Big Ideas

A Texas fabricator and erector takes on big structures with compact engine drives


What do the tallest building in Texas, a $17 billion semiconductor facility and a gigafactory have in common? All three of these massive projects have had substantial scope performed by AISC dual-certified fabricator and erector, Patriot Erectors LLC. In business since 1991 and headquartered just west of Austin, Texas, Patriot Erectors employs more than 500 of the state’s top welders and fabricators to work on stadiums, skyscrapers, expo centers, hospitals and dozens of other award-winning structural projects.

“Safety, quality and production – these are the core goals of our operations,” says Jason Puckett, a safety director and CWI for Patriot Erectors who also serves as president of Ironworkers Local 482. “This is the backbone of our reputation and the reason why we continue to work on the highest profile jobs in Texas. Our welders know we expect the best, and we use the best equipment and technology to provide turnkey solutions for our customers.”

Patriot Erectors uses ESAB’s Ruffian ES 150G engine driven welding generator to run ESAB
7018-1 Prime VacPac electrodes on its high-strength structural steel projects.

With more than 178,000 sq. ft. of space for fabrication capabilities and a large bench of field supervision and capable craft workers, Patriot Erectors has the bandwidth to work on many large and small projects simultaneously.

Engine drive options

To understand the engine drive needs for field fabrication, one must first consider the requirements.

Per the AWS D1.1 Structural Welding Code – Steel, SMAW (stick) welding requires using a 1/8-in.-dia. E7018 electrode for the root and hot pass with a 5/32-in. permissible for the fill and cap passes. The majority of welding (some experts estimate 60 to 80 percent) is done with a 1/8-in.-dia. electrode. The “sweet spot” for this electrode is usually 120 to 125 amps, with perhaps a top end of 145 amps for most applications.

Patriot Erectors has worked on several high-profile projects in Austin, including the Darrell K Royal Memorial Stadium, home of the University of Texas Longhorns football team.

The other essential tool is a hand grinder for bevel preparation and tack weld removal and preparation. Depending on the size (4 1/2 in. or 8 in.), the model and how hard the operator bears down on the metal, a hand grinder draws up to about 2,500 W of power.
Historically, putting an engine drive (with a gas engine) on a jobsite meant a machine with a 225- or 250-amp welding output and 9,000 W to 11,000 W of AC power. These are great machines when one needs to get a lot of work done, but they cost about $6,500 and weigh almost 500 lbs.

In some situations, that is too much machine. Smaller engine drives have been available for a long time, but they are perceived as machines better-suited for farm, ranch and light maintenance work.

“We weren’t looking for smaller, mobile engine-driven welding generators simply because we did not think that one with enough power existed,” Puckett says. “However, we were given the opportunity to test one of the newer machines on the market as provided by ESAB.”

Ryan Rummel, account manager for ESAB and a journeyman welder, introduced Patriot Erectors to ESAB’s new Ruffian ES 150G engine drive. It has 150 amps of stick welding output and 4,500 W of peak 120-V/240-V AC power. It combines the award-winning welding technology from ESAB’s Rogue Stick inverter and the proven reliability of a 14-hp Kohler Command Pro engine.

“The first few days, we worked this machine to the extreme,” Rummel says. “We ran it with 100 ft. of 2/0 welding lead, welded with 5/32-in. 7018s, ran an 8-in. grinder and never hit the duty cycle on it. That welder ran hot enough and held a consistent and stable arc – we were all impressed.”

“We run ESAB 7018-1 Prime VacPac electrodes on our jobs, so that’s what we tested, and the slag just toenailed – curled up and self-released,” Puckett continues. “That indicates the welding parameters were set perfectly. Our operators have made welds that were 18 in. long on thick plate, and they say the output of the Ruffian never wavered.”

The duty cycle and arc performance led Patriot Erectors to using eight of the machines at the new 74-story Austin skyrise called Waterline.

“One of the challenges of working on tall buildings is getting the equipment to where it’s needed,” Puckett says. “The Ruffian is small enough and rolls so easily that the welder just wheels it on to the hoist elevator. This saves a lot of time by not waiting around for a pallet and a crane to lift the equipment, not to mention the time of two or three guys to maneuver the equipment. Frankly, it doesn’t make sense to spend the extra money on a 250-amp or larger machine when a 150-amp welder runs the electrodes I need it to.”

The ESAB Ruffian ES 150G delivers 150 amps to run 7018 electrodes for Patriot Erectors’ structural work at the Waterline project by design architect Kohn Pedersen Fox in Austin. When complete, the 74-story hi-rise will be the tallest building in Texas.

In addition to the Waterline project by design architect Kohn Pedersen Fox, which will become the tallest building in Texas when complete, Patriot Erectors is currently building and connecting steel girders, beams and columns on a massive semiconductor facility for Samsung Electronics and a Tesla gigafactory. Patriot Erectors also has dozens of smaller projects on its to-do list, especially for its crews in San Antonio.

On the go

The company’s mobile welding team covers a lot of ground travelling from jobsite to jobsite, and having the ability to simply lift their welder into the back of a pickup truck is a major benefit. The Ruffian doesn’t take up too much room and weighs just 248 lbs. with the wheels and handles.

“Two guys can pack up the welder and move on,” Puckett continues. “Also, ESAB designed this machine with a well-balanced wheel kit and hard rubber tires, not pneumatic wheels which constantly go flat.”

Ironworkers and their jobsites are generally a bit rough with their equipment, and if something isn’t working right, they kick it to the side and grab a different machine.

“Our guys haven’t kicked any of the Ruffians off the site,” Pucket says. “They use them every day and are very happy with them. They don’t ‘talk smack’ about the machine, and what you don’t hear from a welder says a lot.”

The Ruffian ES 150G weighs 236 lbs. (248 lbs. with wheels and handles) and fits well in the back of a pickup truck for Patriot Erectors’ mobile welding projects.

Completion on the Waterline project is scheduled for late 2026 and will encompass 3.3 acres in Austin’s downtown Rainey Street area and overlook Lady Bird Lake. The building will have 352 apartments, two pools, 700,000 sq. ft. of office space, a 251-room luxury hotel, and 24,000 sq. ft. of retail and restaurant space on the ground floor.

“We’re excited to be a part of this historic project in our hometown,” Puckett says. “There’s a lot of steel, a lot of welding and a lot of work going into this project. We’re proud to provide the best work with the safest practices.”


Patriot Erectors LLC

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