Plasma’s versatility increases productivity, decreases cost per use
Many people know that a plasma system can cut but far fewer know that it can gouge. Or that plasma can cut any type of electrically conductive metal, that it can be used on a track burner, or that it can be used to efficiently cut metal up to 1-1/2” thick. But in fact plasma can do this and more. And this versatility helps make plasma a truly valuable productivity tool.
When you use a tool more you better leverage your investment, making the tool a greater value. And when that tool helps you avoid having to switch back and forth among various tools, or rely on others to execute certain tasks, versatility translates into greater productivity.
Plasma is best known as a cutting tool. But even within cutting, plasma is more versatile than many people realize. Hypertherm makes many specialized consumables and torches such as:
- Extended length consumables for cutting and gouging in tight, hard to reach locations
- Four-foot-long torches for cutting up metal skeletons or scrap metal without bending over
- Flush cutting consumables that make it easy to remove and reuse lugs and other attachments
In addition to cutting, many people now use plasma, instead of carbon arc, to gouge out worn or cracked welds. There are even consumables designed to remove very small amounts of metal and spot welds.
Plasma is also an effective marking and piercing tool, whether by hand or on a cutting table. Compared to oxyfuel, which requires pre-heating before cutting or piercing, plasma – which requires no pre heating of the work piece – is particularly productive.
One of plasma’s biggest advantages over other thermal cutting processes is that it can be used on any electrically conductive metal, from mild steel, to stainless steel, aluminum, galvanized, copper, cast iron, and more. This capability is especially attractive to users who may encounter many different types of metals, including farmers, scrap yards, metal fabricators/ job shops, facility maintenance professionals and others. Plasma’s effectiveness on painted, rusted or dirty metals is also attractive to these and other users.
The ability to cut multiple metal types is a frequently cited reason why plasma owners make their initial plasma purchase. Whether owning a plasma system enables them to avoid wasting time and money subcontracting out certain parts of a project, or whether it simply enables them to avoid wasting time switching from one tool to another, plasma’s material type versatility is a clear productivity enhancer.
Material forms and thicknesses
In addition to cutting any type of electrically conductive metal, plasma can also efficiently cut many material forms, from plate to rod to pipe to beam and even grating – with no pre-heating required.
Air plasma is an effective tool for cutting thicknesses from gauge to 1-1/2”. Judging a plasma system’s true capacity is not always easy given the lack of consistency among various manufacturers’ in how they rate their systems. There is, however, a common relationship between cut speed, cut quality and cut capacity: there is an optimal speed for achieving the desired cut quality on a given metal thickness. In many cases, the speed advantage of plasma over other cutting methods, such as oxyfuel cutting, is dramatic. Oxyfuel cutting is, however, generally regarded as the superior method for cutting materials over 1-1/2” thick.
Plasma is useful in any number of locations, indoors and out, from a garage to a shop, a factory to a job site. A plasma cutting and gouging system can be used almost anywhere that a process gas (compressed air or sometimes nitrogen) and energy source are available. When hooked to a portable motor generator and a portable compressor or gas cylinder, a plasma system is truly mobile, making it appropriate for usage in the field, on a construction site and many other locations. Unlike oxyfuel cutting, which requires a flammable process gas such as acetylene, propylene or propane, plasma systems may even be used in some more highly regulated environments where flammable gases aren’t permitted.
Certain plasma systems, especially those utilizing inverter technology, are even more portable. Today’s systems are so small and light, it is possible to carry the systems up a ladder or take on board a ship for use in tight quarters.
With a simple change of the torch and/or consumables, a plasma system can switch between hand and automated cutting or gouging. With a straight machine torch, a plasma system can easily connect to a X-Y cutting table. Plasma systems are also designed for use on robotic arms or, more commonly, with a track burner for effective long, straight cuts. Many plasma systems are used in conjunction with pipe bevellers or with hole cutting tools.
Plasma systems are highly versatile, highly productive cutting, gouging or marking tools. The plasma process’ ability to perform various process and applications, to operate in various locations, and to work on various metal types, forms and thicknesses gives it distinct advantages over competitive cutting technologies. If you already own a plasma system, chances are you can derive greater value out of your investment simply by expanding your usage occasions. And if you do not yet own a plasma system, you may find that you can get more done, in less time, at lower cost by investing in this powerfully versatile productivity tool.