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 01-27-2006, 20:55 Post: 123646
WillieH



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 Welding Aluminum

Ok, I have seen the previous postings about welding AL with gas, and duly noted the expertise. The closest that I desire to have contact with gas is after eating a bowl of Hot chili !!! Laughing out loud

Seriously though, I have been welding for some 30 years, but never AL...rather steel usually. Recently started with a TIG, but, it wasn't mine though I did get rather proficient with it, and had to leave it behind.

My question is this. I have a Lincln AC225 Box. I have been told, that I cannot weld AL with it, as it needs DC for the proper weld current. (I vaguely remember such info from my shop instructor some, ahem, 30 years ago)
Just reading an article in the "Miller Welding" Catalog about a unit called the "Econotig". This affords AC/DC TIG/Stick welding. In the text, it reads "AC output for AL welding and DC output for mild/stainless steel".

Hmmm, I want to weld AL, but now am somewhat befuddled. Anyone know if I can weld AL with my AC unit with AL stick, or must I reinvest in a different unit for ? $500.00 - $1500.00 or more?

Thanks for the input

- Willie H






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 01-28-2006, 22:15 Post: 123697
jdcman



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 Welding Aluminum

Willie,

To TIG AL you'll need a unit capable of AC with HF. The High Frequency is used to maintain the arc during the sinewave transitions from positive to negative. On the newer inverter machines having the HF on continues isn't necessary --- these machines use square waves with fast edges.

I always advise folks to buy bigger than they think they will need in terms of machine capability.

A good approximation is about an amp per one thousands of an inch in material thickness.

Also, in my opinion, one of the biggest advances in recent years has been the added feature allowing one to adjust the AC frequency of the main current waveform. This gives a real nice focused arc, which is very useful on thinner material. This feature is only available on inverter machines vs the older traditional transformer machines, which are typically fixed sine.


Although I've had several Miller machines, I really don't know anything about the econo Tig. But if you do buy a new machine I'd recommend sticking with a name brand. When it comes to the mid to large size machines from either Lincoln or Miller it's like a Chevy vs Ford deal. I've had both machines and have my preferences just like everybody else.

Also, I've never tried to arc AL, but I've heard that the process isn't really all that pleasant to work with.

TIG really is the way to go if you want to work with AL. Note, not all TIG machines come equiped with the AC and HF capability. DC is used for mild steels, SS, Cu, etc..

JD







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 01-28-2006, 22:55 Post: 123700
WillieH



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 Welding Aluminum

JD -
Thanks for the input, it's appreciated. I agree, I have used both Lincoln as well as Miller - they both have there good points as well as bad, and both work well.

I just decided that I have a lot of projects that require AL welding. I had heard that "NO, you can't weld AL with stick". Then I read you could. Then I was told that "you cannot weld AL with AC" (from a Merriam Graves shop). Then I read in the Miller catalog, that this "Econotig" allows for AC Welding with stick for AL. Just trying to make sense of it all, before I make an investment that I may (or may not) need.

Just for ha ha's, maybe I'll drive down to the local Home Depot and pick up some AL stick, and see what happens on some scrap...then I know first hand what I should do - or not. (!)

I have come to the conclusion, that the TIG is probably the way, with either the helium or argon masking, but we'll see.
One thing that I do know, is that the weld of AL is not as strong as the base material, due to temperatures before, during and after welding. Unlike steel, AL has a melting point of about 1200 degrees F, where steel is around 2700 degrees F.

I have done alot of plain steel, and as of late alot of stainless, so I suppose there is no time like the present to learn Aluminum, and it's traits.
Thanks again JD

- Willie H






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 01-28-2006, 23:34 Post: 123704
jdcman



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 Welding Aluminum

Willie,

Mind if I ask what it is that you’re trying to weld, i.e., material alloy, thickness, use, etc.?

I primarily weld 30 to 250 mil 6061 AL.

I have an older Lincoln 335 Square Wave and a Thermal Arc 300 GTSW. The Lincoln weighs 600 pounds and the TA 90. Both rated at 300 amps but the duty cycle of the Lincoln is over twice that of the TA. I must say though, that because of the frequency adjust feature on the TA it’s my first choice of the two machines of late.

In my younger days I could butt a couple of coke cans together and put a nice bead around them. Now days my eyes aren’t what they use to be and it has had a bad effect on my hand eye coordination. But the significances of this is that you require a machine with good low end current control to do this type of work. In my opinion, Lincoln is the machine to beat. The TA doesn’t come close on the bottom end and neither did any of the Millers I had. I’ve been told that the Miller Aerowave is one heck of a machine, , (for 10K it better be), with good control all the way down to one amp for micro work. But I’ve never used one.

You can see where this is going … your decision about machines will have a lot to do with the type of work that you have planned.

As you probably already know, there are also a bunch of accessories that one has to buy before you can start to use the welder for TIG work.

If you put up a wish list of what it is you want to do, I’ll try and make suggestions based on my experience if that would be helpful.

BTW, where did you get that info re the weld strength of AL? If you're comparing the AL to steel you're correct. But the fact is that you can TIG weld AL, (alloy dependent here), and stress relieve with no adverse effects just as you can with mild steel.

Hope this helps and I haven't added to the confusion.

JD






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 01-29-2006, 19:28 Post: 123735
hick11h1369



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 Welding Aluminum

Regarding aluminum, I have a degree in industial technology with a strong welding background, tig is the best way to weld aluminum, because aluminum is a very very pure metal that reacts very poorly with contaminants, you can mig weld aluminum with a simple millermatic 210 with an aluminum spool gun, I would however advise at preheating the metal with a torch to about 800 degrees. YOU CAN ALSO WELD ALUMINUM WITH A STICK WELDER provided that you can preheat the metal to about 800 degrees, BOTH NEED TO BE COOLED SLOWLY though. It does take a little more amount of skill to stick weld aluminum, but if you are steady, have an idea of how the metals physical characteristics in the molten form react, you could easily do it with stick. IMHO if you want a wire welder, go with miller, if you want a stick welder go with linkon. If you want a tig, go with either, Miller has done alot to bring its company into a very competing market by offering square wave, high freq starts and what not. I personally have a miller bobcat 225 plus that is a gas driven generator/welder, and I power my millermatic 210 with it as well. I also can air arc with 3/16 air arc rod. I am very happy with my choice of machine. When it comes to welding, your experience and machines both hold great credit to what you want to do with it. I can weld pop cans together but that doesnt have much use on the farm.
best regards, Patrick Webb






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 01-29-2006, 21:53 Post: 123743
WillieH



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 Welding Aluminum

JD,

My primary desire is to weld some 1/8" x 1.5" aluminum angle for framing. Certainly nothing outrageous, especially to start with. That is why, I figure if I could weld it with a stick (first) to get my feet wet, then I could always move up and find a TIG system at my leisure.

I really do not have any aspirations to go into any sort of business practice with it, merely my own edification of being able to do it, and the various projects that I have in mind.

As far as the info that I posted on the previous thread, I found that in the course of researching the topic prior to posting the question. It was actually a directly from Lincoln Electric, on their website, (click on the link below).

Again, any advice is certainly welcome. Thanks

Patrick,
Thanks for the info as well. I do appreciate it.

- Willie H






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 01-30-2006, 06:47 Post: 123756
jdcman



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 Welding Aluminum

Hey Willie,

Yeah I agree, it’s always wise to see if you can make the equipment at hand do the job. Sounds like Patrick will be a good source for your arc welding questions on aluminum.

I have a couple of tips, most likely stuff you’ve already run across:

1) Cleanliness is very important when it comes to welding Aluminum. Remember that aluminum oxide has a higher melting point than the base material. My basic process is to take a stainless steel brush to the pieces being welded and then wipe them down with acetone. I’ve heard of folks who are concerned re the possiblity of stainless contamination and prefer scotch pads. I haven’t had trouble with the stainless contamination, but have run into sever oxide problems, particularly trouble some on thinner material. Perhaps the Al stick electrodes will have a flux included that makes this a non-issue.

2) Try and identify the alloy that you’re working with. I had the experience of going to one of Boeing’s “country” stores and bought a bunch of unmarked material. Well unfortunately for me it wasn’t a “weldable” alloy … what a mess. It was truly a live and learn process.

After I responded to your prior message it got me to rethinking your statements re the dilution of the mechanical properties for the various alloys as a result of the welding process. And yes I agree, if you’re considering building structural “stuff”, with any significant loading, you need to pick alloys that can be heat treated and brought back as close as possible to the original strength specifications.

Good luck, have fun.

jdc






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 01-30-2006, 09:14 Post: 123769
hick11h1369



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 Welding Aluminum

Hello again, this is Patrick, I have to agree with the alluminum being as clean as possible. After reading more of the posts, and seeing a little more detail in what your working with, ie 6061 alluminum and the thickness that you are welding, ie. .125 or 1/8" I think that you will find it difficult to weld that with stick. I do have a strong welding background, it is what kept me fed before I got hired into fords, but I have done some welding of alluminum with stick, but it was always thicker material, most of my alluminum experience comes from either tigging the materail or wire welding it. Both of those processes are "cleaner" than stick welding it, but you are right, tig welding is sounding like the way to go, but the tig process is not the fastest. If you do wire weld it, I do suggest preheating it. But, with the thickness only being 1/8" I would suggest getting the thinnest wire, .30 or smaller. Your gas selection is correct, straight argon has worked for me well. Helium you do get a "hotter" weld because of the shielding gas but I do suggest as well to "practice on scrap" to see if it will give you what you want. Also, when you wire weld, you will have to use a "spray transfer" which means when you are looking at the wire going into the puddle, it will be a sharp point, like a center punch or a pencil. The comment above about getting a machine larger than what you think you need is so so so correct, and it applies to everything from tractors to hammers. Bigger all too often is alway better. Not always, but when it comes to tools, dont cut your self short by saving a few bucks. I guess what I mean is I have the Miller bobcat, it cost me 1500. I did get a hell of a deal on it, it only had 19 hrs on it when I got it, normally they are around 2500 new. I am looking to trade that one in or get a new one, basicly the big Miller 400 amp welder, because I do do alot of air arcing and the 225 bobcat, even though it is load tested to 300 amp just works too hard even with a 3/16 carbon rod. The same goes for the millermatic 210, this is a great little machine in the fact that you can buy the spool gun to do alluminum with it and have both guns hooked up and both gas bottles hooked up and the brain in the machine tells the right valve to open when ever you pic up a gun to use. It is an awsome "little machine" and for the spool gun and the machine, I paid only about 1800 for them both brand new, and if you choose this machine, check the prices on ebay before you buy because the welding shops will take advantage of peoples ignorance. The only down fall in this machine was my ignorance, I wanted a machine that would give me spray tranfer while using regular steel mig wire, it takes 27 volts to do this and this machine will only give me around 24. It was my fault, I did not research this enough before I bought. I knew what I wanted and assumed that all machines would give it to me since this one was rated at 210 amps. As far as weling around the farm and even the welding I do, this machine is a very good choice, it will give short circuit and globular transfer and very nice looking welds and is a great machine for its size. In closing, if you have alot of alluminum welding to do, you might want to invest that money for the right machine, if you have three phase elctric where you are at, you can get more machine for your buck since they sell fairly cheap, and of course, you will have a service to offer others and the machine could pay for itself, I know I needed these machines on my farm and they have paid for themselves several times over in work that I have done here and for others. Best of luck,
Patrick Webb






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 01-30-2006, 12:54 Post: 123779
WillieH



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 Welding Aluminum

Patrick,
Without question, the concept of overkill rather than underkill applies in my book as well. I would much rather have a machine/tool built for haevier duty than I plan to expose it too, rather than have it break, burn up or worse yet injure someone because it was too light of duty for the task at hand.

My real concern was, why reinvent the wheel and have redundant pieces of equipment kicking around the shop, if I did not need too. Not only from a space standpoint, however cost as well.

Like I pointed out earlier, this is not a business venture that I am embarking on, rather a curiousity/fart around satisfier with some hobby projects that have been eating at me to get done. I guess I will keep an eye out for something used that is still decent (maybe at auction) in the line of a TIG, as opposed to dishing out big bucks for something that will probably see more darkness than light, however your points of doing jobs for people are very well taken.

I'll figure something out...in the meantime, I'll keep looking. Once I do come up with something, I'll be sure to repost.
Thanks again guys for all the input...

-Willie H






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 01-30-2006, 23:04 Post: 123837
WillieH



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 Welding Aluminum

Patrick -

With all this info floating around, I almost forgot the stem question...given two plain jane pieces of AL, can I use an AC welder to weld the two together or MUST it be DC?

This seems to be a stumbling block in my mind, as I have heard conflicting stories. (Just in general, forget MIG,TIG,ARC, for a moment)

Then under the pretense that I can weld AL with AC, is it the gas "masking" that enables a proper contaminant free fusion? And thus, would not be acquirable
with a plain stick weld, right?

Maybe once I get beyond this hurdle, EVERYTHING will be as clear as ... and I can make a decision

Thanks for your patience-

-Willie H






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