When I meet a customer for the first time I like to ask them first and foremost about the torches they currently use. Most of the time they answer the question something like this:
- "The torches as good at getting the job done, but not lasting as long as they should."
- "Cables are wearing and tearing, handles are cracking and breaking."
- "Torches are dying in a much shorter time than they should be."
- "Consumables need to be replaced multiple times a day" (a very costly and time-consuming problem)
All of these issues are not unique to just the welding professionals that I ask. It's a problem welding professionals and shop Foremen deal with everywhere. So why does this happen, and how can it be overcome?
For a problem like this it comes down to the quality of welding gun the welder is using. For a recent customer, I gave one of our premium welding guns, an ABIMIG AT, to a customer for a two-week trial run, and when I returned to get his feedback, he didn't want to give the gun back.
How does a person become so attached to a welding gun? It honestly comes down to the build. For example, he liked the ABIMIG so much because of how lightweight it was, the ability to manipulate the gun because of the ball-socket cable base, how the extended trigger takes pressure off of his wrist, and the extended consumable life; he didn't have to change tips nearly as much. This customer went from replacing contact tips multiple times a day to only having to change them every couple days. The shop Foreman went on to order six more of the ABIMIG AT torches that day to start converting all of his welding stations.
This brings me to the larger point of the value of a premium welding gun. Most MIG gun manufacturers all use the same base materials for their consumable parts, such as copper, brass, and aluminum. What separates a premium torch consumable from a run of the mill welding gun consumable is not the base material, but the plating. The tips on a premium welding gun will have copper zirconium plated with silver. Why does this matter? It matters because plating increases the durability of the tips significantly, and they last longer as a result. This is a patented process, which is why you rarely see it with most welding gun manufacturers. Nozzles are plated with a similar process.
Lightweight cables then take the welder experience to a whole new level. The Bikox® cable for one is extremely durable while also being much lighter than the competition; even like-minded premium welding gun makers. Again, this comes down to material selection and being attuned to the benefits of light cables. A lightweight cable takes a lot of stress off of the welder, and comfort is always key. Careful crimping procedures and a good material selection for copper strand make sure the cable is both properly rated and provides solid, reliable conductivity.Most MIG welders work six to eight hours a day, so comfort is extremely important in keeping the welder healthy, and keeping the quality of welds consistent throughout the day. A lot of welders complain about wrist and back soreness. A premium torch significantly reduces both of those welder challenges due to its superior design features. The ability to change neck lengths and rotate the necks 360° quickly enables them to switch welding positions while still keeping good posture to relieve stress on their back. A ball-socket base allows welders to move/rotate the gun without putting strain on their wrist, and the extended trigger options lets the welder use multiple fingers which makes the trigger much easier to control.
A non-premium competitor welding gun maker would be hard pressed to compare to this amount of comfort and versatility. The ROI is significant, both in welder productivity and material cost over time. It makes the initial investment, while greater at the outset, a much better value in the long run.
MIG welding guns are some of the most common type of welding guns used today. A lot of manufacturers are in the MIG gun market and fighting for the spot of most inexpensive torch. And don't get me wrong, inexpensive torches are good for a lot of welders and welding pros out there for a lot of different reasons. But with that great price point comes tradeoffs in quality. So, my recommendation is always to do your research, ask questions, and try a few different options at varying price points if you can before making that welding gun purchase.
Welding and fabricating shops can all benefit by looking more closely at their welding guns and seeing if they're truly getting the type of value out of them they could.
Looking for more in-depth information on welding guns and how they impact performance? Our free guide, The Advantages of Lightweight Torches, takes an in-depth look at every facet of the welding gun design and how it impacts comfort, performance, and you. Check it out by clicking here or on the button below.