Steel and other common metals can be welded using virtually any welding machine. The same cannot be said about aluminum. Welding aluminum is a bit more complicated and requires specialized equipment.
Aluminum has a very low melting point compared to steel. As such improper welding of aluminum can result in burn through. And since nobody wants a burnt sheet of aluminum, it is important to know how to weld aluminum.
More importantly, which is the best welder for aluminum. There are quite several welding machines that are built for welding aluminum. However, not all will give you the kind of value for the money you want.
That being said, let us look at some of the best welders for aluminum. These machines have been selected based on their performance.
Review of Best Welder for aluminum
SUNGOLDPOWER 200Amp MIG MAG ARC MMA Stick DC Welder
In terms of welding processes, it can perform both solid wire MIG welding and gasless flux core welding. This gives you the ability to weld a wide variety of metals from cast iron, carbon steel to mild steel.
But since this is a review of the aluminum welding equipment, we have to look at its aluminum welding capabilities. With a single flick of the selector switch, you can transition from MIG welding to spool gun welding.
The spool gun for aluminum welding is not included in the package, though. Nonetheless, with an adjustable current flow of between 20 and 180 amps, you can easily weld aluminum. Another great thing about this machine is the duty cycle.
It has a 60% duty cycle, which means you can weld for longer before allowing it to cool down. The arc quality is better than most of its competitors. Additionally, it can weld metals between 0.023 and 0.039 inches.
Weighing 44 pounds, this machine is ideal for general repair works around the home and auto body works. This is especially since its capable of both gasless-flux cored and gas-shielded MIG welding. It can also be a good option for fabrication works where aluminum welding is involved.
Hobart 500554001 Handler 190 with SpoolRunner 100
Probably the best thing about this machine is that it comes with the SpoolRunner 100 gun. This gun gives you the ability to weld aluminum with ease. So no additional parts are required for you to start welding aluminum with this unit, which is a big plus since most of its competitors do not come with a spool gun included.
The machine’s versatility doesn’t end there, though, as it can accommodate both 4 inch and 8-inch reels. Thus, it can handle different types of welding applications with ease. Switching between a 4 inch and 8-inch reel is easy.
In regards to power, it can only be plugged into a 230v power source. And has an output of between 24 amps and 190 amps. With this output, you can weld 24 gauge thick steel sheets as well as 5/16 inch thick sheets.
Due to it being limited to using a 230v power source, it is more suited for industrial jobs. Thus, this might not be the best for domestic work. Weighing 89 pounds, it can easily be carried in a vehicle. Making it an ideal option for professional welders.
LOTOS MIG175 175AMP Mig Welder with Free Spool Gun
Also included is an argon gas regulator as well as consumable rods. Also, you can use both 4 inch and 8-inch reels with this machine. There is an overload protection feature that protects it from overheating.
To operate it, you need a 220v or 240-volt power source. As for the shielded gas, I found its 5 ft gas hose to be a bit short. Fortunately, it can be used for gasless flux core welding. The .035 wire works well with this machine.
In regards to the duty cycle, when at full power, it offers a 20% duty cycle. Not the best in the market, but you can increase it by reducing the amperage. It has a variable output of 30 to 175 amps. At 60 amps, you get a duty cycle of 60%.
It can handle welding thick aluminum of 3/16 inch or thinner. As for steel, you can weld steel of between 18 gauge and ¼ inch thick.
Ideal for beginners and experts, it can handle most fabrication works. With the exception of an argon tank, it comes with everything you need to get started. For fabrication works, this can be a great option.
Lotos TIG200ACDC 200A AC/DC Aluminum Tig Welder
One thing that gives it an edge is the fact that it can weld materials of varying thickness. With it, you can weld thinner sheets of metal as well as thick sheets. It can weld sheets of metal of up to 9.5 mm in thickness.
It is a dual voltage machine. Thus you can plug it into a standard 110 v power source or a 220v power outlet. In regards to its power output, you get a power output range of between 15 and 200 amps.
Thus it is able to accommodate welding different metals, including aluminum. And it has a duty cycle of 60% at 150 amps when plugged to a 110v power source. When you plug it to a 220v power outlet, you get the same duty cycle at 190 amps.
Included in the package is a TIG torch, which you can use to get started right away. There is also a foot pedal and an argon gas regulator. A ground clamp with a cable is also included in the package.
For TIG welding, this machine offers great value for money. It is a solid welder that is functional and is offered at a reasonably affordable price tag. On top of this, it comes with all the tools you need to start welding. It will appeal to both professionals and beginners.
PRIMEWELD TIG225X 225 Amp IGBT AC DC Tig/Stick Welder with Pulse CK17 Flex Torch
All the corner brackets fit properly, and the pots and knobs turn are tight and have just the right amount of resistance. Similar to some of its pricier counterparts it can run on both a 110v and 220v power outlet.
Additionally, it runs on both AC and DC. This is important as aluminum welding require AC current. However, most TIG welding machines are DC only, making them incompatible with aluminum welding. Not this unit though, as it welds aluminum very well.
A metal foot pedal is also included in this machine that allows for easy control of the heat output. In regards to amperage output, it has a range of 10 to 225 amps. Apart from TIG welding, it is also capable of stick welding
This unit is best suited to people with a little more welding experience. It welds well and has very few shortcomings. Also, it is an inexpensive alternative to some of the pricier models on the market from more famous brands.
Hobart 500551 EZ-TIG 165i AC/DC TIG Welder 230V
One of the best tig welders for aluminum from Hobart is the 500551 EZ-TIG 165i TIG welder. As its name suggests it gives you the option to weld with AC and DC electric currents. The AC option is used for welding magnesium and aluminum. On the other hand, the DC current is used for welding steel, stainless steel, copper, etc.
Being an inverter-based welding machine, it doesn’t consume a lot of power and produces a consistent arc. It is also lightweight weighing 50 pounds. It is thus easy to transport from one site to another.
There is a fan-on-demand feature that helps protect the machine when stored. The fan can be turned on to blow away dust and other particles from entering the machine. In regards to performance, it can weld metals of varying thickness.
It is capable of welding metals as thin as 22 gauge and as thick as 3/16 inches. The high-frequency arc start reduces the chances of the filler rod coming in contact with the electrode. Thus it protects the tungsten rod from contamination.
With regards to the duty cycle, it, unfortunately, has a shorter duty cycle compared to others. It has a duty cycle of 20% at 150 amps. Nevertheless, it has a lot more going for it.
This is not a machine for everyone and requires a little bit of welding experience and skill. As such, beginners may find it a bit complex. However, it is to be expected given that it is a TIG welder. For professionals and experienced welders, this is a great piece of equipment.
2018 AHP AlphaTIG 200X 200 Amp IGBT AC DC Tig/Stick Welder
Being one of the best, it also runs on both a 110v and 220v power outlet. On top of this, it uses inverter technology. As such, it consumes little power and products a hot and consistent arc. In addition to TIG welding, this unit is also capable of stick welding.
As such, it runs on both AC and DC, which means that it can weld a wide variety of metals from steel, mild steel to aluminum. When it comes to welding in aluminum, in particular, this machine excels due to its ability to weld extra thin sheets of aluminum.
TIG welding requires the use of both hands. Thus the fact that this comes with a foot pedal is a great plus. The foot pedal allows you to focus on the weld puddle while at the same time allowing you to control the heat output.
You get a wide of amperage range to choose from. When plugged to a 110v power outlet, you get a range of 10 to 150 amps for TIG welding. When you plug it to a 220v power source, you get a range of 10 to 200 amps.
As with most other TIG welder, this may be a bit complex for beginners. However, for welders who know their way around a welding machine, it is a great tool to have. In essence, it is a high-end welder with a budget price tag.
types of welding processes that you can use to weld aluminum
As already discussed, aluminum is a special type of metal. As such, not every welding process is suited for welding aluminum. The three best processes for welding aluminum are MIG, TIG, and torch welding.
1. MIG welding for aluminum
MIG welding is one of the most common welding processes out there. This technique can be used to weld aluminum that is 14 gauge or thicker. To MIG weld aluminum thinner than 14 gauge, you mare require specialized pulsed MIG equipment.
Pros of MIG aluminum welding
- Compared to other common welding processes MIG welding is faster, and MIG aluminum welding will take less time
- MIG welding results in a higher deposition rate, meaning you are able to deposit more weld metal with a single pass, this is beneficial for long, complex welds
- MIG welding has great penetration on different metals aluminum included. All you need to do is set the correct settings to match the metal thickness
- Since MIG uses a continuously fed electrode, there are fewer stops when MIG welding aluminum compared in TIG welding
Cons of MIG welding aluminum
- The equipment required may be a bit costly especially when you want to weld extra thin sheets of aluminum, which requires pulsed MIG welder
- To weld aluminum with MIG, you need to have an argon gas tank for shielding the weld pool. This means the technique is not suited for outdoor welding.
Who is it for?
Who is it for?
MIG welding is easy to learn than TIG welding. It is best for people who are new to welding or aluminum welding. It will also be ideal for more general-purpose welding works such as auto body welding.
2. Tig aluminum welding
No welding process can compare to TIG welding in regards to the cleanliness of the weld. TIG welding produces high quality and aesthetically pleasing welds. TIG welding machines that run on AC or both AC and DC current can weld aluminum.
As such, not all TIG welding machines can weld aluminum. Those that only run on DC current cannot weld aluminum.
Pros of TIG aluminum welding
- The welds produced are clean and slag free since TIG welding uses a Tungsten electrode that is flux free
- TIG welding creates a neat and aesthetically pleasing weld that does not require any finishing process to be done on it
- There is less amount of heat applied thus fewer chances of a TIG welding torch burning through aluminum metal
- Due to the less heat applied TIG welding can be used to weld extra thin sheets of aluminum that other processes would not handle
- TIG welding produces strong welds
Cons of MIG welding aluminum
- Welding aluminum with a TIG welder can be more time consuming compared to using another welding machine
- The cost of the equipment required for TIG aluminum welding is higher compared to that of other processes
Who is it for?
TIG welding is arguably the most complex welding processes of the three common methods. Thus TIG aluminum welding is not for newbies. It requires experienced hands. Therefore, TIG aluminum welding is best suited for professionals such as fabricators and metal sculptures.
3. Aluminum torch welding
While TIG and MIG welding machines are predominantly used to weld aluminum, you can also use an oxy-acetylene torch. The latter is a type of torch that uses a combination of oxygen and acetylene.
A filler rod is used and is melted onto the joint of two aluminum parts. A gas tank filled with the two gases is used to generate the heat for melting the filler rod.
Differences between TIG and MIG welding aluminum
TIG and MIG welding have several similarities. For example, both require an external gas tank to provide the shielding gas for the molten pool. Also, it can only work on clean surfaces and cannot be used on dirty, rusted, or painted surfaces.
Nonetheless, the two also have their differences. The main difference is in the use of the electrode. TIG welding uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode. On the other hand, MIG uses a consumable solid wire electrode.
Choosing a TIG welding for aluminum
The number one thing to consider is the current that a welder runs on. Some welding machines, especially TIG, run only on DC or Direct Current. However, for aluminum welding, you need Alternating Current.
Therefore when shopping for a TIG welder for aluminum welding, go for on that runs on both AC and DC.
The duty cycle is the time in minutes that a welding machine can run continuously without overheating. The duty cycle is written in percentage. Thus a duty cycle of 60% at 100 amps means that a machine can run for 6 minutes at 100 amps before cooling.
For TIG welding, a duty cycle of between 40% and 60% is recommended for most tasks. It is worth noting that the duty cycle increases with a decrease in amperage output.
Aluminum has a low melting point and thus require lower heat than other metals. The heat produced is dependent on the amperage setting of a machine. It is essential to choose a machine whose amperage setting can accommodate the thickness of the material being welded.
For thinner sheets of aluminum, you need a machine that can go down to a low enough amperage. This can be anywhere between 15 and 20 amps. However, this is dependent on the thickness of the metal.
Choosing a MIG welding for aluminum
The amperage range of a machine has a big impact on the thickness of materials it can weld. A higher amperage is required for thicker metals. On the other hand, a lower amperage is required for thinner metals.
MIG welding produces more heat than TIG welding. As such, when choosing a MIG welder for aluminum, you need to consider the amperage range. A welder with a range of 5 or 10 amps to 230 amps will be ideal.
Such a welder can comfortably weld aluminum that is up to 60mm thick.
AC and DC
Similar to TIG welding, MIG welding machines use either AC, DC or both. For aluminum welding, you need AC. Therefore, always spend on a machine that can run on AC. Alternating current helps deal with the oxidation layer that forms on the surface of the aluminum.
As mentioned, MIG welding has a higher heat output. Therefore, aluminum welding, you need a machine that gives you the power to control the heat output. Pulse welding gives you the ability to control the heat output.
During pulse welding, the machine switches from the full load current to low current. This helps maintain the arc as the welding torch head cools. For welding, aluminum goes for a machine that is equipped with a pulse mode.
The duty cycle is also important in MIG welding. How long you can continuously weld in 10 minutes intervals is very important. Modern MIG welders come with a somewhat variable duty cycle. Thus you may get a machine with a duty cycle of 10% at 140 amps and 30% and 115 amps.
Cleaning aluminum workpieces
When using TIG or MIG welding, you need to clean your workpiece first. When cleaning aluminum before welding, it is wise not to use a wire brush. Instead, use degreasers to remove oil and grease from the surface first.
Acetone and mild alkaline solutions make good degreasers. Also, citrus-based cleaners are great degreasers. Dip a lint-free rag in a degreasing solution of your choice. Wipe the surface to be welded with the cloth. Ensure the solvent you are using evaporates entirely before welding.
Next, you have to remove the oxide layer that forms on the surface of the aluminum. This can be done using a wire brush or strong alkaline or acid solutions.
Aluminum is a special type of metal that is unique and different from most. As such, it requires special welding techniques. Nonetheless, there is nothing complicated about welding aluminum. But you need to get the best welder for aluminum welding. Which needs to have the features explained above.