5 Ways to enhance durability of plasma cutters

What is a plasma cutter?

A plasma cutter will cut through steel and various types of electrically conducive material of varying thicknesses with the help of compressed air like shop air, nitrogen, argon, oxygen etc. An electric arc is passed through these compressed air which passes through an opening that is constricted and at extremely high speeds through the surface being cut causing the gas to turn to plasma.
By learning how to use the plasma cutter in the right way, you can enhance their durability as well as quality. The following 5 ways can be adopted to ensure the durability of plasma cutters:

1. Use the right consumables and maintain them right:

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The consumables form the main part of the plasma cutter to give quality work. The four parts of the torch – the electrode, the nozzle, gas distributor and shield need to be highly efficient for the process.

Make sure you verify the consumable part numbers and use them in the right amperage to reduce chances of any immediate damage.​

Mixing up consumables of different amperage will cause low quality cuts as well as misfires.

Dirt, grease and metal dust may form clogged holes in the consumables from daily use; especially the small holes in the swirl ring and inner retaining cap which tend to get clogged. If they are contaminated, then the plasma arc will become skewed and can also make them less durable.

Wipe each of them with a clean shop towel every time after use and also make sure they are stored properly. Also, use only enough lube to get a slight sheen on the O-ring, as too much could attract dirt, while too little could damage it.​

2. Make sure the power supply is right for the plasma cutter

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The power supply is the lifeblood of the plasma cutter. It should be of the right capability. The plasma gases that can be used as well as how these are mixed are based on the power supply. Only a capable power supply which ramps up the voltage and the gas before each cut can increase the durability of the plasma cutter. This will further ensure no damage to your consumables as well as prolong their life.

3. Use the torch at the right height

The plasma arc takes around 4.5 seconds to pierce through the metal and forces the molten metal upwards due to intense gas pressure.

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If you keep the torch too close to the metal, the shield cap can become damaged or destroyed after a single use. And if you keep the torch too high, then the electrode life will diminish by causing a misfire.

Also, remove the material build up on the shield cap caused by the splatter of the metal during cutting by using an abrasive hand-pad; otherwise this will damage the nozzle and the electrode.

Usually the plasma cutters will have a Torch Height Control (THC). The latest models have a height sensing mechanism to detect the plate. From 0.25” to 0.5” the plate will be pierced and then the torch will briefly lower before rising to the arc voltage-controlled cutting height, where the torch will remain for the rest of the cutting process.​

4. Always ensure proper gas pressure and air filtration

Use the prescribed cutting charts to maintain the right gas pressure setting. Even a slight increase in the pressure by 5 psi can wear out the electrode faster and a lower pressure can wear out the nozzle orifice easily.

Without proper filtration of the compressed air, you will end up with a deformed arc due to moisture in the air. Moreover, the dirt, oil particulates and aerosols can cause a failure of the nozzle, electrode and even the torch.

5. Read the manual thoroughly

Following the manual correctly on how to use the plasma cutter can ensure higher durability. They provide a wealth of information for the proper care and use of the equipment. It will detail the types and varying thickness of materials as well as the amperage on which the device can be used. If you attempt to cut any material out of the capability of the device as well as outside the desired amperage then it will significantly reduce the life of the equipment.

  • April 3, 2017
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