Sunday, February 26, 2012

Want to produce faster? Pick the right tool!

What is this?
There is a kind of knowledge that is important in any kind of work. It's the ability to pick the right tool. You might be great with a hammer, but if you're repairing a computer that skill is of little use. And so I've learned again and again. This time the lesson was in welding.

I've done all of the welding on my tractor with a tiny little TIG welder. It puts out just barely enough heat to weld 1/4" steel. It takes about a minute to make an inch of weld with it. I was using TIG on the advise of an experienced machinist (my instructor).

This week I switched to MIG at the suggestion of another fabricator. I could weld at about a foot a minute with this (much more powerful) machine. That is a speed increase of 12 times. I'm very proud to say that I finished all the welding on the Hydraulic tank (see above)! I need to do a leak test as quality control, but I may be ready to move to the next component.

Note: While MIG is faster, it's more likely to leave voids. With the TIG I could probably have made the tank leak free on the first try. With MIG I expect to have to make some (quick) patches. I took some pictures of the welds to show the difference in quality.

TIG - Smooth finish, lots of control, slow

MIG - Lots more material, some spatter, fast