Learn about plasma cutter basics with Blain’s Farm & Fleet.
Using a plasma cutter is one of the most efficient ways to cut through metal. Hot plasma is used to cut through electrically conductive materials, such as steel, aluminum, brass and copper. A plasma cutter can be found in welding and automotive shops, as well as industrial and fabrication jobs. Plasma cutters have even become popular in art metal work.
Plasma Cutter Advantages
Plasma cutters are known for their high speed and precise cuts. Their relatively low operation costs are perfect for large scale jobs to small work done by metal craft hobbyists. A plasma cutter can be used to cut out shapes, as well as pierce and bevel metal.
All of these advantages make them the perfect alternative to oxy-acetylene cutting or hand tools.
How a Plasma Cutter Works
The plasma cutter’s torch has three main parts: an electrode, a gas baffle, and a nozzle tip. Pressurized gas is sent through the torch. When the electrode is powered, and the nozzle tip touches the metal work piece, it creates a circuit. As the gas goes through the torch, the spark from the metal and electrode heats it up, forming plasma. The electrical plasma cuts through the metal. A shielding gas protects the cutting area, just like how it protects a weld pool.
Manual Plasma Cutter – Most hobby welders, and welders that need portability, will use a manual plasma cutter. A manual one comes with handheld plasma torch, used to cut through the metal.
Mechanized Plasma Cutter – For larger cutting jobs, there are mechanized plasma cutters. The cutter is used with a cutting table, which holds large pieces of metal. The metal is cut using a computer system that controls the cuts and the torch height. These systems can be used for punch presses, laser cutting and even robotic cutting.
Plasma Cutter Safety
Plasma cutting uses an electric arc, so you’ll need a welding helmet and safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from arc flash. Sparks will fly, so it’s a good idea to wear welding gloves, an apron and a jacket for protection.