One of the most common operations in a workshop is cutting materials. These require tools adapted to the work to be carried out and its characteristics. A section where the plasma cutter has won integers, thanks to its effectiveness on especially hard materials or for precise cuts.
Among the operations that are carried out in a workshop or when executing different DIY tasks, we have the cutting of materials. This process is key to obtain the appropriate pieces that our project requires. When it comes to cutting metal, the classic solution is the oxyacetylene welder. However, the plasma cutter has become an interesting alternative, thanks to a cutting system capable of saving time and improving the results of these jobs with solvency. If you have never heard of this technology, we tell you everything you need to know below.
What is a plasma cutter
A plasma cutter is a cutting tool initially designed for workshops and professional uses, but is now being extended to all types of users. Its design makes it easy to make the cuts we need using a system similar to a torch, in the independent models, or by means of automated cutting software, as happens in the models based on CNC or computerized technology.
What is plasma
Plasma is a recently discovered state of matter compared to the three traditional ones (solid, liquid and gaseous), which is obtained by heating any fluid in a gaseous state. The objective is to achieve a gas that is highly conductive to electricity, through a system that generates positive ions and free electrons. The result is that this gas becomes an excellent conductor of electric current and has different uses, such as executing these cutting processes.
How the cut is done
If we think about the operation of pressurized water cutters , we see how they cut by ejecting that liquid at extreme pressure on a surface so small that it ends up cutting. In the case of plasma cutters, the process is similar, with the exception that what is used for this cut is that gas charged with electricity.
This penetrates completely in the material that we have to work and makes the corresponding cut through the conductivity obtained by the generated electric arc. A task that has the advantage of being relatively economical in operational terms thanks to the gas used in the process and also to the durability that the electrodes used in this process currently have.
Regarding the remains of the cutting process, obtained by the melting of the metal that generates the plasma, they are eliminated thanks to the gas, thus leaving the cutting area completely clean of residues and avoiding the need to brush the cut pieces. A method that also prevents these remains from remaining in the edge areas, once the pieces cool down after cutting.
Advantages of plasma cutter
The main advantage of the plasma cutter is that it has a heat compaction in the cutting area, which does not spread as much as happens with traditional gas cuts or with other systems. This implies a lower risk of heat-related deformation, which translates into better finished edges and a more precise cutting process. A parameter that reaches its maximum in plasma cutters managed by CNC technology, since machining allows the characteristics of the parts to be measured to the millimeter.
Another advantage of this system is its versatility, since it can be used on practically any metal that conducts electricity. Among the accepted metals, there is carbon steel, stainless steel or aluminum, to name the most outstanding, although other metals, both ferrous and non-ferrous, can also be cut. In general, very few materials do not support this cutting technology.
As we have mentioned before, the operating cost of this technology is also interesting, compared to the more traditional oxygen cutting system . The plasma cutting process reduces the need to repeat cuts due to the poor quality of the resulting parts, reduces the costs of cutting itself for the materials used in the process and also reduces the post-processing of the cut material, which is also a point in your favor.
Disadvantages of plasma cutter
Despite its many advantages, there are also some drawbacks to plasma cutting processes. One of them has to do with the thickness of the materials to be cut. On manual machines, this thickness is limited to one inch, about 2.5 centimeters, while on mechanized cutters it is reduced to three-quarters of an inch, about 1.8 centimeters. However, it is possible that these figures will increase over time.
Another downside to slicers is the initial investment. A traditional flame cutting machine has a price of approximately 100 or 150 euros, while plasma cutters start at prices from 300 euros onwards. It is true that, in the long term, you will save money, for the lower price of plasma consumables. But in the first instance, you will have to do numbers to see if this approach fits into your budget, as well as prepare the money for the initial investment.