Plasma Cutting QA

Q+A: Plasma Cutting

So, you’ve heard about plasma cutting, CNC machines, metal art designs. Granted, there are plenty of questions to cover when talking about the process of plasma cutting. So, let’s get started!

Q+A: Plasma Cutting

What is CNC plasma cutting?

  • CNC (Computer Numerical Control) plasma cutting refers to the process of cutting metals using a plasma torch. What’s special about the plasma torch is that it is controlled from a computer allowing for maximum precision as opposed to a hand torch.

What is exactly is the plasma made of?

  • The plasma used throughout this process is really ionized gas. Ionized gas is a gas that becomes energized that surpasses a threshold where electrons escape from their atoms but manage to still attach with the nucleus. This in turn creates plasma, which fun fact: is considered the fourth state of matter!

How does the CNC utilize the plasma?

  • Plasma cutters operate by forcing a gas or compressed air at high speeds through a nozzle. Once an electric arc is introduced to the gas, ionized gas or plasma is created, the fourth state of matter. It, in turn, cuts through the metal.

What gases are used in plasma cutting?

  • This is one of the more interesting aspects of the plasma cutting process as there are different gasses for different metals and different qualities of cuts. For a quicker, less detailed cut you would use oxygen on mild steel up to 1 ¼ inch thick. However, if you used oxygen on stainless or aluminum, it would produce a much rougher looking cut. For smooth, high-quality cuts on stainless steel and aluminum, you utilize a mixture of argon and hydrogen.

How thick of material can the CNC plasma cut?

  • Not all CNC plasma cutters are built the same, however, some can cut through almost 6 inches of steel!

How fast can CNC plasma cutters cut?

  • As accurate as the machines are, they cut quickly as well. Depending on the thickness and material of what is being cut, the machine can run speeds of up to 500 inches per minute.

What designs can the CNC plasma cutter create?

  • The possibilities are practically limitless in terms of designs. However, a rule of thumb to follow in the world of CNC designs is that the more detail you want in a design, the larger the end product must be. This is due to preventing cuts from going into each other and ruining the integrity of the piece as the torch runs so hot that it can bleed into other existing cuts.

What is the difference between CNC plasma cutters and other CNC cutters?

  • The main difference between mills, water jet cutters, and other CNC systems is the heat that emits from the torch during the plasma cutting process. While all the others could accomplish the same job, the CNC plasma cutter routinely ends up providing the best results.

What process does metal experience when being cut by plasma?

  • As plasma cutting involves heat, the term for this process is called “thermal separation.” Thermal separation occurs as materials are cut or created with heat, with or without oxygen flow, creates a product that needs no further reworking or processing.

At what temperature does the torch for plasma cutters reach?

  • Plasma torches can reach a whopping 40,000° F. This occurs almost instantaneously as soon as it is turned on, so no warmup time is required. At that temperature, most materials cannot withstand it and cause a quick, accurate cut.

Now that you have some knowledge about CNC plasma cutters, let’s make your designs come to life! Come by the warehouse or email CNC@tampasteel.com to get a quote and be on your way to some beautiful metal art.

Visit Tampa Steel & Supply for CNC Plasma Cutting

Are you in need of steel supplies? Look no further than the professionals at Tampa Steel and Supply. We stock an extensive list of steel products for whatever project you need to tackle. We’re proud to have served our customers for nearly four decades and are ready to assist you with your steel needs. Have questions? Give us a call today to learn more, or stop by our beautiful Tampa showroom.

Request a Quote Online
Or Call Tampa Steel & Supply at (813) 241-2801