How do I know when it is time to change out my consumables?
A common question we get is “how do I know when it is time to change out my consumables?” Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer as it really depends on a number of factors. The thickness of the metal being cut, the average length of the cut, whether you’re cutting by hand or on a machine, and more all impact consumable life.
An additional factor is the type of cutting you’re doing. Piercing from the middle of the plate subjects your consumables to more stress than starting off the side of the plate. Cutting with a continuous pilot arc (otherwise known as expanded metal mode) causes more consumable wear than normal mode.
Other factors include your torch-to-work distance (if gouging or cutting with unshielded consumables,) pierce height, and when using one of our Powermax systems, the quality of your air. If you have oil, too much moisture or other contaminants in your air, consumable life will definitely be compromised.
With all of those factors to consider, there are obviously no hard and fast rules. Generally though, a set of consumables will last approximately two to three hours when hand cutting and three to five hours when machine cutting. It’s important to understand that these hours apply to actual “arc-on” time. Plasma actually needs to be flowing through your torch.
Another “general” rule to keep in mind is that the electrode will wear out first during machine cutting and the nozzle will wear out first when hand cutting. People often mistakenly assume both the electrode and nozzle need to be changed at the same time, which isn’t always the case. You will find more information about proper cutting techniques in the Operator’s Manual that came with your system. If you can’t find your manual for whatever reason, you can download a new copy at Hypertherm.com.
So, now that you understand the factors that impact consumable life as well as “general rules,” for gauging life, there’s one more factor to consider: the type of torch and consumables you are using. Newer torch and consumable technologies like our Duramax torches and CopperPlus electrodes will deliver better life and performance than older torch and consumable technologies.