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The main attraction of multi-process welders is their ability to shift from MIG to TIG or stick without hassle. These multi-purpose machines are great options for hobbyists working in humble workshops, but even professionals can find these handy machines useful. If you’re shopping for a multi-purpose welding machine, though, you’d be looking at more than a hundred models in the market. From cheap units under $500 to expensive machines over $5000, the list of options can be overwhelming.
Before you shop around for MP welding machines, ask yourself if you really need one. A lot of people in this industry focus on one type of welding, so the need for a machine that does a lot of things doesn’t always arise. However, if you think you’re going to do MIG, TIG, and stick on different occasions and you think buying three different machines is out of the question, then take comfort knowing that you can’t go wrong with a good multi-process welder (1).
The following are questions you need to ask when choosing a multi-process welder:
What will you be using it mainly for?
As earlier mentioned, most MP welders lean towards one type of welding. That’s one thing to keep in mind. So, for instance, if you’re doing a lot more MIG than either TIG or stick, then something like the Lincoln Electric MIG 210 MP looks like a great option for you. It’s an excellent multi-process machine for anyone who mainly does MIG but also does other types of welding occasionally. Moreover, it’s a great choice if you want to MIG weld aluminum.
It pays to read specifications and learn about a welding machine before you consider buying it. That way, you’ll know what it does. The Everlast Power MTS 211Si is a dual voltage machine whose strength is TIG, but it can do MIG and stick welding as well. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that does all three processes reliably, then you’re looking for the Miller Electric Multimatic. For welders who do more stick welding than anything else, the ESAB EMP215IC provides remarkable stick or flux core welding capabilities. All these machines are multi-functional. It’s just that they do one thing better.
What materials do you weld?
Most MTS welders can weld steel and stainless steel — at least, the good ones do. If you do a lot of aluminum welding, then your choices for MP welders that can weld aluminum are pretty limited. Again, the Lincoln Electric MIG 210 MP should be one of your choices for MIG welding aluminum, but most people prefer TIG for aluminum. In that case, you’re looking for the Miller Electric Multimatic, which has both AC and DC capability.
The thickness of the materials also matters, because it determines the amperage. For 1/8-inch thick steel, you should be good at 70 amps. But if you sometimes find yourself welding 1/4-inch plates, you should invest in a machine capable of welding up to 140 amps.
How much are you willing to spend?
Eventually, your budget determines what multi-process welder you’ll buy. Basically, it’s a toss-up between spending more for a durable unit and spending less but getting disappointed in the long run. The rule is if you want to get the best welds and the most durable machine, you have to spend more. Quality and durability come with a price, and that’s just the simple truth. While you can find multi-process welding machines for $500 or probably less, reliable models cost anywhere above $1000. The best ones are over $2000. If you’re on a budget but you still want quality, consider the Everlast PowerMTS 211Si, which costs $1062 on Amazon as of the writing of this article. Seasoned fabricators will tell you that you will save money in the long run on an expensive welder.
If you’re particularly strapped, and you really don’t need the TIG capability, consider buying two single-process machines, a cheap stick welder and a budget MIG welder.
What are other factors to consider?
With the long list of selling features manufacturers boast about, it can be difficult to make a choice. One of the things you usually see is the dual voltage feature, which is handy when you’re traveling, since you won’t have to worry whether you’re plugging your machine to a 110V or a 220V outlet. Another useful feature for traveling welders is portability. A lot of multi-process welding machines sport portability.
Metal cutting is an essential part of fabrication, and that’s why manufacturers considered making multi-function welders that can do plasma cutting.
One must-have feature is the overload protection. For machines that switch between different tasks, an overload protection becomes even more important.
Multi-process welding machines have advantages and disadvantages. They are versatile, as they can perform at least three different types of welding. One machine takes up less space than three machines. Most of these welders are also portable, so they’re easy to transport from one shop to another. Keep in mind, however, that a machine that does a lot of things is not as powerful as the one designed for a specific purpose. For minor metal fabrication projects, multi-purpose welders can be great. The choice eventually depends on the features you need and your budget.
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