With the advancements in plasma cutting technology and the popularity of CNC machines increasing, the plasma cutting industry has undergone a major change. A CNC machine comprises a computer which makes use of a program that controls the cutting tool which shapes the material. Today, CNC cutting is being used by many manufacturing industries for several applications such as agriculture, electronics, automotive, etc.
CNC cutting offers several advantages and, in some cases, it has completely replaced equipment which requires an operator. CNC cutting offers expedient, efficient and precise production which is suitable for producing large quantities of items that are normally manufactured using conventional methods such as grinders, routers, shaping machines, centre lathes or vertical millers. And, the main benefits offered by CNC cutting over the conventional processes is in terms of reduced time and cost.
Is CNC Cutting Better Than Conventional Cutting?
So, the commonly asked question is whether CNC cutting is better than conventional cutting? Well, the objective of both CNC, as well as conventional cutting, is to shape raw metal or plastic into a finished part. However, the main difference between the two processes in that conventional cutting is a manual process, whereas, CNC is automated and some of the main advantages of CNC cutting over conventional are the rate of production, speed and accuracy.
CNC cutting essentially makes use of a CAD (computer-aided design) software to produce a 2D or 3D model, which is then fed into the software that operates the machine tool via the computer to produce parts which are identical to the prototype. And, you can use the prototype, again and again, to manufacture more of the parts whenever required. And, the most important aspect of CNC technology is that it can produce matching accuracy, as close as .0001.
The conventional cutting process requires an operator who will set up the machine and operate it, while in the case of a CNC system, the operator enters the software program which will guide the entire cutting process.
You can use conventional and unconventional CNC machining for many different materials like brass, aluminium, copper, fiberglass, foam, plastic, steel, titanium, wood, polypropylene, etc. and it can be used for various machining processes such as boring, contouring, engraving, grinding, grooving, knurling, cutting, drilling and many more.
Benefits of CNC Cutting
Precision and Repeatability
The programs for cutting are stored in the CPU of the CNC machines, which means that the machines can be run repeatedly to produce the same exact parts, irrespective of the operator. This creates consistency and customers can rely on you to produce identical and precise components every time. However, with conventional cutting, you may get slight variations in the final product.
CNC systems are not as labour intensive as conventional cutting machines which allow you to keep your costs lower and you can pass the savings on to your customer. With CNC machines, there is no need to take a lot of breaks and the machines can be put to work 24×7. There is also much lesser wastage and the finished products are produced at a much faster rate, which results in increased profitability.
In CNC machines, the tools and materials are away from the operators making them much safer, whereas conventional cutting systems require the operator to be close to the moving tools and materials.
Whenever required, the software is updated by the CNC machines automatically and apart from replacing the tools and keeping the machine clean, they do not require more in terms of the maintenance.
CNC cutters are extremely versatile and can produce complex and intricate designs with accuracy of up to 1/1000 inch. There are so many applications that a CNC machine can achieve which a conventional cutting machine cannot. So, if production, speed and accuracy are the main things you are looking for, then it is better to invest in a CNC cutting system for your business.
In most fabrication shops, consumables cost comprises the main part of the production cost. In many shops, consumables are replaced before every shift irrespective of whether they require replacement or not. In fact, some consumables can be used for 50 shifts or even more. The consumable cost can be reduced to a very large extent by following proper inspection methods and preventative maintenance of the parts.
Most of the electrode wear occurs very quickly during the first and last 10% of the electrode life. The wear is slow and predictable during the middle of the electrode life. Usually, the starts are fewer when longer cuts are performed per electrode and the consumables will last longer if you have fewer starts.
You may notice that in plasma torches, the nozzle and electrode don’t wear at the same rate and sometimes, the nozzle lasts much longer than the electrode and vice versa, depending on the torch design, power level and technique of the operator. By changing individual consumable parts, you can solve any problem in cut quality very quickly. However, all problems can be prevented by following a proper inspection and maintenance routine and of course, proper operator technique.
Inspection of the Electrode
The copper body of the electrode must be shiny and clean, even when it has reached the end of its useful life — any greyish heat discolouration can indicate that there is a cooling problem. Since the electrode operates at extremely high temperatures, the tip of the electrode wears. On inspection of the used electrode, if you notice the pit to be off-centred, it can indicate a problem with the gas flow that may be due to a wrong gas flow setting or because of a damaged or incorrect swirl ring. A deep electrode pit may be an indicator that the electrode is close to failure.
Sometimes, operators may discard electrodes as being the cause of poor cut quality; however, the cut quality may be due to other factors such as wrong gas pressure, cutting speed, etc. So, all the other parts and aspects of the plasma torch must be inspected properly before attributing the blame for poor cut quality to the electrode and discarding it.
Inspection of the Nozzle
The nozzle wear and its life are more difficult to determine compared to the electrode. You need to inspect the orifice of the nozzle and also the inside and outside very closely to determine the wear. The orifice bore on the outside should be round without any nicks. The orifice of a new nozzle will have sharp round edges, which will become a bit rounded after use. This affects the cut quality eventually.
The inner bore of the nozzle is also very important and you must ensure that the orifice is perfectly round without any heavy arc marks or nicks. Some black or grey swirl marks and some grey or white residue in the bore is common and will not affect the performance of the plasma torch. You must not try to clean the orifice or scratch the nozzle’s inner bore, as this can affect performance.
Inspect the Entire Plasma System
The advanced plasma cutting system consists of various components such as CNC, CAM software, height control, etc. and all should work together to provide the best cut speed, quality and consumables life. When you face problems with cut quality, the blame cannot be attributed to the plasma torch or consumables alone and you must check the individual components of the plasma cutting system to isolate the problem instead of blindly changing the consumables.
So, it is recommended that you maintain the plasma cutting system entirely as a whole by following the preventative measures set by the manufacturers. If maintained properly, your plasma cutting system should last you for several decades.
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Plasma cutting is an exact science and paying attention to detail right and paying close attention to the preparation and setting up of the cutting process can go a long way in preventing a lot of problems you may encounter later on during the production process. Here are a few tips and tricks that can help your plasma cutting operators avoid some of the most common problems that they may face during plasma cutting.
Replace the Consumables Regularly
Just like you need to change the oil in your automobile to keep the engine running smoothly, which is less expensive than changing the engine itself, replacing the consumables of the plasma cutting system is a more cost-effective solution to replacing the entire torch itself. Using worn consumables can cause uncontrolled arcing and may lead to the failure of the plasma torch.
So, how can you make out if the consumables are spent? Usually, the tell-tale signs of worn consumables are the deterioration of the cut quality. Also, when inspected, if you notice oxide residue inside or you notice gouging outside or inside the nozzle, then it must be replaced.
You can check the pitting of the electrode to determine if it is worn or not. The pitting must not be deeper than 1/8th inch for nitrogen or argon and 3/32-inch for air or oxygen. If the pitting is more than these, then the electrode must be changed. And, if there are any burns, cracks in the gas swirlers or grease or dirt in the holes, then you must change the swirlers.
Proper Torch Assembly
The plasma torch must be assembled carefully and all the parts should be aligned properly and snugly. This will ensure that the electrical contact is proper and that the gas and coolant flow properly through the plasma torch. Also, the threads and the seating area of the torch must be clean.
Using the Proper Parts
The plasma gas being used and the cutting amperage essentially dictates the choice of consumables for the particular job. You can follow the operator manual that defines the type of consumables suitable for different types of cutting. If you use incorrect consumables, this can lead to decreased cut quality and reduced consumables life.
The consumables must also be run at the right amperage, which should ideally be set at 95% of the nozzle rating. Too low amperage will result in a low-quality cut and too much power will reduce the nozzle life.
Ensuring Proper Coolant and Gas Flow
The flow of the gas and coolant must be checked. The cooling of the consumables will not be proper if the flow is inadequate and this can affect the consumables life. To maintain the cutting arc, the pressure of the gas must be constant. Also, the plasma gas used must be dry and clean. Contaminated gas can result in reduced consumable life and premature plasma torch failure.
Avoid Excessive Use of Antispatter and O-Ring Lubricant
Just use sufficient lubricant to add shine to the O-rings and the shields should be removed before applying the antispatter compound. Too much of antispatter compound or O-ring lubricant can contaminate the plasma torch and lead to premature failure. You should apply any grease, lubricants, etc. to the plasma torch, as it does not require any lubrication.
Use the Torch Correctly
Avoid any torch collision as crashes and tip-ups can damage the plasma torch irreparably. The THS (torch height sensors) protect the torch from workpiece crashes by correcting the height. Breakaway mounting devices also help to prevent any damage to the plasma torch in the case of a collision.
The consumables will fail if the plasma arc needs to stretch to reach the workpiece. So, it is always a good idea to use edge starts instead of pierce starts and the arc must be started with the orifice of the nozzle placed directly over the workpiece’s edge.
Always maintain the correct standoff, which is essentially determined by the material thickness. If the standoff is too high or very low, it can damage the workpiece or the plasma torch.
Clean the Plasma Torch Regularly
You must keep the plasma torch clean and watch out for any contamination. The seating areas of the electrode, nozzle and the torch threads must be cleaned regularly.
You can save several hours and reduce operational expenses by operating the plasma cutting system properly. This also results in longer consumable life and high cut quality and also involves lesser time in cleaning and finishing the parts before they go to the next stage of the manufacturing process.
There are many ways by which the cut quality on the metal can be improved. Here are some tips by which you can improve the appearance of the cut and some of the factors that must be considered are:
Is the arc cutting in the correct direction?
You can get the squarest cuts on the right side when the plasma torch moves forward. For this, you must check the cut direction and also adjust the direction if required. When you make use of standard consumables, typically, the plasma arc spins in the clockwise direction.
Is the cutting process correct for the type of material and thickness of the material being cut?
Always refer to the cutting specifications provided in the instruction manual and ensure that you select the proper process according to the type of metal, the thickness of the metal, desired quality of the cut and the productivity goals.
You must choose the right shield and plasma gas if you’re making use of a dual-gas plasma system. Also, the correct parameters for the gas pressure, arc voltage, torch-to-work distance and cutting speed must be selected. And finally, you must use the correct consumables for the job.
Are the consumables worn out?
Check the consumables of the plasma cutter for any wear and replace the consumables that are worn out. It is recommended that you replace both the electrode and the nozzle at the same time and the O-rings should not be over-lubricated.
Is the position of the plasma torch square to the work?
You must level the workpiece and also check if it is warped or bent. The plasma torch should be then positioned square to the workpiece from the side and the rear of the plasma torch.
Is the torch set at a proper height?
Ensure that the distance setting from the torch to the work is correct and if you’re making use of arc voltage control, then you must adjust the voltage. The angularity can be affected by the distance between the torch to the work. In the case of a negative cut angle, the torch may be too low and you must increase the distance between the torch to the work; whereas, in the case of a positive cut angle, the torch is very high and you must reduce the distance of torch to work.
Is the cutting speed too fast or very slow?
The cutting speed must be adjusted as the cutting speed can affect the dross levels. If the cutting speed is very fast, it causes the arc to lag and causes high-speed dross. So, you need to reduce the cutting speed. If the cutting is done at a very low speed, then low-speed dross is produced, and you must increase the speed of cutting.
A fast cutting speed also causes top spatter. The dross levels are also impacted by the surface finish and material chemistry and as the workpiece gets heated up, there may be more production of dross on the cuts.
Is there any problem with the power delivery?
You must check if there are any leaks in the power delivery system and repair them. It is essential to use regulators that are of the right size and fit and always make use of high-quality consumables.
Is there any vibration in the torch?
You must ensure that the plasma torch is fixed securely to the table gantry and that there is no vibration. If the table requires any maintenance, then you should consult the OEM.
Does the table require any tuning?
Ensure that the plasma cutting table is cutting at the specific speed and if the table speed requires any tuning, then you must consult the OEM.
Following all the above steps ensures the proper working of your plasma cutting system and also ensures that you get high-quality cuts, thereby improving the overall efficiency of your plasma cutting operation.
In plasma cutting, the plasma arc cuts smoothly through any conductive metal and the process is much faster than any of the conventional cutting methods. And, although plasma cutting has been around for over 50 years. Smaller and portable cutting machines were introduced only in the mid-90s.
While plasma cutting is an efficient and a very easy process, it is not without any dangers like gas, electricity, UV light, etc. And, because the cutting process is fairly new, people are not too familiar with the proper safety procedures for plasma cutting. However, the safety practices are fairly simple and not difficult to learn.
During the process of plasma cutting, sparks and hot metal are produced by the plasma arc, especially when the metal is being pierced. The plasma torch and the workpiece get heated and can cause fire and burns. It is recommended that while cutting, you should wear approved safety glasses to protect your eyes and a helmet or a face shield along with the safety glasses can offer additional protection.
You should wear dry and flame-resistant gloves and clothing to protect your body from the flying hot metal and sparks. Denim, wool and leather clothing work well and you should button your cuffs, collars and pockets of your shirt to prevent them from catching the sparks. Avoid carrying any lighters or matches in your pockets while working with plasma cutters and avoid cuffed pants as the cuffs may catch fire. Leather boots or high-top shoes offer the best protection for your feet.
The pilot arc is very hot and can cause burns, so while pressing the trigger, you should keep away from the tip of the torch. Also, while you start the arc, keep the plasma torch pointed away from your body, towards the workpiece. Keep the cutting area clear of all flammable materials as they can catch fire and protect all flammable materials with fireproof covers.
Avoid cutting on pressurised or closed containers like drums or tanks and avoid cutting on containers that previously held toxic, combustive or reactive materials. Never cut with plasma near vapours, dust, liquids, flammable gases or in areas where there is a possibility of explosions.
The plasma arc needs high voltage i.e. 110-400 VDC to start the arc and maintain it. And you can get severe burns or fatal shocks if you touch the electrical parts of the torch. Any bare spots on the cable or poor connections increase the risk of electrical shock. So, you must inspect all these daily and replace any broken connections and worn out cables.
Avoid cutting with a plasma cutter in damp or wet areas. Insulate yourself properly by standing on a plywood sheet, a rubber mat or some other non-inflammable material. Ensure that the plasma torch is grounded properly as per the OSHA and the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) standards. Inspect the ground connections properly and ensure that the workpiece is connected to a proper earth. Avoid using wire ropes, hoists, cranes, elevators and chains as grounding connectors.
Protect Yourself from the Light
Plasma arcs produce both visible, as well as invisible UV and infrared rays which can burn the skin and eyes. Not only should you wear proper protective clothing to shield your skin, you should protect your eyes by making use of safety glasses or a face shield with proper lens of appropriate shade.
Keep the Air Clean
Plasma cutting produces gases and fumes and breathing in these can cause health problems. Avoid breathing the fumes by holding your head to the side of the plasma torch and not directly above it. If you are working in a confined space, make sure that it is ventilated properly or wear a respirator with an air supply.
If you are cutting coated metals such as lead-plated, cadmium-plated or galvanised steel, try and remove the coating from the area that is being cut. The coatings can produce toxic fumes when being cut using a plasma torch. If you’re cutting coated materials, then it is recommended that the cutting area is ventilated properly and you should also make use of a suction system or an exhaust hood to keep the cutting area clear of any fumes and keep the breathing zone safe.
Usually, plasma cutters make use of shop air or they sometimes use compressed gases such as nitrogen. If you’re making use of gas cylinders, keep them upright, secured tightly to an upright support. Use the protector cap on the cylinder when moving or storing it to protect the valve from being damaged. If the regulator is damaged, remove it for repair.
Use only recommended clamps, ferrules, etc. to connect the hoses and avoid using wire or other fasteners. Keep the hose away from the ground and coil the excess hose to prevent any tangles or kinks. Check the hose regularly for any wear, loose connections or leaks and if the hose is worn or there is a leak replace it.
Plasma cutting is an excellent method of cutting metal; however, to prevent any accidents you must take proper precautions and follow the correct procedures. This will help you and the people around you stay safe and secure during the process of plasma cutting.
Since the process was developed in the 50s by Union Carbide, plasma cutting has indeed come a very long way. Today, it is among the most popular metal cutting processes used by several industries. In the early years, plasma cutters were quite rudimentary and were used to cut aluminium and stainless-steel plates of 0.5” to 6” thickness and plasma cutting was the best method to cut non-ferrous plates.
Through the 60s, the plasma cutting process went through several improvements and engineers worked on the improvement of cut quality and increased electrode and nozzle life of the plasma torch. This led to plasma cutting being used for cutting at very high speeds and cutting complex patterns in non-ferrous materials.
The water injection process was introduced in 1968, where pure water was injected around the plasma jet in order to constrict the plasma arc. This helped to increase the energy density and improved the cooling of the nozzle and resulted in high-quality cuts, faster cutting speeds and also the capability to cut carbon steel 4-6 times faster as compared to oxyfuel cutting.
At this time, XY motion control systems came into existence with microprocessor control technology being used to control the cutting systems resulting in improved accuracy, faster cutting speeds and higher productivity and automation levels.
In the 70s, plasma cutting replaced oxyfuel cutting for several cutting applications. Although plasma cutting was able to cut steel of thicknesses more than 1 inch, oxyfuel cutting was still a cheaper alternative for cutting heavy steel plate.
Recent Technology Developments
The recent developments in plasma cutting technology have been very rapid. HD plasma cutting machines with CNC systems have revolutionised the plasma cutting industry. Now, the CNC machines have touchscreen capability thus minimising the use of buttons for operation. This has made the job of the operator very easy by automating the height control, consumable adjustments, etc.
The CAM software of the CNC machines has made improvements in hole cutting by deciding on the best cutting path, cutting parameters, cut-to-cut cycles, etc. The improved bevelling software has helped to simplify the operation and integration of the bevel head with the CNC cutting machines and this helps to save time spent on trial-and-error testing.
The new nozzle and gas mixing technology have helped to improve the edge quality which is now shinier, squarer and weldable. There has also been a significant improvement in cut quality, duty cycles and consumable life of air plasma systems, which are essentially portable and are meant for in-shop, handheld cutting jobs.
Now, there are small plasma cutters that are available from a 30-amp plasma cutter which can cut materials of 0.5-inch thickness to 125-amp plasma cutters which can cut up to 2.25-inch thick materials. Both the cutting systems can be used with a handheld torch or they can be mechanised for automated applications.
Plasma cutting technology has undergone several changes over the years and the advances in the cutting technology have made these cutting systems highly reliable offering improved performance, cut quality and consumable life and they are extremely easy to operate compared to the plasma cutting systems that were first created. Today, plasma cutting is a process that delivers productivity, accuracy and cost effectiveness.
Cut quality is the key point of concern when it comes to plasma cutting and if you’re facing any problems with the cut quality, a few steps of troubleshooting such as adjusting the power levels, adjusting the cut height and speed, using the correct consumables, etc. can help to resolve any problem related to the cut quality.
A very common problem that occurs in plasma cutting is that the holes may be out of round or they may have a taper. So, if you’re having problems with achieving the proper quality of holes, here are some tips that can help. Here are some ways by which the quality of the hole cut can be improved:
Maintain Proper Pierce Height
Apart from piercing the workpiece at the proper height, you should also stick to the recommended pierce delay time. This will help in reducing the amount of molten metal that is blown back on the nozzle’s orifice and the torch shield. If you pierce very close to the workpiece or move the plasma torch before the piece is completed, this will cause the orifice to get damaged and alter the cut quality.
Use a Lead-in
While cutting, make use of a lead-in which comes very close to the centre of the hole as firstly, there is a puddle of slag on the workpiece and if the puddle remains on the contour of the hole, the plasma arc will waver and cause a divot in the hole. Secondly, if the lead-in is longer, the plasma arc has time to stabilise as the energy and the pressure take some time to ramp up. This also allows the height control to adjust to the cut height before it gets to the contour of the hole.
Adjust the Cutting Speed
The cutting speed on the holes should be around 60% of the speed used to cut the outside contour of the workpiece. While this may create low-speed dross at the bottom of the workpiece, the taper in the hole will be minimised. Some plasma cutting systems and CAM software can do this automatically on holes with a diameter of less than 1.25 inches. You may have to manipulate the G-code of other software to achieve this. Nevertheless, cutting at a high speed will increase the taper of the hole.
Use Anti-Spatter Spray
If you run the plasma torch over the pile of slag which was produced while piercing, it will affect the roundness of the hole. Using an anti-spatter spray on the workpiece before cutting can help to eliminate the spatter that is produced when piercing and also minimises the arc wobble on the holes. Using anti-spatter spray on the front of the plasma torch also helps to prevent the build-up of spatter on the nozzle and shield. It is recommended that you use a water-based spray. Using an anti-spatter spray can go a long way in improving the cut quality.
Use Consumables as Per the Material’s Thickness
This can help to reduce the cutting speed and provide good results. It is recommended that you use 45-amp shielded consumables for materials of thickness between 0.1875 – 0.375 inches and 65-amp consumables for materials of thickness between 0.375 – 0.625 inches. Making use of higher power levels will cause more taper in the holes.
Ensure that the shield and nozzle orifices are perfectly round and do not have any craters, dings or nicks. If the round is not perfect, then you can use these consumables for contour cutting or hand cutting which are not critical. The orifice shapes the plasma arc and this affects the quality of the cut. If you pierce too wide or too close, the nozzle orifice will get damaged.
By following the above steps, you can ensure that you get high-quality cuts at all times and the key to getting best cut quality is to make use of high-quality consumables, which are inspected regularly to ensure that they are not worn out.
Very often, when a fabricator is planning to buy a new machine, the most common question that arises is, which is better – oxyfuel cutting or plasma cutting? Another common question is if the particular part should be cut using oxyfuel or plasma. The debate, of course, is limited to mild steel as you cannot use oxyfuel to cut aluminium or stainless-steel plates.
What Are Oxyfuel and Plasma Cutting?
When considering metal fabrication, the cutting method you choose makes all the difference to the durability and the quality of the final product. However, before we actually compare both the cutting methods, let us understand both of them briefly.
Oxyfuel cutting uses a combination of fuel gases to heat the metal and makes use of oxygen at a very high pressure to oxidise and blow away the metal chips that have been cut. The fuel gas commonly used for oxyfuel cutting are LPG, hydrogen, acetylene, propylene or natural gas.
Plasma cutting, on the other hand, heats gases such as oxygen, nitrogen or hydrogen to very high temperatures and ionises it for electrical conductivity. An electric arc is created, which melts the metal and the gas blows away the molten metal.
Oxyfuel Cutting and Plasma Cutting – Which Is Better?
A brief look at the pros and cons of both oxyfuel and plasma cutting can give you a clearer idea of which method is best for you.
The process of oxyfuel cutting is more cost effective in terms of the setup of the cutting equipment. The oxyfuel system does not require regular maintenance. However, in terms of the application, oxyfuel cutting is limited as it cannot cut steel and aluminium, as the gas combination causes the metal to degrade. Also, in the case of oxyfuel cutting, the torch requires preheating before it can be used, which increases the cost. Oxyfuel cutting has low piercing and cutting speeds. While it takes around 30 IPM (inches per minute) for thin materials, it takes around 15 IPM for materials that are 1.5 inches thick or more. And, the slower the speed of cutting, the cost will be higher.
The biggest advantage of plasma cutting is its speed. It can cut mild steel of 1-inch thickness at around 80 IPM and the cutting speed for thinner materials is around 150 IPM. There is no need to preheat the torch in case of plasma cutting, which reduces the costs. In a single workpiece, you can get multiple pierces easily and quickly. Plasma cutting is very accurate, can be very fine and can be replicated on several pieces.
Plasma cutting can be used to cut several kinds of metals including aluminium and steel. The high speeds of plasma cutting results in faster operation times, decreased downtime, improved productivity and increased profitability. However, the main limitation of the process is that the initial cost and investment in the equipment is much higher compared to oxyfuel cutting.
When we look at both the cutting processes, oxyfuel and plasma, plasma cutting has several advantages over oxyfuel, which is primarily the reason why many fabricators and manufacturers are choosing plasma over oxyfuel cutting.
Like all other aspects of our life, technology in manufacturing is also becoming more advanced and the changing trends in computing have resulted in CNC technology giving rise to a newer breed of personal manufacturing. Manufacturing in the future will be a more flexible, on-demand and a nimble industry handled by small and medium-sized businesses.
And, this change is possible due to advances in plasma technology. Today, the CNC plasma equipment is versatile, flexible, precise, affordable and can be handled more easily. The large-scale changes in the manufacturing technology can be largely attributed to the cost of maintaining large inventories, increased shipping costs coupled with cost-saving technology.
Versatility of CNC Machines
Once thought of as a blue-collar job, manufacturing is now attracting a more tech-savvy and younger workforce and customer base, which understands the potential of mechanical machines and computer technology. Gone are the days when the manufacturing industry was dominated by large, single purpose and expensive machines. Modern CNC machines can not only cut, they can do a host of other things such as welding, drilling, routing, bevelling and grinding at a fraction of the cost of old single-function equipment.
Advanced functionality, increased affordability and smaller size of computers has led to the transformation in everything from publishing to music to many other industries and the advancements in CNC technology are sure to transform the traditional blue-collar work. Today, CNC cutting machines are being used for several applications across many industries and the effects are being seen across the economy.
CNC machines are being used to manufacture automobile components, build aircrafts, construct buildings, in the production of heavy equipment, create metal art, etc. They are so versatile that they can be used for several purposes – from the fabrication of pipelines to manufacturing offshore rigs to building fences, making signs and even designing interior accents. CNC applications are so diverse that they are allowing small businesses to become more versatile and flexible allowing small contractors to build automotive components, build truck racks, build signs, repair tractors and use CNC machines for a host of other applications.
For hundreds of years, the preferred material for several applications such as home materials, fencing, etc. has been wood, as it offers extreme ease of use. However, now the same ease of use is also offered by metal and with a CNC system and a bit of computer knowledge, you can build practically anything you want.
The future of the manufacturing sector is very bright thanks to the evolving manufacturing technology. Today, CNC technology is completely changing the face of manufacturing for the new generation.
Plasma cutters are essentially used to cut various metals such as stainless steel into different lengths and shapes and the process is key for several modern industries ranging from construction to manufacturing. Plasma cutting has risen as the main solution for cutting and shaping various metals like stainless steel into many forms such as beams that are used in infrastructure and construction.
Plasma Cutting over the Years
The use of plasma cutting began in the 60s when welders realised the benefits and ease of cutting molten metal rather than cutting hard metal using another metal object that creates surfaces and edges that are not very precise and are more susceptible to faults.
In the following decades, CNC (computer numerical control) plasma cutting systems started entering the industry in the 80s and 90s. A CNC plasma cutting system heats up the metal workpiece until it becomes soft and turns into a molten state and then makes use of highly precise cutting tools that are computer controlled to cut the metal without issues such as chipping, running, etc.
Let us take a look at the ways modern plasma cutting machines have evolved:
Increased Cutting Precision
Plasma cutting manufacturers are constantly trying to increase the precision of the AC servo motors or amplifiers, gearboxes and other components that power the modern plasma cutters and when comparing the price of the plasma cutting system vis-à-vis the quality, the ability of the machine to cut in minute and precise motions is the main feature that must be considered. Even the most efficient and durable plasma cutting machine is useless without precision, which is required for most construction and manufacturing applications.
Stronger and More Reliable Components
Modern plasma cutting systems are designed in a way that they can be used continuously for several hours at a stretch and for several years. For this, plasma cutting systems manufacturers endeavour to equip their machines with strong amplifiers and motors, which are essentially the key components behind any plasma cutting system’s cutting and heating capabilities.
Today, the manufacturers of plasma cutting systems are expanding their offerings continuously to include more powerful and larger size configurations in order to accommodate the ever-expanding industry requirements in the 21st century. Plasma cutting systems are available in varied lengths and allow metal workers to tackle almost any type of cutting job possible by making use of a single machine. And, in addition, CNC control is making it much easier for fabricators to produce highly-precise cuts with the aid of intelligent machine guidance. Plasma cutting has come a long way over the years and as technology advances, is only set to grow.