Cutting through metal efficiently has always been a challenge for fabricators. It’s tough finding equipment that factors in safety, efficiency, and ease of use all in one package. The good news is that metal cutting technology has become far more advanced than it used to.
One of the top pieces of equipment used for metal cutting in various industries currently is plasma cutters. These high-tech tools have everything that you need to look for when cutting metal. While a bit more expensive than other types of metal cutters, the payoff in investing in this tool makes the expense worthwhile.
Plasma cutters sound advanced and complex by their name alone – and that’s because they are. If you want to fully appreciate plasma cutters, then you should begin to understand the science and technology behind this modern-day marvel that has been saving fabricators time for years now.
What Is A Plasma Cutter?
The idea behind plasma cutting comes from plasma welding, which has been a staple fabrication technique since the 60s. Since being introduced years back, it has become very popular simply because many saw it as the perfect cutting method for many reasons.
Plasma cutting itself is a process used to cut metals like aluminum, steel, copper, and bronze just to name a few. The process makes use of plasma arcs to cut through the metal using heat created between the electrode and the workpiece itself. What results is a cutting technique that is very accurate and that leaves no metal chips.
When they were first introduced, plasma cutters were large machines used primarily by big factors for the mass production of goods. However, there are now other models like fast CNC plasma cutting machinery that come in more accessible forms. These can also be used for mass production as well.
How Does It Work?
The process behind plasma cutters is indeed complex. For starters, you need to understand that these tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are some compact handheld units easily purchasable by home mechanics. There are also massive plasma cutters that make use of robotic arms for mass production.
Despite the difference in forms, the concept behind how plasma cutters work remains generally the same.
Depending on what type of plasma cutter you have, it works by sending a pressurized gas such as nitrogen, oxygen, or argon through a channel. Inside the small channel is a negatively charged electrode that, when given power too and placed close to metal, creates a circuit.
Once that circuit is created, a powerful spark will be created right between the metal and the electrode. The spark will then be heated by the gas and this, in turn, creates a steady flow of directed plasma which can reach temperatures of up to 30,000 F (16,649 C) and move at 20,000 feet per second (6,096 m/sec). When this spark hits metal, it will be hot enough to melt the metal, thus allowing you to cut through it.
The plasma generated by the process is able to conduct electrical current. So long as enough power is supplied to the electrode and the plasma is in contact with the target metal, the process will be continuous, thus allowing for a more accurate cut as compared to other metal cutting methods.
It can be hard to understand exactly how plasma cutters work, but it’s definitely not magic. It’s an intricate clockwork of machines and elements working together to produce a high-temperature spark that’s hot enough to cut through most metals without any issues.
Considerations When Buying A Plasma Cutter
There are quite a few considerations that you need to make when buying a plasma cutter. The first is, you should know what you’ll be using the equipment for. If it’s for mass production or for factory use or for personal use. This is one of the biggest considerations you have to make.
If it’s for personal use, the best plasma cutters should be light and easy to handle. This isn’t just to make metal cutting easier, it’s also to ensure that you can have a firm grip on the tool. It’s also for your safety. The heavier it is, the harder it will be for you to cut through metal continuously.
If you are looking for a plasma cutter for industrial or mass production purposes, then the choices will be a lot bigger. There are high-tech plasma cutters that make use of robotic arms that allow for the automation of metal cutting. These tend to be more expensive, but the returns are going to be a lot bigger, considering they make metal cutting a lot easier.
Regardless of what type of plasma cutter you buy, make sure that you are getting one that’s known for durability. These are tools that you are going to be using for hours. Ideally, a good plasma cutter should be able to run for hours without overheating problems.
Benefits Of Plasma Cutters
There are actually many pros to using plasma cutters. First is that they are highly functional and valuable additions to any factory. Aside from being productive when it comes to metal cutting, these tools are actually very easy and safe to use because of their precision.
Speaking of precision, plasma cutters are also some of the most accurate metal cutters out there. Whereas other metal cutters leave metal chips and other flaws on the cut surface, plasma cutters provide a cleaner and more accurate cut. This makes them suited for metalwork that requires a lot of precision.
The only downside to plasma cutters is that they are simply used for metal cutting. If you don’t fabricate or work with metal regularly, then it would be wiser to invest in cheaper metal cutting tools instead.
Plasma cutters are the best addition to your factory if a part of the workflow is fabricating metal. It’s a good investment to make if you are hoping to increase the productivity inside your factory as well. With a good enough plasma cutter, you’ll be able to increase productivity by a huge margin.