Companies want quality results and high productivity in their welding operations. One important factor impacting these goals is the welding system chosen for the job. As a general rule, the weakest part of a welding system is what determines its overall performance. If any system component is performing poorly – from the welding gun to the wire feeder to the power source – the finished welds will likely be poor as well. Such weaknesses can mean extra time and money for downtime and rework.
To combat these problems, companies can turn to a complete welding system in which all of the components have been designed and engineered to seamlessly work together. Using components that complement one another can help improve arc performance and overall productivity, while also reducing weld quality issues. Investing in this type of welding system (compared to using random off-the-shelf welding components that are not optimized to work together) offers numerous advantages that can impact an operation’s bottom line.
Welding system applications
A complete welding system typically includes a power source, a wire feeder (for flux-cored or MIG processes) along with a gun or a torch for TIG welding. Some welding systems may also include a specific filler metal to help improve performance or productivity in certain applications.
Often, equipment manufacturers design a complete welding system around a specific outcome, such as completing welds faster with less downtime or reducing burn-through on certain base materials. For example, systems may offer processes for welding the root pass in a pipe joint or welding aluminum without burn-through or distortion.
Ultimately, manufacturers use their knowledge of how component features and functions will mesh to create complete welding systems that provide the best performance. In addition to improving weld quality and productivity, these systems can also address challenges in the industry, such as the lack of skilled welding operators. Having equipment that is intuitive to use and provides consistent results, regardless of the welding operator’s skill set, is valuable.
Compatibility, simplified maintenance
Welding systems offer components with compatible amperage and duty cycles, which are two of the most important considerations for achieving good weld quality and improving productivity. The guns, wire feeders and power sources are also scaled properly to each other to ensure their features provide the greatest advantage. This helps prevent potential problems like poor arc performance or wire feeding issues, which may occur when combining components that are not specifically designed for compatibility.
Some manufacturers also pair “smart” wire feeders with their welding systems to allow for multiple parameter settings. Communication signals go back and forth between the feeder and the power source to ensure all the features and functions are working properly. When components like these work seamlessly together, it provides synergic control benefits that may not be possible when using a feeder that hasn’t been matched for a given power source.
Many complete welding systems maximize arc performance through advanced processes, such as pulsed MIG welding. Such performance benefits can be especially beneficial for robotic welding applications. Features and functions can be lost in these applications – with larger financial consequences – if the wire 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. Working with a reputable robotic systems integrator who fully understands the system components can help ensure all of the pieces are working optimally together.
Ease of setup and use
The ease of setup of a complete welding system is among the biggest benefits of choosing this solution, especially if the system is “plug and play.”
While making unmatched components work together can take hours or days, welding operators using complete systems can often be up and running within minutes. Simplified interfaces and synergic controls add to the systems’ simplicity.
In addition, regular service and maintenance troubleshooting is often easier when using a complete welding system. Technicians can pinpoint issues more quickly than with a system with components that have not been specifically matched together.
Considerations for matching components
When a company or welding operator wants or needs to match off-the-shelf welding components for an application rather than buying a complete welding system, they should keep a few factors in mind.
Consulting with a trusted welding distributor or equipment manufacturer is always a good first step when making the selections. It is also important to consider the types of wire feeders available and select one that’s most appropriate for the application or future applications. If a job calls for eight hours of welding most every day, a wire feeder designed for industrial use – which typically has more features, a more powerful motor and is capable of running larger wire types – would be the most appropriate. Such wire feeders may cost more up front than a smaller feeder with fewer features, but should pay for themselves in the long term by improving productivity and weld quality.
Another important consideration is the amperage and duty cycle capabilities when matching off-the-shelf components into a single welding system. The power source and gun should offer the right duty cycles and amperage for the application, and they also must be compatible in terms of their amperage capacity. For some applications, a wire feeder that offers portability may also be necessary.
Matching the interconnecting cables to ensure compatibility with the features of the wire feeder and power source is also key. Welding systems can be digital or analog, so care must be taken to match the interconnecting cable to the appropriate system type. Assistance from the manufacturer or distributor may be necessary for this process.
But complete welding systems are still the best solution. Welding equipment manufacturers engineer and design complete welding systems to work seamlessly together to enhance features and make them easier for welding operators to set up and use. When considering the investment, it’s always a good choice to consult a trusted welding distributor or equipment manufacturer with any questions about the potential benefits or features of these systems.
Making the choice to invest in a complete welding system may be a more expensive solution up front, but such systems often end up costing less in the long term by reducing downtime, improving weld quality and boosting productivity.