What is plasma cutting technology?

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With the cost of plasma machines on the decline and with smaller-sized, portable machines flooding the market, it may be time to take a serious look at plasma for your cutting applications. The benefits of plasma cutting include ease of use, higher quality cuts and faster travel speeds.

Structural and plate steel are the bread and butter of this sector. That can also be said for multiple other techniques for ferrous cutting such as abrasive water jet, laser, saw, abrasive wheel and oxy/fuel cutting. However, plasma cutting has distinct advantages in many applications. This post will explain what the advantages are, and when to exploit them for best part making efficiency.

 

What is plasma cutting technology?

In simplest terms, plasma cutting is a process that uses a high velocity jet of ionized gas that is delivered from a constricting orifice. The high velocity ionized gas, that is, the plasma, conducts electricity from the torch of the plasma cutter to the work piece. The plasma heats the work piece, melting the material. The high velocity stream of ionized gas mechanically blows the molten metal away, severing the material and making the cut.

 

How does plasma cutting compare to oxyfuel cutting?

Plasma cutting can be performed on any type of conductive metal – mild steel, aluminum and stainless are some examples. With mild steel, operators will experience faster, thicker cuts than with alloys.

Oxyfuel cuts by burning, or oxidizing, the base metal. It’s limited to steel and other ferrous metals that support the oxidizing process. Metals like aluminum and stainless steel form an oxide that inhibits further oxidization, making conventional oxyfuel cutting impossible. Plasma cutting, however, does not rely on oxidation to work, and thus it can cut aluminum, stainless and any other conductive material.

While different gasses can be used for plasma cutting, most people today use compressed air for the plasma gas. In most operations, compressed air is readily available, and thus plasma does not require fuel gas and compressed oxygen for operation. Some portable units also supply air from an on-board compressor.

Plasma cutting is typically easier for the novice to master, and on thinner materials, plasma cutting is much faster than oxyfuel cutting. However, for heavy sections of steel (1 inch and greater), oxyfuel is still preferred since oxyfuel is typically faster and requires lower capacity power supplies than plasma.

 

What can I use a plasma cutter for?

Plasma cutting is ideal for cutting steel, and non-ferrous material less than 1 inch thick. Oxyfuel cutting requires that the operator carefully control the cutting speed so as to maintain the oxidizing process. Move too quickly and the cutting stops. Plasma is more forgiving. Plasma cutting shines in many niche applications, such as cutting expanded metal, which is awkward and slow with oxyfuel. Also, compared to mechanical cutting, plasma is usually much faster, and can easily make non-linear cuts.

 

What are the limitations to plasma cutting? Where is oxyfuel preferred?

Oxyfuel may still be the preferred process for some applications. Plasma cutting machines are more expensive than oxyacetylene. Torch cutting also operates independent of electrical power or compressed air which may make it a more convenient method for some users. Oxyfuel can also cut thicker sections (>1 inch) of steel more quickly than plasma. In-plant users, however, can benefit from plasma technology using pre-existing shop services at little additional cost, while eliminating the consumable cost of oxygen and fuel gas, as well as the safety hazard associated with compressed gases.

Sourced by ekomeri.com

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