The Importance of Using the Right Welding Contact Tip

High precision CNC laser welding metal sheet. welding contact tip

The Importance of Using the Right Welding Contact Tip

Few tasks in the manufacturing industry have gone untouched by automation and the drive to increase and improve efficiencies. Welding processes are no exception. Robotic welders are commonplace in most industrial manufacturing settings, and commonly take the form of metal inert gas (MIG) welders, also referred to as Gas Metal Arc Welders (GMAW). For these welders, programmable interfaces and automated feeds combined with highly flexible welding appendages provide manufacturers with improved accuracy and increased productivity. However, the process isn’t entirely hands-off, as robotic welding requires human oversight for several consumable elements, most particularly in the management of welding contact tips. In this article, the Equipment Hub discusses several considerations manufacturers must take into account around the choice of and use of a welding contact tip when setting up automated welding machinery.

Robotic welding in an auto plant.

Choosing the Right Welding Contact Tip for the Job

Whether you’re new to welding machines, or you’ve used welders on your production line for a while now, it’s important for you to understand the important role welding contact tips play in the welding process. The welding contact tip is the point at which the welding mechanism transfers current through the raw material onto the welding surface, and ensuring the proper tip is in use prevents micro arcing, overheating, jammed wire, and other issues that impact productivity and output. There are three main considerations when choosing the right welding contact tip for the job at hand: extension size, how the tip was manufactured, and the material composition of the contact tip.

Matching Recess or Extension Size to Process and Material

The welding contact tip helps to control how much of the raw material wire comes into contact with the work surface, greatly impacting the quality of the weld being performed. The wire being fed through the tip can remain recessed at varying degrees, can be flush with the welding surface, or even extend beyond the contact tip. By increasing the extension of the wire over the lip of the contact tip, the chances of creating a poor weld increase through increased spatter, poor heat control, and slower weld times. Matching the right contact tip recess or extension to the job reduces these sources of waste and inefficiency. To help with this, tips come in fixed value recess depths and adjustable tip models to allow for flexibility or rigidity as required.

Manufacturing Methods of Welding Contact Tips

The manufacturing method of how a tip is created determines the inner surface of the tip and ultimately how long the tip will last under high-temperature usage. The most common method is referred to as the drawn method, with copper being pulled into the shape of the tip and allowed to cool. In the cooling process, the inner surface of the contact tip has a number of imperfections and has an impact on how effectively wire feeds through the tip. Higher quality tips are created with a drilled process, which creates a smoother inner surface that mitigates many of the problems associated with the drawn contact tips and allows tips to last much longer.

Welding Contact Tip Compositions

Contact tips come in a variety of compositions, and trick to choosing the right one lies in matching the type of work to the right tip balanced against efficiency targets and cost considerations.

Copper acts as a core component at the lower end of the spectrum. Standard copper welding contact tips are effective and affordable but wear out faster and must be replaced more often. Moving up the quality scale, Copper-Chrome-Zirconium welding tips act as the workhorse for many robotic welding operations that require precision and can withstand high volumes of work, especially for hot wire feeding process.

From here we shift over to the silver-plated variants of welding tips. Standard silver-plated versions come at a higher cost but last longer and reduce the amount of downtime due to having to swap out tips, making them great choices in automated and robotic welding processes. Combining this silver-plating approach with the Copper-Chrome-Zirconium base, heavy-duty silver-plated tips provide a very sturdy option for heavy amperage welding processes.

Welding robots in use at car factory

How to Maximize the Life of Contact Tips for New and Used Welders

Many of the ways to maximize efficiency in the use of MIG welding machines, whether you’re dealing with new or used welders, revolve around effective planning and a clear understanding of the lifecycle of the welder’s contact tips in order to be proactive on a number of fronts rather than reactive.

  • First and foremost, as discussed above, match the welding contact tip to the job at hand.
  • A preventative maintenance plan is crucial for minimizing downtime and to keep the machine running efficiently.
  • Tracking consumable use to ensure the right weld tips are being used for the job at hand, and to identify efficiency issues before they devolve into equipment failure.
  • Knowing the proper replacement requirements for each welding contact tip in use, so that they may be changed out before failure. It’s equally important to not change them out before wear impacts productivity levels in order to maintain control over cost and consumption.

Cost Benefits of Using the Right Contact Tips

Contact tips are one of several consumable components necessary for MIG welders to operate properly. While only a small component of the MIG welder, using incorrect welding contact tips can end up being an extremely costly mistake over the course of a single year.

If properly maintained and chosen according to the welding task at hand, the annual cost per individual welding machine for welding contact tips can range from $500-$1000 – accounting for roughly half of the total cost of consumables per machine. Failing to match the right contact tip to the application can result in faster wear and tear, with the added swap-outs of contact tips resulting in the annual costs just for contact tips easily doubling or even tripling. This increased cost is independent of the negative financial impact due to:

  • Increased labor costs of increased frequency of tip change-outs and reworking weld defects.
  • Waste due to incorrect contact tips and higher onhand inventory costs to offset higher resource usage.
  • Reduced efficiency and output of final products.

New or Used, We Can Find the Welder You Need

Automated welding machinery plays an integral role in the modern manufacturing landscape and it’s important to understand how to maintain and operate them properly, especially when it comes to the consumable components such as welding contact tips. If you’re in the market for used welders for sale, the Equipment Hub operates one of the most trusted after-market online portals in the industry. Our expert consultants can help identify the right make and model for your manufacturing needs.