Your welding operation, just like any other portion of your business, offers opportunities to conserve resources. Consider these 10 money-saving tips for MIG gun care and maintenance as a good first step. And don't be surprised when you find these tips improve your welding performance along the way!
1: Protect your assets
Keep your nozzles, gas diffusers and contact tips in the original package in which they were shipped until you are ready to use them. Doing so prevents scratches and/or dents where spatter can accumulate and cause the consumables to fail prematurely. It also prevents dirt, oil or other debris from adhering to the consumables and inadvertently entering the weld puddle.
Remember, proper storage and handling doesn't just lower your actual costs for consumables, it can also prevent weld defects that require costly rework.
2: Get a neck up
Choose the most appropriate neck for your MIG welding application in order to increase comfort and control, and save money. Rotatable necks, for example, adjust without tools so that you can quickly change neck angles once you've determined your desired position. These types of necks are especially useful if you find yourself welding on many different applications and angles throughout the day, and they minimize costs for inventory and changeover. For hard-to-reach areas, you may also want to consider a neck coupler, which allows you to connect two existing necks together to extend your reach - again without the cost of purchasing a new or specialized neck.
Flex necks are also a good option for saving money, and gaining greater comfort and control, particularly for applications with tighter joints. You can bend these necks to multiple angles to work around corners or get into small spaces without the expense of stocking different neck angles.
3: Inspect, clean and tighten regularly
Regularly perform a visual inspection of your 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 if necessary. During your 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 your consumables regularly (several times during a welding shift is ideal) help ensure good shielding gas coverage, reliable electrical conductivity and consistent weld quality.
4: Trim it properly
Always trim your MIG gun liner according to the manufacturer's recommendations, using the proper tools and cutting it 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. When possible, use a liner gauge to determine the proper length for your particular liner and be certain that there are no burrs or sharp edges after you cut it.
Also, keep the liner away from contaminants (e.g., don't let it drag on the floor) during installation and be sure your hands or gloves are clean. These precautions help prevent contaminants from entering the weld puddle and causing costly weld quality issues.
5: Line it up
Consider using a front-load MIG gun liner to ease and speed liner replacement. This type of liner cuts installation time nearly in half compared to using a rear-loading liner, saving you downtime and unnecessary labor costs for changeover. Some manufacturers offer a spring-loaded module that works in conjunction with a front-load liner to help minimize issues if you accidentally trim the liner to an incorrect length. These modules are housed in the power pin and put forward pressure on the liner after installing it from the front of the gun. The modules allow up to 1 inch of forgiveness if the liner is too short.
There are also jump liners available. These replace only the most commonly worn and clogged liner area - from the neck to the contact tip - to reduce the amount of time a gun is offline and minimize inventory for full-length liners. These jump liners enable quick and easy neck change-out so the MIG gun can be easily adapted to fit multiple applications.
6: Lighten up
When appropriate, switching from heavy-duty contact tips to standard-duty ones can help lower your overall consumable costs, while still providing you with reliable welding performance. If you have lower heat applications, brief arc-on times for short welds or tacks, or if you are using mixed shielding gases and small diameter wires, standard-duty contact tips may be a better option and they cost less.
You can also use these types of contact tips if you have applications with restricted access, as the smaller outside diameter can help increase gas coverage and reduce the nozzle's bore size, making it easier to reach tough joints.
7: Stay connected
Look for non-threaded contact tips that connect or seat securely with the gas diffuser. This type of design provides consistent electrical conductivity and helps dissipate heat more readily. That's important, since cooler running consumables last longer and provide more consistent performance.
A nozzle with a thread-on design helps keep the contact tip centered for better weld placement and it can minimize the opportunity for spatter. This type of design can also withstand demanding jobsite use and abuse.
8: Keep it smooth and clean
As an additional defense against spatter accumulation, purchase nozzles that have a smooth, non-porous surface. Be sure that the nozzles are free of any sharp edges or flat spots that would further allow spatter to adhere. As when handling the liner, be sure you have clean hands or gloves when you are handling or installing your nozzle. Dirt, oil, grease or other debris can easily adhere to nozzles and later enter the weld puddle, causing weld defects. These contaminants can also cause premature failure of the component.
9: Size it right
Use the shortest length MIG gun cable possible for your welding application, as it helps prevent kinking and premature wear of both the cable and the MIG gun liner. It also helps prevent wire-feeding problems that could lead to an erratic arc, poor weld quality and unnecessary downtime for rework or consumable replacement. Steel monocoil cables are also an excellent means to prevent kinking.
Also, remember to choose the correct diameter liner and contact tip for your welding wire, as this prevents similar problems and helps extend the life of these consumables.
10: Think long-term
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.
Also, consider the up-front cost versus the long-term savings of purchasing sturdier and more expensive consumables. They will likely last longer, reducing downtime associated with changeover and the cost of the consumables themselves.
Keep these tips in mind and you can get back to welding faster while conserving your resources.
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