Myths about Plasma Cutting – How True Are They

Often in the neighborhood garage or that small industrial setup, we have noted people generating a beam of what appears to be a flaming torch onto surfaces that needs to be cut. For the uninitiated, this is what is referred to as plasma cutting. This article would explore quite a bit of doubts surrounding the phenomena for better understanding of most of the part.

Something more of plasma and plasma cutting:

Image Soure: wikimedia.org

Image Soure: wikimedia.org

It is often hailed as the alternate state of matter apart from solid, liquid and gas. Plasma comes through as one heats up a particular gas and is then put under the influence of an electromagnetic field and when subject to laser and microwave generators, electrically charged particles or ions are created along with dissociation of molecular bonds. The entire field from the source gas to the surface where it is applied thus resembles an electric field and beams, or filaments, of plasma is present in.

Plasma cutting would normally be referred as that process where plasma is used to project itself as a   heated up jet of accelerated matter that has the ability to cut through surfaces that are electrically responsive. This jet is often used for aims of fabrication, welding, scrapping industries – in short where it is imperative to use a cutting process that delivers much precision at lower time frame.

Myths surrounding the use of plasma for cutting: Facts and points:

Like every other field that has evolved with time, even plasma cutting generated several opinions about it for having characteristics it does not. The myths, however needs to be debunked and facts be restored. The myths can be broadly addressed as:

  • First, plasma is an expensive method to use
  • Second, plasma can only be used on materials that have thin surface
  • Third, plasma has usage only in stainless steel surfaces
  • Fourth, plasma is restricted for being used in cutting only
  • Finally, it is difficult to use plasma.

 

  1. With respect to the first point that is the costly aspect of plasma, it is best to point out that one of the leading names specializing in manufacturing plasma cutting tools, Hypertherm Westgate, in its website, points out to the fact that its hand held plasma cutter would not require any pre-heating or pre- or post-secondary operations. This is indicative of saving your bucks on operations that are required pre or prior to cutting of metals using any non plasma method or even saves that electric bill for pre heating other devices. Thus an initial high investment on a plasma cutting machinery would guarantee a low operational cost as well as keeping a steady operational bill that does not fluctuate for secondary circumstances. Therefore, although the initial cost is bit higher, there is high productivity, greater safety and  the flexibility to be able to use even shop air. All associated costs of buying gas supply and other leakage probability that is more often linked with using oxyfuel technology, is thus eliminated. A reason Northern A1 services, a safety clean up company based in Michigan, switched over to using plasma cutting technology.
  2. One needs to be very clear that plasma is not something that is used on materials with thin surfaces ONLY. This was true few decades earlier, but not any longer. While hand held can earlier cut 38mm of surface, a computer numerical control technology has enabled to make the plasma cutting devices sophisticated enough to cut surfaces upto 150mm thick. Hypertherm Westgate itself has its powermax devices that can cut any surfaces. While sticking to such old myths would therefore, only deter from bringing out the best and optimal use of the available plasma cutting resource. Because innovations in delivery systems and torches has resulted in the fact that plasma cutters can actually break through surfaces that people ‘assume’ to be responsive only to oxyfuel cuts.
  3. Again one needs to visit the Westgate Hi-Therm powermax range of manual plasma cutting machinery to understand that stainless steel is not the only metal that can be cut by plasma effectively. Although plasma cutting devices score over oxyfuel ones for their ability to cut stainless steel which the latter fails at, yet steel is not the sole surface plasma heat can penetrate for cutting purposes. In fact, a quick look at the Hypertherm Westgate hand held plasma cutting tools would list that it can cut ‘any electrically conducive metal’. Plasma cutting tools, with its technological innovations give a clean and quick slicing of metal sheets that are otherwise rusted, damaged or unclean. Thus, this saves an industry essential budget to invest in other cutting tools which would require polishing and cleaning the metal surfaces before any other cutting process might begin.
  4. The next myth in store is that plasma is there just for cutting. While it is true that most would use plasma cutting technology for cutting, yet total adherence is almost synonymous with under utilizing a machine that can do so much more! The Hypertherm Westgate Powermax boasts of any gouging of metal one might need. This would ensure a smoke free, clean, and precise gouging that minimizes on scrap waste altogether.
  5. The final myth: Plasma is difficult to use. This might have been true decades earlier but now, with cutting edge improvement, even hand held manual plasma cutting tools deliver so much more. To debunk this myth, one simply needs to revisit the technology with which plasma cutting is done. That is, an electric field is created point to point, from one nozzle having electrode that makes gas convert into electrically charged field to the surface point. This is a relatively straight way of conceiving a light beam that in course penetrates through surfaces.
Image Soure: http://www.explore.sk/

Image Soure: http://www.explore.sk/

As Reese Madden, the director of North American Hypertherm marketing points out, with hand held plasma cutting device that are ergonomically designed, coming with templates to work with, plasma subtracts not only the cost of other gases (by using air as the source of gas), it also eliminates the need of holding any other standoff object.

Plasma: the omnipotent tool:

Ensuring you have protective gear that is free from anything that conducts electricity in your body, a plasma cutting system should be a tool handler’s favorite object. Hypertherm Westgate Powermax hand held devices weighing a mere 9kgs, with such robust capacity, utilize the vast potential your plasma cutting technology has.

 

  • Updated October 2, 2016