. We have put together some key points to consider when considering a new welder:
Firstly, and probably most importantly when buying anything, is to consider budget. Like anything in life, you do get what you pay for, so it’s important to buy well and buy once. If you consider a car for example, a cheap run around (within reason) would probably get you from A to B just as well as a Bugatti.
In welding plant terms though, if you buy a cheap welding machine it can be a mistake. The cheap “buzz box” type welders lack adjustability, duty cycle (we’ll touch on this later) and may make welding much more difficult for the user. It’s not uncommon for new welders to become frustrated with welding due to poor results, whilst not realising the equipment can play a large part of the problem. Unstable arcs, inconsistent wire feed in MIG welders and non-HF start in the case of TIG welders are just a few of the disadvantages of buying “too cheap”.
The cheaper end of the market also tends to have higher low range amperages, which is not good if you want to weld thin materials such as car bodywork. A 35A low end for example would make welding very thin material almost impossible.
Our advice in terms of budget is to buy the best welding machine for the process it is to be used for. If you will only be welding mild steel with TIG, then buy the best DC TIG welder you can afford. Rather than buy a cheap AC/DC machine in case you might like to weld aluminium one day.
New or used
The problem with buying second-hand is not knowing the history of the machine: has it been in a dusty welder’s workshop for its whole working life or has it been used 10 hours a day, 6 days a week?
Buying too old can be a problem too. OK, the welding machine on the left is an extreme case. A welder which has been out of production for some time may not have the parts back up of a newer model. The welding machine may work perfectly now, but in the future it may breakdown and because you can’t get a new component to repair it, its no longer worth anything.
Warranty is another key factor to consider. If you were to buy new, which may cost a bit more, you would be supported by a warranty for peace of mind. Take Jasic welding and cutting machines, they come with an industry leading 5 year warranty on all models. That’s at least 5 years of use out of a machine which is good value for money to start with. Outside of this time, Jasic UK can also carry out component level repairs which is far less costly than buying a whole new PCB for example.
With all that said, you may pick up a bargain for a great price with no problems at all; it can happen but it’s a risk you take.
Obviously, the power supply you have in your workshop / garage has a bearing on the welding equipment you can run. If you only have a domestic 240V mains supply, you will be somewhat limited to the size of the welding power source you can use. Generally, a machine up to 110 – 130 amps will run on a domestic supply with your standard 13 amp 3 pin plug. Any bigger and you are into the realms of 16 or 32A supplies like what’s required for your electric oven or hob. Welding inverters above around 250 amps will then require a 3 phase power supply like those in an industrial unit.
A 3 phase electrical supply can be installed in residential buildings but would need to be carried out by an electrician which has its own costs to consider. 3 phase welding equipment is more efficient though, so if the welder is to be put to work daily, the installation cost may even be offset by the energy savings over time.
A transformer based machine can supply larger welding currents with a 240V domestic supply but we will explain in the next section.
Power supply requirements are listed on each of our welder product pages. If you are unsure, we are happy to advise on 01276 505012.
Transformer vs Inverter Welding Machine
There are generally two types of power source for welding now. These are the older style transformer machines or the popular welding inverter. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each:
Inverter welder – An inverter is much like a computer inside, and often has functions that transformer machines do not, such as infinitely variable wire feed speed. These functions can be nice to fine tune during the welding process. The absence of large and heavy transformer means inverters are generally lighter and can be smaller in size. Power factor correction (PFC) on some machines make them energy efficient too. The image on the left is of a Cebora TIG 1531 AC/DC, a very capable TIG inverter.
Transformer welder – Exactly as described, these machines contain large and heavy wound transformers. A benefit of these machines is their proven technology. You may still see very old transformer machines getting daily use. The technology is simpler than that of the inverter welding machine and hence is easier to repair. Also true is that dust ingress is less of a problem affecting components inside. On the flip side of this though, is their adjustability. Often, a transformer machine is step regulated, meaning it is controlled by stepped switches rather than the infinite control available from an inverter. The Oxford I-MIG for example overcomes this issue by offering fully variable controls and the benefits of the transformer technology. Lastly, it is possible to buy a high amperage welder which will run from a 240V power supply – something which is not possible using an inverter. The machine on the right shows the Oxford MIGMaker 330, a 330 amp MIG welder which is available in single or three phase.
Duty cycle is a measurement of how long welding equipment will run before needing to stop and cool down. Duty cycle is quoted as a percentage, for example 120A @ 35%. In this example, the welding machine can run at 120 amps for 35% of a given time. Commonly this is 5 minutes, so this machine would run at 120A for 35% of 5 minutes (1.75 minutes) before needing to cool down.
Cheaper, less efficiently cooled power sources will have lower duty cycles generally. This can be a factor to consider as it would be very frustrating to weld a bit, stop to cool down and then start again.
Also, If you were to be welding thick material at higher amps frequently, it would be better to buy a welder above the amperage you would use to make sure the duty cycle at that amperage is sufficient.
Material to be welded
What do you aim to weld? This has an impact of the machine needed and the welding process required.
If welding mild steel, MIG, TIG and MMA (Stick) will work providing you use the correct welding consumables. However, you would then consider the environment the material is being welded in, the aesthetics of the weld required and the productivity rate of the process. We will cover this in the next section.
If you were needing to weld aluminium you would require either an AC/DC TIG welder or perhaps a MIG welder. I say perhaps a MIG welder, because it is difficult and you may require a spool on or push pull torch and depending on the aesthetics, a pulsed MIG machine. I won’t dwell on this here but if you would like more information, please call our technical team who would be able to assist.
If welding garden gates and carrying out farm yard repairs for example, a stick welding machine may be the correct option for you.
What Welding Process?
This can be a more complicated subject and by now you probably realise which type of machine you would like. For this reason, I will not delve into this subject too far, but here are some main points:
TIG is considered the most skilful of the welding processes, requiring two hands, one to hold the torch whilst the other adds filler rod into the weld pool. TIG welding when done well can produce very good-looking welds. As a beginner, TIG is the hardest to learn. TIG is a good way to weld aluminium but an AC/DC welding machine is required which can be costly. Aluminium requires an AC current which provides a cleaning action during the weld.
MIG welding is arguably the easiest process to learn. A Mig Welder is easy to set up, and once set, simply requires the operator to master speed of torch travel and arc length. MIG welding is also highly productive when compared to TIG for example. Laying down a weld is quicker, so it’s a popular welding process in production processes.
Stick / MMA Welding – Stick welding machines are very versatile bits of kit. They are perhaps the most portable welding machine and can be used in situations where shielding gas are not available. Welding rods for MMA welding contain a flux, which when consumed during the weld deposit filler metal as well as creating inert gas to shield the weld pool. They are perfect for agricultural repairs, hard facing etc especially in outside environments. If power is not present a welder generator such as the Mosa Magic Weld 150 can be used. A welder generator like this allows the user to stick weld as well as provide power to run lighting, power tools etc.
Country of Origin
This is a well talked about subject, with many customers preferring not to buy machines of Chinese origin, for instance. Having supplied welding equipment for many years I can see where this comes from. Rather than completely disregard Chinese machines, perhaps look at the quality of the machines being produced. Yes, it’s true that a lot of welding kit can be turned out from a factory in China very cheaply and these can be seen on eBay etc. Also true is that China is capable of producing quality goods too- Jasic are a good example. Their factory in Shenzhen is more like a laboratory and they now boast being one of the largest inverter manufacturers in the world. Furthermore, Jasic UK (Wilkinson Star) fully support their welding and cutting equipment with that industry leading 5 year warranty.
If you want to buy British then look no further than Oxford or TecArc welding and cutting machines. Built in Yorkshire, UK, all machines are fully bespoke and made to order.
Servicing the higher end of the market are Cebora welding power sources. Built in Italy, these machines are true industrial standard machines. Historically, Cebora welding machines have been badged up for Snap-on and many customers return looking to replace these machines due to how good they have been.
Still unsure what to buy? Feel free to call one of our friendly sales team for some no obligation advice on 01276 505012. We can also supply Parweld, SIP, SIF, SWP to name just a few.