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Radios, TVs, appliances, automobiles, welders. What do these products have in common?
Microprocessors. Most people don't realize how many items they use every day that have a microprocessor chip.
Welding equipment is no exception - even the most basic units may use this technology and the operator is not even aware of it.
As with any new technology, many questions come up, and here are answers to the most common ones.
Q: Why is Miller using microprocessor-based controls in some of their welding equipment?
A: With the use of a microprocessor, we are able to control many more features and functions, and in most cases we can eliminate additional costly hardware such as circuitry, wiring and extra boxes. It's also extremely advantageous when a variety of equipment (power source, feeder, controls) has to work together, allowing for much faster response time.
Q: My company is always looking at payback and the "bottom line." Aren't microprocessor units more expensive? And if so, how can I justify the cost?
A: Thanks to the consumer electronic industry, the cost of microprocessors has dropped dramatically in the past ten years. In fact, many pieces of equipment are designed with microprocessors as a way of reducing the cost. Units with microprocessors can be more costly, but this is due to all the features they offer, rather than the microprocessor itself. The biggest payback from a microprocessor-based welder is the consistency of weld quality you can achieve by being able to set up and lock in parameters - this results in reduced rework/increased productivity. If you weld parts that require you to change all of your settings on a regular basis, you can also save a lot of time (and reduce chances of error) by programming commonly used sets of parameters into the microprocessor.
Q: Is microprocessor-based equipment less reliable?
A: Definitely not! Microprocessor technology has matured. Microprocessors are now being used in many critical applications in medical equipment, automobiles and welders. Like any other semiconductor device, a microprocessor is designed to function for an extended period of time. In fact, mechanical devices such as relays and potentiometers will fail long before a properly applied microprocessor.
Q: I'm sold on the benefits of microprocessor technology, but I'm afraid some of our operators will have a hard time with it.
A: It's a common misconception that microprocessor units require special training or basic computer knowledge, but a demo of the equipment will put those fears to rest. Yes, the control panels are different - you select your parameters from an LCD display rather than by turning a knob - but they are just as easy to use as conventional control panels. Even Miller's most sophisticated microprocessor unit, the 60M feeder, has a simple front control panel with just four push buttons and a single control knob.
Q: Microprocessors appear to be the way of the future. Should I look for microprocessor-based systems in my next purchase so I can be on top of the latest technology?
A: It would be a mistake to select a piece of equipment based on the technology it employs. As with any purchase, your primary concern should be the features, cost, and potential future uses of the unit. The value of a microprocessor-based machine is not the chip itself, but what that chip provides in the way of functions.
Information courtesy of Miller Electric
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