Plasma cutting is a popular method of fabricating metal plate ranging in size from ¼ inch to 1 ½ inches. Its processing speed and high-quality cuts are two of the reasons why this technology is used in fabrication shops of all sizes. Before we take a closer look at the advantages of plasma cutting, let’s start with some basics.
What Is Plasma?
Plasma is a gas that becomes ionized after being subjected to intense heat. In fact, plasma is often referred to as ionized gas. If you were to look at plasma under a subatomic microscope, you’d see atoms that are missing electrons and orphaned electrons freely floating around. The atoms within plasma are not in steady contact with each other, making plasma behave more like a gas. However, when subjected to an electrical or magnetic field, plasma flows like a liquid.
How Does Plasma Cutting Work?
Generally speaking, plasma cutting is a thermal process because it uses heat to produce cuts. The torch on a plasma-cutting machine electrically charges the plasma, then compresses it and shoots it through a tiny opening. The miniscule size of this aperture forces the plasma into a high-velocity stream, which becomes so hot that it literally melts through the plate.
Why Plasma Cutting Is So Popular
This specialized method of fabricating plate generates a number of advantages. For instance, a plasma-cutting table can:
- Process all conductive materials, unlike an oxy-fuel cutter, which works only on ferrous metals (those containing iron)
- Produce less slag due to the intense heat melting most of it away
- Generate clean cuts on plates ranging up to 50 mm in size; in fact, plasma cutting is the best option for fabricating medium-thickness steel and aluminum
- Create smaller kerf than flame cutting, allowing for perfect processing of unique shapes and profiles
- Be operated underwater to minimize the heat-affected zone (HAZ)
- Outpace other metal fabrication systems in production speed
- Be equipped with computer numerical control (CNC) technology to automate processing
Benefits of CNC Technology
Plasma-cutting tables that include CNC software offer even more advantages than a standard machine. The software makes it easy to load profiles and program a production schedule. With CNC controls, materials simply need to be loaded and unloaded while the automated technology performs the rest of the work. This allows for safer material handling and fewer technicians needed for processing.
Where Plasma Cutting Falls Behind
While the advantages are many, plasma cutting isn’t the solution for every type of metal fabrication. Plasma cutting, for example, is limited by the size of the material and does not perform well on plates larger than 1 ½ inches or smaller than ¼ inch. Compared to laser cutting, its tolerances are not as tight and it produces a wider kerf. Plus, it leaves behind an HAZ, although this can be eliminated with a waterjet cutter.
Where to Find Heavy-Duty Plasma Cutters
At Machitech, we specialize in manufacturing heavy-duty CNC plasma-cutting machines for custom fabrication shops of nearly every size. Our solutions include installation and training services, as well as free and unlimited support for life. To learn about the advantages of having a Machitech CNC plasma-cutting machine installed in your shop, contact us today.