Analog or digital? What’s the difference?

The largest change in welding technology in years was the introduction of the inverter as an accepted power source for welding in the 1980’s.  The technology blossomed as new applications in the welding industry for the inverters became common place. Once they became widely available and mainstream companies began to take them into the product line up, the welding technology and reliability rapidly improved. Anyone who opened up an inverter welding machine was likely to think that it was more related to a computer than it was related to a welder.  Full of circuit boards containing transistors, resistors, switches, relays, and even chipsets it was a bit disconcerting to find the maze of circuitry running throughout the welder.

As they began to offer more welding features, more control knobs appeared, and more circuits were added in. These certainly weren’t at the level of simplicity of your average transformer core welder.   But somewhere along the line people lost track of what was meant by “digital” technology, especially as circuitry improved and controls were added.  Even a digital display meant to the average eye this was a sophisticated computer controlled machine. Well, not really… The welding features include electronic technology that has been around for a while. (Don’t forget that computers were once largely mechanical machines and not electronic.)

This basic electronic technology is not generally considered “digital”. Yes, it can include chipsets and small preprogrammed circuits, but the term “digital” when referring to a welder does not mean it is a digital machine. Digital in a welder means that almost all the basic controls of the machine are managed by a microprocessor.

The microprocessor is programmable with a variety of different parameters and is a dynamic, adjustable, and interactive controller that micro manages nearly every circuit on the welding machines from a central command center. Today, a lot of people see an inverter and think “digital”, but companies like Everlast use both types.

On our analog machines, there are chipsets, and certain hard wired circuits that perform their task based off the “hard” circuitry that it is wired to do.   The user controls these circuits to some extent based off of analog controllers called potentiometers (pots) that sense voltage differential and cause the hard circuits to react to the change in voltages to do the job they are designed to do.

On our digital machines, most all information is fed to the microprocessor from the welding machines itself and from the user who inputs information digitally through a device known as an encoder. An encoder may look like a knob or button, but really is different internally and sends digital signals back to the microprocessor. The microprocessor also receives input signals from the working circuits that do things like start the arc, switch the inverter on etc. and relays back to the circuits what it should do based off of the inputs from the operator and the inputs from the components.