Oxy-Fuel vs. Plasma Cutting: Which Is More Efficient?

Plasma cutter making sparks

If you own a fabrication shop or steel service center that is equipped with both an oxy-fuel cutter and plasma cutting table, there may be times when you wonder which machine is right for the job at hand. And, of course, that job would be fabricating mild steel, as an oxy machine can’t cut stainless steel or aluminum plate. Conventional knowledge is that oxy-fuel is used for cutting thicker materials measuring more than 1 inch, and plasma cutting for plates thinner than 1 inch. But is this general guideline still accurate with advancements in plate-cutting technology?

Modern Plate Cutting Capabilities

In the past, when mild steel plates measuring more than 2 inches thick needed to be processed, fabricators would load the oxy machine without giving it a second thought. State-of-the-art plasma cutting tables, however, can handle plates measuring almost 3 inches thick, so it’s become less clear which is the more efficient solution when fabricating plates of this size. Let’s compare the performance capabilities of each.

Apples to Apples

When it comes to processing speeds, there is a clear winner for fabricating plates ranging in size from 2–2.75 inches: plasma cutting tables. This comparison is based on a single-torch plasma cutter and oxy-fuel cutting machine. However, one edge that oxy-fuel cutters have over plasma cutting machines is that they can be equipped with multiple torches to speed up production (to be clear, some plasma cutters do have the capability of adding a second torch, but they are not popular due to extra costs). So when, if at all, does oxy-fuel cutting become more efficient?

Plasma Burners vs. Oxy-Fuel Cutters With Multiple Torches

Adding a second cutting head to an oxy machine takes the advantage away from plasma cutters on materials measuring more than 2 inches. A third will bring that efficiency below 2 inches, and a fourth torch will make the oxy-fuel cutting machine the champion for processing plates measuring more than 1 inch. And that’s where oxy-fuel’s performance peaks, as plasma cutting tables are still the ideal solutions for fabricating anything thinner than 1 inch.

Keeping Operating Costs Low

Knowing your plasma cutting and oxy-fuel cutting machines’ capabilities is essential to keeping operating costs in check. Following the traditional guideline of using plasma cutting tables for materials measuring 1 inch or less still holds true only if your shop is equipped with an oxy-fuel cutter that has four torches. If your oxy machine has anything less, your plasma burner may be the most efficient choice for fabricating materials in the 1–2.75 inches range and will help streamline production and keep operating costs low.

A Leading Manufacturer of Plate Cutting Systems

If you still have questions about which type of fabrication equipment is the right choice for the job at hand, or if you’re looking to invest in one of these options but you’re unsure which is the best solution for your shop, the experts at Machitech are here to help. Among our offerings are heavy-duty plasma cutting tables, which are state-of-the-art and designed for custom fabrications. Plus, they include free and unlimited support for life. Contact us today to learn more.