Machines and devices used to cut metal come in various types and designs. Before purchasing a metal cutting or welding machine, you need to ensure that it is suitable for your application. Some of the commonly used metal cutting machines are oxy-fuel cutters, laser metal cutters, and plasma cutting systems. This article focuses on plasma cutting systems to help you know how they work and how to use them.
What is a Plasma Cutter, and does it Work?
Various types of metals require specific types of metal cutters for the cut to look neat. A plasma cutting system is specially designed to cut conductive metal workpieces. With a plasma cutter, an operator can cut both simple and complex shapes. Some of the shapes you can cut using a plasma cutter include curves, markings, bevel edges, and radius holes. A plasma cutting system is the best alternative if an oxy-fuel, water jet, or laser cutter won’t give you the desired outcome.
The cost of cutting workpieces is also on the lower end when cut using a plasma cutter. If you are working in the trade, DIY, agriculture machinery, or automotive welding industry, this is one of the best options to cut metal.
How does a Plasma Cutting System work?
When gas is exposed to very high temperatures, electrons in the gas molecules break free from the nucleus. This process turns gas into plasma, the fourth state of matter, alongside gas, liquid, and solid. The stream is then forced into an orifice that blows directly to the metal piece, melting it. That is how plasma is used to cut metal. Molten metal bits are blown away since plasma is blowing rapidly.
Advantages of Using a Cutting Plasma System
- When dealing with metals that can conduct electricity, the best way to cut them is using a plasma cutter. Such metal pieces include stainless steel and non-ferrous alloys. Plasma cutters leave high-quality edges and finishes when dealing with conductive metals.
- A plasma cutting system is convenient since it has a portable version that is lightweight and easier to carry around. Most of the time, manual cutting is suitable when cutting workpieces manually.
- Plasma cutters are also available for larger production companies that require automation. Automation is also available in other metal cutting systems. However, plasma cutters leave neat and high-quality finishes.
- Cutting complex shapes at high speed is also possible due to CNC plasma cutting versions.
- Being a powerful metal cutting technology, the plasma cutting system cuts workpieces up to plasma 6 inches thick.
All these benefits are cutting metals with plasma cutters can only be possible if you are dealing with a conductive workpiece. Non-conductive metals are only cut using the laser cutter, oxy-fuel, or the water jet metal cutting techniques.
Safety Precautions when Suing the Plasma Cutting System
Risk of Electrocution – Since the plasma cutting system uses high voltage output energy, the operator needs to take extra precautions to avoid shocks and electrocution. PPEs or proper protective gear must be worn by the operator every time he operates the plasma cutting system. Some of the protective gear that needs to be worn include rubber gloves along with welding gloves. The welding and metal cutting area should not have any flowing fluids or necked cables lying around.
Face, Eye, and Skin Protection – Plasma cutters emit infrared and ultraviolet rays, which are harmful to the eyes and skin. Protecting the face requires a face shield that has proper lensed shade to protect the eyes. The skin also needs protection from molten metal and fumes. Therefore, the operator should wear proper safety shoes, a welding apron, and proper welding gloves.
Types of Plasma Cutting Gases
Plasma cutters use different types of gases depending on the conductive workpiece that needs to be cut. The most effective gas to use when cutting metals such as carbon steel is compressed air or oxygen. If you need to cut metals such as stainless steel, the best gas is argon or nitrogen. Plasma cutting performance is enhanced when using a dual gas system. Some of the gas combinations that an operator can choose from include: Air/Air, O2/Air, N2/Air, N2/CO2, and Ar-H2/N2. Shield gases are also used as coolants to prevent overheating. However, if you are dealing with high-power applications, liquid coolants work more efficiently.
When cutting metals, you need to consider the material used to make that metal. Plasma cutting systems are the best types of metal cutters for cutting conductive metals. If you are a novice in the metal industry, ask the manufacturer for guidance when selecting effective metal cutting and welding machines.