What is air plasma? – Air plasma is super-heated, electrically charged air. Typically the air from a compressor is passed through a plasma cutter where it is focused and given an electrical charge, which also makes it extremely hot. The hot, charged air can then cut anything which conducts electricity.
What can be cut with a plasma cutter? – A plasma cutter can cut anything that is electrically conductive, which means all metals. Some metals conduct better than others, or melt at a lower temperature and therefor cut easier, but pretty much all of them can be cut. You would be surprised at just how thick of a piece of structural steel can be easily cut with the most basic of plasma machines.
Is it hard to learn to use a plasma cutter? – Not at all. Typically there is only one or two settings on the machine, controlling the amperage or air pressure; more amperage means a more powerful cut and the higher the air pressure the more force it has to make a deeper cut. Otherwise it’s nearly point and click and cut through metal like scissors through construction paper.
What are the air compressor requirements for a plasma cutter? – Typically just about any compressor can produce enough air for a plasma cutter. The requirements typically start at about 5CFM at just 20PSI, but for proper cutting on thicker metals you will need more air at a higher pressure. Something like 7CFM at 60PSI will be plenty for most jobs with the plasma cutters we sell.
How powerful of a cutter do I need? – Even the lowest priced, smallest plasma cutter we sell will make short work of steel over 1/4 inch thick. A larger machine will cut through thicker metal faster, to the point of being able to slice up most engine blocks and cylinder heads if you wanted too. Because of its conductive properties aluminum actually requires more power to cut than steel, so if you work in aluminum a lot you may want the larger machine too.
Do I need 220v power, or will 110v do? – The smaller of the 2 plasma cutters we sell is the Versa Cut 40 and is dual power, working on 110v or 220v. It is perfectly adequate for most smaller tasks with 110v, though it may take longer to cut at a lower output level. With 220v the Versa Cut 40 can cut steel up to 3/8 inch thick. The Versa Cut 60 is 220v only and will cut through steel up to 7/8 inch with no problems.
What eye protection do I need? – When plasma cutting you should wear a face mask or shielded safety glasses with a number 5 or 6 tint.
What are plasma cutter consumables? – When people mention plasma cutter consumables they usually mean the nozzle and the electrode. But there are other parts that may need replacing too like the swirl ring, diffuser and outer nozzle cover. Typically it’s the nozzle losing its focused jet of plasma, or the electrode producing weak spark that signals it’s time for replacement. Eastwood carries all the typical consumable for our plasma cutters, as well as other less frequently replaced parts too.
How can I minimize my consumption of consumables? – The 2 things that cause consumption are contamination in the air lines, and overheating the torch. Always run a quality oil/water separator on your air, and drain the compressor tank periodically. Disposable in-line air dryers offer added protection. Cutting too slowly exposes consumables to more heat, and cause them to wear faster (though working too on thicker materials results in lower quality, rough, slaggy cuts). Also make sure you have enough air flow to provide the plasma, and cool the electrode and the nozzle.