Quality results and high productivity are important in every welding application. What many companies may not consider, however, is that the weakest part of a welding system is actually what determines its performance. If the welding gun, feeder or power source is performing poorly, the resulting welds will also likely be poor. For that reason, it is important to have a welding system with components engineered to work together. Having parts that complement one another can help improve arc performance and overall productivity, while also reducing quality issues and minimizing downtime.
Such welding systems are available for many specific applications, including welding aluminum and/or pipe, to name just a couple. This article discusses the advantages of investing in a welding system (versus creating one from random components), and the benefits such systems offer for welding operators.
The importance of welding systems
For many applications, welding systems can offer significant performance benefits.
Designed systems offer compatible amperage and duty cycles — two of the most important considerations for achieving good weld quality and productivity. These systems also are scaled properly to each other to ensure their features provide the greatest advantage. These include preventing potential problems like poor arc performance or wire feeding issues, both of which can occur when piecing together equipment that is not specifically designed for compatibility.
For example, when using a smart feeder that allows multiple parameter settings, communication signals must go back and forth between the feeder and the power source to make all of those features and functions work. Having a system designed with components that work together can provide synergic control benefits for which the system is intended. That may not be possible when using a wire feeder that has not been matched for a given power source.
Similarly, if a welding operator uses a set of weld cables that are too small or undersized to work with a certain system or application, those weld cables may end up overheating or cause a voltage drop. This can greatly affect arc performance, especially when pulse MIG welding.
Using a welding system can also make regular service and maintenance easier from a troubleshooting standpoint. Technicians will know better what problems to look for and can often pinpoint issues more quickly with a performance-matched system.
Welding systems available to meet various needs
There are many different welding systems for various applications and needs. A full welding system typically includes a power source, wire feeder, and a MIG gun or TIG torch. In some cases, manufacturers may include or recommend the filler metal to improve performance on a given application.
Welding systems are typically matched together based on the manufacturer’s knowledge of how their features will mesh and on how they can help minimize known welding operator challenges in the industry. Oftentimes, manufacturers design systems around a specific outcome, such as improving productivity, reducing downtime, completing welds faster or reducing burn-through on certain materials. More specifically, a welding system could offer processes for welding aluminum without burn-through or distortion. Another example is a system that provides processes for welding the root pass in a pipe joint.
Welding system advantages
Among the biggest benefits of a matched welding system is the ease of setup. Operators can often be up and running within minutes — especially when using a system designed to be “plug and play” — versus taking hours or days to make unmatched components work together. Once running, manufacturers have designed welding systems, in many cases, to offersynergic controls and a simplified interface design.
When the components are specifically matched to work together, arc performance can also often be maximized through advanced processes or advanced features, such as pulsed MIG welding.
These performance benefits can be especially important in robotic welding. Operations can lose features and functions in these applications — with larger financial consequences — if the feeder and the power source, for example, are not communicating properly with the robot. Robotic welding systems are also built to incorporate certain safety standards, which can make them a safer option than robotic systems that are put together piecemeal.
To ensure all of the pieces are working optimally together in a robotic system, it is helpful to work with a reputable systems integrator who fully understands the system components.
Key considerations for matching components
In situations where companies or welding operators want or need to match off-the-shelf components rather than buying a welding system, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, it’s always a good idea to consult a trusted distributor or equipment manufacturer when making the selections.
It’s important, too, to consider the various types of wire feeders available and choose one that’s most appropriate for the application or future applications. For example, if the job calls for eight hours of welding day after day, an industrial type wire feeder is most appropriate. These feeders typically have more powerful motors, are capable of running larger wire types and have more features than a less costly, smaller feeder. These feeders may cost more upfront, but they will generally pay for themselves in the long term.
Along with the right feeder requirements, amperage and duty cycle capabilities are also key considerations. Be sure that the power source and gun offer the right duty cycles and amperage for the job, and that they are compatible in terms of their amperage capacity. Portability of the wire feeder might also be another important consideration, depending on the application.
Next, it’s important to match the interconnecting cables to ensure they are compatible with the available features of the wire feeder and power source. Some systems are digital and others are analog; the interconnecting cable should match the appropriate system type. This task may require assistance from the manufacturer or distributor during the selection process.
Investing in a welding system may be a more expensive choice up front. But in many cases, it can end up costing less in the long term by eliminating downtime, improving quality and preventing lost productivity. Manufacturers design welding systems to work together to enhance equipment features, increase productivity and make them easier to use. For questions about the potential benefits of welding systems or assistance in selecting the right one for a given application, remember to consult with a trusted welding distributor or equipment manufacturer.