How to Use & Setup Plasma Cutters Complete Guide

How to Use & Setup Plasma Cutters

Most of the metals used in a welder’s shop are strong and robust. They require special attention and absolute power for cutting them in desired shapes. A Plasma cutter will help you in cutting a wide range of materials easily. A plasma cutter is a very handy tool for cutting steel, aluminum, copper, brass, and many other metals. 

However, it’s not very straightforward to use a plasma cutter for cutting materials. It requires a complete understanding of all the device’s functionalities and a lot of training for useful outcomes. This article will help you understand the working of a plasma cutter and thoroughly use a plasma cutter for your work.

How does a Plasma Cutter work?

Plasma Cutter Working

The basic working of a plasma cutter involves the passing of a highly pressurized gas (Usually Oxygen, argon, or Nitrogen) through a tiny hole on the torch of the instrument. While bombardment of this gas, a machine is used to generate electric current. The collaboration of this current with the gas creates high temperatures of up to 40,000 degrees centigrade.

This high temperature through a very small opening helps in the cutting of the desired metal. The hot flowing plasma is known as the “Plasma Jet.” All of this makes a plasma cutter accurate and a faster way of cutting different metals. 

How to use a Plasma Cutter?

As said above, using a Plasma cutter is not easier and requires a lot of practice. Here we are mentioning a quick guide that will help you operate a plasma cutter for cutting metals. You should follow these steps to obtain precisely cut metals.

1. Setting up the workplace

The first step in any welding process is to clean the workpiece and workplace. Any dust or debris around the environment of work can destroy the aesthetics of cuts. Moreover, these dirt particles can also stick in the machine parts, most probably the cooling fan, and make these models stop working. If you are working on a table, it should be perfectly balanced, and most importantly, there should be no flammable particle anywhere near the table or on it.

2. Setting up the Plasma Cutter

This is the most important step in the whole process. You must have a complete understanding of all the features of the machine. You should know how to set the amperage rating, cutting speed, and other important features. 

To set up a plasma cutter, you should perform the following steps. 

     1. Prepare the plasma cutter for usage.

A welder should examine the machine completely before working. The cutting torch is the most critical part a plasma cutter. It must be straight and perpendicular to the working table. 

It is wise to fasten the cutting torch to the shelf. It avoids the chances of deviant cuts, which can hurt the complete quality of the cut. If a cooling fan and a nozzle are part of the assembly, then you should also test them to be in order.

     2. Plugging in the plasma cutter

After it is examined thoroughly, the plasma cutter is plugged into the socket. Before plugging in, make sure the plasma cutter is turned off from the switch. The machine should be used in an environment where there is an ambient supply of voltage and current. 

     3. Connecting the Air Compressor

                              Connecting the Air Compressor Connecting the Air Compressor

Most of the plasma cutters don’t come with an internal air compressor. So that, you will need to connect an external compressor with the device for proper working. To attach the fitting, you have to recede the negative connection’s outer flange and insert the positive connection. It would be best if you double-checked the connections to be rigid so that there is no chance of joint breakage during the cutter’s working.

      4. Set up the flow of air

Setting up the Air Flow

After connecting the air compressor with the plasma cutter, it is time to start the airflow. Turn the airflow by turning the lever ninety degrees from the position perpendicular to the air pipe to be inline. The compressor must supply an adequate amount of air to the machine so that you will achieve the most precise cuts. 

      5. Attach the Ground Clamp

Attach the Ground Clamp

The ground clamp is an important part of the plasma cutter and is needed to protect the user. A plasma cutter uses electric charges to heat the compressed air that melts the metals. This clamp provides a ground for these stray charges and saves during any mishap of the instrument.

       6. Turn on the machine.

Turn the Machine ON

After all of the pre-requisites mentioned above, it is now time for you to start the machine. For this, you will need to turn the flip of the switch to the ON position. 

       7. Adjust the cutting head at a reasonable height

The plasma rays coming from a cutter’s head have the shape of water drops. If you place the workpiece too near or too far from the workpiece, it will tilt the cuts. Additionally, the cutting head must be straight enough to deliver the precise cuts. 

How much height is appropriate for the working? To answer this question, you should consult with the manufacturer’s manual that comes with the device. Depending on the thickness of the cutting metal and the type of metal you will work with, you can select a suitable height for the working head to be placed. 

       8. Set the Amperage value at a suitable point

Set the Current

The amperage rating you should choose depends on the type and thickness of the workpiece. 

3. Cut the Metal

Cut the metal

After completely setting up the machine, it is time for you to start the real game. Keep the workpiece’s nozzle on the edge of the workpiece and push the trigger to start cutting. Choosing a good cutting direction is most important in this regard. 

Compressed air usually moves in a spiral shape from left to right. So, the right side of the unit will be less prone as compared to the left side.

During work, try to move your body far apart from the machine in order to save yourself from the spark. Move slow movement of the torch and cut the metals with precision. Trying to impart cuts quickly can destroy the appearance of the cuts.

After reaching the final point, don’t rapidly turn off the torch, but you should wait for two seconds before letting go of the trigger. This ensures the cut is thorough from the start till the end; after cutting, wait for the metal to cool down and then move to further processing. 

4. Switch Off the machine

After your work has been finished, turn off the machine by moving the flip button to the OFF position. 

5. Let the torch cool down and disassemble.

Wind Up everything

After releasing the trigger, post-flow air lasts for 20 to 30 seconds. It helps in speeding up the cooling process. But after finishing your job, you must wait until the machine is properly cooled down. 

After this, you should properly detach all the parts. It is professional etiquette to leave the things as clean after work as you found them initially. 

How can you add precision to your job?

We have covered all the steps you should perform to use a plasma cutter. But there is some other precaution that you can take to add effectiveness in your job and by taking care of these steps, you can add precision in your work. Follow these steps to get the best outcomes.

1. Selecting the Best Machine for your Job

There are thousands of different plasma cutters available in the market. Before starting any job, you must make sure that you have the best machine in your hands. You can read my article on “Best Plasma Cutter for the Money” to select and purchase the ideal plasma cutter for your job. 

You must make sure that your machine has all the features that are necessary for your work. Besides this, the plasma cutter’s design will be ergonomic, and it should be easier to operate. The leads attach to a plasma cutter unit are the most important. They should be large enough for you to use them easily and comfortably.

2. Plasma Cutter Table

The plasma cutter table has several advantages besides preventing you from working on the ground. It also supports your parts and saves you from bending down and working on the muddy ground. So, it is a good choice to select a plasma cutter table. You can read this article on “Best Welding Tables” for selecting a good table for your job. 

3. Maintenance

If you use your plasma cutter so much, then there should be proper maintenance for it. It would be best to change the consumables properly and at regular intervals for your device not to die out while working. A plasma cutter in the best health can give you the best cuts. Simple Math!

Should you Buy a Multi-Process Machine or a Plasma Cutter?

A plasma cutter has only one task to perform, which is just cutting. So, it will perform it in the best ways. On the other hand, a multi-processor machine can give you some other functionalities. There are many MIG and TIG welding devices that come with side-way functionality of Plasma cutting.

These units help the workers in small shops or hobbyists, who need to perform a number of tasks in daily routine and can’t spend more on the different Plasma cutter however if you are a professional worker or work in the industry than you should buy a product that is made for your task, i.e., a specialized plasma cutter. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How does a hand-held plasma cutter work?

Operating a hand-held plasma cutter is very easy. This device consists of a trigger that starts the cutting procedure once it is squeezed. A power supply is also created that runs the DC current through the air producing the required plasma for the job. A hand-held plasma cutter is lighter in weight and can be held easily in hand for usage.

How much air to run a plasma cutter?

The air required for the plasma cutter is based on the thickness and type of material you are going to cut. For steel of thickness 3/8″ requires air delivered about 4-8 SCFM at a pressure 90-120PSI. A good compressor can easily deliver you this quantity of air.

Can you make money with a CNC plasma cutter?

It is easy to make money with the help of a plasma cutter if you know your way through it. A good plasma cutter can help you cut variable materials throughout the day in your shop. A good plasma cutter costs less for a welder and helps you cut the metals all day long in your job. You can work on custom projects and earn much with it. No doubt, a plasma cutter can be a very good addition to your shop.

Conclusion

This article teaches you how to operate a plasma cutting device and achieve the best cuts over different materials. This read is everything you will ever require to make yourself comfortable with the plasma cutters. By reading this article, you are all set to perform some of the best cuts over any material of your choice. 

Hello Everyone, I am James from Kentucky and been into this welding fiasco for 13 years in that time I have worked as a private welder and did most of the auto restoration work. In this recent, COVID-19 outbreak I decided to start a welding blog and share welding tips along with product reviews.

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