#1 - Application
A DC TIG welder can weld most metals – like steel, stainless steel, nickel alloys, copper, titanium, gold, silver and paladium. However, if you plan to TIG weld aluminum – you need AC, so select an AC/DC TIG machine for the ability to weld all metals.
Use this rule of thumb to calculate how many amps you'll need. Figure that you'll need about 1 amp per 0.001" of metal thickness or 40 amps per millimeter. Choose a machine with an output range capable of welding the thinnest and thickest material you'll be working with.
#2 - Location
When thinking about location and where you'll be welding, consider the following points:
1. Weight: In the shop, a lighter machine may roll easier, but the weight is less important than on the road. If you need to travel, size and weight should be kept to a minimum.
2. Power: Think about what type of power you'll have available - make sure your machine can operate on that voltage. And - don't overlook the amperage draw. You'd be disappointed to buy a new TIG unit that draws more amperage than you have available.
3. Generator Options: Not all machines will run on a generator, so if you'll be welding at the jobsite or out at camp - get a unit that's generator friendly.
#3 - Reputation, Warranty & Support
I’ve had a chance to weld with quite a few TIG welders. Many brands do a good job when they are working properly, but they all need to be maintained & repaired occasionally.
Whether you buy a light-duty TIG welder for occasional use or an industrial TIG welder for every-day fabrication you need to select a welder intended that application & know that the manufacturer stands behind the product and will replace or repair any defects or failures.
Tech Tip: There’s a growing concern in the market that involves repair AFTER warranty. Qualified repair stations are becoming more difficult to find & machines are becoming more expensive to repair. So, after the warranty is expired, it’s not uncommon for a major repair to cost nearly the same as a new machine. So, consider the coverage period & parts cost after warranty when pricing your TIG welder machine.
#4 - Budget
Be realistic – don’t be oversold on features you don’t already intend on using, do some research ahead of time & buy what you want. Now, if you’re fortunate enough to have an unlimited budget – carefully consider the upgrade. Remember that “features” add complexity to equipment, although having options is a nice luxury if you can afford it.
Don’t be cheap – buy the right welder for the job. Like
any tool, your welding equipment was designed for an intended application or job. Using your machine for
something it wasn’t intended for can cause problems.
If welding is your livelihood, consider the value of equipment designed for your line of welding.
What's My Ideal Machine?
Personally, I look for the same things – good arc starts, a smooth output, adequate power & duty cycle. In addition, I like to have a few extra adjustments – like pulse, AC Balance & AC Frequency. These features help adjust the output for more control – making welding easier & faster while improving results. When you’re under the hood, your equipment can really help you get the job done.
I’ve got an ideal setup for just about every situation! But, as rule I try to keep it simple. I typically run an air-cooled torch in the shop and the field. I use a 200A inverter because it handles 80% of the welding that I do. I swap back and forth between 125A & 150A air cooled torches. I do have other machines, but this TIG RIG gets used more than anything in my shop. When necessary, I connect a 250A water-cooled torch and cooler that can handle more heat.