Plasma cutting machines have been available for the last three decades, but only in the last decade have they become widespread. The ESAB plasma cutter is one of the brands that helped make this tool widely available. Due to the falling cost of acquisition they have become ubiquitous in small shops too. Many amateur and DIY hobbyists use them around their house or workshop.
Plasma cutting is the cutting of metal using a high velocity stream of plasma that has been ionized and heated to very high temperatures. When the plasma comes in contact with metal, it will melt it away . An electrical current also creates an arc at this point. It is the electrical current that converts the gas into plasma. By controlling for the speed and temperature of the gas through the nozzle, a very fine control can be had on how the metal is cut. The name plasma machine comes from the ionized gas, which is called the plasma. Plasma machines cut the metal very smoothly, and the quality is as good as it can be with metals.
The Process of Plasma Cutting with ESAB
The older HF (high-frequency Contact type uses a high-frequency, high-voltage spark to ionize the air, the air is converted into plasma at high temperature. The spark has to be in contact with the job material for this to work. Plasma machines on the other hand, require no initial contact with job material. It uses a two-step process to cut metal. Firstly, a small packet of plasma is generated by using a high voltage, low current circuit. This is called the pilot arc. This arc remains until it is brought close to the workpiece where it ignites the main plasma arc. At this point the temperature is in the range of 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
ESAB Plasma cutters are available for industrial use as well as for small industry use too. The smallest plasma machines are handheld ones and are easy to use by any operator. These can also be mounted to create a DIY CNC plasma cutter with increased precision.
CNC ESAB Plasma Cutters
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) is the use of computers to control machinery, in this case, ESAB plasma cutters. There are plasma machines that come with CNC systems; they are mounted on tables and the CNC system then controls the plasma cutters movement on the table. The advantage of the table is that the machine remains steady as it cuts the metal – a handheld machine cutting a metal is not as accurate as a table mounted one, because of the added stability in the latter case.
Using smaller nozzle and a thinner plasma arc, these machines can give quality matched of near-laser precision. When combined with CNC, the metal cut may not require any finishing at all. That is how cleanly plasma cutters cut metal.
CNC machines are used more often in the industrial setting, but even amateurs are using them these days. There are in fact a number of hobbyists who make their own CNC plasma machines as DIY plasma cutter projects.
Uses of ESAB Plasma Cutting Machines
Industrial users have very large ESAB plasma cutting machines with robotic arms that cut and weld auto body parts and other machines that are build on a mass scale. Car manufacturers use them to create frames and chassis of their cars. DIY hobbyists can use handheld plasma cutter machines in their workshop or house to create objects that they may need to use in their projects. Industrial artists create plasma cutter art in the medium of metal and metal works.