Money-Saving Tips for MIG Guns
Equipment repairs are a fact of life on most jobsites, so finding ways to reduce costs and downtime while making them is important for overall efficiency and productivity — and the bottom line. The welding operation on a jobsite, just like any other portion of the business, offers opportunities to conserve resources and extend equipment life. Proper selection, handling and use of welding consumables and accessories can be helpful when it comes to getting the most out of a MIG gun, as can proper gun maintenance.
Tip No. 1: Protect the assets
Jobsites are often exposed to many environmental challenges, including extreme hot and cold temperatures, and the presence of rain and mud. It’s important to keep nozzles, gas diffusers and contact tips in the original packaging to protect against these elements until they are ready for use. Doing so also prevents scratches and/or dents from forming where spatter can accumulate and cause the consumables to fail prematurely. In addition, it prevents dirt, oil or other debris from adhering to the consumables and inadvertently entering the weld puddle, which can lead to poor weld quality.
Remember, proper storage and handling doesn’t just lower actual costs for consumables by extending consumable life, it can also prevent weld defects that require costly and time-consuming rework.
Tip No. 2: Select the right neck
Choose the most appropriate neck for a MIG welding application in order to increase comfort and control, and save money. Rotatable necks, for example, can be adjusted without tools, so neck angles can be quickly changed during a welding repair once the desired position is determined. This feature is important on a jobsite where welding may be done in various positions or in tight spaces, and it helps reduce downtime for changing over MIG guns or for purchasing and inventorying extras.
Rotatable necks are especially useful for welding on different angles. For hard-to-reach areas, consider a neck coupler, which allows for two existing necks to connect to extend their reach — again without the cost of purchasing a new or specialized neck.
Flex necks are another good option for saving money and gaining greater comfort and control, particularly for applications with tighter joints. The operator can bend the neck to multiple angles to work around corners or get into small spaces for greater flexibility during repairs, without the expense of stocking different neck angles.
Tip No. 3: Perform regular inspections
Regularly perform a visual inspection of the nozzle — inside and outside — to look for spatter build-up. If there is accumulation, either clean the nozzle with a tool designed specifically for the job or replace the nozzle when necessary. During the inspection, also check that the nozzle, contact tip and retaining head are tightened properly, as these components can naturally loosen during welding.
Inspecting and tightening consumables help ensure good shielding gas coverage, reliable electrical conductivity and consistent weld quality, as well as reduce costs for purchasing and replacing new consumables.
It is also important to inspect the power cable on the MIG gun for any wear or damage, replacing it as necessary to avoid potential problems.
Tip No. 4: Trim the liner properly
Always trim MIG gun liners according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, using the proper tools and cutting the liner to the correct length. Too long of a liner can cause kinking, while cutting it too short allows debris to build up between the liner and the gas diffuser. Either way, the wrong liner length can cause poor wire feeding and premature failure of both the liner and the contact tip, adding unnecessary costs. Use a liner gauge when possible to determine the proper length for the particular liner being used. Also be certain that there are no burrs or sharp edges after the liner is cut.
Also, keep the liner away from contaminants (e.g., don’t let it drag on the ground) during installation. As further protection, the welding operator’s hands or gloves should be clean when handling the liner. These precautions protect against contaminants that could enter the weld puddle and cause costly weld quality issues or downtime for rework.
Tip No. 5: Select the best cable length for the job
Use the shortest length MIG gun cable possible for the welding application, as it minimizes the opportunity for kinking, as well as premature wear of both the cable and the MIG gun liner. A shorter cable also helps prevent wire-feeding problems that could lead to an erratic arc, poor weld quality and unnecessary downtime for rework or consumable replacement. It also tends to cost less, adding to savings for repair jobs.
In addition, remember to choose the correct diameter liner and contact tip for the welding wire, as this prevents similar problems and helps extend the life of these consumables.
Tip No. 6: Invest in consumables
While up-front cost is an important factor when choosing consumables, consider the long-term savings offered by purchasing sturdier and more expensive consumables. These consumables likely will last longer — especially in the face of the harsh conditions of some jobsites — reducing the downtime associated with changeover and the cost of more frequent replacement of the consumables themselves. As an additional defense against spatter accumulation, purchase nozzles that have a smooth, non-porous surface. Be sure to check that the nozzles are free of any sharp edges or flat spots that would further allow spatter to adhere.
Whenever possible, purchase MIG guns and consumables that are backed by a reliable manufacturer’s warranty, and use all guns and consumables as intended so as not to void the terms and conditions.
Keeping these simple tips in mind can help reduce the downtime spent on maintenance and MIG gun or consumable changeover, so welding operators can get back to welding faster, get equipment back into service sooner and save money.