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From Semi-Automatic to Automatic: Tips for Selecting a Welding Gun

Choosing the right equipment for a welding operation is critical to achieving high weld quality and productivity while also eliminating costly downtime. And that includes welding guns.

In many cases, companies may have a mix of welding processes and guns. For example, in heavy equipment and general manufacturing, it’s common to have semi-automatic welding along with robotic welding. In oil and gas and shipbuilding applications, semi-automatic welding and fixed automation are prevalent. The combination of welding processes and equipment allows companies serving these industries to weld a variety of part volumes and sizes.

These process mixes, however, can pose challenges in terms of gun selection. That’s why it’s important to know the best welding gun features to look for to achieve the desired weld results — and the best efficiencies.

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The Importance of Cutting a Welding Liner Properly

The Importance of Cutting a Welding Liner Properly

Installing a welding liner correctly is, first and foremost, a matter of proper training. For traditional systems, it’s critical that welding operators understand how to measure and cut the liner to the required length for the gun. 

A welding liner that has been cut either too short or too long can lead to a host of issues, most often poor wire feeding. That, in turn, can lead to weld quality issues and rework — both factors that contribute to unnecessary and costly downtime. 

The Bernard® AccuLock™ S Consumable System can help eliminate installation issues. First, however, it’s important to understand the pitfalls of standard liner installation to understand the value of this solution. 

The problem
The position of the gun and power cable factors significantly into whether liner installation is successful. If the gun and power cable are twisted or coiled before the welding operator trims the liner, the liner can end up either too long or too short, due to how the cable is constructed. 

Inside the power cable is copper that is wound around a central conduit in a helix or spiral. If the cable is twisted or coiled, it will grow or shrink based on how the copper helix is also twisted. Think of a spring — if it is twisted one way, it grows; if twisted the other way, it shrinks.  

For this reason, it’s important to lay the gun and cable straight to avoid any kinks that would lead to an incorrect reading when trimming the liner. Generally, longer power cables are more prone to twisting, so welding operators must take even more care when installing liners in them. 

Welding operators may experience the following due to an improperly trimmed liner:

• Poor wire feeding
• Erratic arc
• Birdnesting
• Burnbacks
• Wire chatter

A new solution

The Bernard® AccuLock™ System eliminates the need to measure the liner for replacement. The liner locks into place so it can then be trimmed flush with the power pin cap at the back of the gun and power cable. It is still important to lay the gun and cable flat, avoiding twists. 

Digital image demonstrating how to trim an AccuLock S liner with no measuring required
Digital image of the back end of a BTB semi-automatic MIG gun AccuLock S power pin installed

The welding operator can conduct a visual check to determine the liner is in the proper place. This check isn’t possible with a traditional liner if it has been cut too short; the liner will be hidden under the nozzle and gas diffuser, and not visible to the welding operator. 

The AccuLock System reduces wire feeding issues through the gun, as well, since the liner is locked and concentrically aligned at both the power pin cap and contact tip. This dual lock helps ensure the liner won’t extend or contract as the welding operator changes positions and the power cable naturally bends. The result is the elimination of gaps or misalignments at the front and back of the gun for a flawless wire-feeding path. 

As an added benefit the concentric alignment of the liner reduces mechanical wear on the contact tip that could lead to burnbacks or keyholing, both of which shorten the contact tip life. 

For more information please visit the AccuLock S consumables product page

Customer Testimony | Jolson Welding Discusses Bernard MIG Guns, Flux-Cored Guns and Welding Consumables

Jolson Welding Discusses Bernard MIG Guns, Flux-Cored Guns and Welding Consumables

Bob Jolson, owner of Jolson Welding, discusses the benefits of Bernard’s Q-Gun™ semi-automatic air-cooled MIG gun, Dura-Flux™ self-shielded flux-cored gun and Centerfire™ consumables in his welding operation.

    Customer Testimony | Jolson Welding Discusses Bernard MIG Guns, Flux-Cored Guns and Welding Consumables

    Jolson Welding Discusses Bernard MIG Guns, Flux-Cored Guns and Welding Consumables

    Bob Jolson, owner of Jolson Welding, discusses the benefits of Bernard’s Q-Gun™ semi-automatic air-cooled MIG gun, Dura-Flux™ self-shielded flux-cored gun and Centerfire™ consumables in his welding operation.

      Customer Testimony | Contractor Shares Benefits of Bernard Dura-Flux Self-Shielded Flux-Cored Gun

      Contractor Shares Benefits of Bernard Dura-Flux Self-Shielded Flux-Cored Gun

      Jolson Welding (Wheatland, Calif.) relies on the durability and comfort of the Bernard® Dura-Flux™ self-shielded flux-cored gun for its tough structural, pile and pipe welding projects. Learn how the features of this gun help them get the job done.

        Customer Testimony | Bernard MIG Welding Consumables Save Time and Last Longer

        Bernard MIG Welding Consumables Save Time and Last Longer

        Bernard® MIG welding consumables help Taylor Machine Works save time by reducing contact tip changeover in its forklift welding operations.

        Since converting to Centerfire™ consumables, the company has gone from requiring multiple contact tip changes per day to only one on average per welder. The contact tips can be changed without tools, which saves time, plus they are heavier duty than Taylor’s previous brand, so they last longer. During the original trial of the consumables, Taylor even had one welder go 27 days without changing a contact tip! The gas diffusers and nozzles are also long lasting, so Taylor’s welders can spend more time welding and have less downtime for changeover.

          Customer Testimony | Bernard Replaceable MIG Gun Parts Save Money, Improve Performance

          Bernard Replaceable MIG Gun Parts Save Money, Improve Performance

          Taylor Machine Works saves money by welding its forklifts with Bernard® MIG guns — all parts are replaceable, and the necks adjust to fit tight joints.

          The company’s previous MIG welding guns required downtime to take apart for maintenance and repair and were typically disposed of instead. The Bernard MIG guns make it quick to connect new parts, including swapping out necks. The necks are also rotatable so welders can adjust them to new angles to make it more comfortable to weld in hard-to-reach areas.

            Customer Testimony | Welding students in Tulsa benefit from Bernard MIG guns and consumables

            Welding Students in Tulsa Benefit from Bernard MIG Guns and Consumables

            Tulsa Welding School’s Houston campus needs reliable equipment that can handle any process. Bernard® MIG guns and consumables are the answer.

            You can count on Bernard BTB semi-automatic air-cooled MIG guns to deliver industrial-grade performance and reliability in the most demanding environments as well as optimize welder ergonomics and weld access.

            Bernard contact tips, nozzles and diffusers are easy to use and high performing – they provide better arc starts, less spatter and more consistent welds – and also last up to three times longer than competitive brands.

              Customer Testimony | Blinn Instructors Choose Bernard MIG Guns and Consumables for Dependable Welding Equipment

              Blinn Instructors Choose Bernard MIG Guns and Consumables for Dependable Welding Equipment

              Blinn College welding school instructors and students agree – Bernard® MIG guns and consumables are the welder’s best choice in dependability and easy to use.

              You can count on Bernard BTB semi-automatic air-cooled MIG guns to deliver industrial-grade performance and reliability in the most demanding environments as well as optimize welder ergonomics and weld access.

              Bernard contact tips, nozzles and diffusers are easy to use and high performing – they provide better arc starts, less spatter and more consistent welds – and also last up to three times longer than competitive brands.

                Animation | Bernard Clean Air Fume Extraction MIG Welding Guns

                Bernard Clean Air Fume Extraction MIG Welding Guns Animation

                For a cleaner, more compliant work environment, get right to the source and extract fumes at the weld with the Bernard® Clean Air™ fume extraction gun. Closely matching the weight, handle size, durability and industrial grade performance of Bernard BTB semi-automatic air-cooled MIG guns, Clean Air fume extraction guns are fully configurable with your choice of curved or straight handles.

                  Animation | Bernard BTB Semi-Automatic Air-Cooled MIG Welding Guns

                  Bernard BTB Semi-Automatic Air-Cooled MIG Welding Guns Animation

                  Build your ultimate MIG gun. Choose from a variety of necks, handles and trigger styles to optimize welder ergonomics and weld access. Then standardize with a single line of consumables to simplify maintenance and contain costs. You can count on Bernard® BTB semi-automatic air-cooled MIG guns to deliver industrial-grade performance and reliability in the most demanding and abusive environments.

                    Video | Configure your Bernard Semi-Automatic MIG Gun Online

                    Configure your Bernard Semi-Automatic MIG Gun Online

                    Now mobile friendly! Configure your Bernard® semi-automatic MIG gun – anytime, anywhere! We recognize that welding applications differ for every welder and that sometimes only a customizable, industrial-duty MIG gun will get the job done. That’s why we allow you to configure a custom MIG gun for your specific application.

                      Tips for Improving MIG Welding

                      Tips for Improving MIG Welding

                      Maintaining quality, productivity and cost savings is important in any semi-automatic MIG welding operation, but the steps companies take to achieve those goals vary. Still, there is one constant: the value of skilled welders. They are at the heart of the operation and help ensure its success.

                      Having the right equipment and understanding how to care for it are also important, as is
                      revisiting the welding process regularly to ensure its efficiency. Companies should take care to watch for common pitfalls that could negatively affect their progress toward streamlining and improving their operation.

                      Consider these tips to help along the way:

                      Welder training

                      With the industry facing an anticipated welder shortage of 400,000 by 2024, providing training to new welders is critical to supporting a productive and profitable MIG welding operation. In many cases, employees being hired are entirely new to welding or only have limited experience. Learning best practices early on is necessary to achieve the best performance and avoid excessive downtime for troubleshooting.

                      Welder welding with a semi-automatic MIG gun
                      Maintaining quality, productivity and cost savings is important in any semi-automatic MIG welding operation.

                      Gaining good weld quality depends on welders knowing proper techniques like gun angle and gun travel speeds and the impact of welding parameters on the process. Even if a company sets lockouts that keep welding parameters within a specific range, it’s valuable for welders to understand the impact voltage, amperage, wire feed speed and shielding gas have on the application.

                      It’s also important to provide training on other best practices in the MIG welding operation, such as:

                      • Consulting a checklist for maintenance or equipment checks at the beginning and end of each shift. This can include items like securing weld grounding and checking for gun or cable damage.
                         
                      • Understanding proper ergonomics to prevent repetitive stress injuries. Having welder input on gun handle types can help with this, too.
                         
                      • How to correctly install consumables and at what frequency, along with how to identify the signs of contact tip wear.
                         
                      • Keeping the gun uncoiled and untwisted while using it to help avoid liner movement, which typically leads to wire feeding problems.
                         
                      • As part of training, encourage welders to be open to asking questions and offer refresher courses to keep skills in top shape.

                      Assessing the process

                      To support the long-term efficiency of a MIG welding operation, it’s a good idea to regularly assess each aspect of it.

                      Semi-automatic MIG welding in action
                      To support the long-term efficiency of a MIG welding operation, it’s good to regularly assess each aspect of it.

                      Time studies, for example, offer excellent insight into the entire workflow and allow companies to record the amount of time each task takes to complete. These studies include a breakdown and analysis of parts handling, welding and more. By recording every activity in the operation, it is possible to see whether each one is adding value. If not, adjustments and re-sequencing can be made.

                      Analyzing the operation can also help identify the need for more welder training. For instance, if a significant amount of time is spent grinding after welding, it can indicate that there are issues contributing to overwelding or poor weld quality. The company can then take proactive steps for additional welder training to improve quality and reduce or eliminate the need for grinding and rework.

                      Similarly, if welders are spending more time transferring parts than they are welding or there are bottlenecks of parts entering the welding cell, that indicates the workflow needs to be adjusted. The goal is to minimize the amount of time welders spend handling or double handling parts and helps avoid parts from backing up or having welders sit idle waiting for them.

                      Improving the organization of the workstation as part of a general assessment can also help improve welding productivity. This could include adjusting welding tables and part racks to be more ergonomic so welders are more comfortable and can weld longer.

                      Welding gun selection and use

                      Having the correct MIG welding gun for the application can help enhance performance in a MIG welding operation.

                      One of the first things to consider is cost. Quality MIG welding guns carry a higher price, but they are worth it in the long term. A better gun (when used properly) lasts longer and can help improve weld quality and efficiency over time. Guns that feature mechanical compression fittings, as opposed to crimped fittings, are a good choice. They typically last longer from wear and tear and can also be repaired if damaged, which saves money on replacement guns.

                      Group of three different BTB semi-automatic air-cooled MIG guns being held with gloved hands
                      Quality MIG welding guns carry a higher price, but they are worth it in the long term. A better gun (when used properly) lasts longer and can help improve weld quality and efficiency over time.

                      Be certain to choose a gun with the appropriate amperage rating and duty cycle for the application to prevent overheating. A lower amperage MIG welding gun may be appealing to a welder due to its lighter weight and flexibility; however, it will not be able to withstand an application requiring higher amperages and long arc-on times.

                      Effectively grounding the weld circuit is another way to gain weld quality and productivity in a semi-automatic welding operation. It can also protect the welding gun from overheating and from wearing out consumables too quickly. Installing the ground clamp as close to the weld as possible and limiting the amount of connections can help to prevent one or more from coming loose over time or creating electrical resistance.

                      Always choose correctly sized ground cables for the weld circuit and the right type of ground clamp. A C-clamp is a good option as it is a tighter connection versus a spring clamp, which helps prevent arcing at the ground that could lead to an erratic arc. As with other quality components in a MIG welding operation, C-clamps can be more expensive, but they offer a connection that can better protect the gun and save on replacement or repair costs.

                      Lastly, take care to inspect the welding gun cable regularly for damage and replace as necessary. Nicks or cuts in the cable can expose bare copper, causing a safety hazard of electrical shock, as well as erratic welding issues. Adding a cable jacket cover is a proactive step in avoiding these problems.

                      The role of consumables and wire

                      Contact tips, nozzles, gas diffusers and liners all affect MIG welding performance. Ideally, select consumables and wire designed to complement one another as a system. These can help maintain solid connections that provide the best electrical conductivity and arc stability.

                      Always trim the liner properly — per the guns owner’s manual — to avoid erratic arcs and burn backs or look for liners that lock into place and require no measurement to avoid trimming them too long or too short.

                      For semi-automatic MIG welding, copper contact tips work well; however, if more tip life is desired or needed, chrome zirconium tips are an alternative to better resist physical tip wear (also known as keyholing). It helps to monitor how often contact tips are being changed to avoid straying too far from the originally planned frequency of tip changeover. If tip changes begin to increase drastically, then this points to incorrect installation of consumables, a liner being cut too short or other damage in the system. Monitoring consumables usage can also help identify when contact tips could still have life left in them. If contact tips are changed too early, this results in unnecessary downtime.

                      Also consider the wire being used. Quality is key here, too. Less expensive wires often have an irregular cast or helix or an inconsistent layer of lubricant. All of these factors can lead to weld quality issues and additional wear on the contact tips.

                      Keeping on track

                      Maintaining an efficient MIG welding operation takes time and resources, but it’s worthwhile to make an investment in welders and equipment to achieve the best results. Continue to monitor the process for improvement opportunities and engage welders whenever possible. Since welders are responsible for moving quality and productivity forward, their ideas can be a valuable asset.

                      Animation | Bernard AccuLock S Consumables No Measuring Required

                      Bernard AccuLock S Consumables | No Measuring Required

                      Challenged by increasing welder retirements and turnover while orders keep growing year over year? As you support more inexperienced welders, choosing equipment with fewer points of failure and simplified maintenance can reduce training and shorten your troubleshooting list. Bernard® AccuLock™ S consumables provide error-proof liner replacement every time — no measuring required!

                        Animation | Bernard AccuLock S Consumables Dual Locked Liner

                        Bernard AccuLock S Consumables | Dual Locked Liner

                        Bernard® AccuLock™ S liners are locked and concentrically aligned to both the contact tip and the power pin without the use of fasteners to guarantee optimized wire feeding, which eliminates welding liner misalignment and gaps from your troubleshooting list.