How to Choose a CNC Plasma Cutter

A plasma cutter making a precision cut

Your custom fabrication shop has had some success, and now you’re looking for ways to take it to the next level. If you’re still fabricating by hand, you may be considering an investment in a CNC plasma cutting table. Doing so can certainly benefit your shop—it’s no secret that automated technology can improve cut quality and speed up production. But if you’re going to reap those benefits and earn a nice return on investment, it’s imperative to select a CNC plasma cutting machine that is equipped to handle the types of custom fabrications that you specialize in. Here are some things to consider as you begin shopping around for the right CNC plasma cutter for your shop:

User-Friendly CNC Controls

The idea behind automation is to simplify production. Therefore, you don’t want to be constantly dumbfounded by overly complex CNC software that is poorly designed. Look for CNC controls that make programming easy and don’t limit your fabrication capabilities. For instance, if your shop produces only a few types of products, uploading these profiles should be a quick and easy task. However, if you specialize in custom fabrications, CNC software that also includes a CAD environment will be more beneficial to your needs.

Heavy-Duty Mechanical Components

It’s important to select a CNC plasma cutting table that will withstand the stress of your daily operations. Though you may be enticed by the lower price tag of a light-duty gantry or cutting torch, these components will not hold up long under around-the-clock production, and you’ll find yourself having to replace these parts more often than you care to. A heavy-duty CNC plasma burn table may come with a higher upfront cost, but it will ultimately save you money because it will last far longer than an inferior machine.

Fume-Extraction Systems

Plasma cutting produces fumes and smoke that are hazardous to your health and the health of your employees. CNC plasma cutting tables will typically include a system for extracting these dangerous fumes. For instance, a water table is often used for this purpose, but one drawback of a water table is that the water will need to be properly disposed of at the end of the day. A more efficient—and safe—option you may want to look for is a downdraft table, which uses a fan to pull the fumes away from the cutting area and into a filtration system.

Table Size and Output Power

Your CNC cutting table will need to be large enough to accommodate the materials you work with and the products you produce. And, of course, it will need to be an appropriate size to fit within the square footage of your shop. You’ll also need output power that is strong enough to support your custom fabrication efforts. For example, if you primarily work with sheet metal, 12 amps of output power from a 120V machine may be all you need. But if you specialize in processing metal plates and other thick materials, you may need 60 amps from a 230V burn table.

Torch Height Control

There are three modes to torch height control: pierce height, cut height, and arc voltage height. All three are integral to perfect processing. Pierce height, for instance, helps extend the life of the cutting torch tip. Cut height prevents kerf and other unwanted side effects caused by a torch that is set too low or high. Arc voltage height maintains the correct torch-to-workpiece distance.

Technical Support

Though this may be a harder benefit to find, ideally your CNC plasma cutting machine will be supported by the manufacturer if you ever have any issues with it. Ongoing support can help prevent costly production delays.

Where to Find the Best CNC Plasma Cutting Table for Your Shop

Machitech is a leading manufacturer of heavy-duty CNC plasma cutting machines for custom fabrication shops. Our solutions are fully customizable to meet unique production needs, and they include free and unlimited support for life. To learn more, contact Machitech today.