Tips in using a plasma cutter

Tips in using a plasma cutter



The ability to create and use tools predates back to 2.6 million years ago when hominids in Ethiopia first created stone tools. The Hominids used stone tools to crack open and cut off the meat from the animals they hunted. Afterwards, human ancestors discovered fire. They later on discovered how to shape and utilize metal as tools.

Fast forward to 2016, humans now have the most sophisticated tools that aid in daily ordeals. One of these tools is the plasma cutter.

Plasma is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a type of substance that is similar to a gas but that can carry electricity. From this definition itself, the main characteristics of plasma could be implied. It is the fourth state of matter that looks like a gas but is charged with ions. This gives it the ability to conduct electricity.

Most people would only know the three ‘basic’ states of matter, namely, solid, liquid and gas. However, plasma is the most abundant state of matter in the universe. Plasma is formed when gas is extensively exposed to high temperatures or subjected to a field that causes it to become ion-charged.

How Do Plasma Cutters work?

Makes the Metal Cutting LookMany people would wonder how would a gas-like substance cut through a solid material. The operation of a plasma cutter is rather intricate. To use it, one must have ample knowledge of the right technique and proper maintenance of the tool.

A plasma cutter utilizes the ability of plasma to conduct electricity in cutting materials. Here is a step-by-step breakdown on the operation of a plasma cutter:

  • Switch on the tool to activate the signaling input to the power supply. This in turn would activate the open circuit tool and gas circuit. Gas then passes through the circuit and into the orifice.
  • The high frequency circuit is turned on upon the stabilization of the gas flow. The high frequency circuit breaks down between the nozzle and electrode. Because of this, the electrical energy is transferred from the arc to the gas, thus charging it with ions. A resulting gas arc is thus formed between nozzle and electrode. The flow of gas continues and forms the pilot arc.
  • The pilot arc attaches itself to the workpiece and disables the high frequency circuit. A pilot arc relay is now open.
  • As the cutting motion is applied, the high temperature of the plasma arc metals down the metal.

Common Uses of a Plasma Cutter

A plasma cutter can be used in countless ways and in numerous fields. First, a plumber may use the tool to cut the pipes quickly. It saves the plumber time in smoothing the edges of the pipe.

A carpenter may also use it in cutting out circles when working with metals. A person engaged in the refrigeration field may also use it to cut out metal shapes when installing appliances.

Detailed metalwork is also made easier when you use a plasma cutter. The uses of plasma cutter are only limited to metalworking.

Different types of plasma cutting systems

There are five types of plasma cutting systems. They are Conventional Plasma Cutting, Dual Gas Plasma Cutting, Water Shield Plasma Cutting, Water Injection Plasma Cutting and Precision Plasma Cutting.

  • Conventional Plasma Cutting

Conventional Plasma Cutting utilizes only a single gas that cools and produces the plasma. Air or nitrogen is usually used in this plasma cutting system. This system operates under 100 amps. It is also used in cutting materials under 5/8” thick.

  • Dual Gas Plasma Cutting

This type of plasma cutting system utilizes two gases; one as a shield gas and one for plasma. The use of a shield gas produces a cleaner cut.

  • Water Shield Plasma Cutting

This type uses plasma and water. The water substitutes the shield gas in the dual gas process. This type is usually for mechanized applications only.

  • Water Injection Plasma Cutting

In this process, water is injected to increase arc density and temperature. It operates from 260 to 750 amps. Like the previous cutting system, it is also for mechanized applications only.

  • Precision Plasma Cutting

This process is best for thinner materials at slower speeds. It is also for mechanized applications only.

Tips on how to operate a plasma cutter

As aforementioned, the operation of a plasma cutter is no joking matter. Negligent use of this tool can lead to injuries and even death. In order to successfully operate the plasma cutter one would need the right set of skills and techniques.  Furthermore, you also need to perform regular maintenance and troubleshooting.

There is a higher risk of electric shock when using a plasma cutter because the tool utilizes higher voltage. Here are some safety tips and techniques in operating a plasma cutter.

  • Read the user’s manual before using the tool.
  • Wear insulated boots, gloves and other safety equipment while using the tool.
  • While cutting an object, do not retrieve it or the waste cut off during the cutting procedure. Just leave it as is and do the clean up after the whole work procedure is done.
  • Do not sit on, stand in, lie on or touch a wet surface while using the plasma cutter.
  • Always make sure the ground cable is connected with the work object during the cutting process.
  • Do not cut in locations near persons who are cleaning, degreasing and spraying.
  • Use the plasma cutter in a well-ventilated area.

See Also: The Choice for a CNC Plasma Cutter


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