In May of last year, the welding giant Thermadyne changed its name to Victor Technologies Group, Inc. Since then, the company has launched two new 3-in-1 welders: the Thermal Arc Fabricator 252i and the Fabricator 181i. The products provide farmers with the flexibility of three applications in one unit and come completely equipped so there are no additional add-ons or costs after the initial investment. The 252i is a stationary unit that can weld up to ½ -in.-thick steel, while the 181i is portable and weighs less than 33 lbs.
A few members of Team FIN, a group of farmers who test products for Farm Industry News, tested both welders to see how they hold up in the farm shop and rated their performance on a scale of 1 to 5.
Fabricator 252i 3-in-1 MIG-Stick-TIG Welder Cost: $2,509
As a 3-in-1 welder, the Fabricator 252i provides flexibility for a broad range of applications on steel, stainless, aluminum, and other alloys. The unit weighs 66 lbs. and has a 5- to 300-amp output range. It comes equipped with digital meters, a comprehensive setup chart, and quick-change polarity connections.
Team FIN members said the Fabricator 252i works well for light- to medium-duty welding. They appreciated the 3-in-1 concept: Changing from one application to another is as simple as unplugging one gun and plugging in another. The welder has a stable design and is not overly big or bulky. The farmers liked that it includes a drawer for storage and a platform that can hold two different kinds of gas. It also pushes and pulls equally well.
Team FIN members said they would make a few improvements to the machine. The power switch is located at the back of the welder by the tanks and makes a tight squeeze, especially when wearing gloves. Ideally, the power switch would be at the front of the welder. They would also add a place to hang the lead and add a 110 auxiliary outlet.
Fabricator 181i 3-in-1 MIG-Stick-TIG Welder Cost: $999
The Thermal Arc Fabricator 181i takes the 3-in-1 welding system and makes it portable. The unit delivers up to 180 amps and weighs 32.2 lbs. It comes with a setup guide, digital meters, and variable voltage control. It’s also equipped with a metal feed plate with quick change drive rolls and a receptacle for connecting remote control devices and spool gun.
The farmers said the unit works great for general repair. Although the welder is a little more complicated than “plug in and go,” it has a straightforward design with easy-to-adjust settings. Like the 252i, the Fabricator 181i makes it simple to switch between welding applications. The welder’s lightweight and portable design makes it ideal for transporting and use in the field, powered by a generator, if necessary.