Power Supplies for MIG Welders – Gas Metal Arc Welding Power Sources – CV or Constant Voltage Weld Machines
MIG welding power supplies come in three forms:
- Dedicated MIG Welding Machines
- Multi Process Machines
- MIG Welding Power Supply
Dedicated MIG Welding Machines
For most shops, garages, farms and personal fabrication projects the use a dedicated MIG welding machines is the best choice. This is because these welders do two jobs needed without any other distractions or issues. MIG welders need to do two things and they are:
- Supply Power
- Feed Wire or Electrode to the Joint
It is a single machine that holds the wire, gas and power supply in a mobile cart that allows welding anywhere that you can plug it in! These are what most people call MIG welders and what most welding supply stores sell as MIG welders. These machines also do gasless MIG welding or AKA Flux Cored Arc Welding. They are both the same machine! The down side is they are limited on power so heaver plate welding is an issue unless you switch to flux cored arc welding wire. On the other hand they are a great choice for the average metal that is MIG welded. The Machine on the right is a ESAB 250 MIGmaster Pro MIG welder..
Multi process machines are the choice for most professional welders. These are nothing more than an all purpose power supply that requires additional equipment. These multi process machines come in two forms:
- Multi Process All in One Welders
- A General Power Supply
The machine on the right is a Miller XMT multi process welding power supply.
There are two types of multi process welders:
- Multi Process All in One Welders
- Multi Process Welding Power Supplies
The machine the right is a 200 amp Longivity 3 in 1 (MIG, TIG and Stick) Multi Process welding power supply. The wire feed is contained inside of the case and all of the other processes just need to plug into the power source.
Multi Process All in One Welders
Multi process all in one welders are light duty and good for farms, small shops and homes. They can do different types of welding as long as it is not for an extended period of time (not suitable for a factory floor). They are a great choice for students, schools and in some cases shipyards. These types of machines are getting much better every year with the use of computers to regulate amperage and voltage on the welders. These welders include the wire feed system and power supply in the same case. To change processes you simply switch settings and add whatever equipment that you need. In the case of Stick or TIG welding you would simply add a stinger or TIG torch.
Multi Process Welding Power Supplies range from just a welding power supply to a pipe line welder’s lifeline. These power sources are just that, power sources. They supply the power needed to weld but not the wire feeder or anything other welding equipment needed. Multi process MIG welding power supplies come in two forms:
Plug In Power
Plug in power MIG welding power supplies are the most common and only work if you have the electricity needed to run the welder. These power supplies are typically made to provide power to MIG welding equipment, Stick welding equipment and TIG welding equipment. These machines can range from light duty to some serious heavy duty welding power.
Engine Driven MIG Welders
When it comes to engine driven or generator welders the engine manufacture is what you need to look at. It does not matter what brand it is but the quality of the engine that is in the machine. This is an area that most pipe lines would have a say in and they are hard core Lincoln engine driven welder fans! If you have a choice between a diesel .vs. gasoline driven welder the diesel will last a lot longer and burn less fuel for the same job.
MIG Welder Voltage Type and Polarity
MIG welding is always done using D/C or direct current and the polarity used is D/C electrode (+) positive. This means that the handle of the MIG gun is the positive side of the circuit, or it may be said, the electricity flows from the metal in to the welding handle.
When it comes to dedicated MIG welders you don’t need to change or worry about the polarity in any way. Now multi process welders need to be set properly. They need the proper current type, voltage type and the machine needs to be set for MIG welding. These setting vary depending on the machines manufacture settings. This is one of those areas that you just need to read the instructions.
Additional MIG Welding Equipment
Depending on the type of MIG welding power supply you have there may be a need for additional welding equipment . Some of the most commonly add on MIG welding equipment is:
- Wire Feed Systems
- Spool Guns
- Push Pull Wire Feeders
- Water Cooler Systems
- MIG Gun with Hose and Liner
- Gas Regulator and Hoses
Price and Cost of MIG Welders – Is it Worth Spending Extra on a Well Known Brand?
MIG welder pricing and costs vary depending on the manufactures, size and type of equipment. The older and well established brands charge a HUGE premium for their name on the machine while the newer manufactures sell their machines at a fraction of the cost.
Premium MIG Welding Machine Power Supply Brands
The three most expensive, established and Trusted Brands are:
- Miller/Hobart Welders (Both owned by Illinois Tool Works)
- Lincoln Welders (pipe liners typically only buy this brand)
- ESAB Welders (less known but the very high end in quality)
The above manufactures are very well known and their products cost top dollar. The main benefit of owning a name brand welder is parts and services are available at almost all welding supply stores. Besides that they have a very long history and track record of producing dependable and up to date machines.
Newer MIG Welding Machine Power Source Brands
Now the newer brands are much less known but in some cases you can buy a $3000 welder for about $1000 that will do the same job plus other welding processes. The three least know but MIG welding brands are:
- Thermal Arc/Victor Welders (very old, solid and reliable brand but they never marketed their product as they should have)
- Everlast Welders
- Longevity Welders
These brands are not as well knows but do produce a product that does the same job as the more expensive brands. It all comes down to what you are willing to spend and risk. I do want to point out that I had the chance to use some of these less known brands and you really can’t tell the difference between a $3000 and $1000 machine! For MIG welders that are inverter technology the computer is what controls the quality of the power and well…. We all know the computers are all made by the same companies and not welding machine manufactures! Besides that most come with a warranty. For example; Longevity and Everlast welders come with a 5 year warranty, so you will be covered for that time period.
I do want to point out that if you are a student or starting a business you can go with a less known brand welder that does Stick, TIG and MIG for under $1000. Don’t blow a lot of money on a welder unless you are sure you are going to use it all of the time. Most shops and schools go with the premium brands because they know they are going to beat the hell out of those machines and will need parts and service done locally. As a student or start up business you will not even come close to pushing a less know brand welder to its maximum duty cycle!
The Bottom Line on MIG Welding Machine Power Supplies
The bottom line on MIG welding machines is the bottom line. What are you willing to spend, what are you willing to risk to loose and how loyal are you to any company? It comes down to a personal choice; your needs and what are you willing to deal with! Brand names have parts and service available anywhere that you need them but on the other hand these new companies provide a welder that is so affordable that in the worst case scenario you can just buy three of them for the cost of a single name brand welder. It is up to you!