In this article we’d like to discuss plasma cutters since they are growing rapidly in popularity as the preferred cutting tool in garages across the world. We live, breathe, and eat plasma cutters and welders and we’d like to share some tips and tricks to keep your plasma cutter running as efficiently as possible. These examples today are shown on the Eastwood plasma cutters but the corrections will help on most other brands since the majority of plasma cutters operate with the same similar design across the board.
Some of the technical difficulties you may stumble across with your plasma cutter are things such as arc quality. Some of these can include inconsistent arc, non-existent arc, or an arc which attempts to blow out the side of the consumables. Another symptom you may see in your work are poor cuts with excess slag or larger than normal cuts. Today we’ll share some tips which can solve these issues in a very short time.
We always like to start out by looking at the consumables since these are most commonly the culprit for any of the most common concerns. Each of our machines have four replaceable consumables to check. Let’s start out by taking one apart and we’ll explain each part and how it affects the quality of the arc and the cut.
First to come off is the external nozzle which simply threads off. Upon close inspection you can see very tiny air holes on the inside of these which aid in cooling the torch and keeping the arc flowing in the proper direction. If these passages become blocked the torch will begin to overheat and an arc could possibly blow out the side. as it’s no longer directed properly no need to worry though since with normal operation these lasts the longest of the consumables just double check the air holes from
Next up is the cutting tip. This is where all the action happens and the plasma arc is forced through. Being the workhorse of the consumables; the cutting tip will be the fastest item to wear out. When checking for deterioration simply look at the center hole and compare it to a fresh tip. If the hole is much larger or elongated it can cause the arc to wander. As the hole increases in size you will find your cuts become slightly less clean with more slag left behind. Not only will a worn out cutting tip cost you cutting precision, you will also notice a drop in cutting capability. The enlarged cutting hole can no longer support the same cutting thickness at a set amperage since the plasma arc is spread out over a larger area.
Our next torch part is the air diffuser and plays a vital role in air regulation. A chipped, melted, or burned air diffuser from overuse can reduce vital airflow inside the torch which will not only degrade the quality of the cut but can also allow excess heat to build up inside the torch which can cause other components to wear out prematurely.
Finally we have the electrode; which depending on the model will thread in or slide on to the torch. Ensure threaded versions are tight as a loose electrode can cause an inconsistent arc. This part will be the second-fastest to wear out so we recommend having a couple spares on hand for longer cutting jobs.
With consumables being the most common way to fix a plasma cutter which is acting up we recommend keeping a plasma cutter consumable kit handy these will include all the necessary consumables for quick repair. If you want the consumables to last as long as possible we recommend supplying the plasma cutter with the driest, oil-free air possible. Each Eastwood plasma cutter has a built-in last chance moisture separator. You can also add inline filters prior to the plasma cutter if you live in an extremely humid environment or you plan to cut for long periods of time at a shot. If you’re relying on the internal moisture separator or your cutting for extended periods of time we recommend purging the trap every twenty to thirty minutes. On the Eastwood versa cut plasma cutters this is easily achieved by tilting the plasma cutter to access the valve with the air line still attached.
Believe it or not your machine settings can affect the consumable life also. You can just set the machine at sixty psi and cut everything from sheet metal all the way up to the machine’s maximum cutting thickness but that tends to erode the cutting tip much quicker than necessary. If you’re only cutting sheet metal using sheet metal most machines will cut perfectly fine at about 20 psi and 20 amps. Cutting style can also play a huge role in how long the consumables last. Cutting through rusty metal or overhead cutting will shorten consumable life so you’ll want to check their condition more often. If possible start the cut off the panel to minimize hot material blowing back up at the torch as the cut begins. If a pierce cut is necessary we recommend starting the cut with the torch at approximately 60 degrees to allow molten metal to be blown away from the hole as it’s started and then once the hole is formed turn the torch back to 90 degrees to allow the slag to blow through the bottom as it should.
Cutting speed will factor into a consumable life and post cut cleanup. If you notice a lot of slag blowing back up at the torch and leaving a ridge on top of the cut you’ll want to slow the cutting speed down and if you see a lot of slag left on the bottom of the metal being cut you’ll want to speed to cut up a little bit. It’ll take a little practice but you’ll quickly discover the perfect travel speed for you and the material you’re working with.
The last and possibly most overlooked possible issue is the ground connection. A good ground connection affects the quality of the cut greatly and we always recommend grounding as close as possible to the cut. A properly grounded part will cut 20 to 30 percent better, saving you time and money. With these tips and tricks you’ll be cutting in no time with the longest lasting consumables. To get a plasma cutter and all associated plasma cutting accessories you can visit our website HERE.