How Do CNC Plasma Cutters Work?

How Do CNC Plasma Cutters Work

The CNC plasma cutter is a revolutionary tool that can reduce the time a given job takes from weeks to days or from days to hours. Once out of the reach of a small business due to cost, CNC plasma table cutters are now accessible to a much wider market. This is because they can be purchased in a range of different sizes, prices, and functionalities, and they can pay for themselves with a smart business plan and a little know-how. With such diverse applications as car restoration, part fabrication, signage, and home decoration, CNC plasma cutters are only growing in popularity.

If you’ve ever wondered about the technology behind a CNC plasma cutter, it is an impressive though fairly simple concept. The process starts with some type of gas—whether nitrogen, argon, oxygen, or simply shop air. This gas is compressed in a torch and lit by a spark in order to force the gas into the plasma state, which is the fourth state of matter. This process generates enough heat that the resulting plasma, harnessed into a stream, is capable of melting steel and other electrically conductive materials such as aluminum, brass, and copper.

Specialized computer software directs the plasma stream to make smooth, precise cuts quickly and efficiently. The key here is that plasma can conduct electricity; a gas cannot, so it cannot be used to cut metal. Plastic and wood do not conduct electricity and therefore cannot be cut by plasma.

CNC plasma cutters can make quick work of what were once costly and time-consuming cutting projects. The plasma torch reliably cuts through metals at speeds from 200 to 500 inches per minute. The type of gas depends on the type of material to be cut and its thickness. The thickest metal that can be cut on a CNC plasma table is approximately 3 inches.

What is Plasma?

Most of us are aware of the three common states of matter: solid, liquid, and gas. Think of ice at cold temperatures that turns to water at room temperature and steam when heated. Argon gas has a liquid state at precisely -302.4°F and a crystalline state at -308.9°F.

However, when argon and other gasses are heated, their gaseous form ultimately changes to plasma, the “fourth state” of matter. The sun itself is a ball of plasma. Plasma conducts electricity, making it a highly efficient method of cutting metal.

Regular CNC machining physically cuts into the material, while plasma cutting melts through the metals to make the cut. Plasma allows for a faster and more precise metal cut than most other processes.

CNC Plasma Table Software

Specialized software controls the torch’s nozzle and the workpiece’s position on the table as well as the plans for what the machine will cut. CAD (Computer Aided Design) software reads the specs for the piece that you want to cut. CNC plasma table-specific software is a better option for most people who will be utilizing a plasma table. CAM, or Computer Aided Manufacturing, software converts the information from the CAD software and converts it into machine code that directs the various parts of the plasma table. Finally, the CNC software converts the CAM code into electrical signals that are fed directly into the table.

PDF plans for everything from machine parts to restaurant signage can be purchased online, or you can create your own.

Read MoreEvolution of CNC Plasma Cutters

Keep in mind that software may need to be updated and recalibrated from time to time. While there may be a learning curve with CNC plasma table software, Squickmon’s provides step-by-step video tutorials on every aspect of our machines, from unboxing to setup to fabrication. And our customer service professionals are always available by phone if you get stuck. We are happy to say that the vast majority of our clients are able to master their software in very short order.

Squickmon’s—The CNC Plasma Table Experts

Want to learn more about the inner workings of CNC plasma tables? Our experts are here to help! We can explain all the ins and outs of CNC plasma tables and give you all the information you need to ensure that you choose the right machine for your needs. Contact us today!


 Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson

Simon Patterson is the owner and founder of Squickmon's Engineering & Engineering. With over 15 years of fabrication and manufacturing experience, alongside a mechanical engineering degree, he knows exactly what it takes to create a quality product for small fabrication shops as well as large industrial manufacturing companies. He set out to create a company that stands by their products with confidence as well as integrity. His goal was to build a company with a strong foundation, quality product, satisfied customers, and a product that is 100 percent designed and built in the USA.

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