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Most people don’t like buying different types of equipment, especially when there’s one machine that does the work of many. Buying a multi-purpose tool means spending less, saving space, and gaining convenience. We all want these things. But when it comes to welding, is a machine with multiple functions worth the money?
Also read our article on the Best Multi-Process Welders.
What is a multi-process welder?
A multi-process welder (sometimes called MP welder) is a tool that does different types of welding. This machine allows you to do MIG, TIG, and stick welding. Some multi-purpose welders can do plasma cutting. The main attraction of these machines is convenience. There’s nothing more satisfying than being able to do your job without having to switch gears every now and then, as switching from one machine to another can be cumbersome (1).
Eventually, a flexible and versatile machine is the right choice in certain situations and most likely the cost-efficient option for certain types of technicians or DIYers. Nevertheless, they’re not without disadvantages, which will be discussed later in this article. Here we’ll talk about why you may want a multi-purpose welder, as well as why you probably should stay away from it.
In a nutshell, if you’re a DIY hobbyist working in your small shop or in the backyard,a welding machine that can do several things will definitely work well for you.
Or maybe not.
The question you need to answer is this: What do you intend to do with a multi-purpose welder?
The question takes us to our first point.
Is a multi-process welder right for you?
If you’re working on small DIY projects, a multi-process welder is good enough. In fact, it might be just what you need for all your welding and cutting needs. The average MP welder costs more than its single-process counterpart, but at least you don’t need to buy different welding machines. Most MP welders can do TIG, MIG, flux-cored, and arc welding. Some of these machines can also do plasma cutting.
Nonetheless, many single-process welding machines can do two or three things. The Lincoln 225 TIG welder doesn’t just do TIG. It also does stick welding, as any TIG welder does. MIG welders are also expected to be able to do flux-core. But MIG or TIG welders aren’t considered multi-process machines.
Most MP welders are small machines intended for light welding duties. If you’re working on 1/4” or 3/8” thick steel plates, you’re okay with these types of welders. If you’re planning to put up a large metal fabrication shop, then these small, portable machines shouldn’t be your first choice.
Most MP welders are small machines intended for light welding duties. If you’re working on 1/4” or 3/8” thick steel plates, you’re okay with these types of welders. If you’re planning to put up a large metal fabrication shop, then these small, portable machines shouldn’t be your first choice. This takes us to our next point.
Why you probably don’t need a multi-process welder?
Multi-process welders are not for people who typically focus on one type of welding. A lot of welders do just a few related types of welding most of the time. So, for instance, if most of what you do is MIG and flux core, then you’re better off just sticking to your MIG welder or buy a quality MIG (if you don’t have one yet). In this case, it makes no sense to buy a TIG welder or any machine that can do TIG, since that function will not be used anyway.
Also, if you want to get serious about your hobby and you want to do bigger projects, you may have to invest in separate machines. A dedicated MIG welder will do better than the MIG capability of an MP welder. Any seasoned technician can tell you that. Also, note that multi-process welders are notorious for being inconsistent across the board. For example, a model may be good for MIG, but it sucks for TIG.
If you’re putting up a business that relies on welding, buying a machine that does multiple functions may not be a smart idea. Once you get to this territory, remember you’ll be using that machine for the most part of the day. While a multi-process welder can handle occasional work, it’s not designed for heavy-duty operations. You’re vastly reducing the lifespan of that machine if you’re using it day in and day out. Remember, if that machine dies, all the operations that rely on that machine stops! Your business stops operating as well. Maybe you can buy two or more multi-purpose welders. Or simply just buy separate welders for different purposes.
Although multi-purpose welders should be convenient because they’re versatile, this versatility comes at a price that’s not usually talked about. Each type of welding requires different types of shielding gas mixtures. For MIG, you want a mixture of CO2 and argon. For TIG, it’s argon or a mixture of argon and helium. You can’t use your MIG shielding gas for TIG! You have to buy different gas bottles or cylinders if you plan to use the different functions of your welder, and switching from one cylinder to another can be a hassle.
Like any tool, multi-process welders have pros and cons. These welders are the cost-efficient option for anyone who does light welding tasks for simple projects. A typical MP welder is a bit more expensive than a single-process welder, but you’re essentially paying for different types of welding in one. There are a lot of portable welders that do MIG, TIG, flux-core, and stick welding. Since you won’t have to switch from one machine to another, you can save time and energy. If you’re working in a small space, a multi-process welder is a great option for you. But once you evolve from a hobbyist working in his garage to a professional who wants to put up a welding and fabrication business, then you need to move out of your garage and invest in dedicated welding machines.
Also read our article on the Best Multi-Process Welders.