How does a CNC plasma cutter work?
Plasma exists only at very high temperatures and is used by plasma cutting systems to cut electrically-conductive metals very neatly and very quickly. A CNC Plasma Cutter adds specialized software that controls and directs the plasma cutting torch with speed, accuracy, efficiency and repeatability.
Put simply, plasma is a gas that has been compressed and energized to the point that some of the electrons break free from and travel with their nucleus. A nozzle at the cutter's tip concentrates the gas and introduces a spark, and turns the gas stream into plasma. Inert or semi-inert gases are used to shield the area where the plasma touches the metal. The force of the plasma is strong enough to blow the molten metal out of the work piece, creating a thin (less than a 1/16" wide), clean cut with little or no slag. The plasma itself reaches temperatures as high as 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit and easily cuts through 2" inches of metal.
The part of a CNC plasma cutter that makes it so incredible efficient is the Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) software. The CNC software, with the help of the computer, controls and directs the plasma cutting torch with speed, accuracy and efficiency. Computer-based software programs like CAD/CAM are an integral part of each CNC machine tool. The CNC software also assures precise handling of the machine and exacting distances between the plasma nozzle and metal sheet. CNC software ususlly includes nesting capabilities, making the plasma cutter even more efficient.
Plasma cutters come in all shapes and sizes. What makes the difference between them, is their construction and their components. High quality units feature solid, heavy-duty, fully welded, unitized construction. Less expensive units use a less stable, bolt together construction or don't come with a table at all. A less stable cutting table leads to less accurate plasma cutting and a less efficient machine.
A word of caution should be mentioned about any tool. Although an incredible powerful cutting machine, a plasma cutter can also do terrible damage to the human body. Besides working smart, an operator should wear goggles (shade #5), gloves and protective clothing.