Plasma cutters can help improve the quality of your cut and increase your efficiency on every job. The consensus is that they are easy to use, however, this doesn’t always mean that you are getting the most from the tool.
Here are five key tips to help with your plasma cutting.
Built-in versus separate air plasma cutters
A plasma cutter sends air through a plasma torch, which sparks an electrical arc that forces plasma through the torch tip to cut metal. Sounds simple enough, but many plasma cutters do not have built-in air compressors which means that you will need a separate type of air compressor to be able to use them. If you are using a separate air compressor, you will need to make sure that the air pressure is correct for your machine, otherwise it won’t cut properly, and it will end up costing you more money in the long term.
Study your product manual properly for safe operation
To help achieve optimum results from your plasma cutter and make the most of its capabilities, you will want to familiarise yourself with the manual of the machine before you start any work. Look to understand your particular plasma cutter and pay attention to the finer details, as different models vary in their usage. Whether you’re just getting started in plasma cutting or you’ve got loads of experience, every plasma cutter is different, and this is where your product manual will come in handy. Personal protective equipment, such as eye protection or a welding apron, is vital when using any plasma cutting equipment.
Sample cut and practice runs
Before you finally get started using your plasma cutter on the job, you will want to ensure that you are using the right settings and travel speed. There is no better way to check this than making a sample cut on a similar type of material that you are due to work on. On long cuts, you should be looking to practise your movements before pulling the trigger to make sure you have the right amount of freedom of movement to make one continuous cut. Having to stop and start again in the same spot will make the job harder than it needs to be and will typically create irregularities in the cut edge.
Monitor speed and excess
Once you’ve established appropriate travel speed, be sure to maintain it. A tell-tale sign that you are going too fast is the sparks will be coming towards you and it won’t be cutting cleanly all the way through. To combat this, you will want to make sure that you are cutting at a steady pace throughout each job. For extra help on making sure both your pace and line of cut is correct you can use a cutting guide. Once you have figured out your ideal pace, you will notice all the sparks from your cut will begin to go towards the floor.
Don’t be tempted to use it as a hammer
This may sound like an obvious point, but you wouldn’t pay hundreds of Rands for a hammer, so don’t be tempted to use your plasma cutting torch as one, no matter how tempting it can be. You can easily damage the torch by using it to remove any excess pieces after cutting. Instead, you could invest in a chipping hammer which is an affordable and handy option that will aid you in many projects and can make the clean-up process much easier.
Try to purchase an upmarket unit with an all-in-one function with knobs. A good entry level plasma cutter that is lightweight and portable while being powerful enough to handle tough cutting jobs on mild steel, stainless steel or aluminium.