Introduce to Plasma Cutting System
There are two main methods used to cut metal. These two ways include thermal cutting and mechanical cutting. One type of thermal cutting is known as plasma cutting. By thermal, it means that ionized gas is used to cut the metal. The plasma technique of cutting metal is the most commonly used worldwide to cut metal. In this post, we will show you the functions and advantages of using a plasma cutter to cut metal. Read on for more insights.
What Is Plasma?
Most people only know about 3 forms of matter – solid, liquid, and gas. There is also the fourth state of matter, which is known as plasma. Plasma is a gaseous state of matter that is iodized, and it’s mainly found in the upper atmosphere in nature. Plasma creates the famous solar winds called the polar lights, lightning, high-temperature fire, and plasma bodies.
Plasma is defined as an electrically conductive ionized gas-like substance. When a gas is exposed to extremely high temperatures, it forms a plasma.
How is Plasma Used to Cut Metal?
The plasma cutting process is a thermal metal-cutting technique that uses intense heat to cut conductive metals. The mechanical part of the process is always the same, even though different types of gases are used. Most of the time, plasma cutters use compressed air, but other gases can be used, such as nitrogen. Plasma is created when these gases are ionized.
The cutting process happens because compressed gases combine with the electrode and create more pressure by ionization. Once pressure builds up, the plasma stream is pushed towards an orifice or cutting head. The plasma stream flows from the cutting tip and is directed to the workpiece. Once the plasma arc comes into contact with the workpiece, it melts it, and since it blows at high speed, it will blow the molten metal.
The Cutting Process
Plasma systems come in different types. This means that not all work in the same way. The high-frequency contact plasma version that is relatively cheap. You can’t find this version in CNC plasma cutters because it causes modern equipment interference due to its high frequency. High voltage and high frequency are used in this version of plasma cutters. When the plasma torch touches the workpiece, sparks are created. Once sparks are created, it will create a plasma since the circuit is closed.
The pilot arc is another metal cutting method. In this technique, a high voltage and low current circuit creates the spark inside the torch. The pilot arc is created by the spark, which is a small amount of plasma. When the pilot arc constants the workpiece, it creates the cutting arc. The operators can then begin the cutting process.
A spring-loaded plasma torch head is another way used to cut metal using a plasma cutter. When the torch is pressed against the workpiece, the current will start to flow since a short circuit is created. The pilot arc is established by releasing the pressure. It works just the same way as the previous method by coming into contact with the workpiece.
Benefits of Using a Plasma Cutter to Cut Metal
- You can use it to cut all kinds of conductive metals. The flame cutting technique of cutting metal is used to cut thick ferrous metals only.
- The plasma method of cutting conductive metals is a reliable way to cut thick metals of about 50 mm.
- The maximum thickness of metals that you can cut with a plasma cutter is 150 mm.
- If you want to cut medium chick metals, the plasma cutting method offers the best way, and it’s also cheaper.
- Plasma cutting offers the best way to cut aluminum and stainless steel with medium thickness.
- For precision and repeatability while using plasma cutting, CNC machines are available.
- Since a plasma cutter can cut inside water, it results in smaller HAZ while noise levels are reduced.
- Unlike flame cutting, plasma cutting is also used to cut smaller kerfs.
- Plasma cutting cuts much faster than oxyfuel.
How to Choose a Cutting Method
What determines the metal cutting method is the material you are planning to cut as the operator. Thickness and application also need to be put into consideration. When using the plasma cutting method, the workpiece’s thickness needs need to be between 15 to 50 mm. The upper limit for cutting aluminum should not go beyond 40 mm. For materials such as stainless steel and carbon, the thickness should be 50 mm.
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When planning to buy a cutting machine, you first need to consider several factors such as the material you plan to cut, the thickness, and the application. Although plasma cutters produce cleaner cuttings than oxyfuel, you can’t use them to cut non-conductive metals. You can only use the plasma method of cutting metal to cut materials that can conduct electricity.
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