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When it comes to choosing the right MIG welder, there is an overwhelming amount of choice, particularly for anyone relatively new to the welding field. From knowing what products fit your budget to finding out what wire reel size you will need, there are several key factors to take into account when looking for a MIG welder but we're here to break it all down.
What is MIG welding?
Firstly, for any complete welding novices we should explain what MIG welding is. Also known as Gas Metal Arc Welding (GMAW), MIG (Metal Inert Gas) welding is a process where an electrical arc forms between a wire electrode and the piece of metal being worked on which heats the metal and causes them to melt and join together.
What works for my budget?
Like most purchases, you pay more for quality and durability when it comes to MIG machines, but you can still find effective equipment for a reasonable price if you don’t want to spend a fortune. Prices of MIG machines reflect the manufacturer’s reputation and their functionalities in terms of the materials that they can weld. It’s therefore important to think about what you will be welding before you look for a MIG welder.
If your budget allows it and you want a top range machine capable of delivering on large-scale projects, it may be worth looking at multi-process machines like the ESAB Rebel 215/235 or X-pert MP201. These are useful options if you also need to carry out TIG & MMA welding.
What materials can be welded?
MIG welders are effective tools as they can weld a wide of range of different materials like stainless steel, alloy steel and carbon steel, aluminium, copper, magnesium and nickel. Certain metals weld better than others and some require more skill to weld, so it’s important to know the benefits and downsides of the metals you’re working with before you start welding them.
Should I choose an air-cooled or a water-cooled machine?
Which type of machine you choose again depends on the level of welding that you need it for, where you will be welding and budget. Air-cooled MIG welders rely solely on ambient air and shielding gas to keep them cool, while water-cooled machines like the Lincoln Powertec 420i pump a cooling solution throughout hoses inside the power cable and into the gun handle and neck.
If you are looking for a more portable machine, a water-cooled machine may not be the best choice as this requires more equipment than air-cooled, while air-cooled welders are also a good choice if you won’t be doing heavy-duty welding that requires more cooling.
Finally cost is a core factor in choosing the right MIG welder. Water-cooled welders are often more expensive upfront as they require a coolant flow system and special coolant solutions which prevent algae or mineral build up in the hoses. However, these machines may actually be less expensive than air-cooled welders in the long-run as the more detailed cooling system protects the machine from overheating more effectively and extends the life of consumables by drawing heat away from the arc.
Synergic vs Pulse MIG – What’s the difference?
Synergic is actually a variant of pulsed MIG welding. A MIG welder is synergic if when one setting is altered such as voltage or material thickness, other settings like current also change. Pulse welding refers to a form of welding where the current is pulsed to produce smooth, spatter free welding.
Input voltage & electrical supply – What you need to know
Where you will be carrying out your MIG welding will determine your input voltage as electricity supplies can vary by location and you need to ensure you have enough power to run your machine. For example, most UK mains outlets supply 230v and if your workspace is limited to a 230v input, you may need to find out what amp rating you have as these can vary. If you want to know what supply you will need, you can generally follow the rule of 1 to 10. 1A in the supply means 10A out, therefore a 320A machine would need a 32A input and so on.
IP23 Rating: IP23 Vs IP23S
To first explain what an IP rating is, this is the rating given to a machine for how much protection it has from water or foreign particles. There are many different IP ratings but an IP23 rating means the machine is protected from water spray at less than 60 degrees vertically while an IP23S rating simply means that the machine was standing still in water when it was tested.
What wire size/weight do I need and what rollers should I be using?
Different MIG machines use particular sizes of wire reels, so it’s important to check which reels you will need when looking for a MIG welder. For example, machines more commonly used for DIY projects typically use reels between 0.45Kg and up to 1Kg. Smaller machines, like the ESAB Rebel 215ic multi process welder, will often take 5Kg reels, while larger MIG machines used on an industrial scale can take 15Kg reels.When installing wire reels, many new welders can encounter issues with smoothly feeding wire through the drive rollers of the machine. Having the right rollers and the correct amount of tension is key as too much tension can cause deformities in the wire, while too little can make the wire slip. There are three common types of driver roller:
V-knurled – These are used with softer gas flux-cored and metal-cored wires and have teeth which dig into the wire to help guide it through smoothly.
V-groove – V-groove drive rollers are typically used with solid wire. As solid wire is stiffer than the soft wire used with V-knurled rollers, it does not need to be pushed through by teeth and feeds through more easily on its own.
U-groove – U-groove rollers use very soft wires like aluminium wires. As these wires are the most delicate type, it is key to make sure that the wire surface is not marred or deformed.
When you have chosen the right type of roller, set the tension by first releasing the driver rolls. As you feed the wire into your gloved hand, slowly increase the tension and continue until the wire is one half-turn past wire slippage.
Everything to know about warranty
Like any product, you should make sure that if there is an issue with your MIG welder that it is under warranty and you will get the aftercare you need. When you choose a MIG welder from Engweld, you can rest assured that your equipment will be well looked after in the event of any problems. Our branches have full service & repair facilities and we even offer on-site visits to get it fixed.
Engweld are a key distributor for all leading brands of compact MIG welders including ESAB & Lincoln Electric. The range includes both single and 3 phase MIG welders in either 2 or 4 roll wire feeds. Technical advice and on-site demonstrations are available from all our sales centres.
Full service and repair facilities provide rapid response to breakdowns. Contact us here for further information or help.