The word “aluminum” makes even the most seasoned metal fabricators cower in fear. While the material brings a lot of benefits, it can also be a challenge to work with. If you are a newcomer to the fabrication industry, don’t shy away from using this metal with so much potential. With the proper equipment and some helpful tips, you can easily TIG weld aluminum like a professional!
However, not all welders you encounter on online marketplaces are fit for TIG welding, let alone aluminum welding. Dealing with aluminum requires equipment that is specifically designed to work with the said material. For instance, alternating current or AC TIG welders are more preferred to be used with aluminum due to the cleaning action inherent in the AC current.
Keep reading to learn more about aluminum TIG welding and the best aluminum TIG welder for the job!
What Makes Aluminum Tig Welding Challenging?
Being a lightweight material, aluminum is preferred by fabricators in many industries. Aside from its incredibly lightweight, aluminum is also resistant to corrosion which makes it perfect for a variety of applications, from kitchen utensils to airplane parts. Despite its many alluring properties, aluminum metal is a challenge to work with for many different reasons.
Below are some reasons why metal fabricators find aluminum difficult to use.
As molten aluminum heats up, it absorbs hydrogen at a faster rate; the hotter the liquid aluminum gets, the more hydrogen it absorbs. As the metal hardens, the absorbed hydrogen begins to separate, generating bubbles within the substance. Because of the air bubbles, the solidified metal becomes porous and weak. Pinholes created by impurities will sabotage joint strength if an appropriate shielding gas is not used.
While hydrogen does not produce cracking in aluminum the way it does in steel, aluminum does have the potential for hot cracking. You can lessen the risk by using the right filler metal and joint design. Desired finish, strength, and non-corrosive qualities should all be considered when selecting the right filler metal for your project.
Aluminum is a metal with a high degree of sensitivity. It is significantly more vulnerable to impurities than many other materials, making it extremely vulnerable. Aluminum can be contaminated in a variety of ways, causing issues during welding. To avoid this, fabricators properly clean the aluminum material prior to welding to remove contaminants and the oxidized layer.
If the clean metal isn't utilized straight away, it must be maintained properly to avoid contamination from air, dirt, and water. The aluminum should be kept at room temperature to avoid any oxidation that may occur as a result of condensation.
Aluminum that has been properly cleaned and stored will last only a few days at the most, however, it is always a good idea to clean it before using it.
Aluminum has intrinsic anti-corrosive characteristics, which can make welding a little more difficult. A 4nm thick layer rests on top of the aluminum metal, formed as a result of exposure to water or air. This is aluminum oxide, a very stable substance that keeps the metal from corroding or oxidizing further.
Remember how aluminum's melting point is only 1,221 degrees Fahrenheit (660.3 degrees Celsius)? Aluminum oxide, on the other hand, melts at a far higher temperature—3,762 F (2,072 C) to be exact.
Because the aluminum oxide layer acts as an insulator for the metal within, direct heat application is difficult. High heat is required to melt through the oxidized layer, but that heat can also burn holes in the metal beneath. This is why you have to work fast when dealing with aluminum.
What Is the Best TIG Welder for Aluminum?
Now that you know how challenging it is to weld aluminum, you must have the right equipment for the job. There are many manufacturers selling TIG welders on the market but they may not suit your work style. As we already established, aluminum is a tricky material to use for your projects. That’s why you mustn’t rush for the most inexpensive option out there.
If you have money to spare, invest it in quality and performance and consider this not-so-cheap TIG welder for aluminum. Discover what the LOTOS TIG200ACDC can do for you!
Specs at a Glance
- Available on Amazon for $599.00
- Comes equipped with a square-wave inverter
- Maximum output rated at 200 amps
- Has a power efficiency rating of 80%
- Capable of DC TIG welding aluminum and stainless steel
- Comes with a 3-year limited warranty
- Also has stick welding (MMA) capabilities
- Can be used with most sockets with its dual voltage setup
- Features a PAPST cooling system for safety
- Comes with a foot pedal necessary for aluminum welding
PAPST Cooling System
Every fabricator knows that welding is a heat-intensive process. It involves high temperatures to be able to manipulate all sorts of metal and steel materials. Aside from wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect yourself, you should also consider the safety features that come with your welding machine. Believe it or not, this can make an entire world difference.
The LOTOS TIG200ACDC is designed with an advanced PAPST cooling system. A product of world-renowned German engineering, the PAPST cooling system makes sure that the TIG welder does not overheat by ensuring proper cooling throughout its entire operation. In addition to making the welder safer for you, this feature also lengthens the life of your machine.
Dual Voltage Input
If you have to move from one place to another for your welding jobs, flexibility should be one of the things that your welder should offer. It has to keep up with your highly mobile workflow. When you switch workplaces, the power outlets may not have the same voltage. As such, you need a welder that is flexible enough to be powered through any power socket you have nearby.
Designed with a dual voltage regulator, the LOTOS TIG200ACDC can work with power outlets rated at 110V and 220V. Without the need for other equipment such as a transformer, you can plug this welding machine directly into the outlet. Fabricators who use the same machine at their home garage and at work will certainly appreciate this feature.
While welding, a foot pedal, also known as a foot control, can be utilized to manage the amperage of your welding machine. Is the weld becoming too hot? Reduce the amps and ease off the pedal to allow the weld to cool. Without having to stop and adjust in the middle of a weld, the foot pedal provides you with entire control.
Saving you a few bucks, the LOTOS TIG200ACDC is not only capable of being used with a foot pedal as it comes with one right out of the box! A foot pedal is indispensable if you see yourself TIG welding aluminum so you can produce better quality welds. Your clients will surely notice the clean and neat welds on your project!
There might be instances where a project is just so big that you have to relocate frequently from one side to the other. Some welders are so heavy and bulky that doing so becomes a dreaded chore. If that is the case, a compact and portable TIG welder will be the right fit for such situations.
Weighing at 58 pounds, the LOTOS TIG200ACDC is relatively heavier compared to its rivals in the market. While it does come with a sturdy and reliable handle so that you can carry it with ease, the entire design of the machine is bulky and difficult to transport. If you need a compact and portable machine, you might want to take a look at other options.
What Are Some TIG Welding Aluminum Tips Should I Know?
Are you a new fabricator? We know how daunting aluminum welding can be. Without the proper knowledge, going into such an undertaking blind can lead to wasted time and resources. Spare yourself the trouble and ensure you are equipped with the right know-how. Here are some helpful tips to get you started with your aluminum welding journey.
Tip #1: Be Mindful of Your Hand and TIG Torch
Without spending time on practicing proper hand and TIG torch placement, new TIG welders often unintentionally produce a lot of scrap. Striking the arc on the material without proper technique can lead to disaster. Because aluminum functions as a large heat sink and quickly transports heat away from the weld region, puddle control is critical for a successful weld.
Because torch and hand placement is crucial for puddle control, it's crucial to master them from the get-go.
Tip #2: Ensure Proper Gas Coverage
When there isn’t enough gas shielding during operation, you may end up with a contaminated weld which can cause structural issues. Check for leaks in all of the fittings and hoses. Any break can suck air into the stream, potentially contaminating the weld (and wasting hard-earned cash if the gas escapes). Soapy water should be rubbed over the hose and any fittings. If bubbles show up, there must be a leak and the compromised components must be replaced.
With proper knowledge and the right equipment, aluminum welding will be a breeze! The LOTOS TIG200ACDC offers a compelling set of features and outstanding build quality. However, the price tag might turn cash-strapped fabricators away. If you have the extra cash to spare, then it is a worthwhile expenditure to make.
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