Unlocking the Power of Plasma Cutting: Techniques and Maintenance

The Rise Of Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting has been around since before the 1970s but wasn’t widely accepted until the 1980s. Since the 80’s it has just continued to excel in popularity and innovation. Plasma cutting is a powerful tool that can be used in a multitude of industrial/manufacturing settings such as:

  • Fabrication
  • Automotive industry
  • Large structural or pipeline steel work

The speed of plasma cutting and its adaptability to multiple facets are what have helped it propel to one of the most desired shop utilities.

The Art Of Plasma Cutting

Art of Plasma Cutting

Plasma cutting sends an electrical arc through forced gas that is constricted, this raises the temperature high enough that the gas enters the 4th state of matter. The fourth state of matter is plasma. Plasma comes from inside of the nozzle down at a great force and an extreme heat to cut your metal. The gasses typically used in plasma cutting can be oxygen, nitrogen, argon or forced shop air. 

In Hypertherm Powermax 30 AIR 088096, there is a built-in air compressor within the machine. This Hypertherm plasma cutter does not require any shielding gas. With the Powermax 30 AIR it is as simple as plugging it into the wall , properly attaching your ground clamp to the material, picking up your torch and cutting! The built-in air compressor on this machine makes it highly portable and very attractive to anyone that is plasma cutting on the go. 

Some higher intensity plasma cutters that have been discussed in previous blogs (Hypertherm SYNC Plasma Cutters Role in Metal Cutting) are those of the Hypertherm SYNC series. With the latest in the industry technology, the SYNCs give you the ability to outperform other plasma cutting technologies. From the SmartSYNC® torches technology to the color coded, app-pairing consumables these machines leave all the guesswork out and help increase your project-to-project efficiency.

Effective Plasma Cutting Techniques

Tips and tricks to master these technologies almost sound too good to be true, because they are that simple to use. If you want clean, precise cuts with your plasma cutters you just have to make sure you’re checking this list. 

Tips To Clean And Precise Cuts:

  1. Familiarity With Your Machine: Make sure you are familiar with your machine and its capabilities. Choose a suitable project based on your machine's abilities and available materials. Adjust materials or consumables if needed for optimal results.
  2. Consumable Health: Inspecting your consumables before tasks can prevent issues. Check them for proper functioning. SYNC cartridges indicate when to change consumables, saving time. If not using SYNC, refer to this list: swirl ring, electrode, nozzle, retaining cap, shield cap.
  3. Setting Adjustments: To find the right settings for your projects, practice cuts on the same material help you adjust amperage or heat. For thinner materials, a faster travel speed yields cleaner cuts.
  4. Torch Techniques: Hold the torch perpendicular to the metal for a straight cut. Use a cutting guide or straight edge if needed. Maintain a proper stand-off distance to avoid damage and ensure cut quality. Torch stand-off guides can be used for assistance.

Fun Fact: Hypertherm torches have a shield technology that isolates the nozzle from the metal, so you can drag the nozzle directly on the metal, with no worry about double arcing.

Maintaining And Troubleshooting Plasma Cutters: Q&A

Like the tips and tricks section, maintaining your plasma cutter is simple and will again feel too good to be true. A lot of the same general maintenance tips that we talked about in our first series, Equipment Maintenance: The Ultimate Guide For Welders, will apply to your plasma cutter. The main takeaways being:

  • Make sure your machine and consumables are clean and in good condition.
  • Inspect all cables and cords for breaks or wear to confirm good electrical flow. 
  • Monitor gas flow and coolant levels to help keep your machine cooled and running efficiently.

Let’s troubleshoot some scenarios:

Q: What do I do if my Hypertherm Powermax 30 AIR 088096 won’t strike an arc?

A:  Check your ground clamp or the surface your ground clamp is connected to. The ground clamp needs to be in decent condition and the surface it is connected to should be clean and free of debris. Things like paint, rust, and dirt will hinder the electrical flow to your equipment, making it difficult to strike an arc. 

An alternative problem could be that the gas flow to your torch is too high, creating a hard start. Excess gas pressure is something to be aware of because it can quickly deteriorate your consumables and damage your torch.

Q: What do I do if my Hypertherm SYNC65 083343 is burning through consumables?

A: Checking your gas flow could solve this problem. If the gas flow to your torch is too high it could cause your torch to hard start. Excess gas pressure can cause consumables, especially electrodes, to rapidly deteriorate. Also check the settings on your machine to ensure they are compatible with the consumables you are using and appropriate for the project. This is something to be gravely aware of as it can cause damage to not just your consumables, but your entire plasma system. 

Q: What do I do if my Hypertherm Powermax 45 088112 is producing excess amounts of dross?

A:  Similar to the last question, this is likely a settings issue. Double checking your amperage and gas flow, along with being mindful of the speed which you are cutting; could alone solve the problem. Another possible cause of dross is worn consumables that need to be replaced.

Revolutionizing Manufacturing: The Role Of Plasma Cutting

The role of plasma cutting in the world of manufacturing and industrial work is invaluable. Once you’ve taken the time to master your plasma cutting skills, the opportunities for increased efficiency, direct cost savings, and valuable shop time are endless. Keeping your cutting equipment in good working order, through regular maintenance, is the best way to extend machine longevity. 

In the final blog of our maintenance series we will discuss the best ways to maintain and utilize your oxy-fuel torch. Follow us on Facebook so you don’t miss out on all things new on equipment maintenance!