Liquid Cooled Tig Torch DIY
Liquid cooling your tig torch has many advantages. For starters, a similarly sized liquid cooled torch has approximately a 100% increase in amperage capacity. The liquid cooling helps to draw the heat away from the tungsten. This is especially important as you get up in material thickness of aluminum. Also, operator comfort and control are GREATLY enhanced using a liquid cooled tig torch. Instead of having to hold the torch by only the handle, the operator can actually "choke up" on the torch head without having to worry about heat discomfort from holding the torch much closer to the arc. This is especially valuable in off angle and inside corner situations.
There are a few disadvantages to liquid cooling. Liquid cooling does limit the mobility of the machine. Once you have gone liquid cooled you are attached to the cart or work station. There is also more maintenance involved in a liquid cooled setup than an air cooled. One of the most important considerations about adding a liquid cooling system is cost. A typical "add on" tig cooler system can run upwards of $1k. Hardly a budget option....
There are less expensive options for liquid cooling. They're generally separated into two categories, wasteful (such as "single pass" systems) or bulky (large coolant reservoirs). There is another option, though. An active cooled recirculating system built from parts readily available for ~$100
The parts list:
Little Giant VCMA-15ULS condensate pump, $40 http://www.little-giantpump.com/new_page_43.htm
Radiator used on liquid cooled gaming computers, $50 http://www.frozencpu.com/products/2146/ex-rad-10/Black_Ice_Xtreme_120mm_Radiator_Black_w_Customizable_Fittings.html?tl=g30c95s159
115VAC "computer fan" in the same bolt pattern as what comes on the radiator, $20 http://www.skycraftsurplus.com/115vacmuffinfan.aspx
Various plumbing and electrical supplies from the hardware store, $20
Go ahead and remove all of the brackets off of the top plate forward of where the pump mounts. You'll need all that space for the radiator and cooling fan. Don't worry about the big holes left in the top plate, we'll be making a plate to cover those anyway.
The plate is designed so that it will fit inside the area that normally is occupied by the the float assembly. Three mounting holes are drilled into it to allow bolting down of the radiator mounting bracket from up above and a short piece of 5/8" aluminum round rod is welded onto the plate and tapped 1/8" NPT to screw a fitting in for the return line back to the reservoir.
In order to solidly mount the the fan and radiator assembly I chose to bolt them together and then bolt the assembly to a bracket. Assuming you have the tig welder already you may be wanting to build this liquid cooler for, you can weld the corners together to make this bracket really strong. I drilled the three holes in the in the bottom all the way through the plastic housing and through the "bottom" sheet of aluminum. I'll use machine screws to mount the bracket down and sandwich the plastic housing for strength.
In order to make getting the coolant in and out of the box and reservoir easier, I welded 5/8" aluminum round rod onto the plates and tapped them with an 1/8" NPT tap to allow a pipe nipple to be threaded in to act as a passthrough for the coolant. While I was at it, I drilled a hole for an electrical connector to act as a strain relief.
The internal plumbing of the cooler. The return from the tig torch will be plumbed into the side of the box where it will pass through the radiator before being returned to the reservoir. This way, the warm liquid will be cooled before before it finds its way back to the plastic pump.
Just a piece of aluminum expanded metal to use as a guard for the back of the box. Bend at the red lines to form enough of a "tab" to bolt the screen to the box.
This is the box all folded up and welded across the top. The screen is mounted to the back of the box using # 8 machine screws