Very little Plasma welding is done by hand anymore.
It has been mostly automated for assembly of very thin materials, and
Several companies sell the equipment, but is is quite expensive new.
You can find used older machines pretty cheap because of the limited
One of the reasons for it's lack of popularity is the complexity of the
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
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
You can learn more about it from a few websites like
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.