Plasma cutters are typically one of the cleanest and fastest way to cut metal. However, the consumable costs can add up and your cuts may not be high quality if you aren’t using the right technique. With a few minor tweaks to your cutting process, welders or metal workers using a plasma cutter can make better cuts and extend the life of their consumables, saving both time and money in the long run.
Cutting in a Safe Shop
Plasma cutters create lots of sparks and may result in significant fumes depending on the metal you’re working on. While most cutters know the safety basics, such as cleaning the metal work surface, using a grounding clamp, and setting up a proper cutting table for a project, fire safety often comes up with plasma cutters.
Clean up any sawdust or dust in general that could catch on fire. Remove cardboard boxes from the area and set up a proper ventilation system. Even a well-placed fan can make a big difference in reducing the amount of fumes in your work space.
Practice Once, Cut Once
Whether welding or cutting metal, the pros always recommend doing a dry run. See what angle you need to hold your torch, how you need to position your body, and whether you anticipate any obstacles during the cutting process. While some may feel strange waving a torch around metal without an arc, it usually feels a lot worse to get stuck or to make a mistake while you’re cutting!
Where Does the Cutting Tip Go?
The cutting tip can rest right on the metal if you’re cutting at 40 amps. However, if you’re working above 40 amps, you’ll need to either keep the tip slightly elevated from the metal or use a drag shield.
Starting Your Cuts Effectively
While the cutting tip can rest on thin metal, thicker metal calls for a different approach. Some advocate starting the arc outside the cutting area at a 45 degree angle and then adjusting it to a straight up and down 90 degree angle as you move it toward the metal you’re cutting.
How Do You Adjust Travel Speed?
The sparks from your cut should blown down and through the metal if you’re moving at the right speed. If your sparks keep shooting up rather than down through the metal, you’re moving too fast and the metal isn’t being cut all of the way through.
The sparks that come from moving too fast can do a lot of damage to your cutting tips, adding to your consumable cost in the long term.
How to Finish a Cut
Finish the cut by pausing briefly before releasing the trigger. This ensures that the cut extends all of the way through the metal workpiece. You can also restart the arc during the postflow, which lasts about 15 to 20 seconds after releasing the trigger.
Shop for Plasma Cutters and Supplies Today
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