How a plasma cutter works

One of the most common operations in a workshop is cutting materials. These require tools adapted to the work to be carried out and its characteristics. A section where the plasma cutter has won integers, thanks to its effectiveness on especially hard materials or for precise cuts.

Within the operations that are carried out in a workshop or when executing different DIY tasks, we have the cutting of materials. This process is key to obtaining the right parts that our project requires. When it comes to cutting metal, the classic solution is the oxyacetylene welder. However, the plasma cutter has become an interesting alternative, thanks to a cutting system capable of saving time and improving the results of these jobs with solvency. If you have never heard of this technology, we will tell you everything you need to know below.

What is a plasma cutter

A plasma cutter is a cutting tool initially designed for workshops and professional uses, but today it is being extended to all types of users. Its design makes it easy to make the cuts we need by means of a system similar to a torch, in independent models, or by means of automated cutting software, as happens in models based on CNC or computerized technology.

what is plasma

Plasma is a recently discovered state of matter compared to the three traditional ones (solid, liquid and gaseous), which is obtained by heating any fluid in gaseous state. The goal is to achieve a gas that is highly conductive to electricity, through a system that generates positive ions and free electrons. The result is that this gas becomes an excellent conductor of electric current and has different uses, such as executing these cutting processes.

How the cut is made

If we think about the operation of pressurized water cutters, we see how they make the cut by ejecting that liquid at extreme pressure on such a small surface that it ends up making the cut. In the case of plasma cutters, the process is similar, except that what is used for this cut is that gas charged with electricity.

This penetrates completely into the material that we have to work with and makes the corresponding cut through the conductivity obtained by the generated electric arc. A task that has the advantage of being relatively inexpensive in operating terms thanks to the gas used in the process and also to the durability that the electrodes used in this process currently have.

Regarding the remains of the cutting process, obtained by melting the metal generated by the plasma, they are eliminated thanks to the gas, thus leaving the cutting area completely clean of residues and avoiding the need to brush the cut pieces. A method that also prevents these remains from remaining in the edge areas, once the pieces cool down after cutting.

Advantages of plasma cutter

The main advantage of the plasma cutter is that it has a thermal compaction in the cutting area, which does not extend as much as it happens with traditional gas cuts or with other systems. This means less risk of heat-related warping, which translates into better finished edges and a more precise cutting process. A parameter that reaches its maximum in plasma cutters managed by CNC technology, given that the machining allows the characteristics of the pieces to be measured to the millimeter.

Another advantage of this system is its versatility, since it can be used on practically any metal that conducts electricity. Among the accepted metals are carbon steel, stainless steel or aluminum, to name the most prominent, although other metals, both ferrous and non-ferrous, can also be cut. In general, very few materials do not support this cutting technology.

As we have mentioned before, the operating cost of this technology is also interesting, compared to the more traditional oxygen cutting system. The plasma cutting process reduces the need to repeat cuts due to the poor quality of the resulting parts, reduces the costs of cutting itself due to the materials used in the process and also reduces the subsequent processing of the cut material, which is also a point in your favor.

Plasma Cutter Disadvantages

Despite its many advantages, there are also some drawbacks to plasma cutting processes. One of them has to do with the thickness of the materials to be cut. In manual machines, this thickness is limited to one inch, about 2.5 centimeters, while in mechanized cutters it is reduced to three quarters of an inch, about 1.8 centimeters. However, these figures may increase over time.

Another drawback of slicers is the initial investment. A traditional oxyfuel cutting machine is priced at approximately 100 or 150 euros, while plasma cutters start at prices from 300 euros and up. It is true that, in the long term, you will save money, due to the lower price of plasma consumables. But in the first instance, you will have to do the numbers to see if this approach fits into your budget, as well as prepare the money for the initial investment.

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