This is a question, not a how-to- I've had several applications in the past where I wanted to use a heating element made into some special shape, or wound specifically for one application, etc. What I've usually done is mechanically fasten the nichrome wire to a terminal, which then has a copper wire leading away from it to a power supply. In most cases this works, but is not ideal, especially where there's little room and a low profile is required. What would be better is to have a heat-resistant but highly conductive lead-out wire attached to the ends of the heating element wire.
At first thought, spot welding would seem to be the way, and maybe that is the ultimate answer. How best to do this?
Most connections I see have the wires crossed, and the spot weld is visible between them. In many cases I would prefer the wires laying side by side, and the spot weld taking up a short length along the sides of each wire. I would also be happy to find that a good connection can be made by butting the ends of the wires together and making the weld.
The gist of my question is how would one go about making a good butt weld between nichrome wire and a proper lead-out wire? And what should that lead-out wire be made from?
Then I thought of another option- plating copper on the end couple inches or whatever of the nichrome wire, then plating over that with a protective layer, possibly chrome. I realize that the copper layer would have to be a substantial thickness in order to keep that section of the wire from heating due to the current, and I think it needs to be plated in order to survive. If this kind of thing would work, it would be most elegant. You could just wind or fold the element wire into the shape you need it, making sure that the first and last part of it is where the plating starts. Further to that, if there's some way to protect the copper plating from heat by the heating action itself, you could form the element first, then paint on a protective compound and fire it up. The heat would 'glaze' the paint where it gets hot enough to, and the copper on the rest of the lead-out wire would survive because it doesn't get that hot.
That's the idea anyway. Comments and ideas welcome.