Plasma cutting uses compressed gas heated to extremely high temperatures and ionized by an electric current. This heated, ionized gas (often called plasma) is then blown onto the surface that you want to cut. The electric arc raises the temperature of the gas to 15,000 degrees Celsius creating plasma. When the plasma is blown onto a surface it slices through the metal to make a cut. The cutting edge is usually very clean because of the high temperature and high force of the plasma. With the use of nozzles, the plasma flow can be focused to a very fine point which makes cutting much more efficient.
With the advent of that fine point precision people started using plasma cutters to make plasma cutter art. You can find many excellent examples of plasma cutter art on the internet,
some of these artists have some real talent. There also hand-held plasma cutters that make plasma cutting even more accessible to artisans.
The path from invention of plasma welding to plasma cutting and then to an art form is quite interesting. Plasma welding was first developed during World War II to increase the production speed of aircrafts needed for battle. Engineers created plasma welding to fill a need and it quickly became extremely useful in many aspects of manufacturing. The plasma welding they created produced joints that were much stronger than any joints created by any other welding method of the time.
In 1960’s came a method of increasing the temperature of the plasma (compressed, ionized gas) and a method to focus the plasma stream into a much finer point. Now, with the higher temperature and finer point the plasma could be used to cut metal instead of just weld it. With the invention of computers came automated plasma cutting which is most often used to produce high volumes of cut metal in industrial settings.
The evolution of plasma cutters has led to hand held plasma cutters. These are very often used by artists. Do not be fooled by their smaller size, these plasma cutters are very powerful and can make very precise cuts. Plasma cutter art is almost like sculpting. The metal is the raw material and the plasma cutter is the chisel. After cutting the basic shape of the sculpture the artist can then add fine detail, or bend the metal in certain areas to make it look 3D. Artists often weld pieces of metal together to make a 3D sculpture.
Plasma cutter artists usually do not make their designs as large as traditional sculptures. Often the metal is not strong enough for that and the metal can be very delicate so it has to be kept indoors, away from the elements. Usually, the artists create picture frames, mirror frames, table top ornaments or other decorative pieces.
As with paintings, the price of a piece of plasma cutter art is not based on material costs. Sheet metal is inexpensive, as is the use of a plasma cutter. The value of the piece is created through the design quality, the concept, and the fineness of the details.
You can find plasma cutter art for sale on the internet. Some pieces will be very expensive and others will be much more affordable. It really depends on what you want and how much you are willing to spend. If you cannot find anything you like there are also plasma artists for hire who can make you a custom piece; however, you may have to dig deeper into your pockets for a custom work.