Introducing HelioCut, high-quality affordable plasma cutting consumables.

Frequently Asked Questions About Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting, while generally easy and efficient, isn’t always as easy as pull and cut. Here, we address some frequently asked questions from our customers.

 

Q: What type of material can be cut with a plasma cutter?

A: Any electrically-conductive material including steel, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum.

 

Q: How does a plasma cutter work?

A: An arc of electrical current is emitted from the electrode and combined with swirling gas. It is then focused and directed to the workpiece by a nozzle. The jet of ionized gas is very hot and melts and blows away molten material from the workpiece.

 

Q: Is plasma cutting difficult?

A: No! An operator with minimal training may learn to use a plasma cutter in just a few minutes.

 

Q: When should I change my consumables?

A: You should change the electrode when the emitter pit depth reaches 1mm (2mm for silver electrodes). You should change the nozzle when changing the electrode or when the orifice becomes out of round. The remaining consumables should be changed as needed when they become unserviceable.

 

Q: Why does the arc from my plasma cutter sometimes turn green?

A: You have exceeded the life of the electrode and the emitter has been depleted. The arc is now being emitted from the copper surrounding the emitter pit and the green color is oxidized copper. Stop cutting immediately and change your electrode and nozzle!

 

Q: Can the original equipment manufacturer void my warranty for using aftermarket consumables?

A: Absolutely not! The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act prohibits companies from requiring the use of their brand of consumables in order to maintain warranty coverage.

 

Q: When should I change my coolant?

A: According to your machine’s preventative maintenance schedule or when it becomes contaminated or electrically conductive.

 

Q: Is plasma cutting better than oxy-fuel cutting?

A: That depends. Plasma cutting is easier to learn, safer, and faster on thin material. It can also cut materials that oxy-fuel cannot, such as aluminum. On thicker material, however, oxy-fuel often has a faster cut speed and can cut steel far thicker than plasma.

 

Q: Can I plasma cut expanded metal or grating?

A: Yes. If your plasma cutting system has a continuous pilot arc mode, you’ll want to engage this feature to cut grating or expanded metal. If not, you’ll have to manually fire the arc each time you move between slats.

 

Q: Can a plasma cutter be used for gouging?

A: Yes, with the proper torch and consumables. Gouging is a slightly different process than cutting and not every manufacturer offers gouging torches and consumable options.

 

Q: What is CNC plasma cutting?

A: CNC stands for Computer Numerical Controlled. In CNC plasma cutting, a table and gantry is used and the torch movement and arc initiation is controlled by a program loaded into specialized computer software. CNC plasma cutting allows for the highest degree of quality and repeatability for high volume part production.

 

If you have further questions about plasma cutting, feel free to reach out to us. We are happy to answer them for you!

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Multi Process Welder Roundup: Who’s the Best? (Part I)

Top 20 Multi Process Welder Machines of 2021 Part I

Why spend thousands on multiple machines when one can do it all? In this two-part series, we take a look at the masters of versatility!

See Part II

Eastwood

Eastwood claims their machines are “Built for The Professional.” We’ll give you the facts, and you can decide for yourself if they live up to that moniker.

Elite MP140i

muti process welder - Eastwood

The first multi process welder machine on our list is The Eastwood Elite MP140i. As one of the least expensive machines on our list, one might expect it to be sorely lacking in features. After all, how much can you expect for something only 1/7 the cost of the most expensive machine on our list?

The MP140i, however, should be considered a serious value contender. It features 140A of output @ 30% duty cycle, 8″ spool capacity, a heavy-duty metal drive motor, IGBT inverter technology, digital display, built-in spot weld timer, and 3/16″ single-pass capacity on mild steel. You’ll also get a 10′ Trafimet ERGOPLUS 15 MIG gun, 10′ WP-17V TIG torch, and 12.5′ electrode holder, all for an MSRP of $499.99!

Elite MP200i

The MP200i is one of the lightest machines in its class at only 34 pounds. It is just as feature-packed as its little brother, just with more muscle. The MP200i is rated for a 20% duty cycle at 200A of output. It will also run on either 120VAC or 240VAC and has a 3/8″ single-pass capacity on mild steel.

The package includes a Trafimet ERGOPLUS 24 MIG torch, WP-17V TIG torch, and electrode holder. It is also spool gun compatible if you want to weld aluminum. Note that Eastwood does not offer a foot pedal for this machine. The MP200i also has a built-in spot weld timer. At $799.99, the MP200i is also one of the most affordable machines on our list.

Elite MP250i

Eastwood really knocked it out of the park with the MP250i. If you need a machine for serious, all-day-long work on steel, put this one on your shortlist. With a 60% duty cycle @ 250A, a 12″ spool capacity, and dual bottle mounts, you’ll have the power to run hot and fast with the MP250i. You’ll also get a Trafimet ERGOPLUS 24 MIG torch, WP-17V TIG torch, foot pedal, and electrode holder. Don’t expect to tote this powerhouse around the job site, however, as the large number of features tips the scale at a whopping 160 pounds (without gas bottles). For the price though, this package is hard to beat at an MSRP of $1,299.99.

Esab

When it comes to multi process welder machines, Esab brought their A-Game. The machine boasts features across the board, such as a multilingual TFT display, exclusive sMIG technology, and a five-handle “roll cage” chassis.

Rebel EMP 205ic

The EMP 205ic is one of the most feature-packed machines on our list. It is one of four machines capable of AC TIG mode (a must-have for serious aluminum work) and includes a pulse mode for DC TIG as well as high-frequency arc starting! It has a maximum output of 235A. Included in the box are a 180A Tweco Fusion Velocity MIG gun, Heliarc HW-17 TIG torch, foot pedal, and electrode holder.

A Tweco 200A spool gun is available separately, although this is hardly needed with the AC TIG mode built right in. However, these bells and whistles come at a cost, with the EMP205ic being limited to a 25% duty cycle and breaking the bank at $3,499.00.

Rebel EMP 215ic

The EMP 215ic is Esab’s most budget-friendly multi-process offering. It sheds nine pounds of weight versus the EMP 205ic (40lbs vs. 49lbs) and gives a slight boost to maximum output at 240 amps. The EMP 215ic does give up AC TIG mode, pulse capability, and high-frequency arc starting. If you can live without those features, you’ll save quite a bit, with an MSRP of $2,149.00 (significant savings over the EMP 205ic). Included are a 180A Tweco Fusion MIG gun, 17V style TIG torch, foot pedal, and Tweco electrode holder.

Rebel EMP 235ic

muti process welder - Esab

The EMP 235ic is a heavy-hitter. With 250A of maximum output and single-pass capacity of ½” mild steel at a reasonable 40% duty cycle, this machine will take the heat and keep on ticking. You’ll change your wireless frequently with this model as well, with a 12″ spool capacity versus 8″ on the smaller models. MSRP is $3,455.00. With this machine, you’ll get a Tweco Spraymaster 250 MIG gun and electrode holder. It does not include a TIG torch (we recommend a 26 series torch).

Everlast

Next up on our list, we have four power-packed multi process welder machines from Everlast. If you’re not familiar with Everlast, you should be. They are all built on IGBT inverter technology, offer some of the best-in-class machines for the money, and they back all of their machines with an impressive 5-year warranty!

Power MTS 211Si

The MTS 211Si is Everlast’s 210A entry-level multi-process machine and is a serious bang for the buck. It features digital controls with a 9-program memory, high-frequency arc starting for TIG mode, 40% duty cycle, and a robust metal wire feed system. You’ll also get control over start/end amps, up/downslope, pre/post flow, and both 2T and 4T control for TIG mode. The MTS211Si package includes a 10′ 15 series MIG gun, 12.5′ 26 Series TIG torch, 10′ electrode holder assembly, and a foot pedal for precision TIG work. All of this comes with a price tag of $1,199.00.

Power MTS 251Si

As the big brother of the MTS 211Si, this machine is sure to be a fan favorite with its combination of features and price. The MTS251Si has 250A of output, a 12″ wire spool capacity, pulse mode for both MIG and TIG processes, and high-frequency arc start. With a 40% duty cycle and 3/8″ single-pass capacity on mild steel, this machine will be right at home in any fab shop or garage. The MTS251Si package includes a 10’ 24 series MIG gun, 12.5’ 26 series TIG torch, 10’ electrode holder assembly, and a foot pedal for precision TIG work. Add the optional water-cooling unit, and you’ve got a serious TIG rig! MSRP is $1,539.00.

Lightning MTS 225

The Lightning MTS 225 is the lead-in unit to Everlast’s second-generation multi-process machines. This machine features 160A of output @ 35% duty cycle on 240V, a synergistic Power Set function, LCD display, AC TIG mode, 16 slots of memory, pulse mode on both AC and DC TIG, high-frequency start, and square wave AC function. Included in the box are a 10′ 15 series MIG gun, 12.5′ 26 Series TIG torch, 10′ electrode holder assembly, and a foot pedal for precision TIG work. The Lightning MTS 225 is the second of the four machines on our list with AC TIG mode and by far the least expensive at $2,000.00.

Lightning MTS 275

According to Everlast, the Lightning MTS 275 “has about everything you need, and nothing that you don’t.” We tend to agree! This machine is the best all-around multi-process unit available today and includes all of the features of its little brother with 250A of output @ 60% duty cycle and a 12” spool capacity. You’ll also get upgraded to a 36 series MIG gun and 18 series TIG torch. All of Everlast’s units are compatible with their TIG torch water coolers and a 20 series torch, but the MTS 275 would see the most benefit due to its higher amperage. With an MSRP of $2,500, this machine tops our list and lands almost $1,000 below comparable units from Esab and Miller!

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10 MIG Welder Preventative Maintenance Tips

All trade professionals rely on their tools to make a living. Like any piece of equipment, your MIG welder requires regular preventative maintenance to maintain optimal performance. Below are some tips to keep your equipment in tip-top shape.

mig welder maintenance - keep it covered

10. Keep It Covered When Not In Use

Using a cover is one of the most straightforward steps you can take to maintain your MIG welder and often one of the most overlooked. In most fabrication environments, dust, grime, and metallic particles settle and adhere to almost every surface. Just as these can make you sick, they can seriously impair the proper function of your machine.

Dust buildup on the wire spool may be fed into the liner, causing wire feeding issues. Metallic particles can find their way onto sensitive circuitry and cause expensive and dangerous shorts. Grime may obscure small problems such as a cracked wire guide, often leading to wire feeding issues. To avoid these scenarios, simply cover your machine when you’re not using it. Many machines have optional fitted covers, but a common drop cloth will suffice.

9. Turn Off The Gas and Purge Your System

Purging is a good habit to get into whenever you shut down your machine for the day. Turning off your gas bottle and purging the shielding gas from your machine and MIG gun will extend the life of hoses, fittings, valves, regulators, and solenoids and prevent the loss of costly gas if a leak happens to develop while you are away.

First, turn off the tank valve. Then, with the MIG gun pointed away from you, depress the trigger until the regulator output gauge drops to zero. Your MIG gun will feed a few inches of wire during this time, which you can simply snip off. If you wish to avoid this, relieve the tension on the drive roll prior to depressing the trigger on the MIG gun.

8. Hang It Up!

When you finish working for the day, coil your MIG gun loosely and hang it up off the floor. Not only is this a good general practice for keeping your work area clean, but it will also prevent your MIG gun from becoming damaged when not in use and keep the liner from becoming kinked from being would too tightly.

7. Inspect The Ground Lead and Clamp

It can be easy to take ground leads and clamps for granted. We tend to assume that it’s doing its job if the clamp is touching the workpiece or table. The truth is that your ground lead and clamp serve a critical function in the welding process, and they need a little attention from time to time when doing MIG welder maintenance.

First, inspect the cable for damage. Then, check the tightness of the connections at the machine and at the clamp. Lastly, ensure that the clamp is clean and the contact surfaces are free of buildup.

6. Inspect The Cables

Cable checks are just as crucial for safety as it is for the proper function of your equipment. First, unplug your machine. Then start at the back and inspect the power cord for cuts, burn marks, cracks, and any other damage. Ensure that the plug is installed correctly and fits tightly into the socket.

Then, inspect the MIG gun cable. Look for damage. Ensure the strain relief springs are properly attached. Check to make sure that the power pin and control plug connections are secure. Pay special attention to the front end of the cable. Most cable damage occurs within six feet of the handle. If you find any damage, repair the cable or replace the MIG gun.

mig welder maintenance - check gas

5. Inspect Gas Hoses and Fittings

Ensure the shielding gas tank is properly secured. Turn on the tank valve and set the output flow rate, then shut off the tank. Inspect the tank and valve for visible damage. Do the same for the hoses, regulators, and fittings.
Wait until at least fifteen minutes have elapsed and check the output gauge. If the reading is lower than initially set at, you have a leak. Fill a spray bottle with soapy water and begin spraying your fittings and hoses. You should see bubbles where the leak exists.

Follow these steps depending on the scenario:

  • If the leak is occurring at a fitting, tighten the fitting.
  • If this does not resolve the problem, undo the connection, clean with compressed air, and reconnect.
  • If the leak is stemming from the hose, repair or replace the hose.

Although MIG welding shielding gases are inert, they are not free, and leaks will not only cost you money but can lead to weld defects such as porosity.

4. Clean Your Liner

The liner is the hidden hero of your MIG gun. It keeps wire feeding smoothly from the feeder to the contact tip. Because it’s not visible while installing the MIG gun, we tend to forget about it until we experience a wire feeding issue (which always seems to happen at the most inconvenient time).

A little bit of love goes a long way with your liner. Get in the habit of cleaning it out every time you change your wire spool. To do this, first, unplug your machine. Then open the side panel and loosen the power pin retaining screw. Unplug the control plug as needed. Pull the MIG gun away from the machine and clip the wire in front of the drive roll (if you clip it behind the drive roll and the spool is full, it will unwind itself and make a mess).

Remove the consumables from the front of the MIG gun and pull the wire out. Then, using a cloth to seal, blow out the liner using compressed air. Reassemble the MIG gun and reconnect it to the machine, and it’s ready in less than five minutes.

3. Keep Your Machine Clean

Even if you follow the first tip and keep your machine covered when not in use, eventually, debris will find its way inside. When you notice that there is an accumulation on and inside your machine, dust it off. Compressed air and a clean cloth work very well for this task. A clean machine is a happy machine!

2. Inspect Drive Rolls and Check Tension

Drive rolls are durable; you do not need to replace them very often, but that doesn’t mean they are maintenance-free. Another good habit for MIG welder maintenance to get into, is that when changing wire spools is to remove and inspect the drive rolls for corrosion and debris buildup. Remove any metal shavings, debris, or rust with a small wire brush. When reinstalling, ensure that you have aligned the right groove with the wire type and correctly set the tension.

1. Clean or replace consumables

It may seem like common sense, but your consumables take a lot of heat. If they are getting long in the tooth, hit them with a wire brush or reamer, clean the spatter off, apply a coating of anti-spatter, or replace them. Waiting until your consumables fail to replace them can come back to haunt you in the form of weld defects and lost time. The cost of a contact tip is small compared to the cost and hassle of fixing a burnback failure or chasing porosity due to a clogged nozzle.

For Tougher MIG Welder Maintenance, You May Need To Contact The Supplier

Following these ten easy preventative maintenance tips will keep you and your machine productive and yield better quality welds with fewer headaches. For more in-depth maintenance, consult your machine’s operator manual or your local welding equipment supplier.

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