The advent of CNC plasma machines has revolutionized the realm of fabrication, offering a significant boost to your operational capabilities. The transformation you witness post the integration of such a machine into your workflow is nothing short of astonishing. These machines are not only monumental time savers but also offer unparalleled precision, making them an invaluable asset for any business.
Embarking on an entrepreneurial journey becomes considerably less daunting with the aid of these machines. While it’s undeniable that a plasma cutter can serve as a veritable mint, selecting the one that aligns perfectly with your specific needs can be a challenging endeavor.
With a wealth of industry experience, Hymson Laser steps in as your guiding light, providing you with the essential insights you need before investing in a plasma cutter.
Exploring the Potential of a Plasma Cutter
A plasma cutter is a versatile tool that enables you to tailor designs on a variety of materials, including carbon steel, stainless steel, mild steel, tool steel, iron, aluminum, brass, or copper. The superior accuracy and efficiency of these machines make them the industry’s top choice for bringing designs to life.
Understanding Plasma Cutters
A plasma cutter is a thermal metal cutting tool that utilizes high-velocity plasma or ionized gas to slice through metal. Concurrently, it expels the molten metal using high-speed airflow, forming narrow plasma cut seams.
This device is employed to cut a range of metals, such as carbon steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, cast iron, and more. It enables precision cutting of electrically conductive metals. The cutter is characterized by its high cutting speed, thin cut seams, low deformation, small heat-affected zone, ease of use, and energy efficiency. The pilot arc generates a low power plasma arc in the air, facilitating cost-effective cutting.
Plasma cutters find applications in sheet metal fabrication, metal structure creation, machinery building, repair shops, drilling, digging, beveling, patching, and various other metal cut projects and plans.
Deciphering CNC Plasma Cutters
CNC, an acronym for Computer Numerical Control, implies that a computer is used to control the cutting process. A CNC plasma cutter is a computer-controlled automatic cutting system that employs an ionized gas torch to cut metals into different profiles and shapes.
The CNC cutter kit comprises a machine frame, controller, power supply, gas torch, blade or sawtooth table, driver, motor, control system, software, guide rail, ball screw, optional parts, and consumable parts.
Plasma cutters are known by various names, including cutting torch, arc cutter, cutting machine, arc welding cutter, cutting system, plasma table, metal cutter, cutting tool, arc welding machine, or plasma cutting device.
What is a CNC Plasma Table?
A CNC plasma table is an automatic cutting machine with a custom welding table top, capable of adapting to cut metal projects of different sizes. The CNC controller ensures high manufacturing flexibility, accuracy, quality, productivity, and improved working conditions, contributing to the modernization of production management.
This tool combines a cutter and controller, leveraging the advantages of gas cutting. To achieve automatic machining, it must support continuous feeding and automatic feeding. The torch must be able to move independently or in combination in the horizontal and vertical directions to form the required curve. The machine’s various functional parts must closely cooperate and coordinate to achieve precise continuous cutting. Additionally, various technical parameters can be flexibly adjusted and optimized to meet the cutting requirements of different metals.
How Does a CNC Plasma Cutter Operate?
Plasma cutting is a thermal machining method that uses the heat of a high-temperature ionized gas arc to melt a metal workpiece. The moltenmetal is then expelled by high-speed momentum to create a slit. The process involves sending an electric arc through a gas like oxygen, nitrogen, or compressed air. This transforms the gas into plasma, which swiftly blasts through metal to cut it with broadband. A flame cutting torch operates by adding a blast of oxygen to the flame, which oxidizes the metal and turns it into slag. The torch moves along a tool path with height control directed by a computer. The CNC implies that a computer is used to control the motion supported by G-code in a program. Compared to handheld devices, plasma CNC cutters realize automatic machining with X, Y, and Z axis.
Applications of Plasma CNC Cutters
These machines are utilized for cutting sheet metals, square and round metal tubes, including iron, cold rolled steel, hot rolled steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, carbon steel, copper, brass, alloy, bronze, aluminum, titanium. They find applications in machine tool manufacturing, petro-chemical equipment, light-industrial machinery, pressure vessel, shipbuilding, mining machinery, electric power, bridge construction, aerospace, and steel structure. They are used by hobbyists, home shops, home businesses, small shops, small businesses, school education, and industrial manufacturing.
Types of Plasma Cutters
The most common types of plasma cutters include the handheld and CNC variant (hobby types and industrial types). The most common power supplies include Huayuan power supply and Hypertherm power supply.
Based on the working methods, the kits can be categorized into air kits, dry kits, semi-dry kits, and underwater kits.
Depending on the cutting quality and precision, you will encounter types like ordinary, fine, laser-like, and so on.
In terms of appearances, the three types are:
- Portable CNC Kits: These machines are portable, easy to set up, compact in structure, small in space, and low in manufacturing cost. However, due to the limitation of the cantilever structure, the stress conditions are poor, the transverse deformation is prone to occur, the transverse cutting width is limited, and the rigidity is poor during high-speed machining.
- Gantry CNC Kits: The gantry-type supporting method is bidirectionally supported, the force is more uniform, the equipment has good rigidity, and can achieve a large lateral span, usually up to 3 to 10m. However, the equipment installation requirements are high, the structure is relatively large, and it takes up more plant area. The driving mode is divided into unilateral driving and bilateral driving. Unilateral drive and bilateral drive each have their own characteristics and applications.
- CNC Table Kits: The cutting part and the machine are integrated, which is convenient to move in place, but the movement range of the cutting torch is relatively small, and the cutting width is subject to certain restrictions.
Types of CNC Plasma Tables
The most common types of CNC plasma cutting tables include 4×4, 4×8, 5×10, and 6×12 in feet. Some users may refer to these series CNC tables as 48″ x 48″ types, 48″ x 96″ types, 60″ x 120″ types in inches, or as 1212 types, 1325 types, 1530 types, 2040 types in millimeters (mm).
The Superiority of Plasma Cutting: An Examination
Plasma cutting, a highly efficient method for cutting sheet metal and metal tubes, has found extensive application across a myriad of industries. This technique offers a plethora of advantages, including swift cuts, user-friendly operation, cost-effectiveness, safety, versatility, and the ability to handle a wide range of materials and thicknesses. Furthermore, it eliminates plate warping, enhances internal piercing speed, and reduces dross.
When juxtaposed with traditional manual and semi-automatic metal cutters, the automatic computer-controlled metal cutting system stands out as a harmonious blend of quality enhancement and cost-efficiency. This system encompasses computerized numerically controlled (CNC) plasma, flame, water plasma, and laser cutting machines. It delivers automatic, full-time, high-quality, high-utilization, and efficient cutting, guided by CNC nesting software.
In the realm of industrial production, metal thermal cutting typically involves gas, plasma, and laser cutting. Plasma cutting, when compared to gas cutting, offers a broader cutting range and higher efficiency. The fine plasma cut system approaches the quality of a laser system, yet at a significantly lower cost.
The plasma cutting technique has demonstrated remarkable benefits in material conservation and the augmentation of labor productivity. This has led to its evolution from manual or semi-automatic to numerical control, making it one of the primary directions of numerical control cutting technology development.
- Plasma cutting can handle thicker metals, such as stainless steel, aluminum and its alloys, copper and its alloys, cast iron, and other metal materials. It can also cut insulating materials and non-metallic materials with a thickness exceeding 150mm using a cutting torch.
- The process is swift, thereby enhancing production efficiency. This improvement is particularly noticeable when working with thin metals at high power.
- The cutting quality is exceptional, with smooth and flat slits, narrow incisions, and minimal heat-affected zones and deformation compared to other tools.
- The cost is low, as the high speed and use of inexpensive gases like nitrogen require fewer raw materials and labor than other methods for cutting the same material.
The Cost of a CNC Plasma Cutter
The price of CNC plasma cutters varies according to different requirements and configurations for power supply, torch, sawtooth or blade table, motor, driver, computer-controlled software, computer-controlled system, machine frame, guide rail, ball screw, optional parts, and consumable parts. The affordable price range for these cutters lies between $4,280.00 and $18,000.00, fitting within your budget. The entry-level unit starts from $4,280.00, the professional high-end unit from $5,600.00, and the average cost is $6,180.00. Purchasing from a local shop eliminates shipping costs, albeit at a higher sale price. If you opt to buy cheap CNC plasma table kits overseas, the final price should include shipping costs, tax, and customs clearance fees.
|Model||Minimum Price||Maximum Price||Average Price|
|Model||STP1212, STP1325, STP1325R, STP1530, STP1530R, STP3000-G|
|Table Sizes||4’x4′, 4’x8′, 5’x10′, 6’x12′|
|CNC Controller||Starfire, FireControl, Mach3 CNC Controller|
|CAM Software||FastCAM, SheetCAM, Autodesk Fusion 360|
|Cutting Modes||Plasma Cutting | Flame Cutting|
|Power Supply||Huayuan | Hypertherm|
|Price Range||$4,280.00 – $18,000.00|
Plasma Power Supply & Cutting Thickness
|Chinese Huayuan Power Supply||Cutting Thickness|
|USA Hypertherm Power Supply||Cutting Thickness|
How to Operate a CNC Plasma Cutter & Cutting Table?
For those unfamiliar with gas cutters or plasma tables with computer-controlled controllers, here is a simple guide covering software installation, setting, debugging, parts assembly, setup, and operation.
Manual Non-Contact Cutting
- Touch the torch roller to the workpiece and adjust the distance between the nozzle and the workpiece’s plane to 3-5mm. (When the machine cuts, the “Cut Thickness Selection” switch is upscale).
- Turn on the torch switch to ignite the plasma arc. After cutting through the workpiece, move in the cutting direction at an even speed. The speed is based on the premise of cutting through. Too slow will affect the quality of the incision and even break the arc.
- After working, turn off the torch switch and the arc goes out. At this time, compressed air is sprayed out at a delay to cool the torch. After a few seconds, the ejection stops automatically. Remove the torch to complete the entire process.
Manual Contact Cutting
- The “Cut Thickness Selection” switch is at the low level, and it is used when cutting thinner metal plates by a single machine.
- Place the torch nozzle at the starting point of the workpiece to be cut, turn on the torch switch, ignite the arc, cut through the workpiece, and then move uniformly along the cutting direction.
- After working, open and close the torch switch. At this time, the compressed air is still spraying out. After a few seconds, the spraying will stop automatically. Remove the torch to complete the entire process.
- Automatic cutting is mainly suitable for cutting thick workpieces. Select the “Cut Thickness Selection” switch position.
- After removing the torch roller, the torch and the semi-automatic machine tool are firmly connected, and the attachment is provided in the random accessories.
- Connect the power of the semi-automatic cutting system, and install the radius rod or guide rail according to the shape of the project (if you need to cut arc or circle, a radius rod is required).
- If the torch switch plug is turned off, replace the remote switch plug (prepared in the accessories).
- Adjust the appropriate walking speed according to the thickness of the workpiece. And set the “up” and “down” switches on the semi-automatic cutter to the cutting direction.
- Adjust the distance between the nozzle and the workpiece to 3-8mm, and adjust the center position of the nozzle to the starting strip of the workpiece slit.
- Turn on the remote control switch. After cutting through the workpiece, turn on the power switch of the semi-automatic machine to cut. In the initial stage, pay attention to the seam at any time and adjust to a suitable speed. And pay attention to whether the two machines work normally at any time.
- After cutting, turn off the remote control switch and the power switch. At this point, the entire process is completed.
Manual Cutting Circle
According to the material and thickness of the part, choose the single or parallel cutting method, and choose the corresponding cutting method. Tighten the cross bar in the random attachment to the screw hole on the torch holder. To the required radius and tighten, then adjust the distance from the tip to the torch nozzle according to the length of the workpiece radius (the width of the slit must be considered). After adjustment, tighten the center fastening screws to prevent loosening, and loosen the cage to tighten the knurled screws. At this point, you can cut the workpiece.
The Voltage of Plasma CNC Cutter
During operation, the CNC plasma torch controls the mechanical precision and the kerf quality with the power supply. A good power supply is integral to fine cutting quality. In the actual use and operation of the computer-controlled cutter system, the cutting quality and stability are related to the power supply’s brand & maker, power, cutting torch, nozzle, as well as the metal thickness and the cutting parameters.
The power supply of the manual cutter must have a high enough no-load voltage to easily start the arc and make the arc burn stably. The no-load voltage is generally 120-600V, and the arc column voltage is generally half of the no-load voltage. Increasing the arc column voltage can significantly increase the power of the arc, thereby increasing the speed and cutting higher thickness sheet metals. The arc column voltage usually cannot be achieved by increasing the internal contraction of the electrode and adjusting the gas flow rate, but the arc column voltage should be less than 65% of the no-load voltage, if not, it will lead to the instability of the arc.
Plasma Cutting Thickness
The cutting thickness, generally within 0.5-100mm, depends on the size of the configured power supply. A high power supply can cut to more than 100mm; CNC flame cutting ability: Ordinary flame cutting torch 6-180mm (maximum 250mm), special flame cutting torch generally does not exceed 300mm, of course, it can also be customized to be higher.
Choosing a Dust Collector for CNC Plasma Cutting Table
A material receiving and dust removal device for a plasma CNC cutting machine includes a workbench composed of a bracket and a grid-like work surface fixed on the top of the bracket. The bracket is provided with a material receiving plate that can move horizontally relative to the workbench and is located in the bottom of the grid-shaped work surface, and the material receiving plate is a steel wire mesh plate, the bottom of the workbench directly below the material receiving plate is provided with a dust removal water tank, and the bottom of the dust removal water tank is provided with wheels. The material receiving and dust removal device enables the workpieces and wastes cut by the machine and dropped below the working table to be easily taken out, and at the same time, it can greatly reduce the metal dust pollution generated when cutting the workpiece.
- Insufficient Working Air PressureIf the working pressure during the operation of the plasma CNC cutter is significantly lower than the pressure required by the manual, it indicates that the ejection speed of the arc is weakened, and the input airflow is less than the required value. Consequently, a high-energy, high-speed arc cannot be formed, resulting in poor quality cuts, imperviousness, and incision buildup.
The reasons for insufficient air pressure include: insufficient air input from the air compressor, too low pressure adjustment of the air regulating valve of the CNC cutting machine, oil in the solenoid valve, and an obstructed air path. Therefore, it is necessary to check these aspects one by one, identify the problems, and rectify them promptly.
- Excessive Working Air PressureIf the input air pressure is too high, the excessive airflow will blow away the concentrated arc column after the arc is formed, disperse the arc column energy, and weaken the cutting strength of the arc. The main reasons are: improper input air adjustment, over-adjustment of the air filter pressure reducing valve, or failure of the air filter pressure reducing valve.
- Improper Installation of Consumable Parts such as Electrode NozzlesThe electrode nozzle is threaded and needs to be tightened in place. Due to improper installation of the nozzle, such as the thread is not tightened, or the vortex ring is installed improperly, the cutting will be unstable and the consumable parts will be damaged too quickly.
- Low Input AC VoltageBefore commissioning, check whether the power grid connected to the CNC plasma cutting torch has sufficient carrying capacity and whether the power cord specifications meet the requirements. The installation location of the computer-controlled cutting torch should be far away from large-scale electrical equipment and places with frequent electrical interference.
- Poor Ground Wire Contact with the WorkpieceGrounding is an essential preparation before cutting. If no dedicated grounding tool is used, insulation on the surface of the workpiece, and long-term use of a ground wire with serious aging, etc., will cause poor contact between the ground wire and the workpiece.
- Cutting Speed and Verticality of Torch ClampingThe speed should be adjusted according to the different material and thickness, and the current size. Too fast or too slow will cause an uneven cutting surface and dross on the upper and lower edges. In addition, if the cutting torch is not held vertically, and the sprayed arc is also sprayed obliquely, this will also cause the surface to have a slope.
Plasma CNC Controller & Software
The most common controller and software combination is the Starfire control system and FastCAM nesting software. Of course, you can choose Mach3 and FireControl, Sheetcam CAM software and Autodesk Fusion 360 CAM software.
Starfire CNC Controller
Starfire is designed with plasma interference, lightning protection, high reliability, and surge capacity. It has features of automatic breakpoint memory. It is suitable for all types of plasma & flame cutting machines. Optional wireless remote control can be used to realize long-distance operation.
FastCAM CAM Software
FastCAM is a fully automatic common edge continuous cutting nesting software. The software is aimed at CNC cutting machines, including flame, plasma, laser and waterjet cutting machines, used for drawing, programming, nesting, verification and automatic cutting of arbitrary shape parts. Using FastCAM can increase the rate of steel nesting and effectively save steel, improve the efficiency of programming, nesting and cutting, and effectively improve the efficiency of production.
The automatic co-edge nesting function is to realize rectangular parts and non-rectangular parts in the automatic nesting process, that is, the automatic co-edge of any part with different side lengths, without manual editing, and automatically process the co-edge and continuous cutting of different parts, in order to prevent And to avoid thermal cutting deformation, automatically process the cutting direction and the position of the perforation point, and use the cut edge to directly preheat the cutting to avoid perforation.
Plasma Cutter VS Plasma Welder
A plasma cutter originates from a welder, which is a unique type of welding system. It uses ionized gas to fuse two metals together. By increasing the arc discharge, the welding system can be transformed into a cutting system.
At this stage, most of the thermal cutting and welding businesses are from plasma. Among them, a cutter has developed portable, cantilever, gantry, desktop, tube cutting machine and other forms of cutting equipment, while a welder is divided into manual welding machine and robotic welding machine.
A gas cutter uses an arc to generate high temperature to melt the material to be cut. At the same time, it uses compressed gas to blow away the material to be cut into slits to complete the final cutting projects. It has the advantages of good cut quality, narrow cut width, high precision, fast cutting, safety, and cleanliness. It is an advanced metal cutter.
A welder uses ionized gas arc as a heat source and a certain composition of alloy material (metal wire, alloy powder) as a filler metal.
Arc welding is a high-quality welding method. The depth/width ratio of the weld is large, the heat affected zone is narrow, the deformation of the workpiece is small, and there are many types of weldable materials, especially the development of pulse current plasma welding and molten electrode arc welding. The application range is expanded, and it has the advantages of high construction efficiency and low cost.
A computer-controlled CNC plasma cutter will always be a significant investment because of the higher budget you will have to pay for the machine. Therefore, selecting the right one is crucial to enhance the quality of your work. Some of the key factors that will help you to choose the perfect tool have been discussed below.
The first thing comes first. The cutting capacity is always a crucial factor with such kinds of machines. The tool should have a better capacity to cut the metals with precision. If you are working with thick metals, ensure that the machine you are about to buy can handle that much thickness. Additionally, consider the maximum cutting speed of the machine and how it will affect your productivity. Precision, software, maintenance, maneuverability, and pricing are some of the other factors that should be considered while purchasing such a tool. Last but not the least; consider the level of support and service provided by the manufacturer. Look for a manufacturer that offers excellent customer support, including technical assistance, training, and ongoing maintenance.
The continuous progress of CNC automation and plasma cutting technology has made the types of CNC cutters more and more abundant, and the market’s requirements for metal processing quality have also been continuously improved. There are options from 63A to 200A, with large format and small table, precision cutter, pipe cutter, plate and tube integration. They have become a hot-selling metal processing and forming product in recent years.
Should I buy it?
If your business belongs to the following types of work, you can buy one for a try. It can greatly improve the quality and efficiency of products, liberate your productivity and save costs.
- Sheet Metal FabricationA large number of production and fabrication requirements, different batches, large batches, and small batches of production requirements, this automatic metal cutting tool can perfectly provide solutions.
- Kitchen UtensilsThe kitchenware industry has high requirements for metal material processing, and the kitchenware industry uses more metal plates and pipes. Using this CNC machine tool can maximize benefits.
- Advertising Decoration / Architectural HardwareWhether it is advertising sign making, or architectural hardware matching, this type of machine tool can easily cut.
- Machinery Manufacturing / Chassis CabinetIn these industries, there are also a large number of applications of metal materials. Metal sheets and pipes of different thicknesses can be cut using this automated power tool.
How to Buy a CNC Plasma Cutter
Whether a CNC plasma cutter is easy to use depends on whether you have bought the right product. Products and experience are closely related. Here are some tips to help you choose the right CNC plasma cutter for your needs.
- Brand SelectionThere are many brands on the market, and the quality is uneven. Some brands are only OEM products, and have no technical accumulation. You must choose a brand with a professional CNC background, a product that has undergone long-term iterations, and a mature technology.
- Hardware & Software SelectionA CNC gas cutter is an organic combination of hardware and software technology. Simply having software technology results in low cutting efficiency. Similarly, only having hardware technology results in cutting efficiency not up to standard, so a good machine tool is equally important for hardware and software technology. Here, customers should pay attention to distinguish some low-end fish in troubled waters with only hardware but no advanced control system support.
- Usability SelectionThe purpose of buying a CNC plasma cutter is to replace manual labor. Whether it can achieve fast, accurate, and stable operation, whether it needs follow-up maintenance, and whether it can minimize manual intervention are the key to judging whether it is easy to use.
Based on the above, whether the CNC plasma cutting machine is easy to operate depends on whether you have bought the right product. I hope that the purchase precautions summarized here can help you practice sharp eyes, choose the most suitable CNC cutter for you, and experience the speed and passion brought by CNC as soon as possible.
Why Should You Trust Hymson Laser?
Hymson Laser has been a leading enterprise for a long period of time that has been delivering computer-controlled prototypes for most of your precise cutting solutions. The brand not only delivers but also innovates constantly to meet customers’ needs. Overall, trusting Hymson Laser is about more than just the product itself. It’s about trusting our expertise, experience, transparency, accountability, and commitment to quality and innovation.