If you have recently acquired a plasma cutter, you’ll quickly realize just how amazing this cutting tool is. This cutter is one of the best tools to have in any metal shop due to its easy operation, high precision performance, and ability to reduce costs when cutting metal.
What is Plasma Cutting?
Plasma cutting is a cutting method that basically fires gas through a nozzle to create an electric arc that will ionize the gas and create plasma.
Plasma is the fourth state of matter after liquids, solids, and gases. The plasma cuts through conductive metal. A conductive metal is able to transmit heat or electricity. The Plasma torch melts the metal while a gas flow removes molten metal from the cut’s bottom. Plasma cutting only works with metal.
What Can You Do with a Plasma Cutter?
A plasma cutter is used to specifically cut an ample selection of various types of conductive metals. Metals that a plasma cutter can cut include:
- Cast iron
- Mild steel
- Stainless steel
What Can you Make with a Plasma Cutter?
This is a versatile tool that has many uses. Things to make with a plasma cutter, as well as plasma cutter uses, may include:
- Artwork. Many artists and sculptors use plasma cutters for the precision they offer when creating artwork. This tool will allow cuts along fine lines and with thin metals without causing distortion. Plasma cutters can also be employed to creates patterns and stencils.
- Automotive. Car and motorcycle builders can create pieces for the renovation of autos or bikes where parts are no longer in production. Or they can create personalized elements.
- Construction. Because there are numerous small plasma cutting units that are portable, they can now be used in the field or directly at a job site, especially when precision cutting saves time and money.
- Demolition for scrap metal and recycling. For those interested in removing or reducing the size of metal sheets, pipes, or blocks during demolition, a plasma cutter offers speed, precision, and doesn’t leave a big mess behind to clean up.
- Heavy Industry. A plasma cutter, especially a CNC plasma cutter is a must for industrial metal cutting. This tool can improve seam welding, cut repeated patterns and designs, and perform the multi-axis cutting.
- HVAC, A portable plasma cutter will allow for on-site repairs on sheet metal making returning to the shop a thing of the past.
- Metal Work. Detailed metalwork and small construction elements can be produced in less time and with more ease.
- Plumbing. Cutting pipe lengths at a job site saves both time and money. Precisely cut edges facilitate correct pipe fitting.
- Repair Work. If you need to remove broken welds or unsatisfactory welds, a plasma cutter is easy to operate and offers rapid solutions. Consider automotive repair work on fenders, panels, boat or trailer hitches, and of course mufflers. Repair work on agricultural equipment is often facilitated thanks to a portable plasma cutter including tractors, water tanks, tools, and fencing. The options are limitless. Lawnmower repairs shed roofs, gutters, barbeques, and even chain link fences will all find benefit with a plasma cutter available.
How to Cut with a Plasma Cutter
Here is an easy step-by-step guide for using a plasma cutter.
Step 1: Compression connection
Should the plasma cutter NOT have a built-in air compressor, connect the cutter to an appropriate air compressor unit and air dryer if available.
Step 2: Power Source Connection
Depending on the type of machine you have acquired, connect it to an electrical power supply. This may be 115V, 240V, or 415V.
Step 3: Grounding the Metal to be Cut
Now, connect the grounding or earth lead to the metal you wish to cut.
Step 4: Connecting the PlasmaTorch
Now connect your plasma cutting torch to the cutting machine.
Step 5: Make Your Amperage Selection
Select the correct amperage on the plasma cutter for the thickness of the metal you intend to cut.
Step 6: Begin Cutting
Turn on the switch on the plasma torch handle and gradually move the torch along the cut line of the metal as the plasma arc cuts the workpiece.
Step 7: Turn off the Supply Sources
Once the work is finished, turn off the power supply and air source.
Depending on your needs, you can either cut lines from an edge or directly cut a hole in the middle of your workpiece. Templates can be used for cutting patterns and designs, while a circle kit will allow you to cut a perfect circle if desired.
A major benefit of using a plasma cutter is portability. You also will not need to carry gas tanks around with you to get the job done. Cut widths are also smaller than if using an oxy-acetylene torch when cutting.
What is a CNC Plasma Cutter?
The letters CNC mean Computer Numerical Control. A CNC plasma cutter will have a mounted torch on a kind of moveable bridge as part of the machine and the torch will move as directed by a computer. “Numerical control” indicates that the motion of the plasma cutter is programmed through numerical coding in computer software.
These plasma cutters use a system of cutting that is mechanized and not handheld. The integrated torch can be specifically held by the plasma cutter. These plasma cutters feature a control console, or they can connect to a laptop or desk computer for communication between the machine and the software. CNC plasma cutters are often used to create decorative work, outdoor art, and signs.
How to Use a CNC Plasma Cutter
CNC plasma cutter operators need to be trained or well-versed in editing CNC programs. Here is a step-by-step guide for a CNC plasma cutter machine operation process.
Step 1: Compression and Air dryer connections
Connect the cutter to an appropriate air compressor unit and the air dryer unit.
Step 2: Control Start
Turn on the plasma cutter machine control unit.
Step 3: Power Source Connection
Connect the plasma cutter to an electrical power supply.
Step 4: Prepare the CNC program
Employ an Autocad drawing or a pre-existing Solidworks file and convert to the DXF format.
Step 5: Import the DXF format
Import the drawing of the part in the DXF format into the FastCAM for the appropriate nesting and for the conversion of the program.
Step 6: Copy the Program
The converted program needs to be copied into the control unit of the plasma cutter tool with a U disk.
Step 7: Prepare the process parameters
Select the process parameters about the type of material you are cutting and the material’s thickness for the program you are using.
Step 8: Preparing to Start the Cut
Once parameters have been selected, begin the program for cutting. Adjust the steel plate and track so that they are parallel. Select the type of cutting nozzle. Select the cutting speed or piercing time amount. Adjust the plasma power current for the metal thickness to be cut.
Step 9: Cutting
Start the cutting.
Step 10: Finishing when a cut is completed
When your cutting is completed, shut off the power source and air sources. Clean any slag from metal cutting that has remained on the plasma cutter equipment.
Remember not to adjust the power supply to too great an amount as this will adversely influence both the lifespan of the plasma cutter as well as of the electrode. Also, double-check to ensure that the plasma torch is perpendicular to the plasma cutter plate, as an incline can affect the final quality of the cut. During operation, if you notice some type of abnormality, press the emergency stop button, but do not move either the plate or the machine.
Plasma cutters are fantastic versatile machines that will save you both time and money in the long term.
They are easily operated, using our step-by-step methods featured above, and will offer you fantastic precision cuts with little or no mess to clean up once completed.
One important aspect to factor in will always be the thickness of the material you need to cut. While cutting capabilities are not universal for all plasma cutters, and will vary depending on amperage output, most plasma cutters will cut metals that are less than one inch thick, so it’s a good idea to keep this in mind when selecting and using your plasma cutter.