How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?

a plasma cutting torch processing steel plate

Plasma cutting is a popular method of custom metal fabrication. Its history as a fabrication tool can be dated back to the 1960s, at which time it was a revolutionary change—before then, metal plates were cut using oxy-fuel and metal-on-metal cutting, two processes that produce a lot of sparks and metal shavings, which can affect shop safety. Plasma-cutting operations not only produce less waste and fewer sparks, but they also result in cleaner edges with no burn marks. Let’s take a closer look at how plasma cutters work.

Generating Plasma That Is Powerful Enough to Cut Through Metal

The cutting torch of a plasma cutter forces a gas (typically oxygen, nitrogen, or argon) through the miniscule opening of the nozzle, while at the same time generating an electrical spark than reacts with the gas and transforms it into high-velocity plasma. The temperature of the plasma can reach 45,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 25,000 degrees Celsius—hot enough to not just cut through the metal material but also to melt away any slag, leaving behind clean cut paths.

What Materials Can a Plasma Cutting Table Cut?

In order for the electrical spark generated by the torch to transform the gas into super-heated plasma, it must also react to the metal being processed to close the circuit. Therefore, plasma cutting machines are only capable of fabricating electrically conductive metals. These include mild steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, copper, brass, and more. Plasma cutters will not work on poorly conductive metals, like tungsten, manganese, lead, and tin, nor will they work on non-metal materials.

Automating Plasma Cutting Machines With CNC Technology

The process of plasma cutting offers professional fabricators versatile options for creating unique products for their customers. To reap even more benefits from this fabrication method, plasma cutters can be equipped with CNC software that automates operations. Automating the fabrication process can deliver many benefits, including:

  • Fewer cutting mistakes – CNC controls remove human error from the fabrication process.
  • Faster turnarounds – Automated operations can complete fabrication work much faster than even a team of technicians with handheld torches can accomplish.
  • Smaller workforce – CNC plasma cutting tables often require just one operator to program the profile into the digital environment, load the raw material into the machine, and unload the finished product when processing is complete.

With these great benefits, custom fabricators can receive a nice return on investment when they purchase a CNC plasma cutting machine for their shop. It’s no wonder that CNC plasma cutting is one of the most popular methods of custom fabrication in the industry.

Where to Buy a Heavy-Duty CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

Do you own a custom fabrication shop that is struggling with cutting mistakes and late deliveries? If so, you may be looking to upgrade your shop with a CNC plasma cutting machine. At Machitech, we can help. As an automation leader, we design CNC plasma cutting machines to meet individual production needs. Plus, our solutions include free and unlimited support for life. Contact us today to learn more about how a Machitech CNC plasma cutter can improve your shop’s operations.