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Plasma arc welding

Plasma Arc Welding (PAW) is an extension of the Gas Tungsten Arc Welding (GTAW) process. The arc is formed between an electrode (which is usually but not always made of a sintered tungsten) and the workpiece. The key difference from GTAW is that in PAW, by positioning the electrode within the body of the torch, the plasma arc can be separated from the shielding gas envelope. The plasma is then forced through a fine-bore copper nozzle which constricts the arc and the plasma exits the orifice at high velocities (approaching the speed of sound) and a temperature approaching 20,000 oC.

Plasma Arc Welding is an advancement over the GTAW process. This process uses a non-consumable tungsten electrode and an arc constricted through a fine-bore copper nozzle. PAW can be used to join all metals that are weldable with GTAW (i.e., most commercial metals and alloys). Several basic PAW process variations are possible by varying the current, plasma gas flow rate, and the orifice diameter, including:

PAW (Plasma arc welding) Advantages

PAW Limitations


PAW Gases

At least two separate (and possibly three) flows of gas are used in PAW:

These gases can all be same, or of differing composition.

PAW Key Process Variables

Other Plasma Arc Processes

Depending upon the design of the torch (e.g., orifice diameter), electrode design, gas type and velocities, and the current levels, several variations of the plasma process are achievable, including:

Plasma Arc Cutting (PAC)

When used for cutting, the plasma gas flow is increased so that the deeply penetrating plasma jet cuts through the material and molten material is removed as cutting dross. PAC differs from oxy-fuel cutting in that the plasma process operates by using the arc to melt the metal whereas in the oxy-fuel process, the oxygen oxidizes the metal and the heat from the exothermic reaction melts the metal. Unlike oxy-fuel cutting, the PAC process can be applied to cutting metals which form refractory oxides such as stainless steel, cast iron, aluminum, and other non-ferrous alloys.

Suggested Additional Reading

American Welding Society, Welding Handbook, Volume 2 (8th Ed.)

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Welding Encyclopedia

1 History of Welding

2 Arc Welding processes

2.2 Gas welding

2.3 Resistance welding

3 Welding costs

4 Safety issues