Since the mid 1950’s, when plasma cutting was invented, it has come a long way. Relative to now, it was primitive and horrendously expensive. Today, you can cut, gouge and pierce at high speeds with low cost and excellent quality. Miller plasma cutters are at the forefront of this industry and they have it down to an art.
Miller plasma cutterscan be used to work with many different metals. When working with metals, plasma cutting is much cleaner than using oxyfuel or other processes. Plasma cutters can be used to cut anything that conducts electricity, so there are a lot of metals you can work with. The most common applications for Miller plasma cutters is shape cutting, stack cutting, piercing, gouging and beveling. The power of your Miller plasma cutting machine will determine the size and type of metal you can work with.
There are some advantages to plasma cutting over other methods of cutting, especially when Miller plasma cutters are used. Other methods of cutting include cutting with shears and band saws. With shears you cannot cut as evenly as you can with Miller plasma cutters. Not only that, shear blades have to be replaced often and the process is slower than plasma cutting. On the other hand, Miller plasma cutters can cut faster, more cleanly, more evenly and can cut any electrically conductive material. I would stick to the plasma cutters wherever possible. Another benefit is the possibility of using automated plasma cutters to make your life even easier. I would like to see someone automate cutting shears!
There are many different plasma cutter models, so you will want to choose the one that is right for you. Things that you will have to take into consideration are the kind of material you will be cutting and the depth of the material. Based that information you can choose the output power required of the Miller plasma cutter. The depth of the metal also determines if you will need air or gas (and what type of gas) and the size of the nozzle opening required.
First things first, decide which type of metal you will be cutting most often and compare that to the cutting ability of each machine. There are three standards used to measure Miller plasma cutters: rated cuts, quality cuts and sever cuts. The rated cut standard is the thickness of metal that can be cut at 10 inches per minute (IPM). The quality cut standard is calculated using thicker metal and at a slower cutting speed. The sever cut standard is used to describe the maximum thickness that a Miller plasma cutter can cut through. Obviously, when the metal is as thick as the machine can handle, the cutting will be slow and the edges may have to be cleaned up afterwards.
Setting up a Miller plasma cutter has become a painless process (even computer numeric control (CNC) plasma cutters, which are automated, are no longer very difficult to set up). Hook the machine up to a source of compressed air (either from a bottle or an air compressor), turn the machine on and start cutting. Like I said earlier, you can pretty much cut anything that can conducts electricity. If you don’t know much about plasma cutters I suggest you find out howplasma cutters work before you start working with them.
Do not forget about safety! You want to live to cut another day, so make sure that you follow proper safety procedures when using a Miller plasma cutter. Use common sense and wear the proper clothing and accessories.
Check out the CNC plasma cutting machines at the TechShop, they are really cool.