Plasma cutting is beginning to take a lead over oxy-fuel forms of cutting because it provides a quicker cut, gouge, and piercing at a lower cost. With plasma cutting, there is no need for preheating time, making plasma cutting more operational friendly. The cut size is smaller then oxy-fuel mixes which saves on material. There is also less warping and paint damage because of the smaller heat focused area. Plasma cutting is more versatile and can be used on any good electrical conductor metal.
By using air, plasma cutting is far safer then the oxy-fuel. There are no risks of flashback and less risks of explosion. Safety issues that do need to be considered however are the potential hazards involved with the process such as high voltage, temperatures, fumes, ultraviolet radiation, and molten metal. You should always wear the proper welding gear and OSHA welding helmet.
Plasma cutters can work with three form of air supplies; bottled, small air compressor, or in house air supply and are regulated by a built in air regulator. Your power output, nozzle used, and fuel type, and air used is determined by the type of material you are cutting and thickness. All those factors also play into your cutting speed. Make sure you only cut within your manufactured stated duty cycle to prevent overheating (e.g. a 60% duty cycle allows you to cut 6 minutes out of a ten-minute frame with the remaining 4 minutes used as a cool down). Consumables, other then air and fuel type are the tips and cutting electrode. It is wise to have extras readily available was with usage they do wear and will have to be replaced. Other factors that may shorten the life of consumables is exposures to water or moisture, repeated used of cutting thick heavy metals, and poor operation.
Using the wrong tips or fuel/air mix or type can also shorten the life of your consumables. Always make sure your torch is properly assembled and you are using the correct parts for the task at hand. Your amps should not be set more or less then 95 percent of the nozzle rating. Make sure you use the proper gas and coolant flow otherwise on the down time of the duty cycle your equipment is not being cooled properly and will lessen its life. Also, be careful not to contaminate your plasma cutting torch by using too much lubricant when greasing the O-ring and to remove the shields before applying anti-splatter compound. The O-ring should just have a light shine after lubricating. Over lubricating or over usage of anti-splatter compounds will shorten the life of your torch.
Avoid torch collision, arc stretching, and using your torch as a hammer. All three will shorten the life if not permanently disable your plasma cutting torch. By properly cleaning your plasma cutting torch routinely you can catch signs of contamination before it affects your work, as well as dangerous wear and broke or cracked hoses, etc.