Plasma is an electrically neutral state created when heating a gas to high temperature, from five to seven thousand degrees, making kinetic energy of its molecules which then collides energetically with each other which results in positively charged ions and negatively charged electrons mixing up and fully offsetting one another. The cutting system using this plasma formed through the heat generated by the arc discharges between the cutting objects and the electrode inside the torch of the plasma cutter. The plasma is blow out of the nozzle and the materials are fused to cut. The fusing of the cutting materials is vaporized and blasted off the surface to produce the cut. The kef is formed in the plasma cutting through the process of melting by heat flex from the arc column, melting anode/cathode energy, and melting by heat from high temperature and high-velocity plasma stream. Plasma cutters are now increasingly used with the CNC combinations providing better results. The innovations in the plasma cutting systems have given birth to smaller nozzles and thinner plasma arcs that allow the plasma cutters to perform near the laser cutters precisions. This precision and perfections combined with CNC control provides the users with a wide range of options that are economical than other cutting methods and with higher speeds.
As with any technology, the inception of the plasma cutting technology was on the expensive side, and industries and professionals were the ones who could afford to have these cutters. The size of the plasma cutters in the initial stages was on the heavier and bulkier side due to the energy requirements. These have all changed with the increased use of the technology as the increased demand has created cheaper products by the manufacturers. Now there are cheaper plasm cutting machines which even hobbyists can have and with a lesser footprint in the form of inverter technology that is also good on energy consumption aspect.
Applications of Plasma Cutting
The word plasma cutting itself specifies the main purpose for which the machines are used but there are several facets to the same job that the machines are privy to. The basic works are the cutting of the metals that are electrically conductive but are also used in the cutting of nonmetals like oxides, carbides, etc. The forging and casting industry also use the plasma cutting machines in the use of cutting of risers and gates. The cutting of the materials can also be done in stacks as the plasma cutters are capable of cutting thick materials from 1.6mm to 6mm thus cutting in stacks gets more productivity for the same machines. Plasma cutters are also largely used for their precision piecing operations. Industries use the holing process on sheets that are computer-controlled on the plasma cutting torches and thus providing higher industrial productivity.
Apart from the cutting, the plasma cutters are also used for gouging operations. The precision available with the plasma cutters makes them attractive tools for doing the gouging works that require precision. Finally, the scrap industry is also in the usage of the plasma cutter for cutting the scrap materials to smaller pieces which are called as the sizing of the scrap. Industry-wise there are a number of industries that use the plasma cutting technology namely, the shipyard industry, chemical industry, petrochemical industry, dairy industry, nuclear industry, aircraft industry, etc.
Plasma Cutting Advantages and Disadvantages
Plasma cutting technology and machines have certain advantages against the other cutting technologies and machines but also some advantages from the cutting process itself. Every system has some disadvantages to go along with the benefits derived from it.
High-Speed Precision – The plasma cutters are able to cut at high speeds without losing the precision of the cuts. Achieving this level of speed and precision enables in having a higher productivity for the cutting which is an enticing factor for the users in improving their overall production efficiency.
High Temperature & Kinetic Energy – The speed and precision of the cutting is due to the fact that these machines produce a high level of temperature and kinetic energy allowing for the smooth cutting operations.
Minimum Heat Affected Zone – The plasma cutting uses high temperature that results in fusing, melting, and cutting of the materials but the ability to concentrate the heat to a minimum area reduces the impact of heat on the material. Faster cutting process and concentrating the heat area to the minimum enables to keep the heat affected area to the least minimum.
All Positions & Places – The plasma cutting machines are able to cut in all positions and places making them a versatile cutting machine. The plasma cutting machines can also be used underwater for the cutting processes.
Clean Cuts – The plasma cutters ability to form clean cuts are another advantage with them. They can form very clean cuts with no doss or slag. The process of cutting in different settings and speeds can also make it able to produce different levels of finishes from the cuts.
The advantages do outweigh the disadvantages for the plasma cutters. The disadvantages are more in tune with the requirements of the users and materials used for cutting than the process of cutting.
High initial setup cost – The procurement of a plasma cutting machine for an industrial purpose, that provides the results in efficiency in comparison to the other cutters, is very high. This initial cost eventually becomes beneficial in long run but is an obstacle for those who are limited in their economic capacity.
More Skilled Operators – The skilling requirement of the operator is high. The sophistication in the system along with the hazards involved requires high skilled operators.
Safety Hazards – The plasma cutting produces fumes, noise, and radiation as the process involves heat generated with the use of high-temperature gases.
Plasma cutters have had a great impact on different industries and helped on the production efficiency at different levels. The innovations in the plasma cutting machines are still making difference for industries and we hope to have engineers working in improving every aspects of the plasma cutting technology & machines to encourage more users and delivering higher benefits to the users.