What is a TIG welder?
A TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder, is an arc welder that uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode to produce a weld. It uses an inert gas shield to protect the weld puddle from airborne contaminants.
Benefits of TIG welding
Other than producing clean, precise welds on different kinds of metals, there are a lot more benefits associated with TIG welding including:
Welds more metals than any other welding process
You can use a TIG welder to weld various metals and alloys like steel, stainless, aluminum, copper, gold, magnesium, bronze, brass, and nickel alloys. You can use it to create art, do automotive work, or even do home building and repair jobs like welding bike frames, door handles, and lawnmowers among many others.
TIG welding creates high-quality clean welds
Where appearance matters, you can trust a TIG welder to give you the best-looking weld finishes. In fact, it is highly preferred by cosmetic welders who do sculptures, automotive work, or any other creative work. This is because TIG welders use a superior arc and weld puddle control to create clean welds.
You also get precise weld bead control with a TIG welder because you can control the heat input by pressing on a foot pedal. This way, you can heat up or cool down.
Additionally, unlike other welding processes, you wouldn’t experience any sparks or spatter because no excess filler metal is added to the filler puddle. You also don’t get any flux or slag because the shield gas (Argon), protects the weld puddle from airborne contaminants. As for slag, there won’t be any blocking your view of the weld puddle and even your finished weld will not have any slag to remove between the weld passes.
Another thing you won’t experience with TIG welding is smoke or fumes. Unless your base metal contains elements like grease, zinc, paint, lead, oil, or other contaminants, you TIG welder will never generate smoke or fumes.
TIG welding uses one shielding gas for nearly all welding applications
Since you can use Argon to TIG weld nearly all metals with different thicknesses, you only need one type of gas to handle all of your welding applications.
Weld in different positions
You can make TIG welds in various positions from flat and overhead to vertical and horizontal. This comes in handy when you need to work inside confined areas like roll cages.
Features to consider when choosing the best welder for aluminum
For you to buy a TIG machine that is suited to your needs, consider the following:
This should be a top consideration because it determines the type of materials you will be welding. It is safe to go for a machine that has both AC and DC capability like the Lotos TIG200. AC (Alternating Current) is essential for working on thinner materials like aluminum and magnesium. If you intend to weld aluminum with your TIG welder, then the AC capability is a must-have.
The DC (Direct Current) is suitable for welding thicker materials like steel and stainless steel. Most high-power machines have DC capability but because of its low melting point and other special features, it cannot be used to weld thin materials like aluminum.
This also determines the types of materials you will be able to work on. Voltage combines with ampere output to determine the overall heat input of the welder. If you are not sure of the materials you will be welding, it is safe to go for a welder with dual voltage and a wide range of amperage output like the AHP Alpha-TIG200X-2018. It offers the flexibility of working on different materials with varying thicknesses.
Again, maximum output and input voltage go hand in hand. Both of them determine the overall heat input of your welder.
When looking for a TIG welder for welding aluminum, you have to be extra keen on its amperage range as well as amperage control. Welding aluminum requires superb performance at low amperage and sometimes getting a welder with amp specifications that go as low as 5amps might not be enough. It might also experience fluctuations especially when the arc strikes and this may affect the quality of your weld.
This is why amperage control is a key consideration. It will save you the hassle of checking gauges all the time and guarantee you a high-quality weld.
This is another crucial aspect worth considering. It refers to the actual amount of work your welder will be able to do every 10 minutes and how much time it will need to rest. A welder has to rest and cool down after doing rigorous work. The amount of time it will need to cool down depends on its cooling system, its quality, and the cooling equipment you will be using.
Duty cycle is measured in percentages. Before purchasing a TIG welder, be sure to check its label for the duty cycle it offers. If for instance, it reads 60%, it means the machine will be able to run for 6 minutes before it rests. The duty cycle also helps you choose the peak currents you will be using on your projects.
Thermal overload protection
This is directly tied to your welder’s duty cycle. It prevents your machine from getting damaged whenever you exceed the duty cycle. The thermal overload protection modules of most welders monitor the internal temperature of the unit and cut power supply in case it runs beyond the safe thresholds. They come in handy when you work in warm environments or the sunny outdoors.
Some high-end welders like Hobart EZ-TIG 165i have more than one fan to supply fresh air and remove excess heat from the unit efficiently. They also prevent the entry of dust and debris into the machine.
Welding electrodes, also commonly known as welding rods come in different sizes. There are 7 commonly used welding electrodes that are perfect for a variety of welding tasks. For the best welding results, you need to know the best electrode diameter for your projects. For instance, the 7024 is ideal for welding thicker materials and the 6011 is the most versatile. You can use it with a machine that has AC/DC capability in all directions. Its superb penetration power is what makes it a favorite for most seasoned welders.
Whether you a beginner or a seasoned welder you should consider buying a welder with a user-friendly interface. A user-friendly interface will save your time and energy. Therefore, it is safer to choose a machine that prioritizes automation and digitization in its design. If features like high-temperature shut-down and balance are automated you will have an easier time operating the machine especially if you are an amateur welder.
Another feature worth considering is a digital display. Not everyone will love it, especially old school experienced welders but it will help you to follow the manufacturer’s instructions like the voltage, preferred materials, and power output. What’s more, if the machine comes with more preset features like voltage and amperage, you are likely to achieve precise welds.
Welder quality and performance
The quality of the welder and its performance should be your main concern when purchasing a TIG welder. You should be keen on its build quality and features just to be sure that you will get top-notch performance from it. To get the best value for your money, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of the model.
If you intend to do professional entire-day welding, go for top-brands like Miller, Hobert, Everlast, and Lincoln. They offer a wide range of capabilities and solid performance. You will have to dig deeper into your pockets but you will make the most out of it. On the other hand, if you are just a hobbyist or a home DIYer, then any of the models on our product list would suit you.
Portability is determined by the dimensions and weight of the machine. It is the size of your machine’s transformer that determines its size and weight. If you are a nomadic worker, be sure to go for a lightweight welder like the AmicoPower MTS-205. Also, choose a welder that has features that make it easier to carry from one place to another like a sturdy carrying handle.
A TIG welder that is backed by a generous warranty should always be your priority. A good warranty usually acts like a value-added proposition. Most manufacturers offer between 1 and 5 years warranty. The longer the warranty the more you can trust the welder’s quality.
These include foot pedal, TIG welding tips, and inert gas attachment tips. They are all necessities for TIG welding and some like the foot pedal makes the machine more user-friendly.