For folks like me who learned to weld with a MIG welder, learning how to use a TIG welder was a daunting and downright unnerving experience. While MIG welders are generally quite forgivable and can lay down some strong welds, even in the hands of a novice, TIG however, was another animal – that is, until now.
Miller has been working for the past several years to take the guess work and needed technical knowledge out of welding, making their product’s easier to use for the hobbyist and enthusiast. Their Diversion series of TIG welders falls into this category by offering a small, yet powerful TIG welder, with an incredibly easy setup process.
With more than a few project trucks in the 4X4Review stables and a whole lot of welding to be done, we put a call into our friends at Miller to try out their new Diversion 180 TIG Welder.
Miller Diversion 180 TIG Welder Features:
Like the other Miller products we’ve tested in the past (Millermatic 211 MIG and Miller Spectrum 375 Extreme Plasma), the Diversion 180 comes with one of our favorite Miller features – the Multi-Voltage Plug (MVP) system, which allows you to swap out the plug end for either 115 volt or 230 volt power receptacles without the use of any tools or changing any welder settings – simply swap the end of the plug and you’re done. It is most useful when a 230V power source isn’t available, or if you need to weld on the go. Miller didn’t stop there though. The biggest advancement is the no-guesswork setup for welding mild, stainless, chromoly or aluminum metals, which is a simple three step process of; turning on the machine, selecting the material you will be welding, and then setting the material thickness. The last handy features that Miller packs into this affordable TIG welder are both a foot peddle control and torch controls for starting and adjusting amperage – perfect for welding in odd positions, such as lying down.
Here are a few other features:
• All-in-one package with everything you need (except for consumables like gas, rods and filler material)
• 12.5 foot Weldcraft TIG torch
• 12 foot ground clamp
• TIG Welding for Dummies book, instructional DVD
• Capable of welding up to 3/16” thick steel or aluminum
• AC / DC TIG / GTAW processes
• 115 or 230 V power
• Welding Amp Range: 10 – 180 amps
• Foot and hand controls included
• Digital amperage readout
• Weighs only 50 pounds
• 2-step setup process
• High Frequency start
• 100% duty cycle at 60 amps / 12.4 volts
• Advanced square wave AC
Aside from tinkering with a TIG welder about 5 years ago, this is by all rights, my first real experience welding with a TIG welder. I have 20+ years of MIG and ARC welding experience so I have a good grasp on things like heat management and puddle control. Before I started though, I did watch the 20 minute DVD that came with the Miller TIG welder and even if you are a novice TIG welder, I suggest you do the same – there is a lot of good information within. After watching the DVD, it was out to the shop to start laying down some practice welds on aluminum and mild steel.
Test 1 – Aluminum Welding
We’ll start our review with the one type of metal that I have the least experience welding. Welding with aluminum is very different than welding with mild steel, especially for the novice. The first thing I noticed is that it is very difficult to tell when the material you are welding is at the appropriate temperature. When welding mild steel, you can see a bright red/orange puddle and you can see how hot the surrounding metal is, but with Aluminum your weld puddle looks like mercury and there is no color change in the surrounding material. This means you have to be very careful with the amount of heat you put to the metal, else it will overheat and sag on you. You control this by backing off on the temperature with the foot or hand control or speeding up your welding movement (or both) – something that takes a lot of practice and patience to learn. Once you have this under control though, you can join aluminum quite easily. Here we welded aluminum with no filler material.
Test 2 – Mild Steel Welding
TIG welding with mild steel is easier to do than aluminum, in my opinion. Like MIG welding, you can easily see the puddle and the heat of the surrounding material and I suggest that anyone who is new at TIG welding learn on mild steel first. TIG welding is all about hand, eye and foot coordination and there is a rhythm that you will need to get while welding. The Diversion 180 really shines here and lays down some very nice welds. The heat, puddle and weld bead control is far superior to any ARC or MIG welder.
Test 3 – Thin Metal Tack Welding
Unlike a MIG welder, you can easily tack thin metal together without the use of any filler material. This is really handy if you’re doing any type of body work, as you won’t have to grind down the tack beads. The Miller Diversion 180 runs a bit cold, so don’t be afraid to add 10 amps or so to the control. Simply start your arc and then push the bead to the metal that you’re joining. Like anything else, it takes a bit of practice but after a while you will be welding like a pro.
So, How Well Does It Weld?
Overall, the Miller Diversion 180 TIG welder lays down some great welds, which is synonymous with any quality TIG welder and the Diversion 180 is no exception. The articulating / flexible torch and the hand controls which feature arc-start and amperage controls are amazing. You will find them easy to use and comfortable, especially if you’re welding in a tight area and can’t easily use a foot control (which is supplied with the welder).
A novice TIG welder (like me) may struggle with aluminum welding at first, because it’s so different. After a few hours of practice though, you will get the hang of it. Like anything else, if you don’t do it for a while, I strongly suggest that you lay down some practice beads (especially on aluminum) before starting a project.
Welding mild steel is a breeze with the Diversion 180 TIG. The arc start is quiet and powerful and the controls are very ergonomic. For a novice TIG welder, start with mild steel – it’s easier to build good habits here than with aluminum, which is less forgiving. Once you get the hang of it, you can control the heat and weld puddle incredibly accurately, which is particularly handy when working on things like roll cages, chassis and other tight area jobs. The welds are hot, controlled and very strong.
Once you’ve begun to get the hang of TIG welding, you will be able to produce “stack of dime” welds time after time. Heat transfer is even, weld puddles are perfectly clean and the entire operation is easy to control.
When starting the arc, you will find that there is zero spatter or popping and the same holds true for the entire weld bead if your metal is clean and prepped. TIG welders are a bit more sensitive to dirty material than a MIG welder, so taking the extra few minutes to prep your material will pay off in spades.
As with most welders, we found that plugging into a dedicated circuit (20 amp for 120 V, or single 230V) improves the overall weld quality.
So What Don’t We Like?
There is very little to not like about the Diversion 180, but there are a few tweaks we’d like to see.
First, I’d like Miller to add a larger, but quieter fan to the welder. The small fan makes a lot of noise that can get a bit annoying after a while.
Second, I’d like to see a serrated grounding clamp (much like Miller’s plasma cutters) with a stronger spring in it. We found that we have to prep the metal more thoroughly with this style of clamp.
Video Review of the Miller Diversion 180 TIG Welder