MIG is the most common welding process in the manufacturing industry. It is very versatile and enables the welding of a wide range of metals, works well for thick or thin materials, and enables good metal deposition and welding speed.
However, MIG tends to generate a lot of toxic fumes in factories. Therefore, fume extraction is either mandatory or at least highly recommended by health and safety organizations in all US states and Canadian provinces.
The best way to extract MIG welding fumes is with a fume extraction MIG gun. On-tool extraction offers the best results since the extractor is always well-positioned no matter how long the weld is or the welding position. A High Vacuum Low Volume (HVLV) unit is required to provide the necessary vacuum.
Other solutions that could extract MIG welding fumes efficiently will also be introduced in this article. Finally, we will guide you in selecting the proper extractor and vacuum unit to achieve the best results.
The Three Best Fume Extraction Solutions for MIG Wedding
Fume Extraction MIG Guns
Fume extraction MIG guns are by far the best solution to extract welding fumes when it comes to this process. Welders can keep working without worrying about positioning a fume extraction device, which means no loss in productivity. Even better, without the fume, they can be more efficient as they have a better view of the process and are more comfortable.
Welding fumes are extracted directly after the gas nozzle, through the handle and a flexible hose covering the power cable. The vacuum should be provided either by a portable unit or a central vacuum system.
Choose the right fume extraction gun
Here are a few tips for choosing the right fume extraction MIG gun. First, you want to ensure that the fume extraction gun will not create porosity. To do so, I recommend selecting a model where the vacuum nozzle is at least 2 to 3 inches away from the weld pool. Doing so reduces the risk of extracting shielding gas with the fumes.
For optimal results, you also need to make sure that you will have enough airflow at the fume extraction MIG gun. As a rule of thumb, you want at least 100 cubic feet per minute (cfm) in operation (when the nozzle is 2 to 3 inches away from the weld pool). It means that your vacuum unit must provide 100 cfm when the welding gun and flexible hose are installed (the maximum airflow of the unit must be much higher considering the significant pressure drop of the system). The actual airflow needed depends on multiple factors, including the welding power (higher parameters require more airflow) and the welding position (horizontal welding in a corner is the easiest to control while vertical welding is the hardest).
A fume extraction gun requires a few extra parts that a traditional MIG gun don’t have, so you want to make sure that the new torch isn’t too much heavier. The flexible hose also adds rigidity and should be fixed to the handle with a rotating joint to reduce the stress on the worker’s wrist.
Finally, you want to pick a fume extraction welding gun that will work for your welding parameters, be tough enough to be used in harsh manufacturing environments, and be easy to maintain. When using portable units, pick one with an efficient filter (MERV-12 or above) that has at least 100 sq. ft. of surface (ideally more).
The Two Best Brands
The best fume extraction MIG gun on the market is most likely the AIRGOMIG. It is ergonomic, efficient, and provides unequaled fume extraction results without porosity. It could either be used with one of Henlex’s powerful portable units or a central vacuum unit. Both can provide the required performance even with high welding parameters.
The alternative would be Abicor Binzel xFUME MIG guns. Although I do not find them as efficient and ergonomic as AIRGOMIG, they are the closest ones in terms of results. Therefore, they could be a viable solution, especially for manufacturers with Abicor Binzel guns and parts. Unfortunately, when writing this article, air-cooled fume extraction guns were only offered for up to 300 Amp (versus 500 Amp for AIRGOMIG).
Pros & Cons
- Maximum efficiency with the minimum airflow
- Works for every weld length, parameters, and position
- No need to move an extractor
- Requires changing your welding guns
- The extraction gun must be selected carefully to avoid porosity
Learn more about pros and cons of fume extraction MIG guns here.
If you have any questions about welding fume, do not hesitate to contact us. We will be happy to give you some insight, and we can even visit you for free in the US and Canada.
Fume Extraction Arms for MIG Welding Fumes
Although not as good as fume extraction MIG guns, flexible arms are the most used solution to extract MIG welding fumes. They can be very efficient in doing so but must always be well positioned to work properly, which is often why their efficiency and usability are not as good.
Unlike fume extraction guns that require a high vacuum and a low air volume, flexible arms require less pressure but much more airflow. That’s why they are usually used with more conventional vacuum blowers.
Choose the right fume extraction arm
You should look at three things while choosing a fume extraction arm. First, it is essential to consider its diameter – the smaller, the better, for three reasons. Not only does it take less space, but it also requires less airflow, and is cheaper to buy and operate. As a rule of thumb, take the longest horizontal weld you usually need to do and divide it by three. For example, if each weld is never (or rarely) over 9 inches long, a 3 inches arm will be perfect. That way, you have all the benefits without the inconvenience of having to move the arm while welding.
The second aspect is ensuring there is enough airflow for the flexible arm to be efficient. Once again, there is no absolute rule as it depends on multiple factors. Still, I would recommend that you ensure to get at least the arm diameter minus one, multiplied by 100 cfm in operation (so the blower should be able to provide it while the arm is used, which means the maximum airflow must be higher). So, for a 3” arm, (3-1) x 100 = 200 cfm minimum. For a 6” arm, (6-1) x 100 = 500 cfm minimum.
Finally, I would avoid arms made of plastic or flexible hose as they are not fit to be used in a manufacturing environment and would require a lot of upkeep and maintenance.
The Four Best Brands
The Henlex Capture Arms and blowers have been designed to thrive in any welding environment. The outer parts are exclusively made of metal for unequaled durability. Henlex also offers a line of blowers intended to provide the required extraction performance for MIG welding fumes.
Miller, Plymovent, and Nederman’s arms would not be as durable (made with hose and plastics) as Henlex’s, but they could be viable alternatives when used with the proper blower. They all offer different configurations and some useful options. However, some of these brands tend to promote larger arms which is a double edge sword, as explained earlier.
Pros & Cons
- Very efficient if well-positioned
- No need to change your welding guns
- Works for other welding processes as well
- More expensive to buy and operate (a high airflow is required to be efficient)
- It takes more space and sometimes obstructs the welder’s view
- Not suitable for enclosed or cluttered spaces
Fume Extraction Nozzles for MIG Welding Fumes
If you choose not to use a fume extraction MIG gun and operate in a confined or cluttered space, making it impossible to work with a flexible arm, a fume extraction nozzle could be the solution. Plugged to a portable vacuum unit with a flexible hose, it is most likely the cheapest alternative. But be aware of its main limitation: it is only efficient if the nozzle is positioned close to the weld pool and will only work for a weld length of a few inches. It also requires frequent repositioning, which highly reduces efficiency as welders tend to forget to do so.
Choose the proper fume extraction nozzle
The guidelines introduced for flexible arms apply to fume extraction nozzles regarding materials (except for the flexible hose, which is necessary in this case), diameter and airflow.
Many companies, including Henlex, offer fume extraction nozzles and portable extractors. Pick a system with the proper operating airflow (different from the maximum airflow) and largest surface filtration for maximum efficiency.
Pros & Cons
- Cheap and versatile solution
- No need to change your welding guns
- Works for other welding processes as well
- Limited efficiency
- It only works for small weld lengths (maximum a few inches)
- It needs to be repositioned regularly
Downdraft Tables and Hoods are NOT suitable for MIG Welding Fumes
There is a misconception that downdraft tables are suitable for welding fume extraction. But it is nonsense to extract from the bottom welding fume naturally going up at high speed because of the heat generated. So, either downdraft tables don’t work for welding fumes, or the airflow needed to make them efficient is cost prohibitive. You could use a downdraft table for plasma cutting or a grinding workstation, but it is not recommended for welding.
In most cases, fume extraction hoods cannot protect a welder as their head would be between the welding area and the hood itself. But they are perfect for robotic welding and offer an unmatched fume extraction efficiency in this case.
Do You Need a Dust Collector for MIG Welding Fumes?
Although there is no absolute answer to this question, here are a few guidelines that will help you.
You might want to recirculate the extracted air inside your building instead of sending it outside. There are usually two reasons companies choose to do that. The first one would be to save on heating or cooling costs as it would be necessary to replace the extracted air with some from outside. The second one would be environmental. To recirculate the extracted air, you will need a dust collector to filter the MIG welding fumes before sending it back.
When the extracted air is sent outside, you should ensure that doing so is per your company standards, such as ISO 14001, and local environmental laws. You should also follow the United States Environmental Protection Agency laws and regulations in the US. It might be required to do some air sampling to know the quantity and concentration of welding fumes your process exhausts outside.
Feel free to contact us. We will help you protect your workers and comply with welding fumes standards anywhere in the US and Canada.