What is plasma cutting?

What is plasma cutting?If you have ever needed metal fabrication services and read up on the topic, you may have wondered, what is plasma cutting? At Cadet Steel in Denver Colorado, this is something we know a lot about as our specialty.

In general, plasma cutting is a process that allows for cutting through electrically-conductive materials with a jet of hot plasma. The materials most likely used would include steel, aluminum, brass and copper but it is not limited to these.

The process is quite in depth and basically, relies on this principle: A plasma cutting system uses a “plasma stream” to transfer energy to a conductive work material. The plasma stream forms by forcing a gas such as nitrogen, oxygen, argon or air to push through a narrow nozzle. An electric current adds energy to the gas flow to ionize it which turns it into a plasma arc with temperatures approaching 40,000˚ F. The plasma arc cuts by melting the materials and blows away any molten metal.

So why would you need this service you ask? Well, here are some industries that use this method for various equipment they need to enhance their business. Farming, mining, energy, shipbuilding, construction, automotive, artwork, signs, pipelines, general fabrication and more. Plasma cutting can perform straight, bevel or hole cutting, gouging, fine feature cutting and marking to name a few. Plasma is the fourth state of matter, the most common three being solids, liquids, and gas.

There are three plasma system components involved when needing this service. Power supply, arc starting console, and a plasma torch. The vast majority of plasma cutting systems are grouped into categories including conventional or precision plasma cutting.

Conventional plasma systems typically use shop air as the plasma gas, and the shape of the plasma arc is defined by the hole of the nozzle. The approximate amps of this type of plasma arc are 12-20K amps per square inch. Handheld systems use conventional plasma. Plasma is used in some mechanized applications, where the part tolerances are more lenient.

Precision plasma systems (high current density) are designed to produce the clearest, high-quality cuts available with plasma. A precision plasma arc is approximately 40-50K amps per square inch. Multiple gasses such as oxygen, high purity air, nitrogen, and a hydrogen/argon/nitrogen mixture are used as the plasma gas for the best results on a wide variety of conductive materials.

Plasma cutting can help tremendously with an idea or project you may have in mind, and it is always best to have someone do this service which is skilled and has the right tools and technology. So next time you are facing the need for plasma cutting, you will now know some of the basics about it and how it can hopefully take your business to the next level. Of course, at Cadet Steel, we already know the facts about the benefits of plasma cutting, and we invite you to give us a call to ask us how we can help.   

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