Powerful Portability


This  story originally appeared in FFJournal’s April 2012 issue (www.  FFJournal.net) and has 
been reprinted here with permission. It has been edited to fit in the space available.
Whether a  small operation or a high volume fabricator, today’s economy is forcing  companies to see 
how they can harness the latest technology to propel turnaround and undercut the competition. A
casualty of the recession, Mike Balboni, an out-of-work welder, weighed his options. “I could wait
for somebody to send me some money or I could go out and get it,” he says. “I decided I would
take a more proactive approach.”
The 181i welded every component of this railing made from hot dipped 
galvanized steel to which Balboni also applied a two-part topcoat.
Once Balboni began looking, he found steady work, which enabled him
to start Northeast Welding and Mechanical, North Attleboro, Mass.

He needed welding equipment that would let him go from a welding job on a home to a job at a large
construction site. “I have a mobile unit with a 9,000 W generator on it, a welder/generator that I run
with the Fabricator® 181i machine,” he says. “The company is a little bit bigger than we were four
or five years ago and expecting to grow again through this tough time.”The 181i from

St. Louis-based Victor Technologies allows Balboni to switch among MIG, TIG and Stick welding
quickly and frequently. “From welding one process and putting the gun down to hooking up the
next connection— it’s under 20 seconds to switch,” he says.
MIG, TIG and Stick
“With  a plug in the front enabling welders
to change polarities, welders can twist
off one plug, push it back in and plug it in
again. The spool gun connection is in
front of the panels, so there’s no need to
open the side of the machine to reach the
brass plates or disconnect wiring to
change polarity,” Balboni says.
Welders can switch among MIG, TIG  and
Stick welding using the 181i for a range of
materials including steel, stainless, aluminum or copper-based alloys. In the
past, until inverter technology was developed, “It’s always been very difficult for welding
manufacturers to produce a machine that gives the best arc characteristics for MIG,
TIG and Stick welding on each process because of the different volt amp curves required,”
says Thomas Wermert, Senior Brand Manager of Welding Products at Victor Technologies.

Sic doesn’t baby the 252i. Each of these Jersey barriers takes about 80 hours
to fabricate, and three fabricators pound .035” or .045” wire until the job gets

Sic Fabrications, Maumelle, Ark., is a high-volume fabrication company that welds structural components
and ornamental iron, offers heavy equipment repair and specializes in ornamental iron arm rests for tattoo parlors.
Sic  purchased its first Fabrication 252i machine in July 2011 and its most  recent one in April 2012, according to 
Stan Darnell, co-owner of Sic. Using the Fabricator 252i, Sic TIG welds iron armrests, Stick or flux core welds
bridge parts and uses solid wire MIG welding with general fabrication work. “Each person is able to use one
machine to do all of the work as it comes in and that was the biggest thing,” he says. “I don’t have to have three
machines sitting side-by-side per station. I have one machine.”

From construction equipment repair to Jersey barriers to custom metal art such as

these arm rests for a tattoo parlor, the 252i gives Sic great flexibilty.

“If you can can draw it, we can weld it,” says Stan Darnell. “And if you can’t draw it, we can.”





Sic  uses the 252i to weld steel molds for Jersey barriers. “If you’ve ever  driven down a freeway and you see the little
concrete barriers that are about 32 in. tall sitting on the side of the freeway, those are Jersey barriers,” Darnell says.
The barrier molds are made of mostly A36 carbon steel with 1⁄4-in. gussets on 3⁄16-in. skins with angle iron stacked
and sitting on top of very heavy plate. Without the heavy plate, through hydraulic action, the 5,000-lb. mold will lift it off
the ground, ruining the pour, Darnell says.
Consolidated technology  Darnell finds the Fabricator 252i’s adjustable arc force settings to be  particularly helpful. 
“It gives the arc more force, which is nice when you switch between a 7018 rod and a 5P. You need more arc
force to run the 5P. It’s a stand-off rod, the 7018 is a drag rod, so you need less arc force, giving you a smoother
weld with less spatter,” he says.
According  to Darnell, the 252i creates less spatter because of the inductance  settings on a MIG machine, which 
controls the fluidity of the puddle.  “For a MIG machine, you run through an amperage curve. Inductance does not
change the amperage but it changes the fluidity of the puddle,” giving it a higher inductance, which is more fluidity
in the puddle, he says.
Myriad projects
[L-R] Mark Harrison of WELSCO, Sic co-owners Matt Zajac and Stan Darnell.
Balboni  needed a durable and economical tool, and the 181i allows him to take  on a number of jobs, 
welding 1 ⁄8-in. 4043 diamond plate aluminum with 4043 aluminum wire with a spool gun. He was able
to work on a set of van roof racks for a local contractor as well as a threshold of ramps for a
nationwide fast-food chain restaurant using the same machine.
“The  restaurant found tiles would crack as it loaded freight in and out of  the stores with a pallet jack,” 
Balboni says. The diamond plate ramps were constructed with a kick in them with edges so they
couldn’t hit the doorjambs, taking the stress off from going over the doorjamb and hitting the first set
of tiles at the edge of the restaurant door.
Balboni  also used the machine to weld a set of handrails at a Veterans Affairs  hospital in Boston. 
The aluminum handrails had been torn off by a snowplow. He took the machine on the road. With a
small tank of argon gas on the truck, he used a spool gun on-site to fix the railings.
Mike Balboni of Northeast Welding prepares to MIG weld an aluminum lift gate using the Fabricator 181i and a spool gun.
The  same tool allowed Balboni to work on some light structural steel.  “Anything up to 3⁄8 in.,
I’ll weld with that machine,” he says. Northeast Welding fabricated a stand made from recycled
copper to collect water off of a building through downspouts for an eco-friendly project at a
Boston retirement home.
The stand was made of 2-in. square, 16-gauge structural tube.
The  181i allowed Balboni to respond to a call where a big rig had a crack  on its engine cover.
“So I took the 181i with the spool gun and welded the cast aluminum engine cover on-site,” he says.
 “Honestly, I bounce around with that machine ... and I take on all work.
Sic co-owner Matt Zajac uses the 252i’s Stick output for good penetration on the heavy steel plate used for the lift of a repo truck.
“It’s  amazing how many times I hear, ‘You’re the only one that answered the  phone,’ or 
‘You’re the fourth person I’ve called, and nobody else could do this,’” Balboni says.
“It’s a simple solution to be able to offer my customers affordable steel, aluminum, stainless and brass welding.”