Plasma Cutters

Plasma cutting is the process of using a plasma torch to cut steel and other materials of various thicknesses. This cutting action is accomplished by blowing an inert gas out of a nozzle at high speeds.

At the same time, a electric arc is generated inside the gas as it strikes the workpiece, which turns a portion of the gas into plasma. This superheated plasma cuts a hole through the material, and blows the molten metal away from the cut.

Plasma cutters, because of the superheated, localized “cone” they produce, are very effective at cutting sheet metal in angled or curved shapes. Plasma is good at cutting both thick and thin materials, and hand-held torches can generally cut over 50mm steel plate with ease. At one time, plasma cutters could only be used on conductive materials, but new technologies allow for the cutting of a wide-range of non-conductive workpieces as well.

These cutters are designed and built as a means of cutting through heavy metals, often up to 1″ in thickness or more. However, when cutting thicker than 1″ other cutting methods should be considered as well. Also keep in mind that many of these cutters operate at 80 amp currents or more, so you’ll need a power outlet that can handle that type of heavy current load.

As a rule, plasma cutters are very easy to operate. Almost anyone can be given a few minutes of instruction, and immediately be able to cut through most metals. Most of the learning curve involves setting up the machine and replacing the electrodes and consumable nozzles.

Plasma cutters are effective at cutting almost any metal, from stainless steel to mild steel, copper, brass, aluminum and even titanium.

In recent years plasma torch makers have released new models with narrower nozzels that produce a thinner, more accurate arc. These new torches allow for almost laser-quality cuts. When combined with automated control, these torches allow fabricators to manufacture parts that need almost no finishing.

Another advancement in plasma cutting is a reduction in equipment costs. A decade ago plasma torches were expensive items most often found in professional welding shops and manufacturing plants. But the new torches on the market are more resonably priced, and are within reach of many hobbyists and artists.

Related Articles




You may also like...

Sign up for our FREE Modern Welding Newsletter