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Product Test Team: Multiprocess Welders

If you’ve been shopping for a new wire (MIG and flux-core) welder or are considering adding a TIG machine to your metalworking arsenal, you’ll likely run across the latest innovation in melding metals – the multiprocess welder.

As the name implies, these all-in-one machines allow you to access three different welding processes (stick, wire, or DC TIG) in one package. There are also multitask machines that offer, for example, plasma cutting in addition to stick and TIG welding, or just stick and TIG capacity, or three welding processes paired up with a generator.

Shopping for an all-in-one can get very confusing. For simplicity’s sake, this article will focus on machines providing stick, wire, and DC TIG welding.

power supply remains the same

Was there some new technology recently discovered that made the multiprocess welder possible? Not really. 

True, improvements in inverter technology (that have made welders more powerful and durable) have helped, although some multiprocess welders don’t use inverters; they stick to conventional transformers to get the job done.

What inspired the multiprocess craze was demand from the consumer market for a single welder that could do multiple welding processes in one package. Eventually, demand for all-in-one welders flourished so much that today you can also choose from industrial versions of the machine.

Otherwise, the combination welder uses the same power source that drives a single-process welder. The difference with multiprocess welders is that they are built with additional outlets and corresponding cables to accommodate multiple uses.

farmer evaluation

To put a critical eye on these new welders, Successful Farming magazine worked with ESAB (one of the first companies to introduce a multiprocess welder on the market) and provided its level welder to Rochester, Indiana, dairy producer James Fred.

The test unit was a Rebel EMP 215ic whose capacities are listed along with similarly priced multiprocess welders in a table at the bottom of this article.

Fred was interested in trying out the machine since he was wanting a welder that could TIG weld.

“I have lots of stainless steel (bulk tanks and wash basins, for example) in the dairy that need repair, and I wasn’t able to work on them with my MIG welder,” he explains. “This is a DC TIG machine that doesn’t allow for welding aluminum, although I could get a spool gun, which would allow me to use it to weld aluminum.”

None of the welders compared in the table offers both DC and AC (alternating current) TIG. More advanced models do provide both modes such as ESAB’s Rebel 205ic retailing for $2,999.

“The thing that impressed me about this welder was that it’s easy to switch from, for example, MIG to TIG welding,” Fred notes. “At first, I had to use the operator’s manual to make sure I had everything plugged in correctly. After I switched over a couple of times, it became simple to make the change in just a couple of minutes.”

Also, switching the Rebel from 120- to 230-volt power is simple. “I basically swap out cords, and I’m good to go.”

More challenging for Fred was learning to use the welder’s TIG capabilities. “This would be true regardless of the welder – multi or single process. With TIG welding, I’m using both hands – one to hold the tungsten electrode gun and the other to feed filler rod into the weld – as well as a foot pedal, which regulates the amount of voltage being fed to the gun,” Fred explains. “However, the Rebel did offer the ability to TIG weld without needing a foot pedal (called Lift Arc by ESAB). But I wanted to use the foot pedal for more control.”

Lift Arc is made possible by the Rebel’s advanced controls, which really shine, Fred felt, during MIG welding. Called sMIG (Smart MIG) by ESAB, this features automatically adjusts the welder to your technique “allowing you to simply set the welder to the thickness of metal when you are in MIG mode,” Fred explains. “After four seconds of welding, the machine automatically adjusts wire speed and amperage to match your technique. It really improved my welding results. I don’t have to concern myself with making manual adjustments if, for example, I go from thinner to thicker metal. The welder does that automatically.”

Setting the machine is simple because all adjustments are made on an LCD screen instead of by dial.    

but do you really need an all-in-one?

The central question Fred was asked to consider is if a multiprocess welder was worth the cost. “A welder like this allows me to take the unit out in the farmyard or field to flux-core weld in windy conditions, stick weld thick metal on an implement, or TIG weld in a barn,” he notes.

If you are doing welding chores strictly in a shop and own a relatively new MIG unit and are only looking to get into TIG welding, you might be better off just buying a dedicated TIG welder. 

One last note regarding multiprocess welders. 

The industry offers more powerful all-in-one units capable of melding ½-inch-thick and thicker metal when MIG welding, for example. The prices on these machines, however, rapidly climb to over $3,000. 

An example of one such machine is Lincoln’s Idealarc DC 400 Amp welder that, in addition to having a 400-amp rated output (at a 100% duty cycle), offers stick, wire, and TIG welding as well as arc gouging. That unit retails for $6,745. 

MAKE & MODEL INPUT VOLTAGE MAXIMUM AMP OUTPUT AT 230 VOLTS DUTY CYCLE MIG WELDING AT 230 VOLTS WEIGHT  SUGGESTED LIST PRICE*

ESAB REBEL EMP 215ic

120 to 230 volts

240 amps

205 amps at a 25% duty cycle

40 lbs.

$1,699

EVERLAST POWERMTS 211Si

120 to 230 volts

210 amps

210 amps at a 40% duty cycle

35 lbs.

$1,249

FORNEY 190 MULTIPROCESS

120 to 230 volts

190 amps

170 amps at a 20% duty cycle

51 lbs.

$1,049

LINCOLN 210 MP

120 to 230 volts

210 amps

200 amps at a 25% duty cycle

40 lbs.

$1,771

MILLER MULTIMATIC 215

120 to 230 volts

230 amps

200 amps at a 20% duty cycle

38 lbs.

$1,565

* Be sure to check the equipment provided with the welder when shopping. For example, the ESAB, Lincoln, and Miller welders came with a MIG gun and cable, TIG torch and cable, stick electrode holder and cable, gas regulator, ground cable and clamp, drive rolls, and contact tips. This was not the case with other welders.

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