Thermal Arc 181i Welder Review

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In Brief: Thermal Arc 181i Review

The thermal arc 181 is a good inverter powered multi-process welder than can be Mig / Tig & Arc weld. Its ease of use, combined with its multifunctionality, makes it the perfect tool for beginners and homeowners.

The Thermal Arc division was established in 1994 and initially offered a limited number of portable, inverter type power sources.

Currently owned by ESAB, the company is focused on supplying of welding and cutting products to national and international consumers.

The thermal arc 181i is an excellent 3-in-1 Stick/MIG/TIG welder that uses advanced inverter technology. This 33 lbs machine has excellent portability and performance.

It can deliver from 10 to 180 Amps of welding output power from 230 Volts input. In addition, its multi-process and versatility allow you to use it in several light welding applications, from household repairs to DIY projects.

Watch an overview of the product here:


Key Specifications of thermal arc 181i

The thermal arc 181i features a trigger control 4T latch to eliminate operator fatigue, a quick change polarity, overload protection to protect from overheating, and intelligent fan control to reduce the amount of contaminants entering the machine and lift TIG start for TIG welding.

The welder also comes with the following features, such as infinite voltage control for optimized starting performance, inductance control for arc stability, and adjustable burn back control for MIG welding.

And a flexible arc force control for favorable electrode performance and hot start for easy arc start for stick welding.

Here is a quick table of key specs –

Product dimension410mm x 210mm x 450mm
Power Source Mass32.19 lbs
Number of PhasesSingle Phase
Nominal Supply Voltage230V ± 15%
Nominal Supply Frequency50/60Hz
Output Range10-180A
Maximum Input Current37 Amps
Single Phase Generator Requirement9 KVA
Warranty Period3 Years

Ease of Usage

The welder can be used right out of the box. Make sure you have made all the primary connections before you start the welding machine, such as connecting the ground clamps, Mig gun, and electrode handler.

It also comes with a setup chart inside the door for guidelines to help you choose the correct material type for the base material you are welding.

Note: For best result, read and follow all labels and owners manual carefully before installing and operating the unit.

Watch a video on how to set up:


Warranty / Repairs

Esab offers a three years warranty to all Thermal Arc products such as Arc Master, PowerMaster, Ultrafeed, Fabricator 3 in 1, Portable DC Welders 161S, 201TS & 186 AC/DC, Ultima 150, WC-100B.

For more details on kindly contact Customer Care: 800-426-1888 or visit

Customer Review Analysis

We researched a large number of online reviews and comments of buyers on different forums and websites. Here’s what the customers have to say about the thermal arc 181i welding machine.

The feelings on this product are mixed. Some customers find the welder to be an excellent rig. The arc is very stable and smooth while doing MIG and stick but also performs a good option for tig welding jobs.

Its versatility, portability allows to use it for a number of welding jobs

On the other hand, the customers complain about the poor quality of the machine and the machine shutting down. Others find the drill to be a below-average tool. But they have good customer service and a good warranty scheme.


Pros/Cons of thermal arc 181i

Based on a large number of customer reviews, specifications, expert comments, here are the key pros and cons of the thermal arc 181i:


  • Light-weight
  • Portable
  • Less power consumption.
  • Compact design
  • Fan-on demand reduces noise and power consumption.
  • Thermal overload indicator for protection
  • It comes with a 12ft cable for MIG Gun.


  • Poor quality
  • It cannot be used for heavy-duty welding.


When and Who Should use?

The thermal arc 181i could be a perfect choice if you want a welder that can be used for light maintenance and repairs, portable welding applications and training institutions(welding schools).

This Stick, MIG, TIG welder can also be used for welding metals such as mild steel, aluminum, stainless steel, (stick) copper bronze or brass, high alloy steel.

Recommended accessories with Thermal arc 181i

Here are a few accessories that we would like to recommend:

RAPICCA Leather Forge Welding Gloves Heat

RAPICCA Leather Forge Welding Gloves Heat/Fire Resistant, Mitts for Oven/Grill/Fireplace/Furnace/Stove/Pot Holder/Tig Welder/Mig/BBQ/Animal handling glove with 16 inches Extra Long Sleeve - Blue


Yaheetech 3-Tier Welding Cart

Yaheetech 3-Tier Welding Cart MIG TIG ARC Plasma Cutter Welder Welding Cart Universal W/Tank Storage, 176lbs Capacity Black


Esab SENTINEL Auto Darkening Welding Helmet

ESAB 0700000800 SENTINEL A50 Welding Helmet


What is the duty cycle of Thermal arc 181i?

180A, 23V @ 20% Duty Cycle, 145A, 22.5V @ 30% Duty Cycle.

Can beginners use this welder?

Yes, this welder can be used by anyone who does light welding jobs.

Our Recommendation

Although not as good as an industrial-grade welder, the Thermal arc 181i is a good option for light welding jobs. So, if you’re new to this industry or someone who loves to do small DIY projects, then the thermal arc 181i wouldn’t be a bad choice.

On the other hand, some do complain about the poor quality, durability. Others find the power and performance of the tool disappointing. Therefore, users looking for such a professional outcome should invest in something more expensive.

In conclusion, it can be said that the thermal arc 181i is a great tool for someone looking for a cheap multi-process welder for small DIYs at home.


About Gary Stewart

Gary is an experienced writer who has written on a variety of topics, including welding, power tools, home appliances, etc. He loves to cook and travel.

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