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Arc Welding with a PC Power Supply!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: PCPerspective

The Experiment...

Introduction

OK, call me crazy (you wouldn’t be the first) but this is something I’ve wanted to try for years, and I bet I’m not the only one. Each time a new power supply comes across the lab bench with ever increasing output capacities, I find myself thinking, “I could weld with this beast.” Well the AX1600i pushed me over the edge and I decided to give it a go; what could possibly go wrong?

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133.3 Amps on the +12V outputs!

The Corsair AX1600i Digital power supply can deliver up to 133 Amps on the combined +12V rails, more than enough amperage for welding. There are dozens of PC power supplies on the market today that can deliver 100 Amps or more on the +12V output, but the AX1600i has another feature that might help make this project a success, the ability to manually set current limits on the +12V outputs. Thanks to the fact that the AX1600i is a digital power supply that allows manually setting the current limits on the +12V outputs via the Corsair Link data acquisition and control software, I might be able to add the ability to select a desired amperage to weld with. Yes!

Just because the AX1600i “can” deliver 133A doesn’t mean I want that much current available for welding. I typically only use that much power when I’m welding heavy steel pieces using ¼” rod. For this experiment I would like to be able to start out at a lot lower amperage, and I’m hoping the Corsair Link software will provide that ability.

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Stick Welding with a PC Power Supply!

My first thought was to try to adapt a TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welder for use with the AX1600i. I figured using a TIG torch (Tungsten electrode shrouded with Argon gas instead of a flux coated rod) might give better control especially at the lower voltage and currents where I plan to start testing. TIG welders are commonly used to weld small stainless steel parts and sheet metal. But then I remembered the TIG welder power supply has a high voltage pulse built-in to initiate the plasma arc. Without that extra kick-start, it might be difficult to strike an arc without damaging the fine pointed tip of the Tungsten electrode. So I decided to just go with a conventional stick welding setup. The fact that PC power supplies put out DC voltage will be an advantage over the more common AC buzz-box arc welders for better stability and producing higher quality welds.

Modifications

Obviously, trying to convert a PC power supply into an arc welding power supply will require a few modifications. Here is a quick list of the main challenges I think we will have to overcome.

•    Higher capacity fan for better cooling
•    Terminate all the PSU’s +12V cables into welding leads
•    Disable the Short Circuit protection feature
•    Implement selecting the desired current output
•    Strike and maintain a stable arc with only 12 volts

Please continue reading our write up about Arc Welding with a PC Power Supply!!!

More air-flow: The AX1600i is designed for relatively quiet operation, which is not an issue when arc welding. To insure we have an excellent flow of cooling air through the power supply I pulled out a monster Delta fan that I had left over from an old water-cooling radiator test system.

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This fan is a little thicker (38mm vs. 25mm) than the stock fan, so I’m going to mount it on the outside of the PSU chassis blowing in. The big Delta air-turbine spins at a constant 8,000 rpm and sounds like a hair dryer but it moves a lot of air, which will keep all the internal bits well cooled. Better to be safe than sorry.

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Terminating cables: I decided to use all eight PCI-E cables and both 8-pin CPU cables to supply the +12V outputs to the welding leads. The 24-pin ATX connector will plug into a control panel with an On-Off switch to power up our PC welder and one of the 4-pin peripheral cables will be used to power the piggy-back Delta fan.

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I plan to start out using straight polarity when welding, which means sending the positive output to the ground clamp and the negative output to the stinger lead. Twelve heavy-duty terminals were used to make the transition. So far, so good.

Disable SC Protection: This one caused me a bit of trouble but eventually with a little help from a Corsair insider (no names as promised) I was able to identify and very carefully disable the Safety Protection Circuit chip on the Digital Control Board.

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The Digital Control Board is located at the upper left edge in the photo above. This was by far the most difficult task to accomplish; one wrong move here and we could have damaged one of the DSP (Digital Signal Processor) chips, which would have rendered the Corsair Link interface dead and the PSU useless.

Implementing Over Current Set-points: Having the ability to select Multi-rail output mode for the +12V rails and manually set over current limits via the included Corsair Link software is a huge help. I didn’t realize it at the time, but by disabling the Safety Protection Circuit, we also eliminated the problem of potentially triggering an over current shut down. Yes, that does impose some added risk, but we knew that going into this project. With Safety Protections disabled, the power supply should now just limit the current delivered to each of the +12V rails to the set points entered via Corsair Link instead of shutting down.

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As you can see in the screen-shot above of the Corsair Link Home tab, Multi-Rail operation has been enabled and all ten of the +12V outputs for the PCI-E and CPU cables have been set to 6A (6A x 10 = 60A combined +12V output). This seems like a good place to start. I can always go back and try a different setting as needed.

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As noted above, all ten of these +12V outputs have been routed and terminated into the two welding cables that go to the ground clamp and stinger.

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By changing the over current limits on the +12V outputs I’m hoping to be able to select a useable output capacity for the PC welder. When you strike an arc it will appear as a dead short to the PSU, which is why we had to disable Short Circuit Protection. With current limiters set on each of the +12V outputs the PSU should essentially be in constant-current mode. Unfortunately, I can only change settings when the PSU is actually connected to a computer to run the Corsair Link software. But to be safe, I disconnect the computer before going into “welding mode”. I may be a little crazy but I’m not stupid!

Testing

OK, we’ve thought this through… modifications are complete… the AX1600i has been tested and it appears to still be working!

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I’m going to start out using a 1/8” 6010 DC rod and see what happens.

Power On… The fan is screaming… Time to light ‘er up…

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Striking an arc and keeping it stable with only 12 volts is really a challenge, even if there is plenty of amperage available. I didn’t have much luck with the current limiters set to deliver only 60A (just kept sticking the rod without establishing an arc). Normally this amperage would be fine for a small 1/8” rod but I found I needed more amperage to generate more heat to maintain a sustainable plasma arc. Not much I can do about that except work on my technique.

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The main goal was to see if we could run a short bead and stick two pieces of steel plate together. It’s not pretty, but…

Bottom line, this IS crazy.  You can buy a relatively inexpensive stick or MIG welder for light home use for less money than the cost of the Corsair AX1600i Digital power supply.

I hope you have enjoyed our little experiment but please don’t try this at home.

Note: No PC power supplies were permanently harmed or damaged in any way during this experiment.


March 31, 2018 | 08:22 PM - Posted by jonnyGURU (not verified)

That's not what this is for! :D

This makes you worse than a Cryptocurrency miner!!! :D :D :D

April 1, 2018 | 01:18 PM - Posted by Lee Garbutt

Oh come on Jon, this could turn into a HUGE new market for Corsair. Just think of the possibilities!

March 31, 2018 | 08:27 PM - Posted by jtiger102

Kind of begs the question now for every power supply review going forward... But can it weld?

I know it's been jokingly mentioned for a few years at least when a power supply review comes around.

This is fun to see it put into actual use!

April 2, 2018 | 08:10 AM - Posted by Zaxx

I've seen a tech. rep for Linear Power car audio bridge the fuse on one of their 2 ohm stable mono amps from hell and proceed to 'weld' some sheet metal together with the outputs then hook it back up to the system w/fuse and pump a pair of Fosgate Punch Pro 12" DVC all the way up...sounding perfect. Ofc back in the day, Linear Power were waay over engineered amps...exp as hell too. All power circuit used mil. spec. TO-3 packaged transistor flush mounted to massive alum. heatsinks with active cooling setup in 2 fan push/pull cofigs. I had a 2x250w RMS 2 ohm stable LP amp that was rated at 600W+ RMS in mono mode rated 4 ohm stable.

Would love to Frankenstein together an old high end amp using a modern 1200-1500 watt PSU to power the amp stages themselves. Wouldn't be too tuff...both ATX PSUs and car audio systems are 12VDC systems for the most part. Muahahaha....

March 31, 2018 | 08:33 PM - Posted by KevinM (not verified)

Call me crazy, but I am pretty sure that voids Corsair's warranty :)

I would love to hear the conversation with the Corsair rep if someone tried to get a warranty on that power supply due to a welding problem.

March 31, 2018 | 09:32 PM - Posted by Hamilton (not verified)

Hey I saw MacGyver welding with a 12V car battery On TV so I know this is possible! Great write up guys - this is awesome!

April 1, 2018 | 07:37 AM - Posted by kenjo

A car battery delivers several times more amps than this PSU.

And yes you can use a battery for real it's not just on MacGyver.

April 1, 2018 | 03:40 PM - Posted by Johnw06 (not verified)

I think it's more common to use two in series (what ive seen ymmv) but yeah this commentor is correct.people use them with fets for spot welding as well. There are some dangers to that depending on set up but it works

March 31, 2018 | 10:31 PM - Posted by Swag_McDag (not verified)

Awesome read!!!
I am a welder by trade and a PC enthusiest as well. Its cool to see the two worlds collide. I would like to suggest you trying this again but instead of 6010 rods try running 7018 rods. 7018 create a much less violent arc and it is much easier on the welding machine, or in this case, the PSU which will make the arc tend to be more stable and easier to control.

April 1, 2018 | 01:22 PM - Posted by Lee Garbutt

Yes, I agree. I typically use 7018 rods because they are so easy to weld with - great for someone who only welds ocaisonally. Unfortunately I was out and 6010 was all I had on hand. Probably should have taken the time to go buy some 7018 rods. Thanks for the input!

March 31, 2018 | 11:44 PM - Posted by domnatr6

Yall finally did it! Can't wait to hear about this on the podcast.

April 1, 2018 | 01:46 AM - Posted by Wallywatts (not verified)

E6010 rods need a more violent arc than other rods, you should try E7018 they might run better due the the less sporadic arc. I'd love to see what happens

April 1, 2018 | 06:13 PM - Posted by CrcWelding Repair (not verified)

130 amps would not run a 1/4" rod lol my Lincoln 300 vantage is running in the range of 280 to 350 depending on what position I'm welding in, but I do love that this project was so well planned out! New standards are set for every PSU to come lol but can it weld is now on all the lists

April 1, 2018 | 05:19 AM - Posted by Havor (not verified)

But then I remembered the TIG welder power supply has a high voltage pulse built-in to initiate the plasma arc. Without that extra kick-start, it might be difficult to strike an arc without damaging the fine pointed tip of the Tungsten electrode.

Actually the damage is really not that bad, 25y ago when i started working offshore, the TIG welding machines finally started being robust enough to be trusted to be 99% of the time working on the job.

We also always still had POWCON stick welding machines whit us, those ware machines that literately always worked, and you can also could do TIG welding with them, whit a special TIG torch that had a gas valve on them so you cold start/stop the gas flow, and you started welding by striking the Tungsten over the metal.

Photo of a strike torch: http://gowelding.org/wp-content/uploads/tig-cup-sizes.jpg

Ofcourse a high voltage pulse is a way better way to start welding, but if needed a strike torch works reasonable well to.

April 1, 2018 | 03:41 PM - Posted by Johnw06 (not verified)

I've read u need 16v to ionize argon

April 2, 2018 | 12:55 AM - Posted by Havor (not verified)

According to Fronius website (imho the best welding machines money can buy, after Corsair ;-) the operating voltage of one of there smaller TIG machines is 10,1-16,8V.
https://www.fronius.com/en/welding-technology/products/manual-welding/ti...

And there bigger machines have a operating voltage 10,1V - 46V
https://www.fronius.com/en/welding-technology/products/manual-welding/ti...

So 12V should work just fine.

April 1, 2018 | 11:48 AM - Posted by DoubleTrouble (not verified)

So you just “carefully disabled the safety protection circuit”? And a PSU will never operate in constant current mode. I,m not buying any of it.

April 1, 2018 | 10:22 PM - Posted by Lee Garbutt

Come on, lighten up man - check your calendar - what day is this???

April 2, 2018 | 12:52 AM - Posted by Rich Fuck (not verified)

THE BEST ARTICLE IN YEARS LOL

April 2, 2018 | 01:24 AM - Posted by meowster (not verified)

April Fool-ing around.
Love it.

April 2, 2018 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Jason2ully (not verified)

Hey Lee, you really had me going there. You did a great job writing the story with a logical framework and enough technical details to make it so believable. And then with all the “staged” photos it closed the deal. Well done! This should go down as one of the best April Fools Day spoofs of all time. Thanks to everyone at PCPer who made this happen.

April 2, 2018 | 03:17 PM - Posted by ButtonPuncher (not verified)

Article idea for 4-1-2019, use a Lincoln Welder to power your Crypto mining rig. :)

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Lincoln-Electric-225-Amp-Arc-Stick-Welder-AC...

BTW, you could isolate the PC power supply, run three in series for a 36V with a max of 133A. Put a car audio 50F capacitor in parallel with each PS to avoid the OCP ending your fun.

https://web.archive.org/web/20170902033627/http://ac8gy.com/pc_supplies....

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