A plasma cutter is a safe and convenient tool used to cut various metals in a range of thicknesses quickly with an incredible level of accuracy. Plasma cutters use a torch to heat the metal and create a clean cut.
Usually, an inert gas (and sometimes just air) is blown at high speed out of a nozzle while an electrical arc is shot through the gas. The combination of the energy and the gas creates a plasma that cuts the metal.
New technology is making plasma cutters even more precise, to near laser quality, as well as making them smaller and easier to transport. It's also helping to lower the cost of a new plasma cutting table. Soon, plasma cutters are likely to be accessible to general hobbyists rather than just in professional settings.
Using a plasma cutter can be incredibly easy with a little bit of training. Generally, plasma cutting tables come with free on-site installation and free training along with a comprehensive manual of instructions.
With programmable software, you can get the right cut every time in basically no time at all. You can even use the software to choose from pre-loaded shapes, parameters, and dimensions, or simply input your own information to get the exact shape cut out.
Using your plasma cutter
Once you have access to a plasma cutter and you're ready to put it to use, there are a few factors you have to think about to get that perfect cut in the shortest amount of time.
1. The material
The first thing you have to consider is the material you're trying to cut. A mild steel will cut differently from a stainless steel, for example, and you have to make adjustments for that.
Aluminum is usually the fastest and easiest to cut through but it won't always be the material you're using. The thickness of any metal also controls the speed at which you'll be able to cut.
2. The amp setting
The amp settings -- 65, 85, and 105 amps -- affect the speed at which you'll cut. The higher the amps, the higher the speed.
3. The speed
Cutting speed can range anywhere from around 15 inches per minute to well over 200 inches per minute. The thicker your metal, the slower you'll go. Obviously when you have a thickness of 3/8" or 1/4" and a high amp setting you'll be able to breeze through a job very quickly.