There’s no doubt that CNC plasma tables are incredibly powerful tools. Whether you want to cut through steel or aluminum, you can rely on a plasma cutter to get the job done. These machines work when an electric spark passes through the compressed gas to ignite it into reaching the plasma state (or the fourth state matter).
The plasma produced by the machine transfers an electrical arc between the material being cut and the cutter’s power supply. This leads to the production of intense heat whenever the plasma comes in contact with the workpiece. Depending on the plasma machine, it may use argon, nitrogen, or helium gas to create the plasma.
Air plasma cutters offer precise and smooth cuts in different materials without causing bending or warping, often seen in other cutting methods relying on physical force. What are the top applications for plasma cutters in a shop setting?
1. Minimize HAZ
HAZ, or heat-affected zone, is a common issue with thermal-based cutting methods. It’s considered a problem because the transfer of thermal energy in a high quantity can have lasting effects on the physical properties of the workpiece. Certain metals may be exposed to extreme temperatures—a process called heat treating—to alter their physical characteristics.
However, the uneven heat distribution in a workpiece during thermal cutting can lead to brittleness. CNC plasma tables reduce the size of the heat-affected zone (HAZ), lowering heat stress on the workpiece and preserving its physical properties. This results in straight, clean cuts without warping.
2. Cut Different Shapes
The precision and accuracy of the cuts made by a CNC plasma cutter are unparalleled. Some plasma cutters can cut with a width of 0.040 to 0.050 inches, allowing them to cut curves and details in sheet metal. While not all machines are equally precise, there are a variety of options to meet your needs. Talk to your supplier to find the best plasma machines for your shop.
For cutting specific shapes, such as plates used in excavator boom repair, create a cardboard template of the desired shape. Then put the template on a steel plate, trace it with soapstone, and cut the outline using a cutting circle or straight edge.
For recurring shapes, use a permanent metal template. You can start by turning a digital picture into a paper printout and projecting it on a wall to enlarge it. Trace the image onto a special board with metal on the back and cut out the pattern using a razor blade. The next step is to place the pattern on a sheet of mild steel and trace its details with soapstone.
3. Fabrication Work
Plasma-cutting machines can also help you trim and shape metal pieces for fabrication projects. This could include creating custom brackets, reinforcing plates, or other metal parts for welding projects. The high-heat output of plasma cutting machines allows for quick and efficient cutting of metal, making it a valuable tool for fabrication work.
4. Rapid Cutting Jobs
Plasma cutters have another advantage over other cutting methods–you don’t need to preheat the torch. Plus, there’s no need for frequent tool replacements as plasma cutters don’t have a cutting edge that wears out. This makes them ideal for cutting tasks that require speed and efficiency. In fact, starting a plasma cutting machine is so quick that some manufacturers suggest starting it with the nozzle already on the workpiece to avoid wasting gas.
5. Cut Components for Welding
Besides trimming and shaping metal pieces, plasma-cutting machines can also be used to cut metal components for welding projects. This might include cutting metal pipes or plates. The high temperatures of plasma cutting machines make it easy to make precise cuts in metal components.
6. Cut High-hardness Metals
When cutting tough materials, blades can quickly become dull and dangerous, with sparks and metal chips flying. This is not the case with plasma cutters. These machines can keep cutting without any wear and tear as long as there’s enough gas to turn into plasma and conduct the electrical arc.
Plasma makes cutting high-hardness materials much more efficient, as you don’t have to stop the machine and change the tools repeatedly. You can keep working without any interruptions. This saves time and makes the cutting process smoother and more efficient.
7. Make Intricate Designs
Did you know that you can also use plasma-cutting machines to create custom signs and branding elements? Examples include signs for businesses, creating unique metal art pieces, and creating custom pieces for personal use. The ability to create intricate designs and patterns makes plasma-cutting machines ideal for this type of work.
Steps to create an intricate design with a plasma cutter:
- Draw your design on a computer or on paper.
- Transfer your design onto metal or other material to be cut.
- Set the plasma cutter’s amperage and air pressure.
- Start cutting along the lines of the design, moving slowly and steadily.
- Make adjustments to the amperage and air pressure as needed to maintain a clean cut.
- Repeat until the design is fully cut out.
Looking for a plasma-cutting machine?
Plasma cutters have applications for a wide range of projects and industries. While they all rely on the same basic technology to cut through metal quickly and accurately, some machines perform better than others on certain types of jobs. To find the best CNC plasma cutting system for your needs, talk to a trusted manufacturer about your specific needs.