Consumables good and bad electrode.Click image to enlargeby Joe Duffy with Pete Blews

If you’re responsible for keeping the plasma cutting systems and the production line running smoothly, the tips below may solve a problem and keep your day stress-free.

Is your torch coolant clean and free of contaminants?
Contaminants in the coolant can damage the consumables, decrease their lifespan, and make premature change-outs necessary.


  • Regularly check the coolant by examining the filter, coolant tank and the return line where coolant enters the tank. If you see any sediment or contaminant, change the coolant. It’s important to clean the tank and lines, by draining and flushing, before you refill the system.
  • Installing a flow meter on the coolant return line before the reservoir will allow you to make a fast visual check on the system at anytime.
  • Flush and drain coolant system at least once a year, or more often in heavy use situations.

Are you getting the cut quality you expect from your plasma torch?
Short consumable life is a symptom of problems with one or more of your plasma system components.


  • Don’t run the consumables to failure, but instead change electrodes before they begin to degrade.
  • Change-out copper/hafnium electrodes when the hafnium pit is .040 to .050 in depth.
  • For the best quality cut, it’s a good practice to change the nozzle when you replace the electrode.

Are you using the latest nozzle designs?
Plasma cutting is an evolving technology and the latest nozzle designs can increase cut quality and speed dramatically.


  • Stay up to date by using the latest torch and consumables designs. Use matched sets of torch bodies, nozzles, shields and electrodes. Keep a “set-up” (an assembled consumable stack that’s ready to install) on hand.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to order spares. Not having replacement consumables on hand when you need them could halt production, and replacing a component with “something close” is not an option. Doing so will result in short consumable life, poor quality cuts and could lead to catastrophic failure of the torch.
  • Keep your consumables clean. Store parts in original protective packaging, or in an airtight container. Wash your hands to remove contaminants before installing new consumables.

Are you performing regularly scheduled system maintenance?
Follow the preventive maintenance schedule found in the OEM Operators Manual or Service Manual. Following are just a few of the maintenance tasks required.


  • Daily Tasks: test inlet pressure, check air filters, examine O-Rings, check coolant condition, examine water tube
  • Weekly Tasks: check coolant level, check coolant flow, check hoses and torch leads
  • Monthly Tasks: examine pilot arc relay, hoses, cables, ground connections, coolant system, clean inside power supply

Is your gas supply system in optimal condition?
Gas supply problems are a common issues. Leaks effect flow rates and impurities in the system will upset the precise balance of gas flow rate, swirl pattern, arc velocity and energy. The result is rapid erosion of the electrode hafnium, damage to the nozzle orifice and steady decline of the torch cut quality.


  • Make sure the gas supply system is leak checked on a regular basis. Verify that the piping is not rusty; pieces of rust entering the system will result in the torch causing damage.
  • Verify that the gas supply and delivery system are properly sized. The compressor capacity and pipe diameter must be able to maintain the flow rates required by your plasma cutting system.
  • Inspect the compressor pump and assure pistons are in good shape. If the pump requires additional oil on a regular basis, it could be leaking oil past the piston rings into the system.
  • Make sure that the compressor air intake filter is clean and not near a contaminant source such as dust. SMT

Joe Duffy is a plasma specialist, and Pete Blews is Internet marketing specialist with American Torch Tip Co.


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