A plasma cutter is a device with which we can cut various metals by means of a generated arc. Such devices are used in various fields such as metalworking industries and emergency services. Plasma cutting devices are also becoming increasingly popular for home use because there is more and more demand from hobby craftsmen who also want to separate and process metals and sheet metal at home. Ultimately, no other device can separate and cut metals more cleanly and faster than a plasma cutter, which, unlike flex devices, does not leave any unclean edges.
How does a plasma cutter work?
The main components of a plasma cutter are the ground cable, a power source, a handpiece, a cooler, and a compressed air and power supply line. A plasma cutter can use these parts to generate an electric arc between a non-consumable electrode and the workpiece. However, cutting occurs when the compressed air in the plasma cutter creates a gas that is heated enormously and its energy is converted directly into heat, with which metals such as steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, cast, painted surfaces, etc. can be cut.
How do the plasma cutters differ?
You will find countless cutting devices on the market, which essentially differ in the areas of cutting voltage and cutting current, as well as different types of ignition, HF high-frequency ignition, contact ignition, and low-frequency ignition. In the meantime, many combination devices are also available that can not only plasma cut but also TIG welding.
As a rule, the stronger the current of the device, the better the cutting performance, which can range from 1mm and up to 40mm. Individual plasma devices can also be used in combination with a CNC.
Where are the plasma cutters used?
The plasma cutters are mainly used in industry, for cutting various metals, and in the rescue service. Either machine or manual plasma cutters are used, the latter being used in rescue operations, where a plasma cutter offers a better alternative to a gas cutter, as it can be used in the vicinity of people.
Plasma cutter with pilot arc
The plasma cutter arc can be ignited in a number of ways. As already mentioned, these can be ignited by high-frequency ignition, contact ignition, and low-frequency ignition, but there is also a variant of HF ignition, this is called pilot arc ignition.
The pilot arc serves as an auxiliary arc, which is ignited before the main arc during plasma cutting. With the pilot arc ignition, the air is ionized, which becomes conductive and thereby creates a conductive connection to the workpiece. On the one hand, the pilot arc clears the way for a contactless ignition of the main arc and, on the other hand, non-conductive impurities such as paint, rust, etc. are burned from the workpiece at the same time.
Which plasma cutter would be the right one for me?
When choosing the plasma separator, you should first and foremost consider which materials you would like to process with it in the future. Second, you should also pay attention to whether you only want to cut with it or whether you also want to carry out welding work.
If you can find the answer to both questions, you can either purchase a “pure” plasma cutter or a combination device (2in1 plasma cutter & TIG welding machine).
As soon as you also know which material thicknesses you will be working on, you can also decide on the thickness of the device. So if you know that you will only cut thinner sheet metal, then a model with a cutting capacity of 12mm or 45A is sufficient. But if you want to cut thicker materials, you have to increase the selection of the thickness of the device accordingly.
IPOTOOLS plasma cutter
In our offer, you will find proven IPOTOOLS brand quality. You will find both plasma cutters for thinner and stronger materials as well as combination devices. Take a look at our range! If you have any questions, we are available around the clock by email.
This section introduces some of the basics of working with a plasma cutter and how to operate it. Always remember that these instructions are for RF ignition plasma cutters and are intended for beginners. We start with a video of the IPOTOOLS CUT-45R plasma cutter:
Connect the compressed air hose of the compressor to the compressed air inlet. Then connect the burner cable and earth cable to the device as shown in the illustration. Turn on the compressor and set it to maximum pressure.
Hold the torch up to 2mm above the workpiece, at the starting point of cutting, and press the torch trigger. If the arc does not ignite within 2 seconds, you must press the torch trigger again.
NOTE: If you do not keep your distance from the workpiece before igniting, the spray could damage the nozzle.
CUT IN THE CENTER OF THE WORKPIECE
Hold the torch 2mm above the workpiece at a 90-degree angle. Press the torch switch and wait for the arc to penetrate the material. As soon as the arc penetrates the material, you have to hold the torch at a 90-degree angle to the material and move it in the desired direction at an appropriate cutting speed.
NOTE: Penetrating the workpiece in the center wears the nozzle much faster than cutting from the edge.
CUTTING THE EDGE OF THE WORKPIECE
Hold the torch at a 90-degree angle 1mm above and away from the workpiece and ignite the arc. As soon as the arc ignites, lean the torch against the material at a 90-degree angle and move it in the desired direction at a reasonable cutting speed.
Move the torch at the appropriate speed so that the plasma jet penetrates the workpiece. Since the first cut is a test, this is the right time to get a feel for the cutting speed. Note that if the cutting speed is too slow, the joint may be too wide due to excessive heat, but if it is too high, the arc cannot penetrate the workpiece.
NOTE: We recommend that you cut through the workpiece quickly and with a high current.
After cutting, gas still flows, the arc is no longer visible. This is completely normal because the device has to be switched on for at least 3 minutes so that the fan cools the electronics properly. As soon as the plasma cutter has cooled down, unplug the power cord from the power source so that the device is not damaged in the event of a short circuit and store it in a clean and dry place in the workshop.
NOTE: When the plasma cutter is put into operation for the first time, it makes sense to let the gas flow through the lines for about 10 seconds so that impurities are removed.
NOTE: Cut through the workpiece quickly so that less heat builds up in the material and it does not become defaced.
NOTE: Do not let the arc burn unnecessarily, as this will increase the wear and tear on the nozzle, electrode, and diffuser.
NOTE: Nozzles and electrodes in poor condition must be replaced.
NOTE: The nozzle and electrode must always be in good and clean condition before work. The hole in the nozzle must be free and clean, and there must not be any slag on it. Clean dirty nozzles and electrodes with the enclosed slag hammer with a brush.
Protective equipment for plasma cutting
When working with plasma cutters, always wear protective clothing, appropriate gloves, shoes, and especially important, eye protection! To protect your face and eyes, always wear a welding helmet that meets all safety standards.