Taking the mystery out of great cut quality. It’s only a page away.

By Jim Colt, Hypertherm
Posted on 08/23/2019 in SPARK the blog, Plasma cutting

Every day I receive several questions related to cut speeds, consumable choice, amperage settings and other parameters that affect Powermax plasma systems in terms of consumable life and cut quality. Normally, these questions come from people using their Powermax on a small CNC cutting table or similar machine. Of course, I provide answers to all these questions and, in most cases, the person asking me the question will thank me for responding. Often, they tell me their plasma has never cut so well! Well, as much as I hate to reveal my secrets, I admit that I get this information from another source: my Hypertherm operator’s manual!

Open a Powermax operator’s manual and you’ll find answers to all your questions. We have hundreds of pages of specifications, including directions on safety, power requirements, part lists, troubleshooting tips and so much more. In addition to all that, in the middle of our manuals you’ll find arguably the best resource of all—detailed cut charts. As an example, the Powermax65/85 manual contains more than 30 pages of cut charts with detailed information on cutting mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. These charts cover all thicknesses that can possibly be cut with a Powermax65 or 85; explains which consumable set to use and at what amperage level; and provides settings such as kerf, torch-to-work distance, initial pierce height, pierce delay time, as well as cut speed and arc voltage.

These specifications are my plasma cutting bible. If my consumables are in good condition and I’m using a good quality CNC table, I will get great cut quality and longer consumable life by following the settings listed in the manual. …Did I mention there is also a section in the manual that shows you how to inspect the consumables for wear or damage? That’s there too!

Now, I will take some credit here as I’ve got over 40 years of plasma cutting experience and the solutions are not always straight forward. Metal properties can impact cut quality. I’ve seen some unusual levels of carbon, silicon, manganese or other alloys create metallurgical anomalies. Often changes in the chemistry of the metal will necessitate straying from the recommended cut speed or torch height to achieve the best results. In those cases, I generally start with the exact “book” specifications and make minor adjustments, again just to the cut height and speed. I rarely change anything else.

A quick tech tip here: lower amperage settings will give you better cut quality on a material type and thickness while higher settings will allow you to cut faster. Let’s use 10-gauge steel as an example. If I wanted to use a Powermax85 to cut parts with the best possible cut quality, I would choose the settings shown in the chart for FineCut consumables since it calls for cutting 10-gauge at 45 amps. If I wanted to cut faster, understanding the trade-off is more edge angularity, I would use the specifications found in the chart for 85 amp shielded consumables.

If you’ve lost your operator’s manual or your copy is worn-out, visit our online document library to download yourself a new digital copy.