5 Problems While Using Plasma Cutter

Plasma cutters are extremely useful tools preferred increasingly by metal plants and industries, metal fabricators, handymen, any person remotely interested in the science of metallurgy and even a home owner having a project or two to take up in his backyard.

Though highly precise, handy and easy to use, a plasma cutter comes with its own share of problems while being operated.

Following are the five most common problems encountered while using a plasma cutter:

1. Consumable parts:

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The consumable parts or the consumables of a plasma cutter are the most susceptible ones for significant wear and tear. Regular checking and routine replacement of damaged consumables goes a long way in maintaining the torch of the cutter in prime working condition. Repairing or replacing the torch is definitely more expensive in comparison. If left unchecked, cut quality is severely affected and offers warning signs of the damage involved.

The parts of the torch that can be damaged are:

  • Electrode: Depending on the gas being used for generating plasma, electrode is subjected to pitting. Depth of the pits needs to be routinely checked and where excessive wear noticed, the electrode should be replaced.
  • Nozzle: On close examination if any oxide residue is observed on the inside of the nozzle or gouging seen on inside or outside of the same, then it needs immediate replacement.
  • Swirl rings: These could sustain damage ranging from dirt or grease in the holes to cracks and arc burns. In any of these cases, the swirl rings need to be replaced.

2. Cutting tip:

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It is natural for dirt and metal slag to get collected in and around the cutting tip of the cutter. This metal dust may cause the current generated to get discharged. The consequences would be connection with the metal plate not being made, eventually resulting in poor cut. Regular cleaning of the tip with a clean cloth is recommended before, during and after the operation.

Burned tips are a recurring problem in the plasma cutter operation. While the cutting is in progress, the extensive heat generated causes the tips to burn. This results in the holes to get misshapen. The electric arc passing through the damaged holes is no longer efficient and the cut turns out to be irregular.‚Äč


3. Torch:

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The torch of the plasma cutter consists of all the consumables therein assembled together. Improper assembly leads to irregular arc generated inside the chamber causing the torch to fail.

The torch is sensitive to impact. Ramming it on the metal plate or sudden collision due to slip may damage it irreparably. Caution needs to be exercised in holding the torch at the right height (distance) from the surface to be worked on to avoid abrasions and damage. Also, proper standoff needs to be maintained according to the metal surface and thickness worked on.

The torch can be routinely cleaned using cotton swab and hydrogen peroxide for any contaminants that may be present lodged inside or outside.


4. Lubricants:

Excessive or improper usage of lubricants affects the cutting job adversely. Shield needs to be removed before applying the anti spatter compounds on it.

Torches need no lubrication and hence, grease or other lubricants should not be applied on them.

Lubricants conduct electricity and ruin a perfect cutting job. Also, the swirl rings gather excess grease and attract metal dust. This in turn ruins the arcing.


5. Gas and coolant flow:

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Daily checking of proper gas and coolant for smooth flow and pressure is a must. The consumables would get excessively heated up and their life shortened if the coolant flow is not sufficient.

The arc is generated due to the pressure imposed on the plasma generated in the torch. Lax pressure would not produce appropriate arc necessary for the job causing irregular cuts, whereas, additional pressure would lead to a situation where the torch is not able to initiate an arc.

If the gas used in the plasma cutter is not clean and dry, it contaminates the torch leading to unnecessary repairs.

Having known where you might encounter a problem while working with your plasma cutter, making sure that all the components are properly maintained and routinely checked goes a long way in keeping your prized possession working in prime condition.

  • April 3, 2017
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