Features to consider when choosing the best welder for aluminum
These are the crucial parameters that you must consider for you to make the best buy:
There are 3 main welding processes suitable for welding aluminum and they include torch welding, MIG welding, and TIG welding. TIG welding is the most popular process because TIG welders do an excellent job of preventing burn through.
Aluminum needs a lot of heat to be welded and can hold the heat for a long time leading to a burn-through. Also, TIG welding can be applied to both thick and thin aluminum plates/sheets. With a TIG welder, you have to choose a separate welding rod with an alloy that is closest to the alloy of the aluminum pieces. TIG welding needs a little getting used to, compared to MIG welding but once it is mastered, it produces the neatest and strongest welds.
MIG welding is the second most common welding process for aluminum. It is a perfect way of welding thin aluminum sheets because they produce the right amount of heat needed for a successful weld. When choosing a MIG welder, you have to decide whether you will be using the spray arc or pulse welding methods. For pulse welding, you will need an inverter supply of power while for spray arc welding you will need a constant voltage and currents machine. Another thing you must consider when buying a MIG welder is that 100% argon is the best shielding gas for welding aluminum.
Torch welding is the third and least common welding process. It is more complicated than MIG and TIG welding thus mostly used by experienced professionals. If you are a welding newbie, it is highly likely that you will experience a burn-through with this process because it takes a lot to be able to master how to control the heat applied to a work-piece.
This is one crucial consideration especially if you are looking to buy a TIG Welder. AC capability is essential for aluminum welding because it works well on thinner materials. The DC (Direct Current) capability is highly suitable for welding thicker materials. Many high-power welding machines run on DC but it does not work well with aluminum because of its lower melting point and other special properties. Nearly all the TIG welders on our list have the AC/DC capability.
This is another aspect that also determines the thickness of the materials you will be welding. If you are not sure of the types of materials you will be welding, you better go for a TIG welder with dual voltage. Voltage combines with ampere output to determine the overall heat input of the welder. Therefore, it is safe to choose a machine that has dual voltage and a wide ampere range to enjoy the flexibility of working on different types of metals with different thicknesses. The AHP Alpha-TIG200X-2018 is a prime example.
As mentioned above, maximum output and voltage go hand in hand and they are the main determinants of the overall heat input of your welder. It also determines the types of materials you will be able to weld. For versatility, it is safe to go for a welding machine with a wide ampere range. For an aluminum welder, you have to choose a machine with amp specifications that go as low as 10 or even 5 amps. Better yet, you need a machine that features amperage control as it is common for welding machines to experience fluctuations that affect the quality of a weld.
Amperage control will save you the pain of checking the gauges every other time and it will help you achieve welds with superior quality.
This is one of the most critical aspects to consider before purchasing a welding machine. It is the actual amount your welder will be able to do within 10 minutes before resting and cooling down. The time a welder needs to rest and cool down depends on its overall build quality, its cooling system, and the types of cooling equipment you’ll be using. Every welding machine has a specific amperage rate that determines its duty cycle which also comes in handy when you need to choose the peak current to use for your projects.
Duty cycle is usually measured in percentages and is indicated on every welding machine. If your machine has a duty cycle of 50% then it means it will be able to run for 5 minutes before resting.
Welding electrodes, rods, or wires come in different sizes. You can choose any of the 7 sizes available on the market. However, to get the ultimate welding results you have to choose a suitable size for your projects.
You can as well go for a versatile size like the 6011 which can be used with AC/DC powered machines in all directions. It also offers exceptional penetration power and can be used to weld different types of materials. Other electrode diameters come in handy in specific instances, for example, the 7024 is the ‘It’ electrode for welding thicker materials like steel.
This is a key consideration especially if you are a beginner welder. Welders are super engaging machines and the easier they are to use the more you’ll enjoy welding. Be sure to go for a welding machine that maximizes automation and digitization in its build. If features like high-temperature shutdown are automated, you will have an easier time.
Some machines feature digital display to help you follow the manufacturer’s regulations like preferred material, voltage, and amperage. You are also likely to achieve precise welds if the machine comes with preset features like voltage and amperage.
Welder quality and performance
To get a big bang for your bucks, you have to ensure the welder has a great build quality with all the features mentioned above. Any welder with all the parameters above will be suitable for anything you intend to do with it especially if you’re a hobbyist. You have to weigh the pros and cons to be able to get a versatile model.
Top brands like Hobart, Miller, Everlast, and Lincoln provide more capabilities and superior quality. Though they cost a pretty penny, they should be your top consideration if you intend to do entire-day welding.
Dimensions and weight
These determine the portability of the welder. Normally, it is the size of the welder’s transformer that determines its overall size and weight. The transformer is the heaviest part of a welder. If you are an on-the-go welder, you should always opt for lightweight and compact models as you can easily move around with it. You should also check to see that it comes with a sturdy carrying handle that makes lifting it from one place to another super-easy.
On the other hand, if you intend to work at a stationary workstation, then the heavy models would be okay.
A welder, just like any other machine is likely to encounter challenges in its operation. That’s why a welder that is backed by a generous warranty like the AHP Alpha-TIG200X-2018 should be your top consideration. A generous warranty is a value-added proposition.
Be sure to go for a model that comes with a couple of accessories like a foot pedal, welding torches, and inert gas attachment tips among others. Some of them, like the foot pedal, make the machine more user-friendly.