Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting is a process that uses a high-speed stream of ionized gas, called plasma, to cut through a variety of conductive materials. The process is widely used in metal fabrication and manufacturing due to its ability to produce precise cuts with a high level of accuracy. In this article, we’ll explore the basics of plasma cutting, including how the process works, the different types of plasma cutting systems, and the use of water as a shield.

Plasma Nozzle Cutaway
A plasma cutter nozzle cutaway view.

How Plasma Cutting Works

Plasma cutting works by heating a stream of gas, typically air, to a high temperature until it becomes ionized and forms a plasma arc. The plasma arc is then directed through a constricted opening, or nozzle, where the pressure and temperature are increased, resulting in a high-speed stream of plasma that can cut through metal. The plasma arc is guided by a plasma torch, which is moved over the surface of the material being cut.

Plasma cutting is particularly effective for cutting metals such as steel, stainless steel, aluminum, and copper. The process is often used in metal fabrication and manufacturing.

Types of Plasma Cutting Systems

There are two main types of plasma cutting systems: handheld plasma cutters and CNC plasma cutting machines. Handheld plasma cutters are portable and can be used on the job site, making them ideal for cutting materials that cannot be transported to a fabrication shop. CNC plasma cutting machines are computer-controlled and are used for production cutting, where high accuracy and repeatability are required.

Use of Water as a Shield

Water can be used as a shield in plasma cutting to improve cut quality and prolong the life of the cutting torch. During the cutting process, the plasma arc creates intense heat and sparks that can damage the cutting torch and affect the quality of the cut. By using water to cool and shield the cutting process, the life of the cutting torch can be extended and the cut quality improved.

Advantages of Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting offers several advantages over traditional cutting methods, including:

Speed: Plasma cutting is a fast process that can cut through metal quickly and efficiently.

Plasma cut aluminum showing slag residue.

Precision: Plasma cutting provides precise cuts with a high level of accuracy, making it ideal for applications that require tight tolerances.

Versatility: Plasma cutting can be used to cut a wide variety of metals, making it a versatile process for a wide range of applications.

Affordability: Plasma cutting systems are generally more affordable than laser cutting systems, making them a more accessible option for many metal fabrication and manufacturing operations.

Plasma cutting is a versatile, precise, and affordable process that is widely used in metal fabrication and manufacturing. Whether you need to cut steel, aluminum, or other metals, plasma cutting is an effective solution that offers fast, precise cuts with a high level of accuracy. By using water as a shield, the life of the cutting torch can be extended and the cut quality improved.