I just saw this tool on a TV program and am fascinated. What is the tip of the plasma welder made of, why doesn't it melt? If water is sufficient to cool the tip, wouldn't it also cool the metal being cut? What about non under-water unit?
In short (Or as short as possible); The arc (The Plasma) is spun into a vortex by the swirl ring inside the nozzle. This spinning charged stream (effectively an electrical current) is passing through a static electric field. Ring any bells? (or perhaps, Flemings?) Anyway, the plasma is directed electromagnetically into a jet which doesn't even touch the sides of the nozzle which is at a floating potential and acts like a lens. The nozzle is usually made of copper to conduct radiated heat away as quickly as possible.
In the event of the plasma jet going astray, it behaves very similar to a pet polar bear. (Where does it sleep? Anywhere it wants to!) Remember; its at around 25k Celsius, and whatever that is in the old money.
Since plasma cutters use Hafnium - or some/most do - this also helps explain using zirconium TIG sticks. Fine sources of electrons. Generally a large atom.
2000C is not a cool melting temp.
hafnium (h?f'n?um) [key], metallic chemical element; symbol Hf; at. no. 72; at. wt. 178.49; m.p. about 2,227°C; b.p. 4,602°C; sp. gr. 13.31 at 20°C; valence +4. Hafnium is a lustrous, ductile, silvery metal with a hexagonal, close-packed crystalline structure.
Its chemical properties are almost identical to those of zirconium, the element directly above it in group IVb of the periodic table.
The two elements are among the most difficult to separate?zirconium is almost always an impurity in hafnium and affects its physical properties. Finely powdered hafnium can spontaneously ignite in air; because of this reactivity the metal has found use in the manufacture of light bulbs and vacuum tubes as a scavenger for small amounts of oxygen and nitrogen. Hafnium reacts directly with the halogens to form tetrahalides, and when heated it reacts with carbon, boron, sulfur, and silicon. Hafnium carbide is a refractory material with an extremely high melting point. Hafnium metal is produced by the Kroll process, in which a hafnium tetrahalide is reacted with magnesium or sodium metal. Because it is a good neutron absorber, hafnium metal is often used for nuclear reactor control rods. It has been alloyed with several other metals, among them iron and titanium. Hafnium is found widely distributed in nature, usually in association with zirconium minerals such as zircon.
The existence of hafnium was suspected for many years before it was demonstrated (1923) through X-ray spectroscopic analysis by Dirk Coster and Georg von Hevesy. They named the element for Hafn, Latin for Copenhagen, the city where they had made the discovery.
Yes, the "Electrode" is made of Hafnium which does melt (slowly) in service, but the arc is leaving the Hafnium insert, which is usually cooled from behind either by the gas/air flow, or by water in heavier duty torches. The nozzle of a plasma torch is commonly called the 'tip'. Hence my earlier explanation.