How to Use a Plasma Cutter

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When you get into metalworking for the first, you may get overwhelmed. Metalworking means working with a plasma cutter as well. And if you have never experienced plasma cutting before, then it would be better if you get familiar with this cutting machine first.

A plasma cutter is basically a cutting machine for metal that uses high voltage and temperature to cut metals. There are few safety matters too that you need to strictly maintain. This article will discover how to use a plasma cutter and what safety equipment you need to work this machine.

How to Use a Plasma Cutter

What is a Plasma Cutter?

The quickest and simple way of cutting any metal is a plasma cutter that runs through electricity. Working with a hand-held plasma cutter is really straightforward. To heat compressed air, this cutter uses DC voltage, and the heat is very high. It converts the atom into ions and creates plasma arcs. 

The voltage of the plasma cutter flows at 0.9mm to 1.5mm through the narrow hole of the cutting tip. And the temperature is around 25000 to 30000 degrees Fahrenheit. The plasma’s small jet pushes and melts the metal and pushes away the molten metal.

This plasma cutter is more focused compared to oxy-fuel cutting. Plasma cutters can cut any type of metal that runs through electricity, for example, stainless steel, normal steel, brass, copper, and other metals. 

How to Use a Plasma Cutter – A Comprehensive Beginners Guide

Plasma cutters are a great tool for cutting conductive metals like steel, aluminum, copper, etc. There are a few sectors where you can use plasma cutters for cutting metals. You will also need to know how you can use the machine for cutting before starting the cutting procedure. 

If you are looking for a plasma cutter, then you will find them in the field and shops. You can use this plasma cutter in the shop as well as in the field. You may require a portable type of plasma to carry them to the field. But it really depends on your needs, like which project you want it to work on. 

Here are the places where you can use them:

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Field Use

You will find many portable Plasma cutters available in the market. You need to find the best one among all the inexpensive brands to high-end models. Most of the brand’s plasma machines provide you with a great performance. You need to be careful about the bottom of the machine’s barrel. 

You will require a plasma cutter with 15′ or 20′ leads for field use. That’s how you can easily complete your task and still be able to hook up with electricity and air. You can also use a welder instead of a Plasma cutter if you can’t use 110 voltage power to use the plasma. Besides, you also use a generator to provide you with enough voltage, and you can trust us with it; also, the generator is a portable tool. 

Typical Use

Typical uses of plasma vary depending on the project you are working on. However, here are a few ideas of typical uses:

  • Apartment Renovations: Suppose you are working on a project where you need to convert an old building that was rental apartments into condos. When you want to remove any kind of trash chute and HVAC ductwork, then you can use the plasma cutter to work on the project; it will save your time as well.
  • Maintenance: Sometimes you will find weird structure metals that need to be cut or require small fixes. A plasma cutter will be an effective tool here to cut down any small curved or weird-shaped metal. You don’t need to go to a shop to fix them if you use a plasma cutter; besides, it will save your time and will repair them quickly. 

SHOP USE

The process of using plasma cutters for shop uses is but different from the other using systems. You can use the plasma cutter with a CNC machine, and the outcome will be more amusing. You can transform a raw sheet of steel into a few beautifully designed works of art. 

You can repeat those amazing designs over and over again; thus, it will bring you more big projects from clients. And all of these are possible when you choose to shop use with a CNC table. It allows you to create more accurate cuts frequently. So it will be helpful when you get a big project where you need to make the design again and again. 

Steps of Using a Plasma Cutter

We would suggest you learn how to use a plasma cutter even before buying it. That’s how you will be able to understand whether you should buy them or not. If you find the below steps too complicated, then rent a plasma cutter to practice first, then look for a good brand of the cutter. Here are the steps of using a Plasma cutter:

  • First, you need to turn on the air compressor then start building air pressure. 
  • Keep your windows open of the shop to help ventilate air. 
  • Make sure your surroundings are clean, and clear and there are no fire hazards. 
  • Now bring your metal in a position in order to cut it. 
  • Now check the position of the metal to make sure whether it will hit you or the plasma cord. 
  • Now use a wire wheel or a grinder to clean the selected area of cutting in the bare metal. 
  • Draw the cutting line by using any marking device or handy tool chalk. 
  • Next, you need to hook the plasma cutter’s ground clamp with the piece of metal so that it stays stationary after cutting it. 
  • Always remember to wear all your safety gear. 
  • You need to plug in both the plasma cutter and the air hose.
  • Please do a double-check whether the plasma cutter is getting enough electricity and air.
  • Now place the metals one by one to cut them and always stay alert and have a clear view of the cut. And make sure you secure the metal before starting cutting to prevent falling once you are done cutting them. 
  • Another thing that you need to check before cutting the metal is that you are able to move the torch while cutting without interrupting the process. 
  • Now flip down the hood of the plasma cutter. 
  • Place your Plasma cutter torch a bit off from the metal so that you can prevent the blowback. 
  • Next, press the switch of the torch to turn it on and start cutting by using a slow and smooth range of motion. 
  • Keep cutting the metal till you hear that the metal has hit the ground. 
  • Allow the metal to cool down a bit before you touch it to pick it up. And if the metal piece is small, it would be better if you don’t touch the metal for a few hours as they tend to be hotter. 

Do I Need a Plasma Cutter With a Built-in air Compressor?

The answer to the question is depending on the brand or model of the plasma cutter you are using. You will find some cutters in them, which come with built-in air compressors to provide air to the machine when you use them to cut. This type of attached air compressor plasma is generally used for users who want a mobile machine that lets you cut in places where air compressors are not available. 

Well, plasma cutters with air compressors are inexpensive and are normally underpowered. We would suggest you buy these types of plasmas only when you require that mobility feature. Otherwise, it would be best if you invest a little bit more money and buy an extra compressor for your shop if you don’t have one. 

Benefits of Cutting With The Plasma Cutter

You will understand the benefits of using a Plasma cutter after using it for once. You can cut any type of metal for any project like a contractor, maintenance personnel, fabricators, and many more. Every user who has experience with this hand-held machine rarely goes back to their old oxy-acetylene or mechanical cutting processors. 

Plasma cutting is less expensive and can develop productivity. Here are the benefits of using a Plasma cutting:

  • It can cut the metal faster.
  • You don’t need to preheat the machine to use it.
  • Unlike the oxy-fuel, it can cut any type of electrically conductive metal like steel and stainless steel. 
  • It offers you portability for field uses. 
  • It can prevent the heat-affected zone and create a small cut width while cutting. 

The procedure of working with a hand-held plasma cutter is not that critical. It is a really essential step to choose the right plasma cutter according to the cutting application and right accessories.

What are The Safety Hazards of Using a Plasma Cutter, & What Safety Equipment Do I Need?

There are a few safety hazards that you need to know so that you can avoid them. If you are curious to know what are the safety hazards of using a plasma cutter, go through the below information:

  • Eye Damage: Whenever you use this machine, wearing eye protection is mandatory. We would suggest you do choose a full shielded helmet instead of choosing goggles only. It will allow you to protect your full face and will protect your face from getting hit by metal sparks. 
  • Flammable Liquids Around Your Cutting Area: Here is another thing that is also mandatory for plasma cutting. Most of us work at a garage with the plasma cutter, where the area is filled with items and chemicals that we all store around our workbench. And those items are maybe oil, gas, spare rags, and all. They may sound simple, but they are quite dangerous. When sparks spread over continuously, sparks may light all these dangerous things on fire. In case if you don’t notice the fire, it will bring an unfortunate situation. That’s why please make sure that the area you have chosen to do the work is free from flammable items. 
  • Dropping Pieces Of Metal: Be wary while cutting the metal; try hard not to get distracted because if you lose track, you mess up the cutting line. Dropping a piece of metal is more common, so try to keep your legs and feet a bit away from the table. 

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Safety Equipment

So from the above discussion, you learn how working with plasma cutters can cause serious and dangerous injuries when you are not using them correctly. However, if you get all the safety gear that you need while working can prevent the chances of injuries, and also you can make the use of the Plasma cutter safer. Here are a few safety gears that are good to have while operating with a Plasma cutting machine:

  • A shielded helmet for protecting your eyes and face from the metal sparks. 
  • Use a welding beanie to secure your hair from getting damaged by the metal sparks. 
  • Use a welding jacket to ensure safety to your arms and torso. 
  • To protect your hands, grab your welding gloves and a pair of jeans pants to protect your legs. You can also use welding lathers but save some money, maybe!
  • Use a good quality tied boot to protect your feet from getting hit by pieces of metal and also from metal sparks. 
  • Carrying a fire extinguisher is not mandatory, but it is advisable to have it. 

Conclusion

In this article, we have tried to cover all the important information that you need to know for using a Plasma cutter. Plasma cutters are definitely a useful and faster way to cut all the metal that conducts electricity. You will find cutters with air compressors, but we will suggest you buy an extra air compressor. 

Another important thing about using plasma is maintaining your safety. There should be no room for not having all the safety gear while operating with this machine. I hope this article was helpful for you to learn how to use a plasma cutter. 

Avatar for Jack R. Stephen

I am Jack R. Stephen from Dallas, TX, USA and Co-Founder of Handy Tool Tips. I am a tool expert with years of practical experience. Besides my professional work, I love writing to help others with knowing handy tools thoroughly. For recreational & enjoyment purposes, I love going to hike with my best friend, Cameron. He was mentioned in several News Portals for his outstanding skills and professionalism for making great stuff with his tools. If you would like to chat with me please feel free to reach out via facebook or twitter or email.

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