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Differences Between Air-Cooled & Water-Cooled Welding Torches

When automating MIG or TIG welding applications with robotics users must decide between an air-cooled or water-cooled welding torch for the EOAT. It is important to understand the differences between the two in order to select the torch best suited for your application. Choosing the correct torch will allow for optimal performance and cost. Below is a breakdown of each torch type and their differences.

Air-Cooled Torches

Air-cooled welding torches use ambient air and shielding gas to remove excess heat from the torch. Power cables for these torches contain thicker copper than water-cooled torches to prevent cable melting or burning due to high heat levels. Because of this air-cooled torches tend to be heavier and less flexible. However, they have a simpler, rugged design since they do not require additional equipment which makes them easier to operate and requires less maintenance. The FANUC Arc Mate 120ic is a perfect fit for MIG air-cooled torches, while the ABB IRB 1600 can be integrated with TIG air-cooled torches.

Air-cooled torches are best suited for low duty-cycle, low-amperage, and thinner metal workpieces. The MIG versions of these torches have an amperage range of 150-600 amp, while the TIG versions range from 50-300 amp. Air-cooled torches are usually recommended for lower duty cycles of 50% or less, since it takes longer for them to cool down. When these torches run at higher load limits, they are not able to return to a cool state which can result in poor weld quality. The biggest benefit of air-cooled welding torches is their inexpensive initial cost, making them a more budget friendly option.

Water-Cooled Torches

Water-cooled welding torches use a radiator cooling system to circulate coolant, ambient air, and shielding gas in order to expel heat from the torch. Cables for water-cooled torches contain less copper than air-cooled, making them lighter and more flexible to work with. The radiator cooling system allows these torches to weld at higher amperages for longer amounts of time. Because of this productivity tends to be higher with water-cooled torches as opposed to air-cooled. Robots like the FANUC Arcmate 100ic can be integrated with water-cooled torches for MIG welding applications, while the Motoman MA1400 can be integrated with these torches for TIG welding applications.

Water-cooled torches are recommended for applications running at 60% or higher for the duty cycle levels. These welding torches are more capable of running at 100% for the duty cycle level since they can return to a cooled state within 30 seconds to 2 minutes, preventing the deterioration of weld quality. For amperage, MIG water-cooled torches have a range of 300 to 600 amp, while TIG versions range from 250 to 500 amp. It is recommended that arc welding applications requiring 400 amp or more be completed with water-cooled torches. Unlike air-cooled torches, water-cooled torches can weld thicker metals as well as shiny metals such as aluminum.

The biggest drawback for water-cooled torches is their expensive up-front cost due to the purchase of additional equipment such as the radiator and hoses. There is also the additional cost of the coolant and these torches tend to require more maintenance. However, the cooling system helps prevent the wear of torch consumables since it operates at lower temperatures. The longer runtimes of consumables allow for cost savings down the road with these torches.

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