It’s the fourth state of matter, and one of the most renowned processes that have been used for cutting metal over the years, actually, the most effective one so far.
And, scientists are not stopping anytime soon, as they are actually working on making it better.
But wait, why is plasma cutting worth it? Well, this method is not only fast, more accurate and high quality, but it’s also very reliable and low-cost – it’s jam-packed with awesome perks.
Now, it all boils down to one basic factor at the heart of this technology, which is the temperature. So let’s get to the nitty-gritty and see why plasma cutter temperature is so crucial, as well as everything else around it.
What is plasma?
As we mentioned at the very start of this post, plasma is the fourth state of matter, after solid, liquid, and gas. You already know that matter changes from one of these states to the other as a result of the introduction of energy, mostly heat.
Heat a solid, and it melts into liquid, heat it even further, and it evaporates as gas. If the heat level increases, the gases become ionized and become electrically conductive (with the electrons breaking away from the molecules) thus bringing the molecules together unlike gaseous molecules that float far apart…
Now, that’s plasma right there!
How does a plasma cutter work?
The interesting bit is that while it will take only 2 degrees Fahrenheit to change solid matter into a liquid, and an extra 212 degrees F to turn the liquid into a gas, achieving the scorching plasma state would necessitate increasing the heat by up to 10,00.
Rather than diving deep into the details, let’s take a quick peep at a simple breakdown of how a plasma cutter works.
Plasma is formed when a gas, for instance, nitrogen, argon, oxygen or shop air is passed under extreme pressure through a small nozzle opening inside the arc’s torch.
Then there’s an external power supply that generates an electric arc, which is then introduced to the high-pressure gas flow. This gives rise to a plasma jet, which you can use to cut your workpiece.
So, how hot does a plasma cutter actually get?
The one thing that makes this method so efficient is that plasma cutter temperature can get extremely high over a very short time.
At its most efficient, a plasma cutter jet can reach a jaw-dropping 22,000 degrees C, which makes it hot enough to cut through metal with high speed and precision.
In Fahrenheit, plasma cutter temperature reaches a whopping 40,000 degrees F or all the way up to 45,000 degrees F.
Just how accurate is a plasma cutter?
As we’ve mentioned above, the high plasma cutter temperature is at the core of its reliability, and accuracy is one of the factors that make this a go-to option for many.
Plasma is reported to be as smooth as a laser as far as the cutting edge goes. However, it’s worth noting that this method is slightly off with about 4 to 5 degrees in the metal’s face.
Nevertheless, plasma is sure to produce great results for up to 95% of its use, which is still an awesome level of accuracy.
Amount of air needed
Another aspect that goes hand in hand with a plasma cutter temperature is the amount of air that the unit actually needs to get the job done. It’s crucial that you get this right to ensure the best performance possible.
The amount of air necessary differs depending on the thickness of the steel. For instance, units capable of handling steel with a thickness of 3/8 inch and all the way to 7/8 inches steel would need about 4 to 8 SCFM, which should be delivered at around 90 to 120 PSI.
What to or not do with a plasma cutter
Plasma cutters can be used for a wide range of conductive metals. These include aluminum, mild steel, as well as stainless steel.
However, it’s important to note that plasma isn’t applicable for glass unless if you have a plasma cutter that you can keep running continuously on pilot mode. The problem is that there could be chances of reduced lifespan on the consumable parts of the unit, and the glass could break.
The other question most people ask is whether plasma can cut plastic and wood. Well, the one main drawback of plasma cutting is that it doesn’t work on non-conductive surfaces.
Also, keep in mind that to get the job done, a plasma cutter depends on the thickness of the workpiece that you will be working o. This should be up to 160 mm when dry cutting and underwater cutting is limited to 120 mm.
Due to the intense temperatures that a plasma cutter can reach, there’s always a chance of things going wrong despite this method coming with a long list of great benefits.
To start by debunking the myths, keep in mind that a plasma cutter won’t melt your finger as it would with a metal surface.
However, it’s wise to ensure you are careful enough when handling this machine as an injury might result from the high level of temperature being transferred to the metal if your body comes into contact with it.
Also with such high temperatures, it goes without saying that you should be careful not to look directly into a plasma cutter’s flame.
Plasma cutters come in different sizes. Some are huge machines that run on automated systems and high-level safety measures are kept in place around them. Others are smaller handheld units that you can operate at home.
But on the bottom line, these machines work pretty much the same and are a great way of easily cutting through most solid metals.
It all comes down to the high temperatures that drive the operation of these machines. And as you’ve found out, they could be as dangerous as they are useful. So make the most out of your plasma cutter (or get one) and be keen to handle it with care.