Tips for Buying a Plasma Cutter
Are you thinking of buying a plasma cutter? Its can be overwhelming to purchase equipment that is new to you, not to mention there are so many models and manufacturers and models to select from.
As a start, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
> How often in a day do you plan to use the equipment? What duty cycle should it have in other words?
> What type of electrical service is available where you plan to use it? Will it be 30 amp 110 volt single phase or 50 amp 220 volt single phase perhaps? What other equipment will be using the same circuit at the same time?
> What level of portability should your plasma cutter have? Are you going to use it in your shop exclusively, or do you have to take it to the job? Do you have way of supplying compressed air to the machine when you take it to a remote location? Air bottle or portable compressor? How can you provide electric current onsite?
> What type of material do you intend to cut, and how thick will it probably be?
> Manual cutting or with a CNC cutting machine? Typically, higher the plasma cutter amperage output come with a greater duty cycle at lesser amperages. Many people believe that a greater-capacity machine is always better, but this is false. Fabricators generally consider oxy-fuel to be better than plasma for steel cutting steel with a thickness above .5 inch; this is due to the slight (4 to 6-degree) bevel in the cut face produced by the plasma. You wouldn’t see it in thinner materials, but it does become more noticeable with increased thickness. At thickness above .5 inch, plasma also bears no cutting speed advantage compared to oxy-fuel.
If you’ll be using acetylene for the work, there will be nearly no point in purchasing a plasma cutter. If your intention is to cut aluminum, stainless or any other non-ferrous metal, which oxy-fuel cannot cut, get a 50 to 80 amp 220 volt plasma cutter. If you’re going to use your plasma cutter outside the shop sometimes, you have to consider getting one of new breed of semi-portable types. These are little powerhouses weighing below 100 lbs., but they have the ability to cut .75″ to 1″ in a snap. You’ll be needing a compressor or bottle of air, plus a portable generator.
If you automating your plasma cutting is a possibility, then get a unit that which doesn’t use a high-frequency starting circuit. A high-frequency start operates like the spark plug in your vehicle. Rather than relying on lower voltage pilot arc to begin the plasma process, it counts on a high voltage spark, which produces electrical interference like computer lockup or destroying files, etc.
More ideas: a fantastic read