A Short Introduction of Plasma Cutting for Manufacturers

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According to the statistics of the World Bank, manufacturing is a 13.5 trillion dollars industry as of 2020. As a manufacturer, you have to familiarize yourself with what processes are used in productive manufacturing plants. 

Metalworking is one of the most important processes used in manufacturing plants. Plasma cutting is the essential machine in metalworking that enables the production of different products easily. Keep reading to find out the basic principle and advantages of plasma cutting in this article!

What is Plasma? 

Plasma is termed the fourth type of matter. Plasma is found naturally in the upper parts of the earth’s atmosphere. According to an estimation, it is believed that plasma makes up 99% of the visible universe. Daily life applications of plasma include plasma lamps and neon signs etc. 

For industrial purposes, plasma is created by heating up a gas through intense heating processes. This heating results in the “ionization” of the gas. Plasma has liquid-like properties when subject to electrical and magnetic fields. 

Plasma Cutting: The basics

A plasma cutting torch is used to cut through different metals. Hand-held plasma torches are also used for cutting, but CNC cutting or mechanized cutting is better suited for industrial purposes. 

Plasma cutting is categorized under the field of thermal cutting because plasma “melts” a metal instead of cutting it through a mechanical process. The melting process allows the plasma machine to stay in the same configuration when used for industrial purposes. 

In most cases, plasma cutters use a defined combination of different gases to create plasma. A stream of heated plasma gets ejected from the cutting head of a plasma cutter used to melt and cut a given piece of metal.

Advantages of Plasma Cutting

There are several benefits of using a cnc plasma cutting machine for metalworking purposes. We have listed the seven primary reasons why manufacturers worldwide rely on plasma cutters for industrial processes. 

  • Increased versatility

The biggest advantage of using a plasma cutter is that it can cut different metals. The list of metals that can be easily cut with a plasma cutter are:

  • Iron
  • Brass
  • Copper 
  • Aluminum 

For some industrial purposes, it is desirable to cut through metals stacked on top of each other. Plasma cutters can also cut through metals that are stacked. Flame cutters, on the other hand, cannot provide the same level of versatility that is offered by plasma cutters. 

  • Easier to use

CNC plasma cutters are super easy to use. A CNC programming expert can write the programming code used to handle CNC plasma cutters. Once programmed, a plasma cutter can be used without reprogramming it for as long as you want. 

Portability is another excellent feature of plasma cutters. Some plasma cutters can be moved easily from one place to another, allowing manufacturers to easily handle complicated tasks. 

Only one skilled person can handle a plasma cutter. On the other hand, flame-cutting requires more people to handle the cutting process.

  • Faster cutting speeds

Cutting speed plays an important role in the efficiency of manufacturing processes. If a cutting process is slow, it will affect the overall production process of an industry. 

Plasma cutting is desirable for its faster speeds. Compared to any cutting machine available in the market, plasma cutting is more reliable as it can cut through materials more properly. 

A general overview of plasma cutting shows that it can handle the cutting process 75% faster than other cutting mechanisms. The main reason plasma cutting can cut through materials faster is that it doesn’t require preheating like flame cutting. 

  • Precise for cutting

Plasma cutters are known for their superior precision. Only a skilled professional with industrial experience in cutting can cut metals in desired shapes with a flame cutter. On the other hand, CNC machines can be programmed to cut metals precisely without the need for a skilled professional. 

Cutting metals in the same shapes and sizes can be difficult through flame cutting. A CNC machine can be programmed to dictate how a given piece of metal will be handled to create the same shape and size products. 

For example, a plasma cutter can cut metals from 50 mm to 150 mm in thickness with great precision. Plasma cutters are considered the best for cutting steel and aluminum in medium-thickness cuts. 

  • Affordable to use

It is important to choose an affordable cutting mechanism for industrial purposes. Higher cutting costs can make it hard for manufacturers to sell products at lower prices. Plasma cutting is the most affordable cutting mechanism that can lower manufacturing costs. 

The good thing about CNC plasma cutters is that it doesn’t produce waste. Higher precision and reliability of plasma cutters allow repeatability, reducing the overall production costs. 

  • Improved safety

Workspace safety is an important factor that dictates the quality of manufacturing processes. With the labor laws enforced by federal and local governments, manufacturers can only rely on safe machines for employees. 

Plasma cutters allow manufacturers to minimize the security risk for their employees. Compared to other cutting processes, plasma cutters are not highly flammable, making them reliable for manufacturing purposes. 

Other features that improve the safety of plasma cutters are:

  • Smaller cutting kerf
  • Smaller HAZ
  • Reduced noise levels
  • Reliable for piercing 

Piercing speed is an important feature that dictates the quality and reliability of a cutting mechanism. In comparison to flame cutting, plasma cutting provides faster piercing and proves to be the most reliable mechanism for metalworking. 

It should be noted that flame cutting machines require high temperatures for piercing. For example, Oxyfuel must be heated to 1000 °C before being used for piercing. 

On the other hand, plasma cutters don’t have such limitations, which results in the faster piercing speeds of plasma cutters. It takes less than two seconds for plasma cutters to pierce through a given metal piece.

Some Disadvantages 

There are some disadvantages linked with the usage of plasma cutters. For example, plasma cutting machines have larger HAZ, which might not suit certain industrial purposes. Plasma cutting is unreliable for cutting thin sheets and only provides higher precision when used for thick sheets. 

In some cases, the tolerances of plasma cutting are not considered as precise as laser cutting. The thickness of plasma cutting also doesn’t reach the levels set by waterjet and flame cutting. Compared to laser cutting, the wider kerf of plasma cutting is also a big disadvantage.