Steel and other hard materials can be cut with a variety of modern machines, such as a plasma cutter. The machine costs thousands of dollars and is used by industrial fabrication shops to manufacture products and machine parts. It’s a device that also works for cutting stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. Here are some important facts to know about plasma cutting.
Inside a Plasma Cutting Machine
The main concept behind a plasma cutter is that the machine injects hot plasma through a heated electrical channel and nozzle then into the stock material, as it generates an arc. This path creates an electric circuit with the addition of a grounding clamp. Through the process of ionization electrical conductivity is generated, allowing hot plasma to melt steel with a torch. The softening of the material allows for easy cutting as the plasma and gas remove hot molten metal either on thick or thin plates (although laser cutters are becoming more commonly used for thin metal).
Why Manufacturers Like Plasma Cutters
Plasma machines first began to appear in the late eighties in the midst of the computer revolution. The reasons CNC plasma cutters are favored among industrial manufacturers include high speed, high precision and low cost. Since they operate on powerful computerized programming these plasma cutters can also be automated.
To create the arc in some machines you can connect the torch with the material being cut. Other machines use a high voltage and high frequency circuit, but it’s a more dangerous method since it can lead to electrocution. In machines placed near other electronics, the nozzle can be used as a cathode while the electrode acts as the anode. When these devices touch each other they create an arc like lighting a match.
The heat from a plasma cutter is so hot it can easily cut metal into any type of geometric shape, no matter how unconventional. Another defining factor of plasma machines is that they can be used on demand through programming instructions. The flexibilty of cutting endless shapes on flat sheet metal is a useful quality. Metal sign manufacturers use plasma cutters for making artistic designs.
One of the most important tips about plasma cutting is to follow safety procedures set by OSHA. That means wearing proper eye protection from the arc and flying particles. Since hot plasma presents the risk of getting burned, technicians should wear gloves and protective clothing. Some plasma cutters include CNC tables as the computer controls the torch and produces sharp cuts. Newer vertical cutting tables for CNC plasma cutters are now considered safer than horizontal tables.
Plasma cutting is an efficient solution for cutting steel and other metals. But it must be performed by seasoned professionals who know what they are doing. Contact us at Serra Laser & Waterjet to learn more about plasma cutting, along with tube cutting and other forms of metal fabrication.