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Technicians like to own a machine that can do a wide range of things, because it makes the job easier and more convenient. The same reason makes multi-process welders popular. But are they any good? The answer depends on what you want to do with them.
A multi-process welder is good for a handyman or a hobbyist doing some welding tasks. However, it’s not something industrial technicians and fabricators may opt for. This doesn’t necessarily mean that multi-process welders are completely useless in industrial applications. If you’re wondering whether you need one, you should learn more about them (1).
Is a Multi-Process Welder Right for You?
As mentioned earlier, if you’re a hobbyist who does some welding operations in your garage, then a multi-process welder is not a bad option. In fact, it’s probably a reasonable investment, even though it’s more expensive than a typical single-process welder. With this type of welder, you won’t need different types of machines for different types of tasks. An MP welder allows you to do TIG and MIG, and the more expensive models allow you to do flux-core wire and arc cutting — and even plasma cutting.
Not all welders with two functions are considered multi-process. A lot of welders can have at least two functions simply because their primary purpose lends itself to another function. For instance, the Lincoln 225 TIG welder can also be used for stick welding. MIG welders can do flux core as well. But these aren’t necessarily multi-function welders.
MP welders are typically small machines suitable for everyday applications. Any hobbyist will find that an MP welder suffices his needs. But if you’re running an industrial or fab shop, you need to find something else. In other words, determine what type of welding you will be doing before deciding whether or not to buy a multi-function welder.
Recommended Reading – Best Multi-Process Welders
What You Need to Know About Multi-Function Welders
A lot of guys who are shopping around for a multi-process welder disregard at first that different types of welding mean they need different types of gases. If you’re doing plasma cutting, you’ll need just the same air you breathe. But if you’re doing TIG welding, you have to use argon or a mixture of argon and helium. MIG welding utilizes carbon dioxide. Hence, if you buy a multi-function machine, be ready to shell out a good amount of money for all types of gases you may have to use. You may need to buy or lease welding gas bottles, which aren’t cheap by the way.
Nonetheless, if you need the versatility of a multi-process welder and you don’t mind switching between bottles every now and then, here are some important things to consider:
This is a no-brainer. Anyone who’s buying something without considering its durability is out to waste his money. The thing is, it’s not quite easy to be certain about how long a piece of equipment can last. You can look at reviews. You can go see the product yourself. You can ask someone who has used it. But one indicator that the model is durable is its long warranty. Companies don’t put long warranties on cheap units they don’t expect to last long. There are a lot of cheap units out there, but you’re better off buying a reasonably priced welder.
If you’re buying a multi-process welder, it makes sense to choose a unit that allows you to do MIG, TIG, and stick welding. Otherwise, what’s the point? MIG is a professional welding operation and something you need if you’re running even a small welding shop. TIG, on the other hand, allows you to make precise welds for creative or highly specialized purposes. Stick welding allows you to do heavy-duty repairs and construction.
Another way to think of versatility is in terms of power supply. Seasoned welders suggest using a dual voltage welder, which gives you more freedom without the trouble of finding compatible outlets.
However, multi-function machines should come with overload protection, whose importance cannot be overemphasized. Overload protection allows you to switch between different welding tasks with little risk of damage due to surges in voltage or current.
Ease of Use
One of the most frustrating things about any device is lack of ergonomics. It doesn’t matter how many useful features a welder has. If its controls are out of whack, it can easily be the next useless junk in the corner of your garage.
Speaking of controls, let’s talk a bit about the display, which indicates key parameters, such as amperage and wire speed. Displays that don’t function as intended leave you in the dark while you’re working.
Then again, the least talked about aspect of both single-process or multi-process welders is the weight. Unless you’re working in an industrial site or professional workshop, you should think twice before buying heavy-duty units. Lightweight welders are good enough for DIY hobbyists. Most MP welders weigh around 40 lbs, so you can carry one around without feeling like you’re doing some heavy lifting in the gym while working. Heavy models are cumbersome to begin with.
User-friendly units have simple instructions and are, therefore, easy to set up. A complicated model with convoluted features comes with a higher learning curve but with a risk of demotivating you to use it.
For most buyers, price is the ultimate deal breaker. Keep in mind, though, that a multi-process welder, though significantly more expensive than its single-process brother, is less expensive than three separate machines for different purposes.
Like any machine, a multi-process welder comes with uses and disadvantages. It’s great for you if you’re a hobbyist or a guy who just wants to work on small projects in your garage. You probably don’t need the heavy equipment found in metal fabrication or major car repair shops. But there are a few things you need to consider before buying a multi-process welder. Doing your homework saves you from a ton of problems later on.