Plasma exists only at very high temperatures and is used by plasma cutting systems to cut electrically conductive metals very cleanly and quickly. A CNC plasma cutter adds specialized software that controls and directs the plasma cutting torch with speed, precision, efficiency, and repeatability.
Simply put, plasma is a gas that has been compressed and energized to the point where some of the electrons are released and travel with its nucleus. A nozzle at the tip of the cutter concentrates the gas and introduces a spark and converts the gas stream into plasma. Inert or semi-inert gases are used to protect the area where the plasma touches the metal. The force of the plasma is strong enough to push molten metal out of the workpiece, creating a clean, thin cut (less than 1/16 “wide) with little or no slag. The plasma itself reaches temperatures of up to 30,000. degrees Fahrenheit and easily cuts 2 “inches of metal.
The part of a CNC plasma cutter that makes it so incredibly efficient is the computer numerically controlled (CNC) software. The CNC software, with the help of the computer, controls and directs the plasma cutting torch with speed, precision and efficiency. Computer-based software programs such as CAD / CAM are an integral part of every CNC machine tool. The CNC software also ensures precise machine handling and precise distances between the plasma nozzle and the metal sheet. CNC software generally includes nesting capabilities, making the plasma cutter even more efficient.
Plasma cutters come in all shapes and sizes. What makes the difference between them is their construction and their components. The high-quality units feature a solid, rugged, fully welded unitized construction. Less expensive units use less stable, bolt-on construction, or don’t come with a table at all. A less stable cutting table leads to less accurate plasma cutting and a less efficient machine.
A caveat should be mentioned on any tool. Although it is an incredibly powerful cutting machine, a plasma cutter can also cause terrible harm to the human body. In addition to working smart, an operator should wear goggles (shade # 5), gloves, and protective clothing.