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Puk 3 welder vs Laser


#1

Hi,

I am thinking about purchasing a PUK 3 Professional Plus for my
studio. It costs around $5,000, while a laser tabletop starts around
$15,000. Can the PUK do similar work to the laser, or is it not
really worth it? I am thinking that it will speed up production, but
if its capabilities are limited, then I think I will stick to my
torch.

I appreciate you comments.
Jessica Kahle
Philadelphia, PA


#2

I can not speek for the Puk welder, having never used one. I changed
employers a year or so back, and after using a laser for 5 years I
felt like I was horribly handicapped going back into a situation
where the torch was my only option. A laser allows me to work in
areas near sensitive gemstones that are simply not possible with the
torch. I can rebuild or replace missing metal without solder or
serious heat. Assembly, repairs and alterations are greatly
simplified and can be achieved much more quickly.

Jobs that I knew I could easily do, either had to be turned down as
nearly impossible or too complicated and expensive, with only a
torch. I spent much more time doing work and then cleaning up the
mess from the heat, than I knew I would have needed to, using a
laser. Now I own my own laser, and it is an extension of my bench,
that is to me as much a part of my required tools as the torch,
flexshaft, etc. Working for six months without that laser was the
most frustrating time I have ever spent in over 30 years on the
bench!!! The laser does not replace the torch for all situations,
but even large assembly jobs where I will be doing a lot of soldering
usually start on the laser, where I can quickly tack and adjust
components, and then complete the assembly with the torch: without
any fear that components will move.


#3

Jessica, There are things a PUK welder can do just as well as a
laser. There are a few tasks a laser can do that a PUK cannot do. The
laser has hardy any learning curve. Along with the PUK there is the
Orion Jewelry Welder and the ABI welder. Then there are TIG welders.
The TIG can do anything a PUK, Orion, or ABI can do. The TIG is less
costly than all the other machines. Some reconditioned or used
machine are in the hundreds not thousands. The down side is the
learning curve is greater than all the other machines and you need to
protect your eyes. TIG can do two things a laser and the others
cannot do. TIG can satisfactorily weld palladium and continuously lay
down a thick (or thin) layer of metal. In addition TIG can weld at
90. What I mean by that is it can weld around a corner. The weld does
not need to be in a straight line as with a laser or the others. Some
TIG machines have all the power you would ever need for the thickest
of silver or copper work. Look on the Orchid for other post
concerning TIG welding. Each of these tools brings something
different to the tool arsenal. All can accomplish fast welds on
sensitive jobs.

Happy welding, Kevin
Kevin Lindsey
lindseyjewelers.com


#4

I own a laser and think its pretty good. But after looking at this
video…

look around at the other vids too)

I can see an advantage with the PUK. The laser quite obviously is
light. Welding silver is a pain because its high reflectivity
disperses some of the energy in the shot. There are ways to cope but
its still awkward. Also the light can be reflected off the item (any
metal) into an adjacent stone, or your finger. I don’t know that the
PUK’s little wad of energy doesn’t bounce around some too but from
the looks of it, it may be minimal. Its hard to tell from the video
but I’m assuming the energy, since its not light, may have more
penetration in some cases. My dissatisfaction with the laser is that
it is for the most part a surface spot welder. And it leaves a slight
depression unless you use filler wire. In some cases adding filler
may obscure the detail you were striving for with the laser in the
first place.

Kevin’s observations about the TIG are well worth considering. I
would especially like the ability to lay down a bead. This would be
extremely handy in making fillets. The laser is not so good at that,
can be done but its laborious. Contrast that to torching with solder
where the fillet is essentially self forming in a flash but you have
to deal with the consequences of generalized heat.

PUK and Laser have something in common. They are stationary.(at
least I believe the PUk is, from what I see in the video) Whereas the
TIG is hand held, which could allow for more complex setup. Working
under a stereo microscope doesn’t let you step back and see the
bigger picture. Kevin, could you comment on if you use some sort of
magnification while TIGging? When I torch I have to use 1.5X just to
see the tiny flamjam.

Still, the laser is exceptional for what its good at. My laser may
get a sibling in the future though, PUK or TIG I dunno yet.

It would be very enlightening if some independent body did a side by
side analysis of the three. I’d love to spend a day each on a TIG
and a PUK. Test drive, fasten your seat belts.


#5

Hi All;

I’d like to clarify things if I can. I may not have the best
opinion, but I’m sure there are others here that can add to it. TIG,
PUK, and laser welding are all a little different in the way they
work.

I have a PUK, and I’ve used lasers and done TIG. First, the laser
may not give you deep penetration, but neither, exactly, will the
other tools on a jewelry scale. With a laser, the heat goes exactly
where that cross-hair puts it. The pulse can be shaped, with some
models, meaning, you can start off low heat, then quickly ramp up, or
have an intense beam that broadens out to planish out the metal, or
hits rapid fire short pulses, etc. Can’t do that with a PUK. With the
PUK, you can choose a short or longer pulse. Also, the PUK pulse goes
to the path of least electrical resistance, which means you hope it
will go where you aim it, but it could, for various reasons, jump
over to an area you didn’t want it to. It’s penetration isn’t
particularly deep either, but if it’s working right, it’s a bit
stronger than a laser. With both, you can “V” out an area and fill to
get a deeper weld. But compared to a laser, the PUK is infinitely
harder to control.

If you’ve worked with a laser, the PUK will frustrate you. It’s
harder to learn, harder to control, but it’s a lot cheaper. That
said, I use mine almost every day for something or other. A laser is
a much finer instrument though.

Now TIG is a different animal. Think of it as a electrical torch.
You strike an arc, which you have to keep going by controlling the
distance of the electrode to the metal and keep moving it, not fast
enough to break the arc, but not so slow as to melt a hole in the
metal, and add filler wire or rod. It takes practice to strike that
arc and keep it up. And getting the amperage and voltage and gas flow
settings right is also quite an art, taking into consideration the
type of metal, the thickness, the filler rod used, etc. But the
problem with TIG is it will, in a short time, heat up an article just
as a torch would. So you won’t be doing any welding on of prongs with
heat sensitive stones in place with a TIG setup. It would be like
clipping your fingernails with the hedge trimmers.

If you want to weld copper, TIG will do it, but PUK will not. A
laser will, but not great. And silver is, in my opinion, virtually
impossible with laser or a PUK. Think of it this way. Imagine you
want to light a match that is sitting on an ice cube. You can use a
huge torch, big enough to incinerate that match instantly, but still,
you get it hot enough to ignite and the cube melts putting it out.
You can get enough power with a 60+ joule laser to melt the silver,
and a PUK on the highest setting will melt it, but at that high a
blast, the molten metal just gets blasted right out of the puddle
unless you pre-heat the piece significantly, which kind of defeats
the purpose. A TIG will do it, but that entire article is going to
get very hot. But if you want a seam that is the same metal as that
around it, not solder, but real fusion, the TIG is the way to go. A
skilled TIG welder can weld the lid back on a tin can, I’ve seen it.
I can’t though.

In closing, I’d say, get the PUK if you don’t have the money for a
laser, and be patient and practice and pay attention to what it’s
doing. You’ll get use out of it. Then get a laser when you can afford
one. If you are doing more general types of metalsmithing, a TIG is a
great tool, especially for larger articles or steels, but it’s not a
cheap laser and I’ve not seen any true “jewelry scale” TIG setups.

David L. Huffman


#6
Think of it as a electrical torch. 

David, This is an accurate statement. A TIG machine can be set up to
operate exactly like a PUK with the exception of needing to lift the
tungsten manually. If you can maintain an arc at the 1 to 5 amp
range it will only warm the work, even on a prong. The metal
dissipates the heat quicker than the input of energy can generate the
heat. I can anneal work with an arc. You can trim fingernails with a
hedge shear. I’m not sure anyone would want to! But you can. I
wouldn’t want to trim a hedge with fingernail trimmers either, unless
it was a bonsai hedge. TIG takes effort and in return you learn a new
life skill. If you have the time, why not. Do I like what a laser can
do? You bet I do! As I’ve said before TIG is not a laser replacement,
but there are times TIG is more productive than a laser. TIG can
replace a PUK, but not without the cost of learning a new skill. Tim
Green and Jo Haemer did basic welds on a platinum ring within 15
minutes of the first time they held a TIG torch. That is basic and
can be built upon. Much of TIG is not intuitive, but does use the
same skills most of us rely on every day. In middle school I was the
worst in my class at driving a nail. I’m not a professional framer,
but I seldom miss hitting the nail on the head, because of the many
ring shanks I have hammered. If a person can solder a shank together,
they can weld it together. Why take the time? A person has to answer
that for them self. Perhaps money.

ebay link removed, sorry, no ebay links on orchid

Kevin Lindsey
lindseyjewelers.com


#7

Hi Kevin;

A TIG machine can be set up to operate exactly like a PUK with the
exception of needing to lift the tungsten manually. 

I’ve never tried that, but I can see the possibilities. As I
remember, TIG welders are operated with a foot pedal that engages the
current. Seems that could be used for an intermitent arc. I know that
some MIG machines have a “stitch” setting, used a lot by auto body
repairmen. It allows an intermitent arc/feed, so that one can
continue a weld along a seam without warping the metal with the heat
build up.

In my last post on this thread, I said that I hadn’t seen a truly
"jewelry scale" TIG machine, but I may change my opinion on that. I
found a site that sells miniature TIG stations, used for welding very
small parts. I requested the brochure, so when I get it, I’ll look
into it and post my findings. I had, some time ago, contacted some
tech reps about this, and they said that the problem was the high
current needed for highly conductive metals like the noble metals.
They said that most TIG machines used for small welds were used in
robotic situations, automated and fixtured, so not appropriate for
prototype work. I think that’s changed. I’ll keep you all abreast of
what I find out.

Tim Green and Jo Haemer did basic welds on a platinum ring within
15 minutes of the first time they held a TIG torch. 

Was this a typical TIG machine like those you’d buy in a welding
supply store? As I recall, the TIG torch is a rather bulky affair,
not to speak of the machine itself, and not something one would have
room for in a jewelry shop. The unit I’m looking into is a small
machine, bread-box size, with a small handpiece, and works under a
microscope on a boom arm. It’s all set up as a work station that
would fit on a card table top. If this looks affordable, I may want
one, if it doesn’t cost a small fortune, but I still need that laser
first.

David L. Huffman


#8

David

Take a look at Orion Jewelry Welders

They have mico TIG welders for jewelry Have not tried them myself,
but they looks interesting.

jena