A new generation of machines and technology makes this task easier, safer, more productive and comfortable
By Tom Jackson
If you are looking to replace, upgrade or buy a new welding unit for your shop or service truck you may be pleasantly surprised at the innovations that have come along in the past few years. Here’s an overview:
When you’re in the field you often need a grinder to clean up welds and compressed air to blow away slag when carbon arc gouging. And air-powered tools are a must for efficiency. So rather than carry multiple machines or run a compressor off the PTO, many welding manufacturers are putting all three of these functions on one unit.
By eliminating the need for the truck-driven PTO, the welder’s smaller engine saves on fuel, eliminates concerns about anti-idling regulations and reduces maintenance and wear on the more expensive, 500-horsepower truck engine.
Another useful feature being added to many welding combo units today is the battery 12- and 24-volt battery boost/jump charger packages.
Electronic fuel injection
Time was carburetors were all you needed to run an engine-driven welding machine, but the trend today is towards electronic fuel injection. Going from carburetors to EFI boosts fuel efficiency more than 20 percent. That not only saves you money and reduces emissions, but perhaps most important, it reduces the amount of fuel you need to run the machine for a day. Less fuel equals less weight and more portability.
Nobody wants to climb on and off the truck or walk back to the truck from a distance or down a flight of stairs every time they have to change a welding setting. The solution is simple – optional remote controls. With these, instead of twisting the dials by hand, you can change welding or generator output from hundreds of feet away. Remote controls also add an extra measure of safety on roadside jobs by keeping the service tech farther away from the traffic. There are two types of remote controls, wireless/radio controlled, and those hard wired with a tether.
A service truck has no problem carrying a big, 500-pound welding machine. But some service techs like to pull the welder off the machine and use it in the shop, or leave it at a jobsite. A truck with a crane can do this itself, but there are new lighter weight welding machines with handles that one or two people can load or unload unaided. And because they’re smaller, they take up less space on the truck.
John Leisner, product manager for the power products group at Miller Electric
Brent Williams, product manager with Miller’s TIG division and wireless remote technology.
Dean Strathman, national sales manager for Vanair Air-N-Arc All-in-One Power System Line.
The Vanair company’s Air-N-Arc units give you welding, electrical power, compressed air and optional battery booster in one unit. The line ranges in size from the Air-N-Arc 150 (at left) to the Air-N-Arc 300 and also includes two in-between models, the 200 and 250. The 150 puts out 5,000 watts of pure sine power from the generator, 150 amps of welding power and 20 cfm at 100 psi with a reciprocating compressor. The 300 cranks out 7,000 watts of pure sine electrical power, 300 amps from the welder and 40 cfm at 175 psi from a rotary screw compressor.
Lincoln Electric has added 2D Microsoft Tag barcodes on many of its more popular welding products. By scanning the barcode with a web-enabled camera phone you can be linked to a mobile ready landing page with detailed information on each machine.
Miller’s Bobcat 250 EFI now comes with electronic fuel injection, which can improve fuel economy as much as 27 percent, giving you the equivalent of 15 gallons of operation from a 12-gallon tank. By eliminating the carburetor in favor of EFI, the unit also becomes easier to start in all climates – no choke required –and eliminates carburetor icing.
New wireless remote controls options from Miller enable you to operate your TIG machine with a foot- or hand-controlled remote/wireless unit, and a hand-controlled unit for stick, MIG and flux cored welding. This eliminates the need to climb on and off or walk back and forth to the truck to adjust settings and helps keep the worksite less cluttered.
The Lincoln Bulldog AC stick welding machine packs into a small package 140 amps of welding power and 5,000-watts surge/4,000-watts continuous generator power for grinders, work lights, pumps and other equipment. A 9.5-horsepower Kohler engine drives the unit and a 1.25-inch steel tube frame provides protection. For wire feed processes, a Lincoln Electric Power MIG 140C can also be teamed with the unit.
A battery charger/jump starter is now available in the Miller Trailblazer 302 Air Pak, a gasoline engine driven machine that also delivers 350 amps of welding power, 13,000 watts of generator power and 26 cfm of compressed air. To extend battery life and prevent battery failure the battery charger kicks out 10 to 75 amps, as set by the operator, until it senses a load from the starter. The jump start mode activates only when it senses a load from the starter.
To conserve cargo space in truck beds the Lincoln Electric Vantage 500 has been redesigned to fit in a smaller case, the same dimensions as the Vantage 300 and 400 models. The Vantage 500 Perkins has a large, 20-gallon fuel tank for 9 hours of welding at 500-amp/40-volt/100-percent duty cycle or 33 hours at high idle. It provides stick, TIG, MIG, flux cored and arc gouging processes and can crank out 12,000 watts of continuous 1-phase AC generator power while simultaneously welding at up to 250 amps.