Since its introduction in the 1960s, plasma cutting has changed the way that metal plates and metal machinery are cut.
Prior to the creation of plasma cutting machines, people using metals in factories or the fabricators of metal had to rely on metal-to-metal cutting and oxy-fuel cutting. These were two processes that would often create a lot of sparks and debris, which would pose an obvious safety hazard to personnel or members of staff working in the factories.
Due to its innovative design, plasma cutting reduces the sparks and metal shavings caused by cutting metals and makes the entire environment safer, as well as the process. It also is able to produce cleaner edges without burn marks, making it a better alternative to traditional cutting methods.
However, little is known by the public about plasma cutters, and if you operate a factory, you may want to know a bit more about these machines. So, this short introduction will provide you with answers to the metals that can be cut with plasma cutters, the materials that cannot be shaped with metal cutters, as well as some brief guidance on the usage and design. So, read on to learn more!
What Makes Up A Plasma Cutter?
The flame for a plasma cutter is made by sending a pressurized gas such as nitrogen, argon, or oxygen through a small channel. If you have a CNC plasma cutting machine, you will have cool air around the middle point where the flame is created, which acts as a cooling system and as a safety mechanism. Plasma cutters come in a range of shapes and sizes, with some using robotic arms to make precise incisions, whereas some other plasma cutters are handheld.
The gases that were mentioned earlier pass through the channel, and the spark will heat the gas until it becomes a stream of direct plasma, which is approximately 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Understandably, this will require a great deal of safety equipment to operate, which will be discussed later.
What Metals Can Be Cut With Plasma Cutting Machines?
Plasma cutting machines were originally designed to cut metals, but there is a special feature of all of the metals that can be successfully cut using a plasma machine. As you read on, you may spot it!
The most commonly used metal in construction and the majority of industries, steel, can be cut using a plasma cutting machine; this includes mild steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, and expanded steel. Heavy-duty plasma cutters can process steel plates that range in size from 1mm to an inch, whereas anything larger or thicker than this would require a more powerful machine. So, ensure before you begin using your plasma cutting system that it is adequately powerful.
Another commonly used metal, aluminum, can be cut using a plasma cutting machine, but many people have concerns about using such a strong force to cut aluminum due to its low melting temperature. However, it’s worth considering that the majority of plasma cutting machines allow you to adjust the temperature at which the gas is heated, which means you can adjust it to reduce the effect it will have on the metal it comes into contact with.
Copper is not as commonly seen in construction as steel and aluminum, but you can use a plasma cutting machine to shape and cut copper. However, many people state that you should use silver-tipped channels when using a plasma cutting machine to cut copper to make the process easier and for a smoother finish.
You can also cut brass with a plasma cutting machine, but many people have concerns about doing so, as when brass heats up, it releases zinc gases into the air, which can obviously be hazardous. So, if you are using a plasma cutter to cut or shape brass in your factory, make sure that all of your staff are wearing the appropriate clothing to do so.
What Cannot Be Cut With A Plasma Cutter?
As mentioned earlier, plasma cutters were designed to cut metals that were magnetic. So, although it may seem illogical from a glance, a plasma cutter cannot or should not be used to cut through wood, glass, plastic, concrete, or any metals that are mixed, such as manganese or tungsten.
You may have some questions about having a plasma cutter in your factory or even buying a handheld one. So, this very brief FAQ section aims to answer some key questions about these machines.
Do You Need Specialized Training To Use A Plasma Cutter?
In a word, no, you do not need to have any special training to use a plasma cutter, and the majority of people can learn this skill seamlessly within minutes. However, if you are using a plasma cutter that is mounted to a wall or requires mechanical arms to use, then you will likely have to undertake additional training, but this will depend on where you are working.
What Safety Material Is Needed To Use A Plasma Cutter?
If you are using a plasma cutter, you need to consider that this device will expose your eyes and your skin to ultraviolet rays, which can be hazardous. So, in order to use it safely, you will need to have a full-head helmet, eye coverings, rubber gloves, specialized shoes, and protective clothing. It’s also worth noting that when it comes to using a plasma cutting machine, you will need to operate it in a well-ventilated area or have the appropriate breathing apparatus.
How Long Can You Use A Plasma Cutter For Each Day?
The majority of factories that use plasma cutters will use them for between one and three hours a day, spread out over 10-minute intervals. This will prevent the potential release of toxic gases from the metals being cut and will also ensure that the machine does not become overheated, which is a safety precaution for the people who are using the machine.
If you are using a handheld plasma cutter, aim to use it in a well-ventilated area and ideally use it for between 10 to 20 minutes at a time.