Jim ColtClick image to enlargeby Jim Colt

What is the most important consideration when buying a torch for your plasma system?

As a long time plasma cutting guy, I would consider this question easier to answer if it was restated as: “what are the most important considerations when buying a plasma cutting torch/system?” I would have a hard time pointing out (with the many choices of power levels and system capabilities, with mechanized and hand cutting plasma systems) any one consideration that would place the best choice of torches in a buyer’s possession.

First we must consider cutting capacity. For that, we have the pierce capacity, the production capacity, and the severance capacity. Pierce capacity is the maximum thickness that a particular plasma cutter can pierce (in a mechanized cutting application) without adversely affecting the torch consumable parts life. Production capacity is the maximum thickness the plasma system can cut at its duty cycle rating. On many systems, this would be the same or close to the pierce capacity, although different manufacturers may rate this differently. Severance capacity is the absolute maximum thickness that can be cut with a particular system using an edge start (no piercing as this thickness in many cases is double the pierce capacity.) It is always wise to specify a plasma system that has the pierce capacity of the thickest material you could envision cutting. This keeps the power supply and torch safely within its design constraints for long life and best performance.

Second, is the capital equipment cost more important (low purchase price) or is cut quality and operating cost the driving factor in purchasing this system? This may depend on the intended use of the plasma cutter in terms of the production expectation. There are a variety of relatively low cost air plasma cutters on the market with excellent cut quality and reliability that can be used for both mechanized and handheld cutting applications. There are also a number of high end industrial rated plasma systems (considerably more costly to purchase) that produce better cut quality on a variety of materials, offer faster cut speeds, and dramatically lower operating costs. An air plasma is a great choice when purchase price and capital equipment budgets are the limiting factors. These systems are often the best choice for smaller operations with less demanding cutting needs and lower throughput requirements. The industrial 100 per cent duty cycle systems will feature liquid cooled torches with long life consumables, oxygen cutting capability for steel as well as other gas mixes for non-ferrous materials, and the ability to cut under multi-shift high production requirements without missing a beat.

Of course the decision needs to be made regarding the intended use of the plasma cutter from a few different perspectives:

  • Will it be used for handheld cutting only?
  • Will it need the ability to be used for handheld cutting as well as automated cutting (pipe cutter, track burner, CNC machine, etc.) each on a part time basis, with an easy plug and play transition from one mode to the next?
  • Will the system be specified for just mechanized cutting?

plasma torchClick image to enlargeThere are some plasma cutting systems that can quickly become portable for shop and field use, and in minutes be configured back on a mechanized device for either field or hand cutting. Other systems are less portable, but are designed to spend their life on the shop floor producing high production for decades. Plasma manufacturers have dramatically enhanced the versatility of this process with some machines that can operate on household power, are the size of a two slice toaster, and can sever over ½ in. (12.7 mm) thick steel, to the other end of the spectrum with 800 amp industrial plasma systems that can cut over 6 in. (152.4 mm) thick non-ferrous materials three shifts a day without breaking a sweat.

There are many more considerations on the purchase of a plasma torch, including ease of use, power requirements, portability, safety, torch ergonomics and design, edge metallurgy, hole quality, beveling capability, to name a few. The above are likely some of the first questions I would ask if speaking with a potential buyer. Be sure to cover all of your needs and talk to the experts on the subject before jumping into the wide world of modern plasma cutting technology. SMT

Jim Colt is application technology manager with Hypertherm Inc., Hanover, NH.

 

Top 10 Most Dangerous Airports in the World

Not for those who are afraid of flying: the most dangerous airports in the world.

Pull studs: under pressure

by Alan Miller

Why pull studs are under more pressure than ever before

Job Shops Quebec - Consistent Growth

by Kip Hanson

Quebec job shop solves a big turning problem by switching to a different cutting tool provider

Bumper to bumper

by Kip Hanson

No job too big or too small for Ontario welding shop

$49 M for Quebec car parts maker

Raufoss Canada, a subsidisary of Norwegian manufacturer Neuman Aluminum, is investing $49 million to retrofit and expand production at its Broisbriand, QC, plant.

Getting the order

by Tim Wilson

The dark art of job estimating brought to light

Ask someone how he estimates a job and you’ll likely get a wry smile, perhaps a wink.

The future of transportation

Meet the autonomous aerial vehicle – basically a personal helicopter – and some other emerging technologies that could be charting the future  of transportation.

The future of space: Off-world manufacturing

Physicist, engineer and CEO Rob Hoyt delves into the challenges and potential of manufacturing and assembling large systems and structures in space to support exploration and colonization.

Fabricating Software: Beyond the Nest

by Kip Hanson

Shopping for new nesting software? There’s much more to it than maximizing material usage

 

Unison appoints Canadian distributor for tube bending machines

Unison Ltd., Scarborough, UK, a supplier of all electric tube bending machines, has appointed Tube Equipment Corp. (ITEC), Montreal, QC, as its new sales and service partner in Canada.

Balancing the Value Chain

by Michael Ouellette

Tips to Increase Abrasive Waterjet Efficiency

There are many advantages to waterjet technology right out of the box. These tips will help you squeeze the most out of your investment

Shop Talk: Challenges when running a business

What is the biggest challenge you face running a manufacturing business in Canada?

The biggest challenge is finding skilled help.

Press brake with digital encoders for better ram repeatability

The new Proform press brake from Cincinnati Inc. adds dual pressure transducers on its hydraulic cylinders for increased tonnage accuracy, and digital encoders to deliver ±0.0004 in. (0.01 mm) ram repeatability for close-tolerance forming and higher part quality. The press brake's PC-based control is now bed-mounted to the machine with a swinging pendent arm mount, and has been upgraded to include a trackball and keyboard.

Complex panel bending with Salvagnini PX4e

Watch the Salvagnini PX43 panel bender in action bending complex parts.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn