The internet, and YouTube specifically, makes it possible for manufacturers to easily connect with buyers through video reviews. Media personalities are offered a variety of products that don’t always live up to their marketing. In fact, finding a product that does is unusual.
At the Las Vegas FABTECH in 2016, Justin had his first opportunity to weld with a Fronius machine. He’d known of the brand, but mainly as an industrial welder with high technology best suited for robotic welding. Keeping a low profile, he stopped by the booth to learn there was more. The Fronius team was helpful and gave him plenty of time to work with the machines. “They didn’t care whether I was buying or not,” he said. "I wasn’t just blown away by the welders and what they could do, I was blown away by the service. Normally at a booth the staff are like, ‘If you want it, let’s talk. If not, go somewhere else.’ I never got that at Fronius.”
The technology impressed him enough to encourage him to come back to the Fronius booth during FABTECH Chicago in 2017. Justin prefers TIG welding and was intrigued with the MagicWave 230i, a TIG welder coming out the following year. The machine has many of the features he’s looking for, and comes in a sleek package that caught his eye. His excitement grew upon learning the MagicWave gives the welder control of the AC waveform on either the positive or negative side, allowing an experienced welder to dial in their “signature” bead. That sealed the deal and he worked with staff to get a variety of Fronius machines into his shop.
As usual, Justin was skeptical of the promises, but eager to test out the machines. One of the first machines on deck was the TransSteel 2200 (TST 2200), a compact, multi-process welder with stick, MIG, and TIG capability. His shop is wired for single-phase electricity, meaning that this machine fits perfectly. One of his first surprises was that it took longer to unbox than to set it up for the first weld.
The 220 amp machine has an easy-to-use interface with all the features you expect from a larger Fronius welder. With dedicated spool holders for both 12 lb and 2 lb spools, it welds steel, aluminum, stainless, flux – and other – cored wires. Typically, aluminum welding requires a spool gun or push/pull set-up. Justin tested the ergonomic push torch included and was surprised that even with .035 4043 aluminum wire there was no wire jam, commonly called bird nesting. The machine includes features such as hot start and crater fill, with all the standard Fronius synergic lines and easy parameter selection.
Every challenge Justin has thrown at the TST 2200 has been met and exceeded. This small but mighty machine is versatile, with design features that, as an engineer, Justin appreciates. From the air vents designed to keep out harsh shop environments to the small drive roll compartment inside the machine, Fronius has kept functionality at the forefront of their design. In pursuit of his masters degree in Engineering Management, Justin discovered his passion for creative problem-solving and the systems that support function-based solutions. He states, “You have to think ahead to the functionality of the product. You can build a superior chassis but if a mechanic can’t change the alternator, you’ve failed. I think that’s my biggest connection to Fronius, that all of these solutions are basically standard in their machines.”
Justin practices what he calls “the art of continued skepticism.” It helps him focus his website and YouTube channel on the best products and services for his customers and viewers. He tests each product fully, and now keeps mistakes or ugly welds in the video. Viewers like to see they are learning from a real person in real-world situations.
When asked about his Fronius experience, he replied, “Fronius has stepped up to a new level. Whereas any other company would say, ‘Here is the machine we have.’ Fronius is more like one of my heroes, Walt Disney. They say, ‘Okay, here’s what we have, now let’s improve it, let’s make it better. Let’s offer something that doesn’t exist. Let’s bring this to the 21st century. Let’s throw stuff in there that actually solves problems and then make it work forever.’”
Justin, ‘The Fabricator’, doesn’t take on many custom builds anymore. He consults for research and development or to help companies design their space for maximum productivity. In his Las Vegas shop, he offers classes and has plans to expand his teaching to connect with the next generation of welders and fabricators. You can find Justin (the.fabricator) on Instagram or on Facebook and YouTube (The Fabrication Series). Stay tuned to his channels for future reviews of other Fronius equipment.