Artem Komarov noted that air and water are two of the four elements that can greatly affect your welding performance.
Torches, cables, and cooling are the three integral components of gas metal arc welding (GMAW) and gas tungsten arc welding (GTAW) equipment, and their cooling systems use two cooling methods — air and water. Cooling prevents overheating of the power cable, torch, or gun, as well as consumables, and protects the welding operator from injury.
Although GMAW and GTAW are different processes, the advantages and disadvantages of water-cooled and air-cooled systems are the same for both. For this reason, you should consider the same factors when choosing a GMAW or GTAW system, namely:
— Work site location
— Working cycle
— Current requirements
— Burner weight and operator comfort
— Fundamentals of water- and air-cooled burners
Air-cooled guns and torches use ambient air and shielding gas to remove excess heat. The air-cooled torch power cable contains more copper than the water-cooled torch cable, which prevents melting or possible burning of the cable insulation. Less copper in a water-cooled system results in more resistance and a drop in welding voltage in the cable. Air-cooled systems do not require an independent radiator cooling system or additional hoses associated with water-cooled systems.
Water-cooled systems require a radiator cooling system that circulates water, ambient air, and shielding gas to remove heat from the torch or gun.
Price. Water-cooled torches and guns require a large upfront investment because they require a separate radiator cooling system in addition to the power source. Water-cooled torches and guns also have higher operating and maintenance costs. The radiator cooling system requires a specially treated cooling solution, not tap water, as tap water can cause algae or scale (mineral buildup) to grow on the inside of the burner and the cable assembly. In addition, water leaks from the hoses and burner neck or heads may occur, requiring immediate repair to prevent weld breaks.
Depending on your needs, the higher cost of a water-cooled gun or torch can be a worthwhile investment. The flexible cable, lighter weight, and smaller footprint of a water-cooled system can provide greater operator comfort when compared to an equivalent strength air-cooled gun or torch that contains more copper in the power cable to protect the cable insulation. If you are welding for an extended period, a heavier air-cooled torch can increase your fatigue and cause downtime for cooling.
The advantage of a water-cooled torch is the lower cost of consumables. The radiator cooling system allows the tip, nozzle, and/or diffusers to run cooler than an air-cooled torch, so consumables tend to last longer in water-cooled guns and torches, helping to reduce the downtime associated with changing consumables.
But an air-cooled gun or torch also offers several advantages. For example, it performs well in lower current applications and in many cases can meet the requirements of most industrial applications while maintaining the same performance at low O&M costs.
Work site location. When choosing between air-cooled and water-cooled guns or torches, also consider the site location. Will you be welding in the shop or in the field? Air-cooled guns and torches are more practical for outdoor applications because they require fewer parts. This makes it easier to transport, set up and manage parts.
Water-cooled guns and torches are generally better for shop use. They are available in high and low amp options but require a separate cooling system. The water-cooling system and additional hoses make these torches and guns less portable.
Working cycle. Duty cycle (the percentage of time within a 10-minute period that the burner can operate at a given power without being overloaded) is another factor. For example, for 16-gauge mild steel gas arc welding, you would need at least 160 amps at 100% CO2 shielding gas. If your torch is rated at 150 amps and you run it beyond that, duty cycle and welding efficiency will be reduced. Operating the torch more than the manufacturer’s rating has a detrimental effect on consumables and shortens the life of the torch. As a result, downtime will increase as consumables are replaced more frequently.
Сurrent requirements. Both air-cooled GMAW guns and GTAW torches have different amperages for different applications. Air-cooled GTAW torches are generally suitable for applications up to 200 amps, but you can also find air-cooled GTAW torches in 50- and 300-amp models. Air-cooled GMAW guns have an amperage range of 150 to 600.
Water-cooled GMAW guns typically come in 300-to-600-amp models, while water-cooled GTAW torches are typically rated from 250 to 500 amps.
If your welding job requires more amperage than the gun or torch rating, you should purchase a higher amperage gun or torch that can operate at a higher duty cycle. Air-cooled and water-cooled torches and guns up to 600 amps are available. In high amperage GMAW systems (450 to 600 amps), the choice between a water- or air-cooled torch or gun is a matter of operator preference and cost. Generally, for GTAW, use a water-cooled torch to run 300 amps or more on the shop floor. Some manufacturers also offer 300-amp air-cooled GTAW torches for field welding.
Choosing between water-cooled and air-cooled equipment depends on your requirements for cost, location, duty cycle, power, and operator comfort. Air-cooled and water-cooled torches and guns work the same way when used correctly. Weighing identical variables when examining these systems will help you determine which equipment will help you optimize your welding performance, emphasized Artem Komarov.