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How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?

Although a plasma cutter is a tool that isn’t as familiar as common tools we use, it is something that the industrial setting looks upon as essential, especially in dealing with metal and steel. And since you’re here reading this post, it probably because you’re interested in what plasma cutter really does. Anyway, you can’t learn a thing or two about how this tool works without first learning what plasma really is.

What you learned or heard from your science teacher back in school is true: plasma is really the fourth state of matter. Typically, when heat levels are increased in a particular scenario, the state of matter, say from liquid, will turn to gas. However, if the heat is once again increased in level, what happens is that the gas will be ionized, making it electrically conductive. In this scenario, plasma is produced.

Now the question is how will a plasma cutter use this particular process? For the plasma cutter to work, the tool will be using the electrically conductive gas to be able to transfer energy from a specific power supply to a conductive material. As a result, there’s a faster and more capable cutting process produced compared to the usual cutting process using oxyfuel.
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A plasma cutting system has several different components. The major components include that of the power supply, arc starting console, and the plasma torch. The power supply works by converting either a single or three phase AC line voltage into a constant DC voltage from 200 and up to 400 VDC. The DC voltage on the other hand will be used for the maintenance of the plasma arc while in the cutting process.
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Meanwhile, the arc starting console will be producing an AC voltage equivalent to 5,000 VAC at 2 MHz, which in turn produces the spark inside of the torch so as to produce the plasma arc.

The plasma torch on the other hand is intended and designed to provide proper alignment and cooling of the consumables. The term, “consumables” mean the parts that are needed for the generation of the plasma arc, and they include the electrode, nozzle, and swirl ring.

There are times when there’s a need for an additional shielding cap, the intention of which is to improve the quality of the cut. It is worthy to note as well that all the parts of the tool are to be held together using both inner and outer retaining caps.

Finally, if you are tasked to purchase a plasma cutter, you should know that your two main options are the conventional and the precision plasma cutting systems. As their terms suggests, expect the conventional type to be more affordable than the precision type; but the latter is definitely the one you need if you need to perform the sharpest and highest quality cuts.