Contact Tips - Getting the Most for your Money

By Alexander Purvis

In welding, consumables are always a big focus of care for fabricators. Money spent on consumables is directly taken off the bottom line. You can’t get that money back and most people know this. What most people don’t know is that spending a little more on the front end might help in the long run.

Tips, liners, nozzles, diffusers, drive rolls, welding torches all fall under the category of consumables and we are going to be talking “tips” now. Tips serve as the contact surface to transfer the electricity to the wire and complete the welding circuit. Being the closest part to the welding arc, they are exposed to large amounts of heat, spatter, and wear. They need to be replaced periodically due to wear out, welding wire deposit or even the occasional use of the tip as a hammer.

Most tips are designed to withstand this abuse from welding, but some of them stand out above all of them when it comes to tip life. These premium tips are usually higher in price but what if that one premium tip lasted as long as 3-5 lower grade tips?  

Here is an example to consider:

A lower grade tip might cost $0.25 per tip and a premium tip might cost $0.50. To most purchasing managers the upfront cost is significant. Seeing a welding tip that is twice as expensive as another is very low hanging cost-cutting measure, especially when you have a fabrication shop of 25 or more welders. On average a welder will use at least one regular tip a day. If you extrapolate this out over a week (6 days) your average cost of lower grade tips is going to be $37.50. Considering a premium tip last 3 times as long and the welder only replaces it every 3 days, your weekly cost goes down to $25.00. So over 50 work weeks, lower grade tips will cost you $1,875.00 while the premium tips will cost you $1,250.00. While the upfront cost savings may be significant for lower grade tips, it is even more important to look at the total cost over a week or a month.

Contact Tip Cost (Cost per week) = Price per tip  X  (# of Tips per Day)  X  (# of Working Days)  X (# of Welders)

Here is a source on how to choose the correct contact tip from Bernard.

Another thing to consider is that most people do not track their tip usage. An excellent solution for this would be for a Vendor Managed Inventory system such as a Cribmaster. This solution requires employees to sign in to retrieve tips and other consumables. The unit keeps track of items by weight and sends a report to Red Ball Oxygen or your purchasing manager.  The reports break down the usage by each employee and all products are reordered automatically based on set reorder points.

The Red Ball Oxygen Welding Lab or an account manager can provide more info on contact tips and welding consumables.

Posted on 05-02-2019

Alexander Purvis

Welding Engineer/Sales Engineer at Red Ball Oxygen Co. Inc.

Alexander is an AWS Certified Welding Inspector (CWI) and an AWS Certified Welding Educator (CWE). He can be contacted on LinkedIn.