What Materials Can a Plasma Cutter Cut?

When plasma cutting was developed in the 1960s, it revolutionized how metal plates were cut. Before then, fabricators relied on metal-on-metal cutting and oxy-fuel cutting, two processes that create a lot of sparks and debris, which pose a safety hazard to personnel. Plasma cutting greatly reduces sparks and metal shavings, making it a safer process, and also produces cleaner edges with no burn marks on the material.

How Plasma Cutting Works

Plasma cutters shoot an electrical arc through compressed air, ionizing the air with an increased flow of electrons and generating a flame that is powerful enough to slice through metal. In fact, the flame is so strong that it literally melts the material, creating a smooth edge that has a polished appearance and feel.

What Can a Plasma Cutter Cut Through?

Because plasma cutters use high-velocity ionized gas to create a flame, they can cut any electrically conductive metal. Examples include:

  • Mild steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Carbon steel
  • Expanded steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Other ferrous (iron-containing) and non-ferrous materials

Heavy-duty plasma cutters can process metal plates ranging in size from 1 millimeter to 1 inch. Anything larger would require a more powerful plasma cutting machine.

What Can a Plasma Cutter Not Cut?

Is plasma cutting a catchall solution for any type of fabrication? No. Because the material must be electrically conductive to react to the ionized gas coming from the torch, non-conductive materials cannot be processed with plasma cutting. For instance, plasma cutters cannot cut wood, glass, and plastics, or poorly conductive metals like manganese, lead, tungsten, and tin.

Benefits of Plasma CNC Machines

Some heavy-duty plasma cutters feature computer numerical control (CNC) technology. This advanced software allows a fabricator to upload a given profile or shape, which will then be processed entirely by the machine. Automated operations can provide many benefits, including minimizing cutting mistakes, reducing labor costs, and streamlining production.

Choosing the Right Plasma CNC Machine for Your Shop

Due to their powerful cutting technology and automated controls, CNC plasma cutting tables can be used for numerous applications, from shaping parts for custom cars to processing oversized materials for shipbuilding. Finding the right plasma CNC machine for your shop depends on what materials you specialize in and how often you’ll be using the burn table. You’ll want an extra-powerful model if you mass produce your parts and run the machine throughout the day, whereas a less powerful table can handle occasional and short cutting sessions. A good rule to follow is to choose a CNC plasma cutter that can process twice the thickness of the materials you work with.

The Leading Manufacturer of Custom CNC Plasma Cutting Tables

Finding the right plasma cutter for your custom fabrication shop is easy when you partner with Machitech. We are masters at automation and manufacture heavy-duty CNC plasma cutters that are fit for nearly any type of fabrication. And all of our solutions come with free and unlimited support for life. Get started by contacting Machitech today.