Upfront Cost vs. Total Cost of Ownership of MIG Guns and Consumables

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

While it may be tempting for companies to purchase MIG welding guns and welding consumables based on price, lower upfront costs don’t always add up to savings. Less expensive products often lack in quality and bring risk to the profitability of the welding operation. This can come in the form of:

Closeup of welding operator holding MIG gun with sparks flying
Stakeholders should look at the total cost of ownership MIG guns and consumables. Those with a higher upfront cost can help reduce risks and save money in the long term.
  • Downtime for troubleshooting
  • Shortened product life span
  • Missed production goals
  • Poor MIG gun and consumable performance
  • Poor quality welds and associated rework

For these reasons, it’s important to look at MIG guns and consumables as more than simple commodities. Welding engineers, production managers and purchasing agents, along with other stakeholders, should instead look at the total cost of ownership of these products. Those with a higher upfront cost can help reduce risks and save money in the long term. 

A look at MIG welding guns

When considering the total cost of ownership of a MIG gun, there are several factors to keep in mind. For example, less expensive guns may require more maintenance and repairs over the life span of the product. Parts like necks, handles and triggers may need frequent attention, resulting in increased expenses for replacement and downtime for changeover. With labor being the largest expense in a welding operation, time spent on activities other than welding come at a price. 

Lower quality guns may also require more downtime for troubleshooting issues like poor wire feeding. This not only stops production, preventing parts from moving out the door, but it also keeps welding supervisors or others from more important tasks. When an employee’s job is to keep the weld cells running smoothly, any distraction for troubleshooting can negatively affect the productivity and profitability of the welding operation. 

To lower the total cost of ownership of a MIG gun, companies should look for quality products with a long life span. Guns that offer the ability to repair the power cables are a good option. In this case, the downtime and cost for replacement is a benefit. It is less expensive to repair the cable than to buy a brand-new gun. Companies should also look at a gun’s warranty. 

With heavy industrial use, a high-quality MIG welding gun typically lasts one to two years and those, like Bernard® BTB guns, include a one-year warranty. Some Bernard guns also have a lifetime warranty on triggers, switches and handles. 

Considerations for consumables

Poor quality, cheaper consumables — contact tips, gas diffusers, nozzles and liners — can lead to a host of problems that increase downtime and costs. These include an erratic arc, burnbacks, birdnests and a short life span (particularly for contact tips) that can lead to rework. Such issues also increase instances of troubleshooting and make less expensive consumables pricier in the long term. 

Cheaper contact tips can be prone to keyholing, or an uneven wear of the bore, and may not be as consistent in terms of electrical conductivity. Both can affect welding performance and shorten product life. 

Conversely, premium consumables can lower the total cost of ownership in a welding operation. The longer they last, and the easier they are to install, the less downtime for changeover and the less expense for replacement. AccuLock™ contact tips feature a coarse thread that eliminates cross-threading and 60% of this consumable is buried in the diffuser, so it is away from heat during welding. As a result, these contact tips last two to three times longer than competitive ones. For robotic applications, AccuLock HDP contact tips last six to 10 times longer. This extended life can help increase production by reducing the number of scheduled changeovers. 

QUICK LOAD™ liners are also a good option for robotic applications, as they load from the front of the robotic welding gun — safely out of the weld cell — in less than half the time needed for a conventional liner. The liner in the AccuLock S consumable system offers error-proof liner trimming without measuring, to prevent issues with wire feeding. 

MIG gun and consumables trials

When it comes to MIG guns and consumables, time is money. Repairs, replacements and rework all add up and affect the total cost of ownership of these products — not to mention the company’s bottom line. Making a conversion to higher quality options can yield good results and the benefits can be verified with a MIG gun and consumables trial prior to implementation. These trials help establish a baseline for improvements and provide data that allows companies to assess the upfront cost of products compared to the cost of downtime. With this information in hand, companies can make an informed decision about alternative MIG welding guns and consumables.