Should You Fabricate Aluminum with a CNC Plasma Cutter?

 

A CNC plasma cutter is just one of many tools available to fabricate materials available on the market.  Some fabrication tools (such as laser or waterjet) may be ideal for fabricating certain materials over others.  Though in the past plasma cutting may not always be the top choice for fabricating aluminum, today’s modern CNC plasma cutting systems are cost effective and efficient way to cut aluminum.  Through education about today’s modern CNC plasma cutters, more and more people are realizing that plasma may be a great choice for fabricating aluminum.

 

There are many common misconceptions about using plasma to fabricate aluminum:

  • Misconception No. 1—Aluminum is not a good candidate to be plasma-cut because the material can’t stand up to the flame; for example, porosity is evident on the cut edge. Cutting aluminum with air produces a rough edge coated with aluminum oxide. This is an issue of gas selection. When you selection the proper gas, you will get a very nice edge on aluminum with plasma.
  • Misconception No. 2—Plasma cutting aluminum plate doesn’t make sense because the technology can’t meet tight tolerance. Plasma has changed over the course of the last five to six years. The new high tolerance in plasma cutting holds excellent tolerances on all thicknesses and materials of plate. Angle variation on aluminum is actually quite good, even compared to mild steel and stainless.
  • Misconception No. 3—Plasma cutting aluminum plate leaves a hard-to-clean mess on the surface of the material. There should be no surface dross when plasma cutting is set up properly.
  • Misconception No. 4—Cutting aluminum plate with a laser is more cost-effective than cutting it with plasma… Lasers get their speed from an exothermic reaction when they cut mild steel. The exothermic reaction uses oxygen as the assist gas, but this leads to problems in processing aluminum. Oxygen can’t be used to laser-cut aluminum—high-pressure nitrogen is needed instead. The cutting speeds are much slower and you will need a tremendous amount of nitrogen, making the costs much higher.

 

By accounting for the various factors that impact aluminum fabrication and using the most modern CNC plasma technology, users can have a cost effective and high quality aluminum fabrication experience.