Plasma cutting is the process of using an accelerated jet of hot plasma to cut through electrically conductive materials, such as steel.
It became a popular method of cutting metals in the 1980s, having grown out of plasma welding. The original plasma cutting machines were bulky and were mostly used for mass production of repetitive cutting patterns. Later, CNC technology was used with plasma cutters to provide greater flexibility and to meet demand.
The Plasma Cutting Process
The basic process of plasma cutting involves creating an electric channel of gas passing through a narrow nozzle at high velocity, to create an ionized plasma stream. This works by using a compressed gas, where an electrical arc is formed due to the speed at which it is blown through the nozzle.
This electrical arc ionizes some of the gas, creating an electrically conductive channel of plasma. The electricity that travels down the plasma provides enough heat to melt the steel, and the compressed gas blows away the molten metal, cutting the steel.
The Advantages of Plasma Cutting
Plasma cutting provides a selection of benefits, and it is the profiling method of choice for many types of steel that can’t be cut using standard flame cutting due to oxidation. Compared to flame cutting, plasma cutting also provides a smoother cut edge and is often cheaper and faster on certain metal thicknesses. This makes it a very efficient method of cutting steel, which is why it is a popular choice.
Cutting complex shapes with the most stringent tolerances are easily achieved with plasma cutting due to the high level of accuracy. There is minimal dross with plasma cutting, as the process removes any excess material. This means that any grinding, chiseling, and finishing is either not required or minimal.
The risk of warping is also eliminated with plasma cutting, as the fast cutting speed reduces the amount of heat transfer.
Plasma Cutting at Masteel
Masteel has recently extended their metal fabrication services with a new high precision cutting facility. The new machine, a RUR3500p fitted with a Lincoln Electric Spirit II plasma unit from Kerf, transfers less heat to the profiled steel and reduces the Heat Affected Zone on the cut edges, and it can also cut smaller holes due to a lower kerf.
The plasma cutting machine we use is equipped with UltraSharp cut technology, which needs no manual programming to apply the most appropriate cutting speeds and feeds for internal cut-outs, holes, and slots. This technology helps to improve the overall quality and design of products.