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William Hughes is using plasma welding processes to manufacture a variety of wire products for industries ranging from consumer electrical goods through to automotive.

Plasma welding brings better control to the arc welding process in lower current ranges, making it suitable for small-diameter, precision or miniature applications, according to the company.

It also offers long electrode life for high production requirements.

William Hughes is exploiting the semi-automatic process to join round phosphor bronze or stainless-steel wire, making 2D or 3D forms.

Hexagonal wire can also be processed if required.

Plasma is a gas that is heated to an extremely high temperature and ionised so that it becomes electrically conductive and inert (no impurities).

The process uses this plasma to transfer an electric arc to the workpiece – in this case two ends of wire.

The wire ends are melted by the intense heat of the arc and fuse together in just two seconds.

The process is automated to achieve consistency.

At present, the company makes a range of different diameter products using this process.

Almost any diameter (including very small sizes) can be accommodated to meet customer specifications – only a change of clamping plates is needed.

In terms of wire diameter, this is typically 0.75mm or 0.9mm, although any diameter between 0.3mm and 2.0mm is possible.

Current applications for products manufactured by William Hughes using plasma welding processes include parts for shower filter systems and kettles.

These have conductive properties and are typically phosphor bronze wire forms.

For kettle applications, the wire is used to heat up two plastic ring halves so they fuse together as part of a customer-patented process.

The resulting doughnut shape is said to be impossible to produce by methods such as moulding because there is no way of retrieving the central core after the plastic has set.

Another application involves stainless-steel wire being joined by plasma welding to create locking mechanisms used by a car manufacturer on a range of its models.

In line with other production operations at this ISO9001-accredited company, a rigorous failure test mechanism is in place at to ensure that high-quality plasma-welded parts are always supplied.

On a sample basis, wire components are subjected to a stress test to confirm that the required weld strength has been attained.

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