What is a Plasma Cutter Used For?

We have always been taught that matter has three states – solid, liquid and gas. Matter changes from one state to another when heat is applied. On removal of that heat, it changes back to a less volatile state. This transition or state change of matter, happens when enough heat is applied to move the molecules, thereby changing the state of matter. 


What is Plasma?


Matter has another state too; a state known as plasma. We do not usually hear about this state, because it is not experienced in everyday life. While we see solids, liquids and gases almost on a daily basis, we would not encounter plasma except in very specific, controlled conditions.

Plasma is a state obtained by matter only when an arc of electricity is sent through a specific gas. The heat caused by the electric arc causes the already quickly moving gas-molecules to disrupt further and become ionized.

These ions are electrically conductive and can be extremely dangerous because of high energy present.

When the gas is injected through a constricted opening, the high energy plasma can be used to cut metal. The types of metal that may be cut include steel, aluminium, brass and copper.

These metals can be cut using many different cutting devices, but plasma cutting is quicker, cost-effective and produces better results in less time, compared to almost all other methods.


What is the Difference between Plasma and Gas?


Plasma is another state of gas, only highly heated up and conductive. Plasma occurs when an electric arc creates a highly charged state. This state is used to cut through metals easily.

Plasma has equal number of negative as well as positive ions. It is made to flow through a thin nozzle of a torch, which helps maintain the direction and flow of the plasma.

Though there are many metals in nature that need cutting, shaping and filing, plasma cutting is not recommended for a lot of them due to various reasons.

Clearly, the gas, in the absence of the electric arc will not cut anything.


Why are Plasma Cutters not recommended for all Metals?


One of the biggest reasons is – melting temperature of the metals. If temperature at which the metal melts is relatively low, the cut edge would not be as clean and fine, as may be required.

Plasma cutting is only recommended for the metals that can withstand high temperatures, and do not melt easily. Another big reason is the ‘conduction properties of metals’. Only the metals that are highly conductive can be cut using a plasma cutter. Non-conductive metals are difficult to cut through.


How does a Plasma Cutter Work?


A plasma cutter works in a way that the arc carries stream of gas from an electrode through an opening.

It is also across the conductive metal that is being cut.

In addition, a regular stream of pure oxygen is also passed while passing plasma, so that the edges can be sharply cut and defined. Oxygen also quickens the overall process of cutting.


What is the Purpose of a Plasma Cutter?


A plasma cutter is usually utilized in heavy-metal industries, where workers cut through thick blocks of metal with ease using the cutter. It is also called plasma torch sometimes, because of the nature of the substance passed through it.

The plasma cutter is easy to operate using your hand. It forms a complete electrical circuit while cutting the work-piece, thereby allowing the artist to form desired patterns and shapes on the metal with ease.


History of the Plasma Cutters


Plasma cutting evolved from plasma welding, that had many advantages over traditional method of metal against metal cutting.

Earlier, hand-held tools and equipment like saws were used to cut metal. It was not only a dangerous process for the workers, but also time-consuming.

Saw cutting was inefficient and wasted a lot of metal as scraps, which again had to be melted to form sheets or, other objects.

All in all, saw-cutting or traditional metal-cutting methods were quickly replaced by plasma welding, and then plasma cutting, because of the quickness and cleanliness of the final piece it produced.


What Types of Plasma Cutter Procedures are there?


There are two popular types of plasma cutting procedures – conventional and precision.

     Conventional

  • In conventional plasma cutting process, the arc of the plasma is usually defined by the opening of the nozzle, and shop-air gas is used in the plasma torch.
  • The ampage of this type of cutting is approximately 10 to 12 amps per square inch.

     Precision

  • In precision cutting, the torch design is more complex compared to conventional cutting.
  • Here, the design is made in such a manner that highest quality cuts with sharp edges and clean form, can be achieved through plasma.
  • Gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, or a combination of both are usually utilized in this procedure to produce highest quality results in minimal time.

What are the Benefits of a Plasma Cutter?


Apart from saving time, a high-end cutting mechanism, plasma cutting is also used in automated process of cutting metals.

It is not only easy for the workers to cut through metal using the hand-torch, but it can also be coupled with digital software to produce intricate designs and cuts, that are otherwise tough to make through manual labour.

Plasma cutting reduces a lot of effort, time and wastage of metal by this state of the art technique.


How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?


Plasma cutter works by sending an electric arc via a gas that is passing through a narrow and constricted opening.

The gas can be any – ranging from nitrogen, oxygen, argon, shop-air etc. The arc sharply raises the temperature of the gas to a point where it gets converted to the fourth state of matter, known as plasma.

The opening is deliberately kept narrow and restricted, to keep the speed of passing gas high and to make it easy to cut through metal.

The gas is also focused around the border of the cutting area to shield the cut.

Automated plasma cutting is a popular technique adopted in many industries where metal objects are manufactured.

Clean automated cutting can only be achieved by a plasma cutter that not only prevents wastage of scrap metal, but also helps create designs which are otherwise tough and time-consuming to create on a metal surface.

Hence, plasma cutting is a great method of accurately cutting metal sheets of many thicknesses and is more robust than almost any other metal cutting process.

If you have any other questions or worries please contact us, or if you have any comments or improvements please leave a comment at the bottom of the page.

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