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What is “Ergonomic”?: Ergonomic Factors of MIG Welding Guns

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Ergonomic is a buzzword in the description of many tools, but it’s tossed around frequently when referring to MIG welding torches. So, what exactly is ergonomic?

 

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ergonomic as:

/ˌərɡəˈnämik/

adjective

relating to or designed for efficiency and comfort in the working environment.

“Ergonomic keyboard design”

 

So, what does that mean with regard to MIG welding guns? Well, it depends. Numerous studies have been done on which designs are likely to have the greatest benefit in terms of neutral body, wrist, and hand position, operator fatigue reduction, and potential for injury reduction.

In a controlled environment where variables can be controlled, this looks great on paper. In the field, however, “ergonomic” is not so cut and dry.

 

Top Factors That Influence the Ergonomics of a MIG Welding Gun

MIG ergonomic factors

There are several ergonomic factors that affect MIG welding guns.

Weight

It should come as no surprise that the weight of a tool has a direct and substantial impact on how it handles and the strain it places on the operator. In a MIG gun, most of the weight is in the cable.

Generally, the higher the amperage rating of a MIG gun, the larger and heavier the cable will be. The length of the cable is an important factor also. A 10’ MIG gun will weigh far less than a 20’ MIG gun of the same rating.

Tips for reducing weight:

  1. Choose a MIG gun that is rated for your intended application, not the capacity of your power supply. If you have a 400A power supply but you only weld at 250A, there’s no need to waste money on a MIG gun that will only weigh you down. If you’re tacking or welding short seams, you don’t need a MIG gun with a 100% duty cycle rating. There is a lot of potential for weight and cost savings here!
  2. Select the shortest cable length possible. This will not only reduce the potential for damage and wire feeding problems, but it will also mean less weight to drag around (and cost less!)
  3. Consider how your cable is managed. Is your feeder sitting on the floor? On a cart? On an overhead boom? The way the cable gets from the feeder to the operator can make a big difference in how much resistance the operator sees when moving the MIG gun.

Handle Design

This is a factor that’s difficult to quantify, however, every operator will have a very strong opinion on. Generally, the size of the operator’s hands and the type of gloves they wear will influence their preference in handle design.

Diameter, spacing, and angle can vary considerably from one brand and style to the next. You’ll just have to try this one out for yourself.

 

Goosenecks

ergonomic factors

There are two major factors of gooseneck design that will influence the ergonomics: Length and degree of bend. The length of a neck will typically increase with the gun rating as there is more radiant heat for the operator to contend with.

Moving their hands further away from the weld joint helps with heat management. Standard bend angles are 45° and 60°, however other angles are readily available. Some goosenecks are also able to be swiveled or flexed to the operator’s preference.

 

Cooling

MIG welding is hot work. There’s no way around it. The type of cooling mechanism a MIG gun utilizes will impact its ergonomics. As a general rule, air-cooled MIG guns will weigh considerably less and have less bulk than water-cooled MIG guns.

 

Fume Extraction

Nobody should be breathing in weld fumes. There are many solutions for fume management. One solution is a fume-extraction MIG gun.

While these designs are effective in reducing harmful fumes, they can add a substantial amount of bulk and weight to a MIG gun.

 

Additional Features of MIG Guns

Strain-relief springs

These springs serve to ease the transition (or droop) of the cable where it exits the MIG gun handle. The design and dimensions of these springs can also have a small effect on how the cable acts to leverage and balance the gun in the operator’s hand.

 

Rear Swivels

Some MIG guns have a rear swivel or ball-and-socket joint on the handle, which allows for easier rotation of the MIG gun handle.

 

Long Story Short

There is no single, perfect MIG gun in terms of ergonomics. The right MIG gun is a balance of rating, features, and design that allows an operator to lay down an acceptable weld with a minimum of effort.

Interested in trying out a new MIG gun? Contact us today to learn more about our 30-day risk-free trial!

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