How to Find the Best TIG Welder: TIG Welder Buyer’s Guide
By The Red Ball Team
A breakdown of top reviewed TIG Welders – 1. ESAB ET 141I AC/DC; 2. Miller TIG Diversion 180; 3. Lincoln Square Wave TIG 200; 4. Fronius MagicWave 230i
TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding, also known as Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW), is a popular yet complicated welding process that works wonders on thin metals, especially aluminum. Its popularity stems in no small part from the cleanliness, precision, and aesthetically pleasing welds that experienced welders can achieve with it.
As for the welding machine itself, there are several components to a TIG welder, and you should become familiar with them before you begin comparison shopping. Those essential parts include:
The torch lead that connects the welding machine to the torch
A shielding gas hose attached to the welder
The non-consumable tungsten electrode inside the torch and which one you should be using
A replaceable ceramic cup
Gas diffuser or gas lens
A foot pedal to adjust amperage (this is not standard equipment on all welders)
With all the essential information in place, you can start comparing welding machines and not just run out and buy the first TIG welder for sale. Here are four top-rated and reviewed TIG welders (in no particular order).
Bonus: Book a personal meeting with a welding engineer to reveal how your shop can make process improvements that save you money and time.
ESAB ET 141I AC/DC
The ESAB ET 141i is a multi-process welding machine providing two welding processes: TIG and Stick. The two-process package makes it possible to work on various metals, including stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum.
The ET 141i is highly portable with a total weight of just 48 pounds and preset controls for DIY projects. It offers the ability of running from a limited 120-volt power supply.
Pros and cons
Several advantages of the machine include:
At around $1,571, it is a more budget-friendly
Pre/post flow preset manages shielding gas
Hot Start provides large current at the start of a weld
Lift TIG Start offers consistent arc starting without high frequency
And a few disadvantages:
The machine can’t run for an extended period without getting hot
Primary Voltage: 120 VAC
Lead cord length: 10 ft.
Maximum output: 140 A
TIG welding output: 140 A/15.6 V @ 20% duty cycle; 75 A/13 V @ 60% duty cycle; and 60 A/12.4 V @ 100% duty cycle
Stick welding output: 90 A/23.6 V @ 20% duty cycle
Weight: 48.4 pounds
Machine dimensions: H 15.75 in. x W 9.45 in. x L 17 in.
Miller TIG Diversion 180
The Miller Diversion 180 offers a host of features in its powerful TIG welder. Along with its versatility, the Diversion has established a reputation for making the welding process easier and more efficient. Because of this, it has become an ideal choice for both professionals and hobbyists.
The Diversion 180 has an easy-to-understand interface that guides operators through the setup process. The machine comes with a foot pedal and ergonomic TIG torch rated at 150 amps, and an inverter-based power source provides a smoother and more consistent arc.
The unit operates on dual voltages, while a "fan-on-demand" function turns on the cooling system only when necessary. This feature helps minimize noise, reduce power consumption, and prevents unwanted particles from entering the machine.
Pros and cons
The Miller Diversion 180 offers the following benefits:
Dependable arc start
Ergonomic and durable torch
AC and DC capability so that you can weld both aluminum and steel
Dual voltage plug for a quick change of the required power input
Remote foot control
Fan-on-demand prolongs the life of the unit and saves energy
The easy-to-understand interface and digital display allow even beginners to use it flawlessly
The use of inverter technology makes this unit both powerful and portable
The auto post-flow feature prevents waste of gas and shields the electrode and weld zone
And on the downside:
The $2,499 price tag may turn off some budget-minded buyers
Not ideal for many industrial applications
Primary Voltage: 120/240 VAC
Work cable length: 12 ft.
Maximum output: 180 amps
Welding output: 150 A at 16 V, 20% duty cycle
Weight: 50 pounds
Machine dimensions: H 17 in x W 9.875 in x D 23.875 in
Lincoln Square Wave TIG 200
The Lincoln Square Wave 200 offers extra versatility with the options of TIG and Stick welding. Because of this, welding operators can work on a more substantial variety of materials.
The Square Wave offers both AC TIG for welding aluminum and DC TIG for steel and stainless steel. The unit is dual voltage and comes with two power cords, one for each voltage. High-frequency (non-contact) start, pulse mode, and inverter technology add to the welder's list of features.
Pros and Cons
Lightweight and portable
TIG and Stick capabilities
AC and DC options
Versatile machine that's easy to use
Ideal welder for all skill levels
Several adjustable features: amperage, voltage, AC balance, AC frequency, and pulse frequency
Foot pedal included
And a couple of negatives:
Although it is highly rated by consumers, it's still a bit expensive at $2,099.00
Machine dimensions: H 14 in x W 10.75 in x D 19.25 in
Fronius MagicWave 230i
A fully digitized TIG AC/DC power source, the Fronius MagicWave 230i is an advanced machine packed with features. Lightweight and portable, the machine is especially used to TIG weld aluminum.
The MagicWave features Active Wave technology, which reduces noise while providing the highest arc stability possible. Its intuitive menu navigation allows users the ability to toggle though settings with or without wearing gloves. Plus, Bluetooth capabilities offer connectivity with phones and welding helmets.
Pros and Cons
A few positives:
Bluetooth connectivity with wireless devices
Parts are made by Fronius and made specifically for the machine
TAC function creates one single weld pool instead of two
Keep in mind that the material thickness will determine the amps you will need to weld it. The rule of thumb is that you will need one amp of output for every .001" of metal thickness. Also, consider not all the welding machines listed here have dual voltage (120/240). If you are welding at home, a machine with only 240V will require electrical upgrades.
Remember to check the duty cycle before you buy. The maximum duty cycle tells you the percentage of time in 10 minutes that you can operate the welder at a specific amperage continuously before it overheats.
What is your budget?
While the price of the welding machine will always be a consideration, also think about the features and warranty you are getting for your money.
Should I buy a multi-process machine over one that is TIG only?
Hobby users or home users will likely find the flexibility of a multi-process machine more useful. Likewise, professional fabricators normally prefer a multi-process machine in most industrial applications. However, this isn't the case with TIG welding. Companies that exclusively TIG or have exclusive TIG departments typically want a TIG only machine.
Learn how to beat inefficiencies, save time and money, and demo equipment for your fabrication shop. With a personalized assessment, you can get actionable insights on how to improve your process and operation with little downtime.
Disclaimer: Some equipment mentioned may be listed for sale through a vendor partnership. All opinions and reviews are our own.
Posted on May 25, 2021 at 8:00 AM
The Red Ball Team
Red Ball Oxygen is a family-owned distributor of industrial, specialty, and medical gases plus welding and industrial equipment.