Common welding related questions we hear. Part 11
Should I get a Digital or Analog welder? That’s one of the most difficult to answer questions that we hear from perspective customers. But it is also a commonly discussed one over on welding forums, such as our Everlast welding forum. It’s rather easy to explain the differences, but often, most people come at the discussion with preconceived notions of both digital and analog products. It’s hard to deal honestly with the difference between a digital TIG welder and an analog TIG welder without first explaining what the actual difference is in the technologies.
Analog welder design has been around for years. It dates back to transformer technology. Many times it is seen as a safe, and reliable way to construct and build a welder, whether it is a TIG, MIG or even a simple stick machine with simple manual controls and a large heavy transformer generating the output power. But the term has changed somewhat in the realm of inverter welders. In short, the analog design of modern inverter welders focuses on manual switches or controls and numerous discreet circuits that are designed to control a single function (or at the most a very narrow set of functions). Analog circuitry in an inverter welder has been around since inverters were first used to generate a welding arc. This made inverters larger and less efficient than they needed to be.
Though generally reliable, the conflux of wires and circuits often created more points of potential failure. Don’t confuse solid state design with digital. Analog design of welders, even transformer based welders include some solid state circuits and design. Digital control uses microprocessors and controllers to control the function of the welder. This reduces discreet circuitry and offers a programmable factor to the welder (not necessarily customer programmable). Digital welding technology may or may not use manual type controls. They can either be true analog type controls that use circuits that interpret the voltage signal and send it digitally to the microprocessor or they can include analog simulated controls that use rotating digital encoders that directly send digital messages to the processor. This greatly reduces size of the components and circuits, and improves repairability.
Overall, it would seem that digital units have the advantage in size, performance and long term serviceability. But many don’t like touch pad control since in the past these have been the point of failure. The possible solution for this is to utilize analog style controls with digital encoders that have rotary style knobs. Or possible another solution would be a hybrid design with circuits that interpret signals from analog voltage input. Everlast actually has been retiring most of its analog inverter design. However, we’ve focused on keeping the analog styling and practical functions. This is evident in products like the new PowerTIG 250EX and the Power I MIG 200. These have analog look and feel, but feature a digital microcontroller inside the unit. It’s something that now becomes a matter of pure taste and simplifies the choice for many.