Plasma cutting technology has been pivotal for the growth of several different industries, from automotive to HVAC. To fill the need for a precise and powerful metal cutting device, engineering solution providers developed plasma cutters. These machines have become the main solution for breaking down and shaping metals and steel into usable forms that can facilitate the construction of various parts and infrastructure.
But what were plasma cutters like when they first came into existence? How has the machine and cutting technology evolved over the years? Let’s take a look below.
A New Way to Cut Metal
The concept of plasma cutting originated in the 1960s, when plasma welders discovered they could cut hard metal using molten plasma. The traditional method of cutting metal with another metal object produced chips and imprecise surfaces prone to faults. Plasma cutting produced more reliable results and smoother cuts.
With the integration of computer technology into various industries, CNC (computer numerical control) plasma cutters became widely accessible in the 1980s and 1990s. These plasma cutters use computer-aided tools to cut metal accurately and without defects.
Plasma cutting techniques also saw new advancements in the 1990s. For instance, industries were introduced to high-definition plasma, an innovation that accommodated a new nozzle design capable of increasing an oxygen plasma arc’s energy density by as much as four times. This allowed for cleaner, squarer cuts in all material thicknesses.
Then in 1996, automated gas flow control systems came on the horizon. These systems interfaced digitally with plasma machines’ software—the controls minimized opportunities for operator-related errors in designing parameters for the cutting process.
The following decade saw many advancements in automation. Integrated plasma—a system that coupled the plasma power supply, CAM software, CNC, the height control system, and the gas flow control to automate the process—was one of the standout advancements.
Brands such as Squickmon’s offer a range of CNC plasma cutters for customers, revolutionizing the metal cutting industry and improving efficiency and precision. These plasma cutters have been instrumental in advancing the manufacturing and fabrication of metal products in various industries.
Improved Cutting Precision
Precision is a vital factor when comparing plasma cutter quality and price. The ability to make large, precise cuts is a key aspect to consider in manufacturing and construction, where accuracy is crucial. A lack of precision makes even the most durable and efficient plasma cutter useless in these industries. Fortunately, plasma cutter manufacturers are constantly striving to improve precision in today’s plasma cutting machines.
Diversification in Applications and Sizes
Plasma cutter manufacturers have expanded their product line to keep up with the growing size demands of construction projects in the 21st century. With cutters available in lengths from 50 feet to hundreds of feet, metalworkers can handle any steel cutting task with ease. The use of CNC control enables the operator to achieve precise cuts with the aid of advanced machine guidance, making the process effortless and efficient.
Other Technological Advancements
Plasma cutting machines have seen many other advancements in the last few years. They have been integrated with new CNS that have touchscreen accessibility, making operating them as easy as using Windows-based software. The feature has reduced the number of buttons involved in operating a plasma cutter, simplifying things for fabricators and floor managers.
Additionally, improvements have been seen in the auto-calibrating height control feature. This has made the operator’s job easier—they no longer need to make adjustments as the torch’s consumable parts begin to wear out.
Other notable advancements include:
- Reduced Cut-to-cut Cycle Times: CAM software has integrated advancements that reduce cut-to-cut cycle times. The software can identify sections of a multiple-part cutting nest and optimize traverse, torch retract, and gas pre-flow times to boost production efficiency and increase output.
- Improved Hole Cutting: CAM software has advanced hole cutting with a big database of info. It quickly sees CAD parts and decides the right path and plasma cutting settings. This even includes making shield gas changes while cutting, which nearly gets rid of the tapered edges in plasma-cut holes in steel. The operator and programmer don’t need special skills since the process happens without their involvement.
- Better Plate Beveling: The software for better plate beveling has made it simpler to use a bevel head with cutting machines of XY varieties. This improvement, which comes from the CAM software, saves time for the programmer and operator who used to have to test and adjust to get the best results for plate edge beveling projects like weld preparation.
- Enhanced Air Plasma Cutting: Air plasma cutting systems made by major companies have greatly improved in terms of cut quality, longer-lasting supplies, and increased work capacity. These systems are mostly for handheld cutting jobs both in-shop and on-the-go, and now come with torches that can be changed quickly and work with many affordable CNC plasma machines.
Plenty of improvements have been made to plasma cutting since its creation. It now works better, lasts longer, and is easier to use. Plasma cutters have become an indispensable tool in many industries. We expect future advancements to continue to make manufacturing and machining more efficient and cost-effective.