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CNC Plasma Cutting

The CNC plasma cutting industry has be around for 30 years however, only in the last decade has the machinery needed become affordable for smaller businesses. The material is cut using a hand guided plasma cutting torch; since the operation of such a device is manual it can result in rougher cut edges. Many of the CNC plasma cutting machines today use the operator’s personal computer to control the designs and shapes that need to be cut. CNC plasma cutting can also be associated with similar fields like air carbon arc cutting, plasma arc welding, water jet cutting and just plain old school welding. The shapes and designs are better than possible with a band saw or other cutting device and include complex curves, sharp corners and inside cuts. This type of cutting is great for use with steel and other hard materials of differentiating thicknesses.

CNC plasma cutting involves the use of gas (sometimes compressed air) being blown at high speeds through a tapering nozzle. An electric arc is then made between the nozzle and material being cut resulting in plasma. The plasma liquefies the material and blows the excess material away as it flows. Operators should always remember to wear welding goggles to prevent eye damage from arc light and flying debris.

The hand held models can cut up to 2 inch thick steel plating while the stronger CNC plasma cutting devices can cut steel plate up to 6 inches thick. These cutters are extremely helpful in the cutting of sheet metal and angled shaped due to the high temperatures parameters of which they operate with. New technology has recently been developed that pairs a smaller nozzle size with a thinner plasma arc to allow for laser like precision cut edges. CNC plasma cutting has become an integral part of the auto industry where thick steel frames as well as sheet metal needs to be cut and replicated as fast as possible while maintaining the highest expectation of tolerances.

CNC plasma cutting has become more affordable within the last few years due to new technology that allows for the devices to be hand held and portable. They are now cheaper and more available to the inspired hobbyists. Older units remain heavy while the newer, inverter technology, has allowed for a great reduction in size and weight while meeting, and in some instances, exceeding past standards. There remains no doubt that this technology will continue to advance and become more and more accessible to the public and more efficient for the professional.