Plasma cutting machines are incredibly powerful tools for cutting various materials. The basic gist of the process is that an electric spark is passed through a compressed gas to ignite that gas into reaching the fourth state of matter—the plasma state. To put this into context, the sun—that giant, nuclear fusion-powered orb that our planet orbits—is a giant chunk of plasma that burns at “about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius)” according to Space.com. While CNC plasma cutting machines don’t burn nearly so hot, they do reach temperatures high enough to reliably melt steel with ease.

The plasma created by the cutting machine transfers an electrical arc between the cutter’s power supply and the material being cut, resulting in the generation of intense heat wherever the plasma touches the workpiece. Different plasma cutting machines will use different gases to create the plasma—some use the air in the shop, others use nitrogen or other consumable gases.

Air plasma cutting machines can provide incredibly precise, smooth cuts in a variety of materials without the bending or warping that often accompanies physical force-based cutting methods. But, what are the best uses for a plasma cutting machine in your shop floor?

Here’s a short list of some uses for CNC plasma cutting machines:

1) Cutting High-Hardness Materials

One of the problems with cutting a physically tough material is that it can dull a cutting blade. Saws rapidly dull when trying to chew through metal, creating hazardous sparks and flying metal chips.

Air plasma cutting machines, on the other hand, can keep cutting all day without having to worry about wear and tear regardless of how tough the material being cut is. As long as there is enough gas to turn into plasma and carry the electrical arc to the materials being cut, the plasma cutter can work non-stop.

This helps to save time when cutting high-hardness materials compared to using cutting machines that rely on physical force, as there’s no need to constantly shut the machine down and replace the tooling.

2) You Can Use CNC Plasma Cutting Machines to Minimize the Heat Affected Zone of a Cut

When using a thermal-based cutting method, there’s an issue that has to be dealt with: the heat affected zone, or HAZ. This is an issue because the transfer of massive amounts of thermal energy into a workpiece can have a lasting effect on its physical properties. In fact, some metals are exposed to high temperatures specifically to alter their physical properties—a process known as heat treating.

However, in a workpiece, the uneven distribution of heat from a thermal cutting process can make the workpiece brittle. Here, using a CNC plasma cutting machine is beneficial because these devices can minimize the size of the HAZ—which has the benefit of minimizing heat stress on the workpiece so its physical properties remain unchanged.

This also helps to prevent warping in the workpiece so cuts are clean and straight.

3) Rapid Cutting Jobs

Another benefit of using the ultra-intense temperatures of a plasma cutting process is that there is no need to preheat the torch like there would be with an oxyacetylene torch. Also, unlike saws and other physical cutting tools, there is no cutting edge to wear out, so there’s no need to constantly replace tooling.

This helps to make plasma cutting machines ideal for cutting jobs where speed and efficiency are of the essence. In fact, the startup of an air plasma cutting machine is so fast that some equipment manufacturers recommend starting the machine with the nozzle in place over the workpiece to prevent the waste of gas.

Finding a Plasma Cutting Machine for Sale

Plasma cutting machines come in many shapes and sizes, from small handheld units to large CNC tables designed to cut enormous workpieces quickly and efficiently. When looking for a plasma cutting machine for sale, consider going with a reliable used model rather than a brand-new one.

Why?

The big reason is that used CNC plasma cutting machine prices tend to be a fraction of a new plasma cutting machine’s price. Instead of paying double or triple the cost for a new machine, you can invest in a well-maintained used device that will be every bit as effective and accurate.

Used fabricating machinery equipment dealers such as SFMS can even help you locate the right plasma cutter for your machine shop if they don’t already have it in stock since they frequently have large networks of contacts that they can tap to aid your search.

If you need help finding the right piece of fabricating equipment for your machine shop, then contact the used machinery experts at SFMS today!

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