Consumable quality plays a big role in air plasma cut quality. It is hard to put an exact time on the life expectancy of the consumable since factors like material type, thickness, air quality, ground and pierces will affect how often you will have to change out your stack. Typically you can expect to get about 2 to 3 hours of torch-cut-time.
One of the biggest factors that affects consumable life is air quality. Clean, dry air is key to maintaining good cuts and extending your consumable life. Systems like the Hypertherm Powermax have a small air filter on the back of the system, but it might not be enough for all setups. Desiccant air dryers, refrigerated air dryers, or a combo of both work great in providing clean, dry air.
Consumable quality is extra important when running a system that uses automatic height control. The rod of hafnium that is in the electrode will start to wear while you cut. As the rod wears upward, the torch will want to get closer to the material to compensate. An electrode that is not changed soon enough will most likely result in your torch dragging on the material and can damage the shield and nozzle. When the rod of hafnium is worn down about 1/16”, it’s time to change it.
When changing the electrode, typically you will also change the nozzle. One bad pierce can damage a nozzle. If the hole at the tip of the nozzle is no longer round your pierces will come out at an angle instead of straight.
One of the most common causes I see when determining why someone is getting a bad cut is worn out and overused consumables. Remember consumable quality plays a big part in your cut quality.
To summarize, make sure you have clean-dry air, a good ground, double check your set ups, and keep an eye on your consumables.
Lane Stabile, Senior Technician