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welding aluminum with a mig. pics

Discussion in 'The Tool Shed' started by rdn2blazer, Jun 19, 2006.

  1. rdn2blazer

    rdn2blazer 1 ton status Premium Member

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    I did this probably a year or two ago with a Lincoln 175+ mig welder. the 1st pic is a few welds when I first tried it out. never welded aluminum before. the 2nd pic is the second side of this same plate, as you can see they got way better. I numbered them to show the progress I was making. the last pic is of the 5th and 6th welds on that side of the plate. not bad for 5 mins of playing around. just goes to show those who cant afford, and dont have the skill of tig that you can weld aluminum and get quality welds too.

    DSCN1230.JPG

    DSCN1231.JPG

    DSCN1232.JPG
     
  2. noahrob

    noahrob 1/2 ton status Author

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    How much did the aluminum gun cost for the 175? Looks good...
     
  3. rdn2blazer

    rdn2blazer 1 ton status Premium Member

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    the aluminum kit for the Lincoln is not a gun addition. its a nylon sleeve that replaces the steel one that runs through the factory gun. so its still a push type setup. it also has plastic guides that you replace the steel ones with where the wire goes through the rollers. it also comes with a different roller that you replace, but I had nothing but trouble with the new roller and went back to the one for steel wire and it worked perfectly. the roller for alum. is supposed to not damage the wire, but its so pollished that it wont push the alum. wire through. you have to use too much pressure on the roller then it just wads up the wire in between the 1st guide and the bearing. the roller for the steel pushes it just fine with minimal pressure. I think the kit is like 110 bucks. thats cheap, plus you have to get a argon bottle too though.

    I have the miller 175 at home and you cant get a kit like this for it. you have to get there new lead and pull type gun thats about 500 bucks I think.
     
  4. camiswelding

    camiswelding 1/2 ton status

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    I have but one word...
    powermig...

    my mig look like tig welds...sometimes better when my hands are shaley or Im out of position
     
  5. rdn2blazer

    rdn2blazer 1 ton status Premium Member

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    please, fill us in cam.
     
  6. perp

    perp 1/2 ton status

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    X2!
     
  7. camiswelding

    camiswelding 1/2 ton status

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    lincoln markets their powermig series just for aluminum...
    (read all about it here..use the links... http://www.lincolnelectric.com/products/intros/powermig_350.asp )
    By use if proprietary computer technology and a push pull gun called the python they were able to come up with a mig welder that welds as nicely.. or nicer than tig
    miller isnt even in the ballpark yet... although with a spool gun their welds are decent..( I actually love their 210 with their spool gun for home use)) but they cant do light guage like the lincoln can.. the welder uses pulse on pulse tecnology ...it is flat amazing and makes a decent welder look like a highly experienced one
    now the downside.. its expensive.. my 350mp cost just under 5k... the python gun being half of that.. but.. it migs tigs and stick welds. and it is fully upgradable in programming so it wont be outmoded three years from now...

    there is a feed problem with teflon lined guns made for aluminum.. they were the compromise that gun builders came up with when people didnt want to or couldnt spend the money for a spool gun or python.. but your still trying to push soft aluminum wife over 6 feet... and they are prone to birdnesting and other feeding issues... my python gun is 25 feet and has zero issues.. its great for large scale aluminum fab.. boat building.car body building.. bumper building etc and on light guage... otherwise if its just a small job I still use tig.. and try to keep my hand steady!!!

    cam

    PS heres a good article on aluminum and guns...


    Understanding the Common Difficulties of Feeding in MIG Welding Aluminum
    Knowing the Right Equipment, Set-Up and Feeding Options
    By: Jim Harris, Product Manager, The Lincoln Electric Company and Frank Armao, Group Leader, Non Ferrous Applications The Lincoln Electric Company
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Aluminum as a fabrication material is now more prevalent than ever, and its use can be traced to a host of industrially designed objects - from vehicles to household items. With this demand, the need to weld aluminum has never been greater. Aluminum is attractive to industrial designers in many fields, due to its lightweight attributes and corrosion-resistant properties. Aluminum fabrication is becoming commonplace in fabrication shops of all sizes, and so must the skills required to weld this often mysterious and difficult metal. To those experienced in steel welding, aluminum can present some real challenges. Equipment must be adapted specifically to handle the softer aluminum wire and machine settings that normally work fine for steel may not be appropriate. In fact, aluminum wire can easily be damaged by equipment set-up for steel wire. To be
    [​IMG]
    successful, there are some special considerations that must be taken.
    In this article, we will look at three areas:
    1) set-up and techniques
    2) power sources
    3) three ways to feed aluminum wire.
    Set-Up and Techniques
    Those who usually deal with steel need to make the following changes in their equipment and settings in order to effectively weld aluminum:
    • Liner
      For steel welding, the usual practice is to use a helically wound steel liner, but for aluminum, this type of liner would scratch the soft aluminum wire and scrape off shavings. So, when welding aluminum make sure to find a liner that is made of nylon or Teflon®. These materials are recommended to reduce friction and eliminate wire shaving.
    • Wire Guides
      Similarly, for aluminum welding, wire guides also should be composed of nylon or Teflon rather than steel. Again, friction is reduced and wire shaving is virtually eliminated.
    • [​IMG]Drive Rolls
      For steel welding, the normal practice is to have a V-shaped groove in the drive rolls. For aluminum, it is recommended to substitute a U-shaped groove so that there are no sharp edges to shave off the aluminum wire. Also, the tension on the drive roll should be reduced compared to the typical setting for steel to prevent crushing of the aluminum wire during feeding.
    • Contact Tips
      Aluminum expands more than steel as it heats up. Therefore, the proper-sized hole in the contact tip is larger for aluminum than for steel. Be sure to purchase contact tips specifically designed for aluminum, or poor electrical contact may result. Warning signs of an improperly-sized contact tip are wire shaving or scratches on the wire, unusual arcing behavior and irregular wire feeding, typically observed as an erratic, varying arc length.
    • Brake Tension
      Be sure the brake tension on the wire spindle is set more loosely than it would normally be set for steel. This way, less force is required to pull the wire off of the spool.
    • Gun Cables
      Because the column strength of aluminum is much less than steel, feeding aluminum wire can be compared to 'pushing spaghetti uphill'. Therefore, be sure to keep the gun as straight as possible to minimize tangling.
    Power Sources
    When deciding which power source to buy for aluminum welding, an operator needs to ask two basic questions: 1) how often will I will weld aluminum?; and 2) what is the typical thickness of material that needs to be welded? First answering these questions will serve to guide the buyer in the right direction.
    • Infrequent Aluminum Welders
      Those who don't plan to weld aluminum on a regular basis should consider a small wire feed welder system in the 130-170 amp range. The only caveat is that this type of system will only weld a limited range of material thickness (usually from 3/32" to 3/16"). Also, a purchaser will need to buy a manufacturer's kit for aluminum to be sure to have the right liners and tips.
    • More Frequent Users
      Those who will weld a variety of aluminum applications on a frequent basis should move up to a larger machine with more amperage and the capability to weld thicker materials.
    • Aluminum Fabricators
      For serious aluminum fabricators, another great feature to look for in a unit is one with pulse welding capabilities. Pulsing can allow the use of a larger diameter wire electrode than otherwise possible, equating to easier feeding and less porosity.
    Feeding System Selection
    Having the proper wire electrode feeding system for aluminum welding is imperative. There are three main ways to feed aluminum wire - 1) push system, 2) spool gun, and 3) push-pull system. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, which we will address below.
    1. Push
    Browse Lincoln Push Wire Feeder / Welders and MIG Power Sources
    What is it?
    For the push method of feeding aluminum, a high torque, variable speed motor at the wire feeder pushes wire through the liner to the gun.
    Recommended for:
    Push feeding systems work best feeding larger diameter wires, such as 1/16", as well as stiffer wires like 5356 alloy. Short gun cable lengths of 15 feet or less are preferred for Push feeding systems.
    [​IMG]
    Advantages/benefits:
    Push systems are lower cost than other aluminum feeding methods since they only require one motor at the wire drive. In general, they work best for wire greater than 3/64". They also have the advantage of offering a compact gun to fit into tight spaces for providing better accessibility to the weld. Also, typical push wire feeders have the capacity to hold a common 12" outer diameter spool of aluminum electrode.
    Limitations:
    A push system is typically not used for long gun lengths as the operator is likely to experience birdnesting or wire tangling. It also should not be used for smaller diameter wires.
    2. Spool Gun
    Browse Lincoln Spool Guns

    [​IMG]
    What is it?
    A spool gun is a self-contained gun that is equipped to feed wire electrode from small spools mounted on the gun. Typically, these spools 4" in diameter, weighing 1 pound for aluminum. With this set-up, the distance from the wire to the contact tip is a very short, usually less than 12". A spool gun typically makes it easy to feed soft aluminum wire.
    Recommended for:

    [​IMG]
    Spool guns should be used for smaller diameter, softer wires. In addition, users that switch frequently between steel and aluminum welding typically find it convenient and cost effective to use a spool gun for aluminum wire electrode and a common push MIG gun for steel wire electrode. Depending on the power source capability, both guns can often be connected to a single power source at the same time.
    Advantages/benefits:
    Spool guns are fairly simple to use and also have the benefit of being relatively inexpensive. For operators who don't want to be limited to welding within a short distance of the power source, a spool gun has the ability to reach as far as 50 ft. away.
    Limitations:
    Because a spool gun is larger than a push gun, it can sometimes be difficult to get close access to the weld. Also, a spool gun can only hold a 1 pound spool of aluminum wire electrode, so changeovers are frequent. In addition, these small spools typically are not the most economical way to purchase wire.
    3. Push-Pull
    Browse Lincoln Push-Pull Systems

    [​IMG]
    What is it?
    A push-pull system utilizes dual motors: an assist motor that pushes the electrode from the feeder, and a primary motor that is located in the gun that pulls the electrode.
    Recommended for:
    This is the most flexible system of the three discussed in this article, and it can accommodate any type of aluminum wire - even soft 4043 - without tangling problems. Wire sizes that work well on a push-pull system run the gamut from .030" to 1/16".
    [​IMG]
    Advantages/benefits:
    This type of system offers the best of both worlds - the feeding performance of a spool gun with many of the advantages of a compact push system. A push-pull system provides the most uniform feeding and can hold larger spools of wire up to 8" in diameter (approximately 20 lbs). The gun can be taken long distances from the power source (up to 50 ft.). In addition, this system does not require the costly 1-lb. spools of the spool gun method and has a comfortable, ergonomic gun that fits into tighter places
    Limitations:
    Typically, the greatest disadvantage of a push-pull system is that it requires the most number of components and is the most expensive. But as we will explain later, this is not always the case as some of the latest technological innovations have addressed these concerns.
    [​IMG]
    Types of Push-Pull Systems:
    There are three types of push-pull systems, which are briefly highlighted below:
    1) Separate, dedicated slave cabinet
    This type of system requires the greatest number of components, including a special pull gun, welding power source and separate wire feed cabinet.
    2) Add-on pull torch with an assist motor
    Some manufacturers offer an add-on gun for standard push wire feeders systems. These unusual guns contain an assist motor in the gun. However, the potential drawback to this type of push-pull system occurs if the wire feeder motor pushes the wire at a faster rate or with greater torque than the assist motor in the gun, increasing the likelihood of birdnesting or tangling of wire.
    3) Self-contained power source/wire feeder

    [​IMG]

    These systems consist of a combination all-in-one power source and wire feeder unit with a motor that is easily switched to operate as a single push motor or behave as an assist motor in the classic push-pull system. A true push-pull gun acting as the primary motor is used with these systems to provide all of the advantages of the classic push-pull component system. However, this is the best option in the push-pull category, since it provides true push-pull behavior with fewer components. Instead of three pieces, this system only requires two - the combination wire feeder/power source and the push-pull gun. Purchasers save nearly $1,500 in equipment costs, since they don't need to purchase a separate wire feeder cabinet.
    Some models, such as Lincoln Electric's Power MIG™: The Professional Choice, 300, offer the benefit of full pulsing capabilities with tailored welding waveforms designed for aluminum that can be programmed into the machine for difficult-to-weld applications, such as particularly thin material. Self-contained power sources/wire feeders also provide the versatility of easily switching between steel and aluminum wire since operators can choose push only or push-pull operation.
    [​IMG]
    Conclusion
    Armed with the knowledge presented in this article, a welding operator should be able to distinguish between the many MIG aluminum set-ups on the market today and be able to decide which one is best for a given application.
     
  8. rdn2blazer

    rdn2blazer 1 ton status Premium Member

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    ouch! almost 5 grand is WAY out of mine or most of the guys on heres price range. IF I had the money you bet you arse I would not bat ay eye to get one since obviously I love shop equipment and tools. yea I have had a time or two where the alum wire has birdnested but for the most it has worked great.

    for the small repair or quick aluminum weld job the teflon sleeve kit will have to do. was more just showin that for the first time miging aluminum I got a decent weld in just a few practice tries. so anyone else can too. do you have any close up pics of the welds with your welder? orcourse I get spatter with our mig at work just like steel. does your welder spatter too? or is it like tig, no spatter. I guess if its wire fed I assume so.
     
  9. BadDog

    BadDog SOL Staff Member Super Moderator Author

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    Nice job on that aluminum welding, looks like you were improving very rapidly. For the first time, that makes me wish I had a Lincoln...

    I've often wanted to pick up a readywelder to use as a "spool gun" for aluminum at home AND have a portable welder for the trail. I've seen some good results using it that way, and an relatively inexpensive AC/DC power supply to push it would also give you SMAW for the heavy stuff as well as a stepping stone to GTAW or GMAW with the addition of add-on boxes.
     
  10. camiswelding

    camiswelding 1/2 ton status

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    zero spatter... looks like a machine did it...
    Ill see if I have some test pieces laying around.. I tried to do some photos last time but it was beyond the capabilities of me and my simple digi camera.. all I got was flashy aluminum...
    if you look at sample welds on lincolns site.. well.. anyone can do those just as nicely...
    I realize 5k is a huge investment... for me one piece of sculpture or a couple of aluminum jobs pays for it.... and.. my wife must love me.. she put it in our yearly budget...

    I welded with a spool gun for years... it was ok.. but never tiglike appearance.. and no light gauge... now I can do anything
     
  11. rdn2blazer

    rdn2blazer 1 ton status Premium Member

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    ok, I have made it official, it is now on my must have one someday list. :D
     
  12. perp

    perp 1/2 ton status

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    X2! (damn list is getting long too)
     
  13. camiswelding

    camiswelding 1/2 ton status

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    ;Let me give you some aluminum welding tips///

    the aluminum cant be clean enough... alum melts at about 1250.. but has oxides, usually from the atmosphere, that dont burn off unitl 3500 degrees, and contaminants... oil grease dirt from handling... these must be cleaned off prior to welding...

    acetone takes off the oil.. a clean dedicated stainless steel brush will get the oxides off (to a bright surface).. you can see and "feel" the oxides come off
    I was looking at your welds trying to determine the best one from a photo

    5 and 6 are too hot.. but you could have heated up the material with the other welds ..I dont know.. the others.. look too cold... so more practice is needed.. with a push gun you get "cold" starts... you can get around this by preheating the metal to a couple of hundred degrees or "backup" for just a second as you weld... also make sure you linger just for a second at the end and dont pull the gun away for 5 to 15 seconds... then you wont get that crater with a hole in it..(your gas is still protecting the weld and craters/ cracks are reduced) and if need be just trigger the gun once to fill it while everything is still hot...
    As you know aluminum is a great heat conductor and as you weld its pushing the HAZ (heat affected zone) out on front of where you are actually welding.. which is why many people experience "drop out" at the end of their welds.. because they didnt increase their travel speed and lingered too long.... by the time the aluminum looks bright to the eye and molten.. its too late..its going to fall away...
    I wont rub it in but the Powermig does away with all of this thru pulsing... it makes the puddle molten then cools it immediately while moving forward.. the pulses can be as high as 100 per second... its a neat sound when its running... like a buzz... it makes overhead/uphill out of position and filling large gaps simple

    cam
     

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