A guide to selecting the right mig welder for your application or needs. There are many things to consider, electrical supply, space, where you will be welding, what you will be welding, budget and many more. I will explain each to the best of my ability in this guide.
While there are many brand names on the market, ESAB, Miller, and Lincoln would be considered to be at the head of this class of welder, when it comes to quality and performance. While all make an industrial and a retail line, my expertise lies on the industrial side, even though this size welder is generally used by home owners and small business.
For Miller, look for the Millermatic line and for Lincoln, look for the line beginning with Power Mig or SP line. These are the industrial line welders. In most cases built a little tougher than the retail lines. These welders have a 20% duty cycle. That means they can weld up to 2 minutes out of a 10 minute time frame and not overheat. All Lincoln and Miller welders from the Industrial line have built in protection that will shut welder down when over heated. All also have fan to help avoid this problem. While 2 minutes doesn't sound like much, most welders find that they do not have a problem with the welders shutting down.
Lincoln makes 2 different modes, SP140T and power mig 140C , Miller has the Millermatic, and Hobart. Lincoln "T" models and Hobart have 4 "tap" or preset output amperages, while the Lincoln Power Mig "140C" and the Millermatic have a rheostat for infinite output amperages in their range. In my opinion, the rheostat while helpful on very thin or exotic materials is not something the novice or week-end welder really needs, while experienced welders may prefer the added adjustability.
Wire size is important. I recommend .023-.025 for MIG welding. .035 when using flux core (gasless) welding. I suggest flux core when working outside on windy day as gas from mig welding can be blown away causing a bad weld. Flux core wire needs much more clean up after welding, much like stick welding. It however does penetrate better so the metal thickness you are able to weld correct goes up. Typically with mig wire and gas, 3/16" is maximum thickness for a 110 volt welder, while with flux core wire 1/4"-5/16" is achievable. Recommended gas for mig welding would be argon/co2, 75/25%. Pure CO2 can be used, but will have a little more spatter, and does penetrate a little more than argon/co2. I also recommend the use of ER 70S6 wire on 10-11 lb spools. Better looking weld bead than ER 70S3.
Aluminum welding with these welders can be done. Lincoln has kit for around $75.00 for the older SP models and new spool gun for the Power Mig line for under $200.00 or less, while Miller suggests using their spool gun, which we have listed for just under $200.00 additional. If you intend to weld a lot of aluminum the spoolgun is the better way to go and I would also suggest going to a larger welder.
I rank this class of welder in the following order. Millermatic 140, Lincoln power Mig 140c, and Lincoln power mig 140T. Ranking based mainly on price, ease of use and optional equipment or accessories. All are quality welders, very equal out of the box for steel. These welders use 8" 10-11 lb. spools of wire, 4" 2 lb. may be also be used. As of 10/15/2006 Lincoln has released their new Power Mig 140C AND and SP140T . T has 4 tap settings and C has rheostat. These now come with mig and flux core wire drives, and sample spools of both. Also are spoolgun ready, no extra control required. The spoolgun and spot timer module (optional) are now available. In Early February Lincoln changed the Power Mig 140T and 180T to SP140T and SP180tT and lowered the price on them. Miller has also just released Millermatic 140 and 180's are are now available. My personal ranking, value and features for the new 140's and 180's, Lincoln best value and features, Miller quality as always. Also the Millermatic passport for those that need totally self contained for portability.
MILLER HAS JUST RELEASED THE NEW MILLERMATIC 211--NOW LISTED ON EBAY110/230 volt W/MVP plugs for using 115v or 230V,, has rheostat for output amps and also has AUTOSET. Also uses the new Spoolmate 100. Now in more portable size like the Millermatic 180.
Hobart is built in same plant we are told and sold through Miller Electric.
LINKS TO LINCOLN, MILLER AND ESAB MIG WELDERS
Lincoln 120v MIG Welders
Miller 120v MIG Welders
Hobart 120v MIG Welders
ESAB MIG Welders
Lincoln SP180T, Power Mig Mig 180C, Millermatic 180, and Hobart Handler 187. What you gain by moving up to 175-180 amps is, 30% duty cycle, ability to use larger diameter wire, (I suggest .025-.030) for mig or .035-.045 for flux core and capability to safely weld thicker material, while not working welder at 100% of capacity. Again 3/16" for mig and 5/16" for flux core. Like above these welders use 8" 10-11 lb or 4" 2# spools of wire. Same aluminum capabilities as the 135-140 size as far as options are concerned. I rank them as listed at start of this section.
Lincoln K2532-1 Spoolgun also listed.
NEW MILLER SPOOLMATE 100 SPOOLGUN 300371 For use on Millermatic 140, 140AS or 180
New Millermatic 211 Welder packages, 907422 and 907422001
Lincoln Power Mig 215, 255c, Millermatic 212 and 252
For the small shop or home I recommend staying in the 210-215 range. Lincoln Power-mig 215 or Millermatic 212. Use far less power than the 252 or 255C. Again you gain duty cycle, 30-60% depending on amperage you are welding at. . The 212-215 are rated at up to 5/16" for mig and up to 1/2" with flux core (gasless) wire. You can also safely run .023-.035 mig wire and .035-.045 flux core wire, on 10" - 33-44 lb spool. Savings on wire on larger spools per/lb can be substantial over time. For aluminum I recommend Miller. Their spool gun system is better than Lincoln's in my opinion. With spoolgun option, Miller comes with dual cylinder rack and 2nd regulator and hose, both mig and spoolgun can be left hooked up ready to use. Lincoln 215XT now spoolgun ready.. . Lincoln 255XT now sold with spoolgun module built into welder like the Millermatic 252. I still suggest the Millermatic for use with spoolgun, however Lincoln has made major improvements to it's spoolgun system. .
MILLERMATIC 212, 252 AND DVI2
NEW MILLERMATIC 212 WITH AUTOSET NOW IN STOCK, 907405 and 951146
I suggest you read the spec sheets on the Lincoln Power Mig 305MP and Millermatic 350P amp welders. Excellent choice for production line. Both offered in push or push/pull spool gun packages. Push pull the optimum aluminum system as large spools of aluminum used, which saves down time changing spools and lower cost per lb of wire. Also pulse technology is included in both of these welders. Very equal in all aspects, as both available with built in pulser.
BRAND NEW FROM MILLER RENEGADE 180 ENGINE DRIVEN MIG WELDER 907395. Operate off engine or plug into 230V power while using in shop or garage. 5000 watt generate and Mig Welder all in one package. For the person who really needs totally portable welder.