Plasma arc welding

Anyone here have experience with plasma arc welding? How does it compare
with TIG?
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For the proper application its terrific, usually only used for very low current thin ga. applications.
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Very little Plasma welding is done by hand anymore. It has been mostly automated for assembly of very thin materials, and very-difficult-to-weld alloys.
Several companies sell the equipment, but is is quite expensive new.
You can find used older machines pretty cheap because of the limited market.
One of the reasons for it's lack of popularity is the complexity of the torch. The ones I used had about 6-8 torch parts to keep track of , and had to be assembled using a special calibration tool. The size of the tip orifice, and tungsten, has to be matched to a very narrow range of amperage, so it lacks versatility. Even the slightest piece out of place renders the torch useless. The parts are consumed much faster than in TIG and are about 10 times more expensive.
Mind you that when the machine is set up correctly for the material being joined, it is a very cool tool to use, but the you spend so much time just setting it up that is hardly seems worth it for anything but aerospace work.
You can learn more about it from a few websites like
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Ernie Leimkuhler
I used to weld semi-auto with a plasma torch, I worked for a company that made jet engine components for GE & Pratt & Whitney. I enjoyed using it, once properly set up, it was cool to watch.
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Art Van Dalay
I worked with automated PAW systems in the auto industry for 6 years. The reason that PAW was used is that a pilot arc can be constantly maintained and the welding arc can be started and stopped thousands of times per day without a problem or the need for high frequency arc starting. We changed out consumables, 3/16" diameter tungsten, and the copper orifice tip, every 700 welds. The joints were typically fusion of the edges of a thin Inconel sheet (0.015"), sandwiched between two thicker steel components.
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