You recently bought a CNC plasma cutter and are ready to get down to business. Not so fast. Your final victory lap won’t happen until you also get a plasma table. With a table, it’s easier to cut through various metals and move the plasma torch along the y, z and x axes (side to side, up/down, and forward/backward). The question is, how do you know which plasma table is right for your project?
With a wide variety of plasma tables to choose from, it’s not easy to make a purchase decision. But with some knowledge and insight, you can identify the best option for your home shop/metal service center. Here’s everything you need to consider when buying a plasma table
The Plasma Cutter
Not every plasma table can accommodate cutters from different brands. The machine should feature an interface port to ensure the table can communicate with your plasma cutter. Without an interface, you will require a technician to make it compatible with the cutter. Brands like Hypertherm offer tables with fitted interfaces and CNC machine torches already installed.
Moreover, it’s critical to consider flexibility when choosing a plasma table. Check whether the unit can be unplugged easily so that you can plug it into a new power supply if you ever need to switch to a larger cutting system.
Depending on the type of metal and its coating, cutting will release gases and fumes that can harm the plasma table. As such, you should look for a table with components that allow proper ventilation. For instance, modern water tables come with a shallow pool underneath the cutting mechanism to collect particulate matter and trap fumes.
If you’re considering a downdraft table, it should have a blower or fan to extract fumes from the chamber beneath the table to vent outdoors. Go for a table that promotes ventilation, and don’t forget to use a respirator while operating the CNC machine.
Torch and Height Control
When choosing a CNC plasma cutter table, consider all available torch options. Some manufacturers design tables to enable operators to mount a hand torch to the table. However, it’s much simpler to mount a machine torch square to the plate. If you opt for Hypertherm-made tables, the torch will have a disconnect feature that enables you to swiftly transition from a hand to a mechanized plasma torch.
Besides the torch, see whether the table offers the option to fine-tune height settings via the CAM/CAD software. Ideally, you should choose a table that provides dynamic torch height control so you can adjust it quickly and precisely multiple times to cut at an accurate height.
Does the table come with a stepper motor or use servo motors and drives? Although both offer good precision when it comes to moving the carriageway, servo drive machines have a larger torque capability, broader speed capacity, and can deliver a wider cut thickness.
Modern servo drive systems are more suitable for commercial production, utilizing encoder feedback to the CNC. Should an issue like a collision or power failure occur, the servo motor mechanism will minimize the chances of lost positioning. For a hobby project, you would do just fine with a stepper motor for fabricating parts.
Table Material and Duty Cycle
It’s also critical to inquire about the material the plasma table is constructed from. Any table made with industrial-grade steel is a safe bet, as a welded steel frame makes the machine sturdier and more durable. In addition, look for a system with a duty cycle above 50%.
Although 50% is the benchmark, brands like Hypertherm recommend producers purchase a system rated above the thickness they plan to cut. This helps ensure the system doesn’t need to work as hard or experience issues due to exceeding the stated duty cycle.
The software plays a crucial role in the operation of a CNC plasma system. Check whether the table you’re considering features CAD (computer assisted drafting/drawing) or CAM (computer assisted manufacturing/machining software).
It’s common for entry level cutting tables to include combined CAM/CAD software, which makes the transition from drawing to cutting quick and smooth. Smaller shops can use these tables to draw and cut parts on the shop floor (while they’re at the machine).
For more sophisticated projects, look for CAM packages that allow for more functionality than the standard CAM software. Also called nesting software, this is used to post process CAD drawings and enable accurate positioning of various CAD files in differing quantities—the goal is to effectively utilize the plate to be cut. CAM software is important too, applying accurate tolerances and kerf width via post-processing.
Get the Best-in-class Plasma Tables
Squickmon’s offers industry-leading CNC plasma tables that cover a variety of fabrication needs. The latest range we are proud to offer is the Elihu S Series. Every table in this range features an all-in-one CAM-CAD-CNC software, enclosed cable management, a motor reduction system, and more. The system is also fully assembled, meaning it won’t take you longer than 45 minutes to set it up and start cutting.