Welding Equipment Maintenance

Whether you’re talking about an arc, gas, MIG or TIG welder, a little preventive maintenance will go along way toward getting a long and productive life out of your welding equipment.

With so many shops today having one or more welders, and most industrial plants employing welding equipment for maintenance and production, the need to maintain that equipment is greater than ever.

Welders can often costs thousands of dollars or more, and replacement parts can be scarce and quite expensive. So the maintenance of welding equipment is essential to keeping costs down and production going at optimum levels.

The maintenance of welding equipment will differ depending on the type of welder in question. Arc welder maintenance, for example, will depend on whether it’s an AC or DC unit. And an oxyfuel welder will require an entirely different maintenance program to keep it in good working order.

It’s a good idea to set up a regular welder maintenance schedule and stick to all year round. This will ensure that your machine is kept in good operating condition at all times, and the equipment should last longer and need fewer costly repairs.

A good place to start is by thoroughly inspecting your equipment at least every 3 months. Clean all dust and dirt from the welding and other accessories, clean and lubricate the bearings with the proper grease, and check brushes to make sure they’re making contact with the commutator. Also clean switches, connectors and relays on a regular basis.

A.C. Arc Equipment Maintenance

Here the type and level of maintenance of welding equipment depends on whether the motor generator is a transformer or doc type. With a transformer unit, the transformer will need to be cleaned at least twice per year by blowing it out with low pressure air hose. Then you’ll want to tighten any loose electrical connections, and oil the bearings on the ventilating fans if they’re not sealed bearings.

Do an inspection of the condensers, and check for any dielectric oil that may be leaking from the unit. Also clean any pilot relay contents on the welder, using a cloth that’s been soaked with naptha or another solvent. Never use abrasive cleaners on the contacts, and never force the contact arms apart.

D.C. Arc Equipment Maintenance

With DC motor generator arc welders, a more extensive maintenance program is needed due to the fact that these units have more moving parts that are subject to additional wear.

At least once per week you’ll want to inspect the brushes on the unit for wear. Replace any brushes that are short, cracked or brittle or worn. Always make sure the replacement brushes are of the same grade as recommended by the manufacturer. Also check the brush springs for to make sure they’re not cracked or worn out.

Another item to check is the color of the commutator – a reddish or bluish tint indicates overheating.  A deep brown color indicates a commutator in good operating condition. If the commutator is too badly worn, it may be necessary to turn the component on a lathe to bring it back into good operating condition.

Next you’ll want to blow out the machine with a low-pressure air hose. Blow out the field coils, motor coils and the armature. Try to remove all dust, debris and metal filings from the machine.  Lubricate any bearings or any other moving parts that require grease or oil.  Replace any frayed or defective wiring, connections or insulation. Also check all the controls on the welder, making sure they’re well adjusted and functioning correctly.

Oxyfuel Equipment  Maintenance

Maintenance of gas and oxyfuel welding equipment is more extensive than other types due to the fact that with these welders, any excessive wear or damage to pressure parts can lead to very serious trouble. Every day the gas and oxygen manifolds and piping will need to be inspected for cracks or leaks. Because oxygen is supplied at much higher pressure (from 60 to 110 psi) than acetylene (only about 15 psi) you’ll need to check the pressure regulators at each of the blowpipe stations very thoroughly. You’ll also want to check the hose pressure on the hoses leading to the blowpipe every day as well, preferably with a hypodermic needle-type pressure gauge.

One tip is to use a soap and water solution to detect leaks in acetylene and oxygen hoses and pipes, similar to how you would check for a leak in a bicycle inner tube. Apply the soap and water solution evenly over the hoses, and watch for any bubbles that may appear.

Another critical component in an oxyfuel welder is the flash arrestor. The flash arrestor is used to prevent oxygen from passing into the acetylene lines, which can be a very dangerous situation. Needless to say, the arrestor needs to be kept in top-notch condition at all times. Also check the acetylene and oxygen shutoff valves for any leakage. Always replace any defective regulators or gauges immediately, with new or quality reconditioned ones.

One other important area to check is the blowpipe tips. Carbon or slag can build up in the tips, restricting the flow of oxygen or acetylene. This buildup can usually be knocked off with a small hammer, but be careful not to dent or damage the orifice. Also check to make sure the tips are square and smooth before returning them

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