Plasma cutting is a metal machining process that uses a jet of ultra-hot plasma to shape and machine electrically-conductive metals in both 2D and 3D profiles. Research is being conducted into the use of plasma cutters to shape insulating materials, but this is a comparatively unconventional use of the technology with further study required to determine its feasibility.

The primary application for plasma cutting is to machine metal shapes with thicknesses up to 76 mm. Masteel provide steel profiling services for carbon and low or high alloy steels, with different capacities depending upon the steel specification. Carbon steels of up to 64 mm thick and stainless steel of up to 50 mm thick can be shaped using plasma cutting, but anything above that benchmark is unsuitable.

Conventional wisdom suggests that plasma cutting is the best process for shaping steel products of less than 25 mm thick, providing unparalleled accuracy and low possibilities of heat deformation. However, plasma cutting is not the be all and end all of metal profiling – especially when the material becomes thicker and denser.

Laser Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting

Laser cutting uses a highly precise cutting tool with an incident laser beam; the accuracy of which is directly correlative to its spot size. This level of precision makes laser cutting remarkably accurate for profiling steel products to very narrow and complex specifications. Intricate shapes or engravings of metal products are enabled by laser cutting, but this process is only capable of cutting to depths of up to 15 mm.

Plasma cutting has more robust capabilities than laser cutting processes, and tends to be more cost-effective due to the ready availability of plasma cutting instrumentation.

Flame Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting

Flame cutting is the traditional method of steel profiling, using a fuel source such as propane to rapidly elevate the surface temperature of a metal and promote an oxidizing chemical reaction. It is a slower machining process than plasma cutting and can result in thermal warping and heat-affected edges on flame-cut contours. However, it is possible to profile carbon and low alloy steels of 6 mm – 170 mm through standard processes, with thicker materials available upon request. This is almost three times the penetration capacity of plasma cutting tools, albeit with significantly decreased levels of accuracy.

However, flame cutting is limited to steels with sufficient chemical compositions to elicit a reaction with oxygen. The likes of stainless steel cannot be cut through this process, although it can be machined using plasma cutting for thicknesses in the region of 50 mm.

Water Jet Cutting Vs. Plasma Cutting

Water jet cutting is one of the preferred methods of steel machining with a capacity to profile steels of all chemical compositions. This process channels water mixed with abrasive garnet into highly-pressurized jets ranging up to 60,000 psi. It has a very low heat yield so exhibits little to no heat warping or distortions, and can be used to cut various steels of thicknesses up to 200 mm.

Steel Profiling Services from Masteel

Masteel are trusted suppliers of steel products and services, with demonstrable experience in providing steel solutions for a broad range of sectors and disciplines.

If you would like any more information about our plasma cutting processes, or any of our other steel profiling services, please do not hesitate to contact us.