Welding professionals turn to several types of welding machines depending on the process they intend to tackle. Most of the work will fall under MIG, TIG, or stick welding, so you’ll see one or more of these welders in the typical fabrication shop.
However, there is an alternative to using a different welder each time another welding method is required, and it’s called a multi-process welder, a versatile tool capable of producing various weld types using a single machine.
Read on to find out if a multi-process welder is something you should consider and what you can expect from it if you do buy one.
What is an all-purpose welder, and who will benefit from it?
Not too long ago, multi-purpose welders had the kind of reputation that kept them from serious consideration. They had a few fundamental flaws that caused them to shut down, spoiling welds and wasting money. However, machine manufacturers have worked out the issues, and the latest models are durable and reliable, so sudden breakdowns are mostly a thing of the past.
A multi-process welder carries out MIG, TIG, and stick welding, and because of this, they are often referred to as MTS welders. Their primary attraction is their versatility, eliminating the need to purchase individual machines for each type of welding.
The typical home hobbyist or self-employed welder doing DIY repairs or other light welding work will likely benefit from a multi-process machine. Although they sometimes find a home in industrial settings, multi-process welders usually yield floor space to the single-purpose heavy-duty models that can take on the challenges of projects such as large industrial fabrications.
How does a multi-process welder work?
Multi-process welders perform two or more welding processes, which involve changing polarities and adjusting the process selector switch. Switching methods take a few minutes, allowing the welding operator to weld various metals and use different processes quickly and efficiently.
The welder performs more than one of the following welding methods:
- MIG welding (metal inert gas): Formally known as gas metal arc welding (GMAW), this type of welding creates heat by carrying current through a solid wire electrode fed through the welding gun and accompanied by shielding gas.
- TIG welding (tungsten inert gas): Also known as gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW), TIG produces the weld using a non-consumable tungsten electrode and shielding gas.
- Stick welding (SMAW): Shielded metal arc welding, as it is officially called, ignites an arc between a coated electrode (stick) and the workpiece, generating enough heat to melt the consumable electrode and create the weld.
- Flux-cored arc welding (FCAW): Flux-cored arc welding uses a continuous hollow wire containing a flux compound that protects the weld pool by forming a gas as it reacts with the welding arc.
Are multi-use welders worth it?
Don’t you love it when someone answers a yes-or-no question with “It all depends”? Well, the answer to this one sounds familiar since it does depend on whether you are a home hobbyist doing small amounts of DIY jobs occasionally or if you are dead serious about welding and working full-time in an industrial setting. For the former, it’s probably well worth it, but for the latter, multi-purpose machines will likely not best serve your purpose.
What are multi-process welders good for?
Multi-process welders are good options for saving money over the long term. Although they cost more upfront, they can save money over time since they can perform various welds.
Here are the advantages of multi-process you should consider:
MTS welders offer excellent value
Unless you’re a full-time professional welder, you probably don’t need a welding machine dedicated to each type of welding. Buying these individual machines if you’re a beginner or a hobbyist is not cost-effective since each machine can run between $500 and $750.
For comparison’s sake, an MTS200 200-amp 3-in-1 welder—TIG, MIG, and stick—costs around $750 from PrimeWeld. Why pay for specialized features when you can have a top-quality MTS machine in your workshop or at work for a fraction of the cost?
You can start a side business
You can start tackling projects and building clientele with a multi-process welder in your workshop. Once you show your newly-developed welding skills, and people discover your versatility with a multi-purpose machine, you will become inundated with work.
The convenience and efficiency of switching between processes
With dedicated machines, you must set them up each time before you can use them. Switching between welding processes is annoying and inefficient for the welder working from a workshop or garage. Because some welding processes are better suited for specific metal types, thicknesses, out-of-position welding, and indoor/outdoor applications, shifting between them easily and quickly gives the MTS welder a decided advantage over the single-purpose machine.
The MTS welder fits into the smaller spaces of a workshop
MTS welders are ideal for light to moderate welding operations for repairs and small metal fabrications found on a farm or in a home workshop. They also fit comfortably in these tiny spaces while doing the work of three separate machines.
What are the disadvantages of multi-purpose welders?
Some MTS models are expensive
A few top-of-the-line brands are almost $2,500, which is a bit salty for some beginners and hobbyists. On the other hand, there are excellent choices priced below $1,000 (the MTS200, for instance) that provide the convenience and versatility of the more expensive offerings.
They often have limited power
Even though multi-purpose welders are capable, they won’t produce the same amount of power as an engine drive will. For those planning to do heavy-duty welding, a multi-process machine might not be the best choice.
Repairs to multi-process welders are expensive
Because these machines are computers, it can be costly if they break down. However, if you stick with top brands, their quality control is generally much better.
They are heavier than single-purpose machines
Many multi-process welders are heavy, which isn’t surprising since they are designed to handle three separate welding processes. And today, many of these machines are built with lightweight, durable materials that hold down the weight.
Who would use a multi-purpose welder?
Some industries and businesses benefit significantly from using multi-purpose welders:
- Metalworking artists: Artists working with metal can take advantage of the ability to work with any type and thickness as they work on their creations.
- Small welding shops: Since independent weld shops may have limited resources, a multi-purpose welder allows them to handle more jobs while reducing equipment costs and saving valuable floor space.
- Automotive repair work: Auto repair and fabrication shops are excellent fits for the multi-purpose welder. The various types and thicknesses of metals make the MTS models invaluable for tasks in the automobile work environment.
- Construction: Being able to weld outdoors with stick or flux-cored and then transitioning to TIG for thinner metals is a distinct advantage for construction companies.
Multi-purpose machines can save welding operators valuable production time and help maintain workflow. Considering that and the savings from buying one welder for three tasks instead of three separate machines, the MTS looks like a wise business decision!