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Understanding the benefits of a multi-process welder and tips for choosing the right one

Convenience and ease of use are the end goals for any product engineer. And like any other industry, the welding industry is constantly working to make its equipment more efficient. In doing so, users can minimize overhead costs through reductions in the time and consumables spent to complete a particular job.

ESAB offers a variety of multi-process welders, including the EMP215IC shown here.

No matter how efficient a welding unit may be, it won’t matter if it isn’t the right equipment for the job. Understandably, purchasing a different single-process welding unit to handle every different type of job isn’t a cost-friendly approach. Multi-process welders, however, are a good solution when confronted with a variety of jobs. Professional welders and home users alike can benefit from a versatile unit, and a multi-process welder fits the bill.

Multiple functions

One of the most apparent reasons for a professional welder to choose a multi-process unit is its multi-function capability – allowing a user to handle stick and flux-cored welding as well as MIG and TIG. Even more impressive is that most multi-process welders also feature a flux-cored welding functionality.

Not that long ago, the technology associated with multi-process welding was not entirely efficient, and it meant compromising on the quality of the welds. But that is no longer the case with contemporary multi-process welding machines. The improved and reliable power current technology is the main driving force for enabling new welding machines to handle the variety of jobs for which they were purchased.

Welding professionals are often tasked with various types of work, which makes a multi-process welder a convenient and time-saving tool.

Most multi-process welders are dual voltage, which means they run on 120-V or 240-V power. The best output for melting metal is 240 V, but not every household or workshop has the required 240-V output. Therefore, having both 120- and 240-V power in a single unit is highly recommended.

Ease of use

The versatility of multi-process welders is undoubtedly one of the main factors that make them a go-to piece of equipment for so many welding professionals and hobbyists. Part of their popularity is due to their ease of use. Today, multi-process welders come with smart modes and automatic settings that make welding a variety of metals much easier.

Thanks to these newer modes and settings, an operator only needs to input the necessary information, such as gas type, material and size, and the multi-process welder automatically sets the wire speed and amperage. Each process has a corresponding smart setting to make the welder convenient and easy to use. They also offer the ability to weld in manual mode and input the settings provided in the manual.

Multi-process welders with smart modes are especially useful for beginners, which can be a boon for manufacturers and fabricators that need to quickly train new welders. The smart technology allows anyone to learn the ropes and in a manner that removes the fear of making costly mistakes.

Multi-process welders are made for convenience and ease of use. To achieve that goal, most of them are much lighter in weight compared to dedicated units. The welders are compact and easy to put in the trunk of a car or the back of a truck with little effort.

The XMT 350 from Miller Electric offers TIG, MIG, flux-cored and stick welding capabilities – all in one unit.

Technology advancements continue to reduce the size of the components used in multi-process welders to make them compact and lightweight. Most of them are up to 40 percent smaller than they were a few years ago. However, multi-process welders can sometimes be a little more expensive than dedicated units. But, considering their portability, convenience and ease of use – even for new welders – they are typically worth the investment.

Choosing a welder

As more welders adopt multi-function machines for handling different types of metals, they are able to complete projects in less time. Understandably, switching from one single-process unit to another unit based on the capabilities of each takes a fair amount of time. Therefore, users will quickly benefit from the time and cost savings multi-process welders offer.

Because a multi-process welder combines MIG, TIG, stick and flux-cored welding processes, users can complete a project with a single unit. The versatility of the multi-process welder is something that DIYers and metalworking professionals alike find quite useful.

Experienced welders find multi-process units just as convenient as first-time welders as they can adjust the settings in manual mode to fit their needs and preferences. Additionally, thanks to their portability and compact nature, welders of every skill level appreciate having multiple welding processes together in one unit.

But understanding that all multi-process welders are not created equally, how do you get the best unit for the investment? As with any investment, it’s important to weigh the options, and in the case of multi-process welders, the factors to consider include the types of processes that are offered, amperage, portability, ease of use, power output and budget.   

When it comes to portability and ease of use, Lincoln Electric’s Power MIG multi-process welding unit checks all of the boxes.

1. Types of processes

Before choosing a multi-process unit, it’s key to determine which welding processes are predominantly used on the job. As mentioned, the most common combination includes TIG, MIG, stick and flux-cored processes. Some units even feature a plasma cutting capability, but is a plasma cutting option a necessity?

While plasma cutting adds to the versatility of the multi-process welder, in some cases, the plasma cutting functionality replaces the stick welding process.

2. Amperage

The amperage of the ideal multi-process welder should be sufficient for the projects you will be handling. For example, a unit with an amperage of 230 amps is entirely enough for 24-gauge steel and 1/4-in. aluminum. The minimum for a home user should be around 150 amps. On the other hand, 200 and 300 amp is enough for regular automobile repairs. Consider the thickness and the type of metal that you primarily use.

3. Portability

Professional welding jobs and home projects require frequent movement. It is, therefore, crucial for a multi-process welder to be portable and lightweight to move around. It should be compact, as well.

4. Ease of use

One of the primary objectives of a multi-process welder is convenience and versatility. If a particular multi-process welder comes with complicated controls, then it negates the main aim of convenience. It means that you will spend a lot of time making the necessary adjustments. The ideal machine should have user-friendly interface and controls to minimize the time spent making adjustments.

5. Power output

The power output that is available where you will be performing your work is an essential consideration before making any purchase decision. For example, stick and MIG welding mainly use DC output, and the multi-process welder should, therefore, have this power output capability.

Ideally, the multi-process welder should have both the AC and DC output capability for versatility. Mostly, DC is for handling steel and other hard metals while AC is most appropriate for self-oxidizing metals such as magnesium.

6. Budget

Considering their versatility, multi-process welders are budget friendly in comparison to the investments required for multiple single-process welding units. However, it’s important to remember that cheaper typically isn’t better. Be sure to invest in the right equipment that will serve you for a long time.

A multi-process welder is undoubtedly one of the best investments that you can make as a beginner or a professional welder. For those that handle different types of metal and projects, a multi-process welder can be a major benefit. Consider the processes that are most useful to you, your budget and your power output to get the best unit for your needs.

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