How to Reduce Welding Gun Wear and Extend Gun Life

How to Reduce Welding Gun Wear and Extend Gun Life

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Knowing the common causes of MIG gun wear — and how to eliminate them — is a good step toward minimizing downtime and costs for addressing issues. 

Like any equipment in a welding operation, MIG guns are subject to routine wear and tear. The environment and the heat from the arc, along with other factors, impact their longevity. When operators follow best practices for their use, however, most quality MIG welding guns can last at least one year in a manufacturing environment. Routine preventive maintenance can also help extend product life. 

Closeup side view of welder welding on a part
Knowing the common causes of MIG gun wear — and how to eliminate them — is a good step toward minimizing downtime and costs for addressing issues.

What causes MIG gun wear? 

The welding environment and application can affect MIG gun life. Some of the most common causes of gun wear include: 

Temperature changes

Extreme temperature fluctuations can affect the condition and expected life of the MIG gun jacket, which is typically a rubber-type composite material. If temperatures fluctuate from high to low, the jacket material will react differently — becoming softer or harder — which eventually leads to wear.

Environmental damage

Whether you’re welding inside a facility or on an outdoor jobsite, dirty conditions can introduce abrasives and debris into the MIG gun circuit and consumables. Guns can also be damaged if they are dropped, run over, walked on, or caught in a lift arm or boom. These actions can damage the cable or cause disruption of the shielding gas flow. Welding on or near abrasive surfaces can cause cuts to the gun jacket or cable. It’s not recommended to weld with a MIG gun that has a damaged jacket. Always replace worn, damaged or cracked guns or cables.

Lack of proper maintenance

When dirt and debris build up within the gun liner or on the contact tip, it increases resistance and causes additional heat buildup — the enemy of gun life. A wire feeder that isn’t feeding properly can also cause damage elsewhere in the gun. 

A broken handle or noticeable chips or cuts in the gun jacket or cable are common indicators of MIG gun wear. But other signs aren’t always visible. 

If a burnback, erratic arc or poor-quality welds are an issue during welding, these could be caused by inconsistent power being delivered to the weld circuit. Worn connections or components in the welding gun can cause these power fluctuations. To avoid downtime and additional wear on the gun, it is important to troubleshoot weld or arc issues and fix them as quickly as possible. 

Shot of Bernard gun offering in a row with each being held by a different gloved hand
Keeping an eye on MIG gun wear and changing consumables as necessary can help prolong gun life and deliver better performance for longer.

Tips for preventing MIG gun wear 

Consider these five tips to help optimize gun performance and longevity. 

  1. Don’t exceed the duty cycle. Manufacturers have the option of rating their guns at 100%, 60% or 35% duty cycle. Duty cycle is the amount of arc-on time within a 10-minute period. Exceeding the gun’s rating can result in excess heat that wears gun components more rapidly and can potentially damage them to the point of failure. If an operator feels the need to increase parameter settings to achieve the same weld they previously completed, this could be a sign that the gun has begun to fail or something is wrong with the weld circuit. 

  2. Use a quality jacket cover. To protect the cable from gashes or sharp objects in the welding environment, use a gun jacket cover made from a material that offers a higher abrasion resistance. Jacket covers are available in various lengths to suit many gun styles and sizes. Be sure to replace the jacket as needed for maximum protection. 

  3. Check consumable connections. Any loose connection in a weld circuit will increase heat and resistance, which in turn will increase wear on the gun and components. When changing consumables, be sure threads are clean and tight. Inspect the gun regularly, tightening any loose connection — whether it’s the diffuser, neck or contact tip. Loose connections inhibit power transfer within the circuit for the weld. It’s also important to check all connections after servicing the gun or changing consumables.

  4. Properly manage the cable. The best condition for any weld cable and gun is to keep them as straight as possible during use. This provides better wire feeding and power transfer down the length of the gun. Avoid kinking the cable or using a gun and cable that are too long for the space. When the gun isn’t in use, be sure to coil the cable properly. Keep the gun and cable off the floor or ground and out of harm’s way — ideally on a hook or shelf. Keep guns out of heavy traffic areas where they could be run over or damaged. Also, if the gun is on a boom, don’t pull the gun cable to move the boom or cart. This can damage the connections and wear them down faster. 

  5. Conduct preventive maintenance General maintenance and upkeep will help MIG guns perform as expected and prolong gun life. Pay attention to any signs of wear on the gun or consumables. Check all connections each time the gun is used and look for spatter buildup in the nozzle. Troubleshoot any gun or wire feeding issues as soon as possible. Also, be sure to use the correct parts when servicing or repairing a MIG gun. MIG gun manufacturers typically have a parts guide that indicates which parts go into a specific position on the gun. If the wrong parts are used, they will change the way power transfers through the gun as well as affect overall performance. This can increase wear over time. 

Optimizing MIG gun life

Getting the most life out of your MIG welding gun involves numerous factors, from proper maintenance and care to using best practices when welding. Keeping an eye on MIG gun wear and changing consumables as necessary can help prolong gun life and deliver better performance for longer. 

8 Manufacturing Cost-Reduction Strategies for Welding Operations

8 Manufacturing Cost Reduction Strategies for Welding Operations

Cost overruns in a manufacturing welding operation can come from many places. Whether it’s a semi-automatic or robotic weld cell, some common culprits of unnecessary costs are unplanned downtime and lost labor, consumable waste, repairs and rework, and lack of operator training. 

Image of welder from behind adjusting settings on a Miller power source

Many of these factors are tied together and influence each other. A lack of operator training, for example, can result in more weld defects that require rework and repair. Not only do repairs cost money in additional materials and consumables used, but they also require more labor to do the work and any additional weld testing.  

Repairs can be especially costly in an automated welding environment, where constant progression of the part is crucial to overall throughput. If a part isn’t welded correctly, it may still continue through all steps of the process. If the defect isn’t caught until the end of the process, all the work must be redone. 

Companies can use these eight tips to help optimize consumable, gun and equipment performance — and reduce costs in both semi-automatic and robotic welding operations. 

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Creating a Smooth Wire Feeding Path for MIG Welding

Creating a Smooth Wire Feeding Path for MIG Welding

In MIG welding applications, having a smooth wire feeding path is critical. The welding wire must be able to feed easily from the spool on the feeder through the power pin, liner and gun and up to the contact tip to establish the arc. This allows the welding operator to maintain consistent levels of productivity and achieve good weld quality, while also minimizing costly downtime for troubleshooting and potential rework. 

Side view of a welding operator MIG welding with Miller machines in the background
In MIG welding applications, having a smooth wire feeding path is critical. The welding wire must be able to feed easily from the spool on the feeder through the power pin, liner and gun, and up to the contact tip to establish the arc.

However, there are several issues that can disrupt wire feeding. These can cause a host of problems, including an erratic arc, burnbacks (the formation of a weld in or on the contact tip) and birdnesting (a tangle of wire in the drive rolls). For new welding operators who may not be as familiar with the MIG welding process, these problems can be especially frustrating. Fortunately, there are steps to easily prevent problems and create a reliable wire feeding path. 

Welding liner length has a big impact on how well the wire will feed through the entire path. Too long of a liner can result in kinking and poor wire feeding, whereas a liner that is too short won’t provide enough support to the wire as it passes through. This can ultimately lead to micro-arcing within the contact tip that causes burnbacks or premature consumable failure. It can also be the cause of an erratic arc and birdnesting.

Trim the liner correctly and use the right system

Unfortunately, welding liner trimming issues are common, particularly among less experienced welding operators. To take the guesswork out of trimming a welding gun liner correctly — and achieve a flawless wire-feeding path — consider a system that eliminates the need for measuring the liner for replacement. This system locks the liner in place at the back of the gun, allowing the welding operator to trim it flush with the power pin. The other end of the liner locks at the front of the gun at the contact tip; it is concentrically aligned between the two points, so the liner won’t extend or contract during routine movements. 

Illustration of nozzle cutaway showing an AccuLock S contact tip
A system that locks the liner in place at the back of the gun and at the front provides a smooth wire feeding path — all the way through the neck to the consumables and the weld — as illustrated here.

When using a conventional liner, avoid twisting the gun when trimming the liner and use a liner trim gauge when provided. Liners with an interior profile that imparts less friction on the welding wire as it goes through the liner are a good choice for achieving efficient wire feeding. These have a special coating on them and are coiled out of a larger profile material, which makes the liner stronger and offers smooth feeding. 

Use the right contact tip and install correctly

Matching the welding contact tip size to the diameter of wire is another way to maintain a clear wire feeding path. For example, an 0.035-inch wire should be matched to the same diameter contact tip. In some cases, it may be desirable to decrease the contact tip by one size to gain better wire feeding and arc control. Ask a trusted welding consumables manufacturer or welding distributor for recommendations.

Look for wear in the form of keyholing (when the contact tip bore becomes worn and oblong) since this can cause a burnback that prevents the wire from feeding. 

Be sure to install the contact tip correctly, tightening it past finger tight to avoid tip overheating, which can hinder wire feeding. Consult the operations manual from the welding contact tip manufacturer for the recommended torque specification. 

Illustration of wire feeder drive wheels with a birdnest of wire
An improperly trimmed liner can lead to birdnesting or a tangle of wire in the drive rolls, as illustrated here. 

Choose the right drive rolls and set tension properly

Drive rolls play a significant role in ensuring a MIG welding gun has a smooth wire feeding path. 

The size of the drive roll should match the size of the wire being used and the style depends on the wire type. When welding with solid wire, a V-groove drive roll supports good feeding. Flux-cored wires — both gas- and self-shielded — and metal-cored wires work well with V-knurled drive rolls. For aluminum welding, use U-groove drive rolls; aluminum wires are very soft, so this style won’t crush or mar them. 

To set the drive roll tension, turn the wire feeder knob to one half turn past slippage. Pull the trigger on the MIG gun, feeding the wire into a gloved hand and slowly curling it. The wire should be able to feed without slipping. 

Understand the impact of welding wire on feedability

The quality of welding wire and the type of packaging it is in both affect wire feeding. High-quality wire tends to have a more consistent diameter than low-quality ones, making it easier to feed through the entire system. It also has a consistent cast (the diameter when a length of wire is cut off the spool and placed on a flat surface) and helix (the distance the wire rises from the flat surface), which add to the wire’s feedability. While higher-quality wire may cost more upfront, it can help reduce long-term costs by minimizing the risk of feeding issues. 

Illustration of a nozzle cutaway showing a contact tip burnback
Inspect the contact tip for keyholing, as it can lead to burnbacks (the formation of a weld in or on the contact tip) as shown in this illustration. 

Wire from large drums typically have a large cast when dispensed from the packaging, so they tend to feed straighter than wires from a spool. If the welding operation’s volume can support a larger drum, this may be a consideration for both wire feeding purposes and for reducing downtime for changeover. 

Making the investment

In addition to following best practices to establish a clear wire feeding path — and knowing how to quickly troubleshoot problems — having reliable equipment is important. The upfront investment for a high-quality wire feeder and durable welding consumables can pay off in the long term by reducing issues and the costs associated with wire feeding problems. Less downtime means more focus on producing parts and getting them out to customers. 

AccuLock Consumables Save Time and Money in MIG Consumable Changeover

AccuLock™ Consumables Save Time and Money in MIG Consumable Changeover   

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

They may seem like small pieces of a welding operation but when consumables aren’t properly installed or maintained, big problems can result — from poor wire feeding to weld quality issues. Related troubleshooting and rework cause costly downtime and lost productivity. 

Consumable changeover can also be a time-consuming part of the welding process, especially if it’s necessary to do it frequently or if less experienced welders install consumables incorrectly. 

Choosing the right consumables can help reduce or eliminate these hassles. Learn how AccuLock consumables can be used for Bernard® BTB MIG guns and Tregaskiss® fixed automatic and robotic MIG guns to help operations save time and money and improve efficiency. 

Family product photo of AccuLock S, AccuLock R consumables systems

Although small in size, both AccuLock R and AccuLock S consumables can deliver sizable time- and cost-saving benefits by reducing troubleshooting and downtime in industrial welding applications. 

The benefits of AccuLock consumables 

AccuLock consumables are designed to address common challenges faced in both semi-automatic and automated MIG welding operations. A switch to AccuLock consumables can help operations: 

  • Increase consumable life while reducing costs and improving productivity. 
  • Reduce consumable replacement errors and the time and money spent on troubleshooting, rework and downtime.
  • Simplify consumables replacement, improving accuracy and reducing employee training. 

The AccuLock consumable family for industrial welding applications includes AccuLock R and AccuLock S systems, two options that are designed to deliver timesaving benefits and optimized performance in automated and semi-automatic welding applications. 

Load and lock for increased productivity and throughput 

The AccuLock S (Semi-automatic) consumables system features liners designed to resolve issues and errors with liner trimming and installation as well as erratic wire feeding problems. Because AccuLock S liners are locked and concentrically aligned to both the contact tip and the power pin, they offer a flawless wire-feed path and error-proof liner replacement every time. In addition, a steel retaining ring on the diffuser helps keep the threaded nozzle in place during use and cleaning. 

The AccuLock R (Robotic) consumables system offers front-loading QUICK LOAD® liners that require less than half the time and effort to replace compared to conventional liners and can be changed from a safe zone in a robotic weld cell. Upgrading to AccuLock HDP contact tips can extend life by 10 times or more in pulsed welding applications. In addition, operations currently using TOUGH LOCK® consumables in robotic and fixed automatic MIG guns can easily upgrade to AccuLock R consumables without affecting TCP or requiring programming changes. 

Choose according to your needs 

When deciding between the two types of AccuLock consumables for industrial welding applications, there are several key factors to consider. It’s important to think about the type of welding being done in the operation and what current issues or challenges need addressing. 

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AccuLock S consumables are best suited for operations with the following issues or characteristics:  

  • Primarily focused on semi-automatic welding with little to no automation. 
  • Dealing with decreased productivity due to liner installation errors, burnbacks, bird-nesting and erratic arc.
  • Wanting to reduce the time and costs of troubleshooting, downtime and rework. 

AccuLock R consumables are best suited for operations with the following issues or characteristics: 

  • Primarily focused on robotic or fixed automatic welding with few semi-automatic guns.
  • Having a complicated and costly consumables inventory that may be the root cause of frequent consumable replacement errors. 
  • Experiencing issues with contact tip cross-threading and want increased tip life. 

Choosing between AccuLock S and AccuLock R on semi-automatic MIG guns  

Customers who are currently using TOUGH LOCK consumables on Bernard BTB MIG guns can upgrade their guns with either AccuLock S or AccuLock R consumables. Although AccuLock S consumables offer many benefits specific to semi-automatic welding applications, in some cases it can make more sense for these welding guns to be upgraded to AccuLock R consumables instead. For example, if a complex inventory of MIG gun consumables is the primary root cause of high carrying costs and consumable replacement errors in a given facility, AccuLock R consumables may offer a better ROI.

Switching existing Bernard BTB MIG guns to AccuLock R consumables is an easy change to make, requiring only an AccuLock R diffuser and an AccuLock contact tip — with no need to switch the liner, power pin, power pin cap or nozzle. 

Successful welding operations simplify inventory 

Both AccuLock S and AccuLock R systems share a common contact tip to simplify inventory management for facilities that choose to use both. AccuLock contact tips last longer due to increased mass and being buried within the diffuser, away from the heat of the weld. Coarse threads work in tandem with a long contact tip tail to concentrically align the tip within the diffuser prior to thread engagement, ensuring quick, accurate replacement without cross-threading.

Getting the most out of MIG gun consumables 

AccuLock S consumables solve many of the issues that can be traced to MIG gun liners that have been trimmed to an incorrect length or that pull out of position inside the MIG gun, creating gaps along the wire feed path. They are a good fit in most semi-automatic applications. 

In fleets with a lot of automated welding, AccuLock R consumables can extend contact tip lifespan (especially in pulsed welding applications), eliminate contact tip cross-threading issues, alleviate excessive downtime for consumables replacement and limit safety issues related to climbing up to access robots or wire feeders for gun liner changes. 

Although small in size, both AccuLock R and AccuLock S consumables can deliver sizable time- and cost-saving benefits by reducing troubleshooting and downtime in industrial welding applications. 

Improve Productivity by Preventing 5 Common MIG Welding Problems

Improve Productivity by Preventing 5 Common MIG Welding Problems

Downtime and rework can be costly for manufacturing operations. The last thing any production team wants to do is the same work twice. If you add to that any time spent troubleshooting issues in the weld cell — the lost production time can start to accumulate quickly. 

There are several steps operations can take to reduce the time lost to these common issues in MIG welding — and many of them start during weld setup and selection of consumables. Read on to learn more about five common causes of lost productivity in the weld cell and how to prevent them. 

Cause 1: Poor fit-up or weld prep

Before welding even starts, pay attention to proper fit-up and joint design, as well as base material preparation and cleaning. Good fit-up means avoiding large or inconsistent gaps between the parts. Choosing the right wire size and gas mixture and matching those in advance can help optimize performance and provide proper gap filling capabilities. 

Closeup of welding operator welding on a square part on a table
There are several steps operations can take to reduce lost productivity in MIG welding — and many of them start during weld setup and selection of consumables

Certain welding wires, such as metal-cored wires, are usable on less-prepped base material by offering the ability to weld through mill scale or other surface impurities. They also offer good gap bridging. If operations are often getting parts that aren’t thoroughly cleaned, it may be worth testing a metal-cored wire. Otherwise, changes to the weld prep stage of the operation may be necessary to achieve better material condition prior to welding.   

Cause 2: Incorrect parameters or system setup

Using the wrong parameters or setting the wire feeder up incorrectly are common causes of lost productivity. Having the wrong settings can greatly affect the weld, sometimes without the operator even realizing the impact that a setting change can make. It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the wire feeder and all of its functions to set it up for optimal performance. 

When properly set up, there should be very few issues with the performance of the MIG welding gun. However, if the system is set up incorrectly or there is a poor weld circuit, it can lead to contact tip failure, since the contact tip is the smallest fuse in the weld circuit. This can result in money wasted on frequent contact tip changeover. 

Cause 3: Improper liner installation

Product shot of AccuLock S nozzle, contact tip, gas diffuser, power pin, liner
With Bernard® AccuLock™ S consumables, 60% of the contact tip is buried in the gas diffuser to protect it from heat damage.

MIG gun liners can wear out over time and must be changed periodically, like other consumables. However, replacement liners are often longer than necessary and must be precisely trimmed according to the style and length of the gun. If a liner is cut too short, it can result in issues like burnback, an erratic arc and wire chatter. When liners are cut too long, it can cause the wire to weave and curve as it feeds through the gun. 

With either too-long or too-short liners, the result is often poor wire feeding and downtime spent troubleshooting these problems. Maintenance and troubleshooting for liner issues can be costly, resulting in multiple hours per week lost for an operation. 

The more that liner movement within the gun can be minimized, the better your wire feedability will be. To avoid the guesswork and hassle, look for a solution that makes liner installation and trimming easier. The Bernard® AccuLock™ S consumable system affixes the liner at both ends of the gun, so welders are assured the liner won’t pull back or push into the contact tip, allowing for smooth, uninterrupted delivery of the wire to the weld pool.

It’s also important to occasionally check to make sure the liner is clear and not blocked by debris or buildup. 

Cause 4: Loose connections or neglected maintenance  

When MIG welding consumables aren’t properly installed and maintained, it can result in wire feeding issues and weld quality problems that lead to lost time for troubleshooting.  

For example, a loose connection in the weld circuit means you’re not getting the power you expect from the power source. In that case, the operator may keep adjusting the parameters, causing an increase in resistance that leads to shortened consumable life. These issues tend to show up first in the contact tip. This is often the first thing the operator changes if they think they have a problem with their MIG gun. Changing the contact tip — even when the real source of the problem is a loose connection or improper setup in the circuit — drives up consumable costs and wastes time. 

Be sure to periodically check and tighten all connections and cables. Tight connections help optimize performance and reduce the chance of issues occurring in the system. 

Cause 5: Cutting corners with contact tips 

Another cause of lost productivity is using low-quality contact tips. Some contact tips are designed for ease of use and high performance. They provide better arc starts, less spatter, more consistent welds and longer life.  

With Bernard AccuLock S consumables, 60% of the contact tip is buried in the gas diffuser to protect it from heat damage. As the shielding gas flows through the gun, it cools the contact tip tail inside the gas diffuser. This helps reduce heat and wear. This also differs from traditional tips that screw onto the gas diffuser with little to no portion of the tip exposed directly to the shielding gas as it exits the diffuser to the arc. The tapered design of the consumables tightly locks the conductive parts together to minimize electrical resistance and further reduce heat buildup. The contact tips also feature coarse threads, making them less likely to become cross-threaded. 

Troubleshooting common welding problems 

Common problems in the weld cell — from poor fit-up or wire feeding issues to using the wrong consumables for the job — can cost the operation significant time and money. Addressing the causes of lost productivity often starts with proper weld prep and setup, as well as making sure the chosen consumables are right for the application. Optimizing setup and efficiency in the weld circuit makes troubleshooting that much faster when issues do arise. 

Manufacturer Cuts $45,000 of Costs With New MIG Welding Guns and Consumables

Manufacturer Cuts $45,000 of Costs With New MIG Welding Guns and Consumables

General Kinematics — a premier manufacturer of vibrating equipment for processing bulk materials — has been providing consistent, on-time and innovative solutions to its customers for more than 60 years. The company prides itself on offering rugged, cutting-edge equipment to manage difficult-to-process materials across the mining, resource recovery, bulk processing and foundry industries. 

Welding operator welding on large piece of vibrating equipment with another person grinding
Ensuring that the welding operators liked the Bernard guns and AccuLock S consumables was a critical part of the testing General Kinematics conducted.

A reputation for design leadership and creating tailored technical advancements sets the company apart from the competition, as does its commitment to providing excellent service. 

This 200-person, Crystal Lake, Ilinois-based company doesn’t have time for slowdowns, especially in the welding operation. In recent years though, General Kinematics noticed exactly that. It was experiencing repeated MIG gun breakdowns and excessive contact tip consumption that slowed production. 

“Between costs and repairs and lost labor from the welders having issues that stopped their progress, we estimated around $45,000 a year in costs from these issues,” said Jason Jerik, plant manager at General Kinematics.

That’s when Jon Strug, the company’s maintenance tech, approached their welding distributor, Steve Schuette of Weldstar in Aurora, Illinois, for a solution. Schuette recommended a trial of Bernard BTB air-cooled MIG guns with AccuLock™ S consumables. 

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Considering the change

Problems with the water-cooled MIG welding guns at General Kinematics were at the heart of its need for a new solution. 

“The guns were definitely our main issue with maintenance for Jon,” said Joel Jacobson, director of manufacturing. “It was tough to keep up to the demands of the hoses breaking, the wires breaking internally in the guns, tips burning out, liners and such.” 

Jerik added, “The last time we calculated from a dollar standpoint it translated to about five to seven hours a week in lost time just with liner issues. It was that frequent.”

The team, along with Schuette, took a slow and thorough approach to testing the Bernard air-cooled BTB MIG welding guns and consumables, making sure that the products performed as expected. They worked first with some sample guns in standard sizes and leads and had different welders try them for a week each. 

“We would test a week with one fitter, a week with one welder, and then we’d move them around to see what kind of acceptance we would get with them,” said Jacobson. 

Welding operator welding the underside of a flat piece of metal
General Kinematics welds a variety of materials — from A-36 steel to AR-500 plate — in thickness up to eight inches and on a variety of joints.

General Kinematics welds a variety of materials — from A-36 steel to AR-500 plate — in thickness up to eight inches and on a variety of joints. Welding operators also weld both large and small weldments and use different welding wire diameters. The guns and consumables needed to be versatile enough to manage these jobs and produce the quality needed to adhere to the American Welding Society (AWS) D.1.1 Structural Welding – Steel code. They also had to be the right equipment for the company’s welding operators. 

Jacobson and Jerik regularly met with the welding operators to request feedback during the trial. 

According to Jerik, welding operators saw noticeably less consumable consumption. However, they wanted to change the angle on the neck of guns to gain better access to some difficult joint configurations. They worked back and forth with Bernard to determine a different angle of the neck that suited their needs. 

“We wanted to do a thorough run of testing and vetting out to decide ‘Is this the right product for us? Are we going to get that buy-in from our welding operators?’” he said.  

Family product shot of AccuLock S liner, contact tip, nozzle, power pin, gas diffuser
The Bernard guns and AccuLock S consumables have helped welding operators at General Kinematics achieve approximately 10% more productivity by eliminating downtime.

Ensuring that welding operators liked the MIG welding guns and consumables was a critical part of the testing General Kinematics conducted. The company has a culture of empowerment and wanted its welding operators to be heard and to contribute their opinions. 

“We think it’s important to get our welders involved early in the process,” said Jacobson. “Not everyone likes change, but getting them involved in testing up front can help show the long-term benefits.”

“I’m huge on that,” Jerik added. “I’d rather not force and push a change onto a team. I’d
rather them accept it and make it their own.”

After eight months of testing, processing feedback and making adjustments, General Kinematics made the decision to convert to the Bernard BTB air-cooled MIG guns and AccuLock S consumables.

The benefit of the investment

General Kinematics invested in 400-amp BTB air-cooled MIG guns for its 40 welding operators, as well as several 450-amp Bernard water-cooled guns — all with the same AccuLock S consumables. Bernard built the company a special neck for its water-cooled guns to provide better ergonomic access to typical weld joints, and these guns are the first of their kind ever to be configured with the AccuLock S consumables.  

So, what finally sold General Kinematics on the Bernard products? In short, durability and performance.

Image of the General Kinematics building in Crystal Lake, Illinois
General Kinematics has been providing consistent, on-time and innovative solutions to its customers for more than 60 years.

The reduction in gun maintenance was key. Strug no longer has to contend with leaking water-cooled guns or liner issues that need fixing — and the new guns and consumables are less frustrating for the welding operators, who can now spend more time being productive. 

“We have a whole lot fewer repairs. Before it was constantly, every month, seven guns I had to send out to get repaired or I had to repair them myself,” said Strug. “It’s a huge difference in quality — night and day.”

This durability and performance result from a combination of the rugged construction of the BTB air-cooled MIG guns — which were configured according to the handle, neck, trigger and cables the company needed — and the liner that is part of the AccuLock S consumables system. 

Bernard designed the liner in the system for error-proof replacement by eliminating the need to measure it prior to installation. Instead of the liner loading from the back, like many competitive guns, the AccuLock S liner loads in the neck at the front of the gun and then locks in place so it can be trimmed flush with the power pin. This prevents the liner from being trimmed too short or too long.

“I like the liners,” said Strug. “They last a lot longer and I definitely like the quality of them.”

Over-the-shoulder view of welding operator welding on large piece of equipment
General Kinematics invested in 400-amp BTB air-cooled MIG guns for its 40 welding operators, as well as several 450-amp Bernard water-cooled guns — all with the same AccuLock S consumables.

According to Jacobson, another selling point was that AccuLock contact tips run significantly cooler than the company’s previous ones so there is less consumption and downtime for changeover. 

That’s due to the design of the tip and gas diffuser. Sixty percent of the welding contact tip is buried in the gas diffuser, which protects it from heat damage, and the shielding gas also cools the contact tip tail as it flows through the gun. AccuLock consumables have a tapered design that locks the tip, gas diffuser and nozzle tightly together to further reduce electrical resistance and lower heat buildup. 

Jacobson likes the ability to reduce costs by having equipment that lasts longer. And both the air- and water-cooled MIG welding guns use the same AccuLock S consumables, which helps reduce inventory management. 

The welding operators like that the guns and consumables run cooler and help reduce spatter, so there is less cleanup.  

The long-term benefits

For General Kinematics, making the change to the Bernard BTB guns and AccuLock S consumables is just another way the company commits itself to quality. But there has been more to the conversion than that. 

General Kinematics was able to gain a return on investment in approximately 12 to 14 months. And while there are still labor and equipment costs for gun and consumable maintenance, the conversion has eliminated the $45,000 in extra spending to address previous issues with the water-cooled guns. 

The products have also helped its welding operators achieve approximately 10% more productivity by eliminating downtime. That’s important to the welding operators and to Jerik. 

“When it comes down to it, do these products make their job easier? Do they make them more productive?” 

The answer to both is yes.  

How to Prevent 5 Common Welding Gun Failures

How to Prevent 5 Common Welding Gun Failures

Having the right equipment in the welding operation is important — and making sure it works when it’s needed is even more so.

Welding gun failures cause lost time and money, not to mention frustration. Like with many other aspects of the welding operation, the most important way to prevent this problem is education. Understanding how to properly choose, set up and use a MIG gun can help optimize results and eliminate many of the problems that lead to gun failure. 

Learn about five common reasons MIG guns fail and how to prevent them.

Welder welding with a Bernard GMAW gun as sparks fly
Understanding how to properly choose, set up and use a MIG gun can help optimize results and eliminate many of the problems that lead to gun failure.

Reason No. 1: Exceeding the gun rating

The rating on a MIG gun reflects the temperatures above which the handle or cable becomes uncomfortably warm. These ratings do not identify the point at which the welding gun risks damage or failure. 

Much of the difference lies in the duty cycle of the gun. Because manufacturers can rate their guns at 100%, 60% or 35% duty cycles, there can be significant variances when comparing manufacturer’s products.

Duty cycle is the amount of arc-on time within a 10-minute period. One manufacturer may produce a 400-amp GMAW gun that is capable of welding at 100% duty cycle, while another manufactures the same amperage gun that can weld at only 60% duty cycle. The first gun would be able to weld comfortably at full amperage for a 10-minute time frame, whereas the latter would only be able to weld comfortably for 6 minutes before experiencing higher handle temperatures.

Choose a gun with an amperage rating that matches the necessary duty cycle required and the length of time that the operator will be welding. It’s also important to consider the materials and filler metal wire that will be used. The gun should be able to carry enough power to melt the filler metal wire cleanly and consistently.

Reason No. 2: Improper setup and grounding

Improper system setup can increase the risk of welding gun failure. It’s important to pay attention to not only all consumable connections within the gun, but also all connections in the entire weld circuit to optimize performance.

Proper grounding helps ensure the operator isn’t sending too much power to a restricted window for the power to travel through. Loose or improper ground connections can increase resistance in the electrical circuit.

Be sure to put the ground as close to the workpiece as possible — ideally on the table that holds the workpiece. This helps provide the cleanest circuit structure for the power to travel where it needs to go.

Welder welding a rectangular frame with a MIG gun
Welding gun failures cause lost time and money, not to mention frustration. Like with many other aspects of the welding operation, the most important way to prevent this problem is education.

It’s also important to place the ground on clean surfaces so there is metal-to-metal contact; do not use a painted or dirty surface. A clean surface gives the power an easy path to travel rather than create obstructions that create resistance — which increases heat. 

Reason No. 3: Loose connections 

Consumable connections play an important role in gun performance. Consumables should be tightly secured to the gun, and all threaded connections should also be secure. It’s especially important to check and tighten all connections after a gun has been serviced or repaired.

A loose contact tip or gun neck is an invitation for gun failure at that spot. When connections aren’t tight, heat and resistance can build up. Also, be sure any trigger connect being used is working properly and provides constant power.

Reason No. 4: Damaged power cable

Cables can be easily damaged in the shop or manufacturing environment; for example, by heavy equipment or improper storage. Any damage to the power cable should be repaired as quickly as possible.

Inspect the cable for any cuts or damage; no copper should be exposed in any part of the cable. An exposed line of power in the weld system will try to jump the arc if it touches anything metallic outside of the system. This can result in a wider system failure and a possible safety concern.

Re-terminate the gun and make the cable shorter if necessary, removing any cable sections that have nicks or cuts. 

Also be sure the power cable is the proper size for the power that the feeder is supplying to the weld gun. An oversized power cable adds unnecessary weight, while an undersized cable causes heat buildup.

Welder welding with a stars and stripes helmet, Miller welding jacket
Choose a gun with an amperage rating that matches the necessary duty cycle required and the length of time that the operator will be welding.

Reason No. 5: Environmental hazards

The manufacturing environment can be harsh for tools and equipment. Take care of tools and equipment to help extend their useful life. Skipping maintenance or treating tools poorly can result in failure and reduced life.

If the welding gun is connected to a boom arm above the weld cell, make sure there are no areas where the gun or cable can be pinched or damaged. Set up the cell so there is a clear path for the cable, to avoid crushing the cable or disrupting shielding gas flow.

Using gun anchors helps keep the gun in a good position and the cable straight — to avoid excessive strain on the cable — when the gun isn’t being used.

Additional thoughts on MIG gun failures

Gun failures in water-cooled welding guns typically happen more frequently than failures in air-cooled gun models. This is primarily due to improper setup.

A water-cooled welding gun requires coolant to chill the system. The coolant must be running before the gun is started because the heat builds quickly. Failure to have the chiller running when welding starts will burn up the gun — requiring replacement of the entire gun.

Welder knowledge and experience regarding how to choose between these guns and maintain them can help prevent many of the issues that result in failures. Small issues can snowball into larger issues within the system, so it’s important to find and address problems with the welding gun when they start to avoid bigger troubles later.

Maintenance Tips

Following some basics tips for preventive maintenance can help extend the life of the welding gun and keep it operating smoothly. It also helps reduce the chances of reactive emergency maintenance that can take the weld cell out of commission.

Regularly inspecting the MIG gun can be an important part of reducing costs and gaining good welding performance. Preventive maintenance doesn’t have to be time-consuming or difficult.

Check the feeder connection regularly. Loose or dirty wire feeder connections cause heat to build up and result in voltage drops. Tighten connections as needed and replace damaged O-rings as necessary.

Properly care for the gun liner. Gun liners can often become clogged with debris during welding. Use compressed air to clear any blockages when wire is changed. Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for trimming and installing the liner.

Inspect the handle and trigger. These components typically require little maintenance beyond visual inspection. Look for cracks in the handle or missing screws, and be sure the gun trigger isn’t sticking or malfunctioning.

Check the gun neck. Loose connections at either end of the neck can cause electrical resistance that results in poor weld quality or consumable failures. Ensure all connections are tight; visually inspect the insulators on the neck and replace if damaged.

Inspect the power cable. Regularly checking the power cable is important to reduce unnecessary equipment costs. Look for any cuts or kinks in the cable and replace as necessary.

Republished from Welding Journal (August 2020) with permission from the American Welding Society (AWS). Click here to view the original article.

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

Image of welder with Bernard MIG gun

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.

This article has been published as a web-exclusive on To read the entire story, please click here.

The Importance of Cutting a Welding Liner Properly

The Importance of Cutting a Welding Gun Liner Properly

Cutting a welding gun 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 MIG gun 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 with welding gun liners

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. 

The copper inside the power cable 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 MIG 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 for welding gun liners

The Bernard® AccuLock™ System eliminates the need to measure when cutting the welding gun liner for replacement. The liner is locked into place by the power pin cap. It is then trimmed flush with the power pin at the back of the gun and power cable. It is still important to lay the gun and cable flat, avoiding twists. 

Trim AccuLock S Liner flush with back of power pin. How To Install AccuLock™ S Liners, step 4a
No measuring required – simply trim AccuLock S liners flush with the power pin.
How to install AccuLock S Liner, STEP 4B
AccuLock S power pin with liner 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 welding operator simply can’t see it under the nozzle and gas diffuser. 

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

Welding students in Tulsa benefit from Bernard MIG Guns and Consumables | Customer Testimonial

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. “Bernard (guns) they’re real comfortable in my hand you know. They’re not too big and bulky. They’re not too heavy. The neck ratio on that, is just, they’re awesome. I like them. The lighter the gun can be is great for a welder.”, Greg Langdon – welding instructor.

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

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

“Here at Blinn when we chose welding equipment first and foremost I want something solid. That’s going to be there for me for years. In our labs we have connected all our Miller 22 A wire feeders to Bernard guns. Centerfire is so user friendly that I actually bought conversion kits and changed all our non-Bernard gear over to Bernard consumables” – Blinn welding instructor, John McGee.

Instructors and students at Blinn College have come to rely on Bernard product for molding future welders. Bernard MIG guns and consumables are easy to use and a welder’s best choice in dependability.

    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 | Bernard AccuLock S Consumables for the Inexperienced Welders

    Bernard® AccuLock™ S Consumables for the Inexperienced Welders

    Choosing equipment with fewer points of failure and simplified maintenance can help support more inexperienced welders. Bernard AccuLock S consumables can reduce training and shorten your troubleshooting list so you can focus on welding productivity.

      How to Choose MIG Welding Gun Parts

      How to Choose MIG Welding Gun Parts

      In addition to the amperage of MIG welding gun you choose, the MIG gun parts — cable, neck and handle — affect how comfortably and efficiently you can weld. Configure your gun accordingly.

      Image of live welding with semi-auto MIG gun

      Choosing the cable

      Cable lengths can vary greatly — from 10 feet to 25 feet or longer. Use the shortest cable possible that can get the job done to prevent kinking or creating a tripping hazard. Consider your options:

      1. Industrial-grade cables are the most commonly used and work well in light- to medium-duty applications.
      2. Steel mono-coil cables are well-suited for heavy-duty applications in harsh environments. They are more rigid, which minimizes feeding issues when using a longer cable.

      Remember, smaller welding wire sizes typically call for a shorter cable; it is more difficult to push a smaller wire over a greater length. It is also more difficult to push soft wires, like aluminum, through longer cables.

      MIG welding gun necks and handles

      Choosing a neck and handle for a MIG welding gun comes down to your preference, as well as the available weld cell space and the welding wire.

      1. Neck options are available with bends ranging from 30 degrees up to 80 degrees. Those with less bend reduce bird nesting or other feeding issues associated with thicker wires and softer wires.
      2. A rotatable neck makes it easier to change angles to access the weld joint.
      3. Gun handles are available in straight or curved options. Straight handles are often paired with fixed necks, while curved handles are often paired with rotatable necks.

      The bottom line: Choose the options that make it easiest and most comfortable for you to reach the weld joint.

      Configure a Bernard® semi-automatic MIG gun

      This article is the second in a three-part series discussing how configuring a MIG gun can improve the welding operation, as well as what to consider in the process. Read article one, Configuring a MIG Welding Gun for Your Application and article three, Selecting the Right MIG Welding Consumables.  

        Configuring a MIG Welding Gun for Your Application

        Configuring a MIG Welding Gun for Your Application

        Have you struggled to gain proper joint access when welding? Or found yourself fatigued at the end of the day because of repeatedly welding in awkward positions? Configuring a MIG welding gun can help.

        Why configure?

        Image showing three different hand-held BTB MIG guns

        A MIG welding gun configured for the exact application can maximize efficiency and productivity. When you are more comfortable, you are able to weld longer. A customized MIG welding gun also reduces downtime for assembly, since it’s ready right out of the box. You can configure each welding gun part with online configurators like those from Bernard. These parts include the:

        • Cable
        • Handle and trigger
        • Neck type, angle and length
        • Consumables
        • Power pin
        • Liner

        How do you get started?

        To configure the right MIG welding gun, look at the needs of your welding application. One answer influences the next choice.

        1. Determine the type and thickness of the base material on which you typically weld. This will dictate the welding wire selection and welding parameters, and in turn the amperage of MIG welding gun needed.
        2. Think about the expected arc-on time and length of the welds. Again, this impacts the amperage needed and also the duty cycle.
        3. Consider ergonomics. Decide what handle and neck style you prefer, as well as the cable length needed (shorter ones are lighter and easier to maneuver).

        What affect does the weld cell have?

        The physical space of the weld cell factors into MIG welding gun configuration. Consider these factors:

        1. If there are fixtures or jigs to work around, you may need narrower MIG welding consumables to access the joint.
        2. Space limitations and welding position impact cable length. Shorter cables are necessary for confined areas and are best for repetitive welding at a table since they are lighter. For out-of-position welds, a longer cable allows for greater movement (beware of coiling or kinking).
        3. The available workspace and joint access affect the length and bend angle of the gun neck you can use.

        Taking the time to consider the factors that impact how you configure your MIG welding gun can go far in ensuring you have the exact one for your application.

        See options for configuring a Bernard® MIG gun

        This article is the first in a three-part series discussing how configuring a MIG gun can improve the welding operation, as well as what to consider in the process. Read article two, How to Choose Welding Gun Parts, and article three, Selecting the Right MIG Welding Consumables.

          Taylor Forklift Operation Reduces Downtime, Costs with Bernard

          Taylor Forklift Operation Reduces Downtime, Costs with Bernard

          Taylor Machine Works Inc. has spent over 90 years building a reputation by engineering and producing exactly what its customers need. The company manufactures more than 85 models of powered industrial trucks, including forklifts and material handling equipment for a range of industries.

          Taylor’s “Big Red” forklifts, featuring the company’s distinctive “Big Red” logo, can handle material weighing up to 125,000 pounds.

          “We manufactured roughly 750 pieces of rolling stock last year and 40 percent to 50 percent of that is highly customized,” said Matt Hillyer, director of engineering for Taylor, based in Louisville, Mississippi. “Our job is to build products that answer the customer’s needs.”

          Taylor’s “Big Red” forklifts, featuring the company’s distinctive “Big Red” logo, can handle material weighing up to 125,000 pounds — everything from palleted goods and empty shipping containers in waterfront shipyards to equipment encountering brutal hot and cold environments. Many of Taylor’s customers are small operations with from one to three pieces of equipment. Just one piece going out of service reduces production capacity by a large percentage.

          “Having high durability, high return on investment and low cost of ownership, those are all very imperative to our customers to make them successful,” said Hillyer. “It’s important for us not only to make custom products that are advanced in technology or state-of-the-art, but we also have to make products that are very simple, easy to work on and have lots of uptime. That’s what our customers are looking for.”

          Taylor employs some of the best welders in the business to meet those customer demands, but even great welders can’t overcome their tools’ limitations. When Taylor decided to try Bernard® semi-automatic MIG guns and Centerfire™ consumables, they discovered their talented team could take productivity up a few notches —and still gain the best quality.

          Application photo of a welder in the process of welding
          All the advantages found by using Bernard Semi-Automatic MIG Guns and Centerfire Consumables align perfectly with Taylor’s commitment to quality and meeting the customer needs.

          Making the change
          According to Taylor, sometimes it takes trying a new technology to realize what you’ve been missing. That was the case with the Bernard products — the manufacturers of the Big Red material handling machines had a business epiphany.

          “Before we changed to Bernard welding products, we didn’t really know we were having a problem,” said Steve Nazary, quality assurance supervisor at Taylor. “When we started using Bernard [MIG guns and consumables], we found that they were much easier and more economical to use for our process.”

          Bernard semi-automatic MIG guns at 400, 500 and 600 amperages delivered more business benefits.

          Savings on service repair. “We can replace the liners, the tips, the nozzles” Nazary explained. “You can replace everything on a Bernard gun instead of throwing it away and buying a new one.” The previous guns Taylor used could not be repaired and components weren’t replaceable, resulting in increased costs for new purchases for their large manufacturing operation.

          Productivity-boosting ergonomics. “The Bernard MIG guns have a better handle on them,” Nazary said. “It fits your hand better. It has an easier trigger to pull. It doesn’t get as hot as the guns we were using before. We were using some handles before that got so hot, you couldn’t hold them anymore.”

          “Those twisty necks, as I call them, we can loosen them and change the angle to get in harder places. And you can reset them back straight, turn them on any angle. The employees love them.”

          Craig Callahan, Quality Control Welding Inspector

          Easier-to-use rotatable necks. Guns with multiple neck position options that are all easy to adjust let Taylor welders operate comfortably and precisely in more situations. Rather than turning the entire gun to get the right position to reach a weld joint, welders simply adjust just the neck of the gun to a better angle.

          Rather than turning the entire gun to get the right position to reach a weld joint, welders simply adjust just the neck of Bernard Gun to a better angle.
          Rather than turning the entire gun to get the right position to reach a weld joint, welders simply adjust just the neck of Bernard Gun to a better angle. 

          Nazary added that it’s also easy to change necks on the Bernard MIG Guns to reach into tighter spaces. “We have multiple necks and they only take two or three seconds to swap them out,” he said.

          Centerfire™ consumables also proved to last much longer than products Taylor had used previously, reducing the need to change contact tips from multiple times per day to just once a day, on average. These consumables feature a non-threaded contact tip that is tapered at the base to seat easily in the gas diffuser. The result is better heat dissipation and a longer life. Plus, they are quick to change over. 

          Welder leaning over project in a weld cell
          When Taylor decided to try Bernard™ Semi-Automatic MIG Guns and Centerfire™ Consumables, they discovered their talented team could take productivity up a few notches —and still gain the best quality. 

          “We can change the Centerfire consumables with ease. We don’t have to have tools. You just twist the nozzle off, pull it off and pop another contact tip in and twist the nozzle back on,” said Nazary.

          Centerfire consumables also provide better gas flow for better welds and less rework.

          “With the other consumables that we were using, you would get different gas flows,” said Nazary. “With the Bernard products, we have consistent flow all the time.”

          Helping Taylor Machine Works serve customers
          All the advantages found by using Bernard semi-automatic MIG guns and Centerfire consumables align perfectly with Taylor’s commitment to quality and meeting the customer needs. And the reliability of the products fits well with the company’s slogan: “Depend on Red.”

          “It’s absolutely imperative to make our products successful for the customer,” said Hillyer. “We also look to our suppliers, like Bernard to provide us with the best technology. They help us incorporate the right technology to make sure that we do have the most durable truck on the market.”

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

            Save Money, Improve Performance with Bernard® Replaceable MIG Gun Parts

            Taylor Machine Works saves money and improves performance by welding its forklifts with Bernard MIG guns. All Bernard MIG gun parts are replaceable, and the necks adjust to fit tight joints.

            “You can put different necks on the guns. Those twisty necks, I call them. We can loosen them use them and change the angle to get in tighter places. The employees they love them. Bernard guns are very helpful to us and our welding process” raves Craig Callahan, Quality Control Welding Inspector for Taylor Machine Works.

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

            Bernard® MIG Welding Consumables Save Time and Last Longer

            “When we first went to a Bernard gun, I had one man who didn’t change a tip for 27 days. They usually we’re changing tips, nozzle and diffusers multiple times a day. Now they only have to change the tips once a day”, says Steve Nazary, Quality Assurance Supervisor for Taylor Machine Works, since converting to Centerfire™ consumables.

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

              Fume Extraction Gun: Features and Techniques to Improve Performance

              Fume Extraction Gun: Features and Techniques to Improve Performance

              Limiting exposure to welding fumes is an increasingly important issue for many welding operations, as it provides a cleaner, more comfortable work environment and helps companies stay compliant with changing regulations.

              The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other safety regulatory bodies set the allowable exposure limits for weld fumes and other particulates, including hexavalent chromium, with the aim of protecting employees against potential health hazards in the workplace.

              Some companies may choose a centralized fume extraction system designed to protect the entire shop area. However, these systems can be a substantial investment and often require installation of new ductwork. In some welding applications, they are not a feasible or efficient fume extraction option.

              A fume extraction gun is a viable alternative in certain welding applications, including when the welder is in a tight or confined space or must move often to complete welds on a large part. Welding guns with built-in fume extraction are commonly used in heavy industrial welding, such as truck and trailer, rail car and heavy equipment manufacturing.

              Fume extraction welding guns capture the fumes generated by the welding process right at the source, over and around the weld pool, and they can be tailored to best meet the needs of a specific application or to welder preferences. Consider these key factors to help choose the right type of fume extraction gun for the job — and learn more about available features that can help improve gun flexibility and performance in certain applications.

              Image of live welding with a Clean Air fume extraction MIG gun
              A fume extraction gun is a viable alternative for fume control in certain welding applications, including when the welder is in a tight or confined space or must move often to complete welds on a large part.

              Fume extraction gun options

              Fume extraction guns are available in a variety of amperages and handle designs. Common amperages for fume extraction guns range from 300 to 600. Keep in mind that amperage is tied to gun weight. The higher the amperage, the more copper required in the power cable and therefore the heavier the gun will be.

              Due to this additional weight, use the lowest amperage gun possible that will still allow the job to be completed. Along with the added weight, higher-amperage guns typically cost more than lower-amperage guns, so it may be a waste of money to buy more gun than necessary for the application.

              However, automatically buying the lightest gun available may not provide the amperage or durability needed for the application. Some lighter and more flexible guns aren’t durable enough for heavy industrial applications. Always consider a gun’s duty cycle rating, and keep in mind that it’s a balancing act between gun weight and durability when choosing a fume extraction gun.

              Features to consider

              Some fume extraction guns on the market offer features and capabilities that help optimize fume capture while also providing benefits for operator comfort and ergonomics, gun performance and ease in producing quality welds. When choosing and configuring a fume extraction gun, consider these options:

              Image of Clean Air fume extraction MIG gun with straight handle
              Tailoring the gun handle and neck to the application and welder preferences can help improve weld pool access and reduce operator fatigue. Most guns are available in curved and straight handle options.

              Adjustable vacuum chamber:

              The nozzle on the front of most fume extraction guns is covered by a vacuum chamber. While vacuum chambers on some guns are fixed in place and can’t be moved, other guns have adjustable vacuum chambers that can be moved to several positions. This provides better joint access and visibility and helps welders dial in vacuum flow to eliminate porosity. Adjustable vacuum chambers can also improve ergonomics, since they reduce the need for the welder to position his or her body in uncomfortable positions to get a better view of the weld pool. Adjustable vacuum chambers that snap into position also provide greater durability than friction-fit chambers, which can loosen over time and eventually fall off. This can require replacement of the vacuum chamber. Some gun manufacturers also offer various vacuum chamber options, such as a short vacuum chamber that helps increase visibility and access to the weld pool.

              Suction control valve:

              Most fume extraction guns offer a way for welders to control the vacuum suction and optimize gas flow. Look for a gun with a vacuum regulator — often positioned at the front of the handle — that allows welders to balance suction with shielding gas flow to protect against porosity.

              Flexible, crush- and snag-resistant hose:

              A vacuum hose designed to be crush- and snag-resistant eliminates the need for a protective hose cover in many applications. This helps reduce overall gun weight and increases flexibility of the hose. However, be aware that some heavy-duty welding applications requiring extremely high heat will always need a leather cover to protect the hose. Note, a gun with a vacuum hose that swivels also improves flexibility, visibility and joint access and helps reduce wrist fatigue.

              Handle and neck options:

              Tailoring the gun handle and neck to the application and welder preferences can help improve weld access and reduce operator fatigue. Some brands of guns are available in curved and straight handle options. In higher-amperage applications, welders may want to put the gun cable over their shoulder with the gun trigger on the top. Straight handle guns allow for this because the trigger can be positioned on the top. Some fume extraction guns also have additional neck options in a variety of bend angles, such as 30, 45 and 60 degrees. This provides even more ability to tailor a gun to specific needs and improves ergonomics. When choosing a gun with a straight handle, consider one with a rubber overmold on the handle to help reduce vibration and provide a better grip.

              Fume extraction gun best practices 

              As with any fume extraction equipment, proper use and maintenance of fume extraction guns is important to achieve optimal results. Operating a fume extraction gun is similar to using a standard MIG gun, with many of the same recommended best practices. However, there are some techniques that welders can follow to help get the best performance from a fume extraction gun: 

              1. Degree of angle: Perhaps the most important tip for optimizing performance is using the appropriate degree of angle. With solid wire, use a push technique and an angle of 0 to 15 degrees for optimal fume capture. For flux-cored wire, use a drag technique with a 0 to 15-degree angle. If the parts are set up at a 0 to 30-degree angle and the gun is kept straight (vertical) during welding, the fume will rise, allowing optimal fume extraction by the gun. 
              2. Pause at the end: At the end of each weld, pausing for 10 to 15 seconds and holding the fume extraction gun in place without depositing weld metal allows the gun to capture residual fumes as the weld bead is cooling.
              3. Wire type determines stickout: The contact-tip-to-workpiece distance can be longer — about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch — when welding with flux-cored wire and a fume extraction gun. With solid wire, stickout should be kept to 1/2 inch or less to maximize fume capture. 
              4. Frequent inspection: Inspecting the front end of the gun is key to optimizing fume extraction. Regularly inspect the nozzle, contact tip and vacuum chamber for signs of spatter buildup, which can block fume extraction and obstruct shielding gas flow. Replace consumables when spatter buildup appears or clean them according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Also, routinely inspect the vacuum hose for damage, cuts or kinks and replace the hose as necessary.
              5. Proper maintenance: As with any welding equipment, fume extraction guns benefit from preventive maintenance. Using the guns with flux-cored wire requires more frequent maintenance because of the slag and fumes the wire generates. Regular maintenance helps prevent a clog or spatter buildup, which can limit the gun’s fume capture rate.

              Getting results

              Some fume extraction guns are designed using a common consumable platform, which means any consumables used on a standard MIG gun or even a robotic MIG gun can also be used on a fume extraction gun. When fume gun replacement parts — nozzles, contact tips and gas diffusers — can be the same as those used on standard MIG guns, this offers greater flexibility and helps reduce a company’s consumables inventory. Additionally, it may be important for some companies to choose a fume extraction gun that is compatible with vacuum systems from most major manufacturers.

              In the right applications, fume extraction guns can help companies maintain compliance with safety regulations and create a cleaner, more comfortable welding environment for employees. When choosing fume extraction guns for MIG welding, look for features and accessories that will provide additional flexibility, time savings and advantages for welder comfort.