The Essential Laws of Devices Explained">The Essential Laws of Devices Explained

Guidelines for Buying a Plasma Cutter

Do you plan to buy a plasma cutter? Its can be overwhelming to purchase equipment that is new to you, not to mention there are so many models and manufacturers and models to select from.

As a start, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:

> How hours of daily use will the equipment get? What duty cycle should it have in other words?

> What type of electrical service is available where you plan to use it? Is it going to be 50 amp 220 volt single phase or maybe 30 amp 110 volt single phase? What other machines or tools will be run on the same circuit simultaneously?

> What level of portability should your plasma cutter have? Will you take it outside or will you use it strictly in your shop? Ca you supply the machine with compressed air when you bring it to a remote location? Will you use a portable compressor or an air bottle? What about the electric current onsite?

> What type of material do you intend to cut, and how thick will it probably be?

> Do you only plan to do manual cutting or with a CNC cutting machine? Usually, a higher amperage output would mean a greater duty cycle at a lower amperage. Plenty of people think that a machine with greater capacity is always better, but not necessarily. Fabricators usually consider oxy-fuel as superior to plasma for cutting steel that have a thickness of .5 inch or more; this is because of the 4 to 6-degree bevel in the cut face made by the plasma. You wouldn’t see it in thinner materials, but it does become more noticeable with increased thickness. Also, plasma has no advantage over oxy-fuel in terms of speed at thicknesses beyond .5 inch.

It would be almost useless to get a plasma cutter if acetylene will be used for the work anyway. If the plan is to cut non-ferrous metals such as aluminum or stainless, neither of which can be cut by oxy-fuel, go for a 50 to 80 amp 220 volt plasma cutter. If you’re going to use your plasma cutter outside the shop sometimes, you have to consider getting one of new breed of semi-portable types. These units are small powerhouses weighing under 100 lbs., but they can cut .75″ to 1″ in a pinch. You would need a a bottle of air or a compressor, with the addition of a portable generator.

If you think you might automate your plasma cutting in the future, pick a unit that that runs on a low-frequency starting circuit. A high-frequency start works like your car’s spark plug. Instead of using a comparably lower voltage pilot arc for initiating the plasma process, it depends on a high voltage spark, which brings about electrical interference such as destroying files, locking up the computer, destroying files, and the like.

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