An Intro To Plasma Cutting Metals

There are four primary states of matter: liquid, solid, gas, and plasma. Plasma is gas that has energy added to it, causing molecules to speed up and collide with greater force into each other. This electrified, ionized gas creates the power behind plasma cutting metals and technologies.

The technology for plasma cutting metals is here to make fabrication and welding more manageable and precise than ever before.

At GMI, we have been offering our customers cutting-edge technology for fabrication and metalworking since 1947. Please contact us today to discuss how our team of engineers and craftsmen can save you time and money with our superior service.

This article will look into plasma cutting metals, a widely used process in the manufacturing industry. Let’s dig into…

The World Of Plasma Cutting Metals

Plasma cutting is a fabrication process used to cut through conductive metals like stainless steel and aluminum. We find the technology in automotive repair, manufacturing, and industrial construction. But how exactly does it work?

The process begins with a gas. The type of gas you utilize depends on the material cut, as different gasses can produce different results. Compressed air, nitrogen, oxygen, and argon-hydrogen mixtures are a few examples, but manufacturers most often use compressed air.

Next, the gas is injected into the plasma chamber, where it is electrified. This process breaks the molecules of gas into atoms. Atoms are disassociated from their electrons. The process is also known as ionization. The fast-moving ionized gas produces large amounts of heat as the electrons are displaced from the atoms and then reabsorbed by other particles.

The ionized gas is funneled towards the very narrow opening, the focused nozzle, of the cutter itself. As the pressurized, ionized gas rushes past the electrode, it is sparked by an electric arc, making the plasma electrically conductive. The nozzle focuses and constricts the plasma, giving it a higher density and velocity.

The plasma exiting the cutter’s tip and the workpiece itself create an electrical circuit. The cutter and workpiece have been grounded by an earth terminal, allowing for a completed circuit to form. The process makes it safe to use for the craftsperson.

Finally, the workpiece needs to be a conductive metal for this electrical plasma to connect and melt the metal. The plasma reaches temperatures up to 30,000 degrees Celcius, which is hot enough to initiate the melting process. It can cut through metals between .5mm and 180mm.

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What Metals Are Conductive?

Plasma cutting is only useful for conductive metals. That means that the material must conduct electricity, as plasma is electrical, ionized gas.

Metals that are conductive and typically cut by plasma technology include:

  • Stainless steel
  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Titanium
  • Iron

Thermal Separation

There are three main thermal separation methods used in metal fabrication and welding. Lasers are potent but often cost-prohibitive. . The plasma cutting technology can do more intricate cuts and is more affordable than a laser cutting system

Oxyfuel Cutting 

This thermal separation method comprises the chemical reaction between oxygen and steel, which form iron oxide. The high-powered oxygen flame reacts with steel, causing it to disintegrate (or rust) rapidly. This method is ideal for cutting thick metal.

Laser Beam Cutting

A laser generates the machine’s resonator cavity, directed towards a tip, and then cuts through or engraves metal. This method uses a focused beam of laser light to cut through metal or other materials. This focused laser beam allows for a high degree of accuracy and precision. The laser beam melts, burns, or vaporizes the materials it contacts.

Plasma Cutting

An ionized gas stream is sparked by electricity, creating a plasma tip that can melt through any conductive metal. The method developed in the 1950s manipulates materials and cannot but cut by flame. It is an ideal method for fast and efficient cutting.

Metalworkers also use plasma cutting for cutting thin or thick metals up to 180mm because it has a high degree of accuracy. The cut’s precision and the clean edge are impacted by the gas used in the plasma cutter. The versatility of use is increased by combining different gases or water injection methods to produce different finishes of cuts or kerfs. The process makes plasma cutting metals a trusted method for metalworkers.

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Pros & Cons Of Plasma Cutting Metals

There are many reasons why plasma cutting materials would greatly benefit the user. It is very user-friendly, cleaner, and safer than the oxyfuel style of thermal cutters.

Pros Of Plasma Cutting Metals

  • Fast cutting speed
  • No handling of explosive gasses
  • Less clean up
  • Ideal for cutting shaped or curved metals
  • Cuts through any conductive metal
  • Precision cutting
  • No metal chips produced from cutting
  • Smaller handheld devices are easily portable
  • It cuts thicker metal than laser cutting machines

Cons Of Plasma Cutting Metals

  • High power consumption
  • Only able to make cuts up to 180mm
  • Pricier than oxyacetylene cutting systems
  • Cuts are not as refined as laser cutting methods

Plasma cutting technology continues to be developed, making this tool more accessible and portable. While it has a higher upfront cost than oxyfuel torches, it does not require the storage and replenishment of explosive gases, making up for costs over time.

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This tool’s versatility makes it a favorite amongst metalworkers of all backgrounds, from artists to manufacturers. We are proud to continue growing and innovating within the OEM industry with plasma cutting metals. Contact Glenn Metalcraft, Inc about your OEM project today.

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