Best aluminum setup? Mig or Tig?
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  1. #1
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    Default Best aluminum setup? Mig or Tig?

    I have a possible job welding some 1" square tubing, .125 thick, lot of small short welds to weld all the pieces together. Mostly fillet welds and lots of them, many many hundreds.

    I currently have a Miller 200 synchro and a Miller 450 Dimension. I did some samples with the tig setup and it works but is definitely not fast.
    I also have a spool gun set up on the Dimension machine but did not try it for my prototype.

    So what is the best setup and could I add a push pull gun to my Dimension machine? I have done some reading and the 350P's are well liked for AL welding.

    I mostly weld steel and have only dabbled in Aluminum but need to get a bit more serious as I keep getting more jobs in aluminum.

    Thank you in advance for any wisdom.

    Michael

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    Quote Originally Posted by M. Moore View Post
    Mostly fillet welds and lots of them, many many hundreds.
    Sounds like a task for precision metal mold casting, actually. Stamping die. Even forge it.

    Next best, farmed-out CNC robotic welding as can do proper welds first time, every time, all the time, right where they b'long and not f**k up, get pissed-off, nor get muscle-cramped and bleedin' eyeball TIRED.

    Rembrandt didn' DO parking lot striping by hand with an artist's brush, did he?
    That weren't where the MONEY was for HIS skillset.

    You BID this job before you twigged to that?

    Or do you still have time to think it over before you try to "BECOME"... a robot.
    And a GOOD one, not just "best efforts".

    Might BE an artist. For a few. Or many years on different and challenging small lots. Good on yah!

    But "many many hundreds" same s**t, different hour, freehanded?
    Pilgrim? That there is a killer of souls.

    Especially if shiney-wood hasn't been much on yer dance-card.. and yah have to eat a lot of learning-curve scrap and rejects... all to become nought but an automaton?

    "No bid" works well for some among us. Let the designer pull his OWN head out of his ass.

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    it all depends on the required certification and inspection standards you need to meet.

    Are you welding an experimental airframe, or a temporary canopy for an outdoor wedding?

    What’s the best way to build a race car? well, soapbox derby or F1?

    Quality and speed with GTAW takes a LOT of experience, amperage, and cooling.

    Getting reliable strong welds with GMAW takes a lot of gear ($, pulsed can produce more reliable welds in GMAW), and a lot of testing to dial in a WPS, using a specific material, joint config, filler, machine.

    The old saw, quick, cheap, or good pick two, doesn’t apply to aluminum, it’s more like pick one

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    The old saw, quick, cheap, or good pick two, doesn’t apply to aluminum, it’s more like pick one
    Very well put.

    Not to forget "none" is still a very possible option for a not-yet specialist as well.

    Howard Hughes to Noah Dietrich:

    "Find the EXPERTS, Noah!"

    PM at work. Doing what PM does best.

    Economics, behavioural, and technical right up front.

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    One of my first welding jobs was to weld 1" square .125 aluminum tube, mostly an inch at a time, and mostly fillets.

    It was part of a contract for chairs for the mil....it almost sounds like you're doing the same thing. (I think I calculated a mile or two of weld over that contract.)

    I used a Syncrowave 250 and got *very* good at it.

    The prob with mig is going to be the starts and the gas coverage at the corners, and also manipulating the spool gun/push pull gun. We all have sore elbows after a few hours with the push-pull.

    I have a 350p with a push pull and wouldn't want to hold it at the required angle for a bunch of 1" fillets. You should be able to fine tune it for the actual weld though.

    A mig without pulse? I wouldn't try it. (Not sure if your Dimension can pulse.)

    We had a good fixture to hold the and spin the part, which might be a larger time saver than mig vs tig an inch at a time.

    We need the other variables...will it fit in a shoebox or is it a 20' aluminum awning? Does it need to be pretty or just strong, etc?

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    tig

    with mig you will spend more time dealing with the starts than

    welding

    spool guns where invented by a sadist

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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Winn View Post
    tig

    with mig you will spend more time dealing with the starts than

    welding

    spool guns where invented by a sadist
    Meahh... anything other-than "forge" welding was invented by bead-y eyed nomadic arsonists. Even friction/spin welders exhibit circular logic.

    Yah don't have to be crazy to be a good welder.

    Only to be a GREAT one!


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    Quote Originally Posted by M. Moore View Post
    I have a possible job welding some 1" square tubing, .125 thick, lot of small short welds to weld all the pieces together. Mostly fillet welds and lots of them, many many hundreds.

    I currently have a Miller 200 synchro and a Miller 450 Dimension. I did some samples with the tig setup and it works but is definitely not fast.
    I also have a spool gun set up on the Dimension machine but did not try it for my prototype.

    So what is the best setup and could I add a push pull gun to my Dimension machine? I have done some reading and the 350P's are well liked for AL welding.

    I mostly weld steel and have only dabbled in Aluminum but need to get a bit more serious as I keep getting more jobs in aluminum.

    Thank you in advance for any wisdom.

    Michael
    Stainless and aluminum is 90% of my work.

    but like as said above, what are you building?

    tig is good but slow and you know the penetration is there but takes practice.

    spool guns are notorious for being a pain in the ass and can look good but weak as heck if done incorrectly(spread like peanut butter on toast)

    you might get a sticker shock when it gets to anything larger. the $ tag can get into the $10K range easily for proper equiptment.

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    Jamscal nailed it. Chairs.
    Lots of welds, lots of repositioning, not large, needs to be strong and pretty. Some welds will be ground down flush, all fillet welds will show.
    I am fully prepared for a large investment. Good info so far, keep it coming.
    Why does the push pull cause sore elbows? I weld all day with a heavy steel mig gun and that doesn’t happen?
    Sounds like tig is a better option, if so then which machine is the best. My synchro works but seems a bit small even though it is only 1/8” material. In respect to duty cycle.
    The Dimension does not pulse so adding a push pull to it is out unless you can get a pulse control? I have welded AL with the spool gun on the 450, it does work but the only way I could get a decent weld was with a preheat routine. Only then would the welds flow in and look good, otherwise they looked like a blob of old caulking around your shower door.

    There is an old Miller 300 nearby for sale that looks like a 1950’s fridge.

    I have a good fixture for chairs but did not use it for the prototypes, would speed things immensely.

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    I have made a lot of chairs in my time. I have welded enough aluminum to have a very wide range of exotic curses.
    And I used to own a push pull.

    Tig em.

    As mentioned above, wire feed issues are almost always start and stop of the bead- and 1" means ALL your welding is start and stop.
    I live in a big aluminum boatbuilding area- many of my ex-employees have worked running 30 foot beads, with a push pull gun, and a pulsed power supply- mig is great for that. But I have a couple of ex-employees who, right now, get paid to run 1" tig welds in those same shops- for the small stuff, nothing beats tig.

    Practice, practice, practice.
    Also, dunno about on the Island, but down here, I hire tech school kids part time, who just spent two years doing nothing but running perfect beads, if I have a big project like that. They are still young enough to be excited about it.

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    New style synergic double pulsed migs. No spool gun needed.( different torch for aluminum)

    Try it. You my never tig again.

    Can do stainless, AND copper silicon wire for mig brazing.

    I was impressed.

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    Ries,
    Which tig machine do you have?

    WoodsR,
    Model and brand of new double pulse?

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    I have 3- an ancient 1988 Syncrowave 250 transformer machine, bought new in 88, which is my aluminum machine, an XMT with high freq and radiator (DC only, no aluminum) and a Maxstar 150 with pulse for site work- also DC only.

    I used to have an XR push pull hooked up to the XMT for aluminum mig- and the XR system, with a full size wire feeder, is reliable, not too clunky, and easy to run a lot mig beads in aluminum that turn out well. Its also something like 5 grand, not including the XMT.
    It works, but I would never use it on 1" welds.

    Still have an old Spoolmatic gun on the syncrowave, which I do run aluminum on occasionally. Cant really recommend a non push pull spool gun- they are usable, but a big pain. Still, I did use that spoolmatic as my only aluminum mig gun for a good ten years or so, and did quite a few jobs with it.

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    I've been waiting to hear some feedback on this process:
    TIP TIG Welding | Process Comparisons, Advantages & Benefits

    Maybe the Op's application would be a good fit here.

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    The ones I got to play with were Snap on. Not sure who actually built them.
    They have a few working demo trucks that drive around the country with all sorts of cool shit to play with.

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    I have been using a Miller Dynasty 200 for aluminum TIG. It is perfect for the job you describe. Even with .125" thickness I would recommend strongly that you get a water cooled torch and cooler. Sometimes decent Miller coolers are available on EBAY. I use a CKWorldwide torch (17 series) rated for 300 amps for just about everything. A light torch (water cooled) will save your wrists. If the parts will be anodized, 5356 is the t=filler metal I use. It anodizes the same as the base metal. Also, invest in a decent TIG electrode grinder. I use 2% Lanthanated (blue), ground to a blunted point. With an inverter welder with square wave the electrodes do not ball like the older style welders do. When I have a big job I like to grind a bunch of electrodes and swap them quickly when needed. Then grind them all later at one time. Be careful of tungsten dust from the grinder. It is insidious. Look with a strong light near the grinder when pointing, and you will see a cloud of tungsten particles far from the actual grinders. a vacuum cleaner with hepa filter and/or a P100 dust mask are good things.

    I use 1/8" tungsten almost exclusively these days for almost any thickness. for your job, 3/32" electrodes would be fine and are less expensive. I use gas lenses almost all the time for aluminum. You can get the nozzles in clear glass, which can be helpful. Weldingtipsandtricks on youtube has a ton of videos on using different nozzles and welding aluminum. You can also get stubby hardware for the torch, which might help, as it is lighter and smaller.

    It is very important that the base metal be clean. Really clean. So some thought on prepping the parts efficiently might be a good idea. A stainless rotary wire brush followed by an acetone wipe works well for me. I would also recommend spending some time to build fixtures to hold the parts that position them rigidly in a position that allows easy welding is very valuable. Having a way to support the wrist might be good if you are doing a lot of these. There are actual support fixtures that you can buy which look pretty nice.

    THere are MANY reasons to get a good inverter welder. Having frequency control changes the arc "force" and makes it easy to dial in the welder for the best weld in any situation. I tend to use 50 Hz for big, thick joints where I need to heat up a wider area, while 200 Hz is great for getting tight, like in corners. Your mileage may vary!

    Given that you will be welding a lot, I recommend an industrial class welder like the Dynasty series. I believe the Dynasty 280 is what replaced the Dynasty 200. I have both the Miller Dynasty 200 and also a Primeweld 225. The Primeweld was around $800, while the Dynasty is $4000+. For a professional job I would buy the Dynasty. The Primeweld does ok, but just doesn't compare to the Dynasty in feel or beefiness. You will want good duty cycle too. You MAY be ok running a Dynasty class machine off 115 VAC (they autolink to whatever power you feed them-NICE!). I run mine on 240 VAC single phase, 30 amp breaker. Works fine even at full throttle.

    In case it is of any use, I have had good experiences with Weldmonger.com (Jody from weldingtipsandtricks's store or arc-zone.com (great for consumables, torches, etc.).

    Finally, I upgraded recently from the old Miller elite auto darkening helmet to the new clear view digital helmet. It is SO much nicer. The vision is very clear and colors are much better. Well worth the investment for a job like you describe.

    I am sure you know most of this, but it is what I have to offer. I hope you have a good time with the job. You might try reaching out to Jody at weldingtipsandtricks.com directly and getting his thoughts on how to do the job efficiently. He is a really nice guy and very approachable. And a font of really useful knowledge.

    All the best,
    Michael

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    My rule of thumb is, if it has to look good, Tig. If it has to be strong, Tig. If you are doing "many hundreds", I would use Mig, but NOT a spool gun. Spool guns are a compromise, at best, in my opinion, but a properly set up push/pull on a good machine is a great production setup. I do not have a push/pull of my own to be able to recommend a good setup, but there are some good suggestions above.

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    Quote Originally Posted by digger doug View Post
    I've been waiting to hear some feedback on this process:
    TIP TIG Welding | Process Comparisons, Advantages & Benefits

    Maybe the Op's application would be a good fit here.
    I don’t think so. that is a pulsed synergic hot wire feed GTAW, where the filler is fed in automatically (mostly), and carries current to speed it’s melting. The reason it’s not particularly suited to this application is the “hot shortness” (terrible, terrible term) of a short weld in aluminum

    as you start the weld the heat builds rapidly in a short weld in .125 Al tube. With regular GTAW you can back off on the current with the foot pedal (or other means). With TIP TIG the current in the added filler might swamp the puddle, (but full disclosure, I’ve not used it, so I’m just guessing actually ). Not even sure it works in Al at all.. but I don’t think this is a magic fix here...

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyanidekid View Post
    I don’t think so. that is a pulsed synergic hot wire feed GTAW, where the filler is fed in automatically (mostly), and carries current to speed it’s melting. The reason it’s not particularly suited to this application is the “hot shortness” (terrible, terrible term) of a short weld in aluminum

    as you start the weld the heat builds rapidly in a short weld in .125 Al tube. With regular GTAW you can back off on the current with the foot pedal (or other means). With TIP TIG the current in the added filler might swamp the puddle, (but full disclosure, I’ve not used it, so I’m just guessing actually ). Not even sure it works in Al at all.. but I don’t think this is a magic fix here...
    I didn't know exactly just what it is.
    I figured if going with TIG, why not a wire feeder as well, hot or cold.

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    Tig is slower down the bead, Mig is insane time to getting it to work right.
    At hundreds I'd do Tig as more reliable.
    At thousands or tens of thousands then Mig speed counts for the pain and scrap parts needed to get it to work.
    Are you going do this or train a 18 year old to do it? One of these methods needs less skill if all set and ready to go.

    "I mostly weld steel and have only dabbled in Aluminum but need to get a bit more serious as I keep getting more jobs in aluminum."
    Others may think this material change welding simple but I consider it a very big jump.
    Bob

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