Exploring The Joys Of Building A Plasma Cutter
Matter as we commonly understand has three states namely solid, liquid and gas. Science has also proved and demonstrated that matter changes its state from one to another with the application of energy such as heat.
Simplest example of water helps us understand how water when in solid form i.e., ice changes to liquid state upon application of certain amount of heat. Further increase in heat leads it liquid state changing to gaseous state (steam).
Now it is interesting to note that the process of change of state does not end here. When the heat levels increase all the more, the constituent gases of steam will get ionised and electrically conductive thus resulting in plasma. This understanding of plasma is a vital requirement to justify the reason behind going for a plasma cutter.
What is plasma cutting?
The process of using plasma to cut through electrically conducting materials is called plasma cutting.
Most commonly materials like copper, aluminium, steel and brass can be cut through the usage of this process.
Further, other conductive metals can also be cut using a plasma cutter.
The process of plasma cutting involves the application of a hot jet of plasma thereby achieving a much cleaner and faster cutting process as opposed to the process of administering an oxyfuel.
How is it achieved?
A Plasma arc formation happens when any gas like oxygen, argon, nitrogen is compressed and forced through a small nozzle at high speed inside the torch towards the work piece.
This electrical arc which is formed within the gas is between an electrode near or integrated into the gas nozzle and the work piece.
This arc ionizes some of the gas resulting in the creation of an electrically conductive channel of plasma. The electricity from the cutter torch travelling down the plasma provides sufficient amount of heat which is necessary for melting the work piece.
Variation in plasma cutting process:
- Conventional plasma cutting: Using a single gas for both cools and produces plasma.
- Dual gas plasma cutting: Two gases are used of which one produces plasma and another to act as shield gas.
- Water shield plasma cutting: One gas produces plasma and water is used as a substitute for the shield gas.
- Water injection plasma cutting: Uses a single gas for producing plasma and utilizes water either radically or swirl injected directly into the arc to improve arc constriction and thereby increasing the arc density and temperature.
- Precision plasma cutting: Latest technology is used to super constrict the arc which dramatically increases energy density and this produces a superior cut quality on thinner materials.
Where is plasma cutting prominently used?
Plasma cutting evolved out of plasma welding in the 1960s and quickly emerged to be a very popular and effective method in cutting both thick and thin metals.Often plasma cutting is used in welding and fabrication works, industrial construction, automotive repair and restoration, scrapping and salvage operations.
It has a wide range of application, which also includes heavy duty industrial CNC applications. Applying CNC technology to plasma cutting machines resulted in achieving greater flexibility to cut diverse shapes as needed on demand.
A set of instructions are programmed into the machine’s numerical control to get the desired shape of cuts.
Usage of plasma cutters requires usage of proper eye protection goggles and face shields in order to prevent possible eye damage from the arc or the debris.
The flashing of the arc proves to be damaging to the retina resulting in “Arc eye”. Various plasma cutter equipment manufacturers recommend darker hues of green as safety glasses.
Lens in dark shades of green in the range of #7 to #9 safety glasses need to be used to prevent being flashed or burned. In addition usage of leather gloves, jacket and apron should be used for preventing burns occurring due to sparks and debris.
Making a plasma cutter at home:
So far we observed how plasma cutter is made and used in an industrial setting. Science geeks can actually achieve this at home. Yes! You heard it right; you can make a basic plasma cutter in the comfort and convenience of your home.
The components required are simple and easily obtainable.
We will now list down the requirements needed to come up with a basic model of plasma cutter in a matter of minutes.
- Seven 9volts heavy duty batteries to provide the required voltage.
- A regular pencil for extracting graphite which is a good conductor of electricity.
- A sheet of aluminium foil to act as a work piece.
- Three Alligator clips.
- A glass dish
Procedure to be followed:
- The seven 9 volts batteries should be arranged in a manner to provide a series connection which results in producing a high voltage.
- The pencil needs to be scrapped to extract graphite which will be used to act like a tip to melt the work-piece.
- The aluminium foil which is being used as a work piece here is cut to size to cover the glass dish.
- One alligator clip is connected to the extracted graphite; a second one is connected to battery and then the aluminium foil.
After the above mentioned method of approach is completed, a quick run of the graphite end on the aluminium foil results in getting precision perfect cuts and the flashing can be clearly observed when seen in a dark place.
Hey no sweat! If you’re still unsure of the process, there are videos available on the internet that can help you with a step by step video tutorial. So, just check those out, for a demo of the process.
Until now we explored an easy to do, quite safe, harmless and fun method of making a plasma cutter at home. Hope you guys enjoyed it and would be trying it out yourselves. I had real fun making one and I am sure you will have too! So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and kindle your curiosity! Build one today right now!