A plasma cutter is a frequently used tool that comes handy to cut through materials and surfaces electrically conductive in nature. It’s a must-have instrument for technicians and mechanics involved in automobile repair shops, large construction works, fabrication, and scrapping operations. Materials such as stainless steel, brass, copper, aluminum, can be cut conveniently through a plasma cutter.
The basic anatomy of a plasma cutter shows that it has a copper nozzle to help eject the plasma stream on the surface of the material. A plasma stream is an electrically heated stream of gas that has equal numbers of negative charge-carrying electrons and positive ions.
The decision of purchasing a plasma cutter is a function of several factors. One needs to carefully weigh all the options available before zeroing on a particular variant of the product. We have listed all such important factors to guide buyers through such a purchase.
#1. The Power of the Output
One must first be sure of the thickness of the material the plasma cutter is supposed to be applied over. If someone has opted for a 120-volt machine, 12 amp of power as the output will be required, at least, to cut through a surface which is ⅛ inches thick. However, if you are considering to cut a surface that is ⅞ to 1 inch thick, 60 amp of power has to be generated from a 230-volt machine.
There are efficient cutters available in the market that can cut ½ inches thick surface of stainless steel within a minute for a length as long as 14 inches.
You should carefully choose a machine of appropriate power to effectively cut through the surface you want.
#2. Air Compression Technique
Compressed air helps to eject the plasma stream through the orifice of the copper nozzle. The air compressor used in this process can either be in-built or separate from the cutter. A plasma cutter with an in-built air compressor is expensive. However, such plasma cutters are worth their value when there are several cutting jobs in line with very little time in hand. If you are keen to increase the completion rate of your cutting operations, go for cutters that have air compressors integrated.
#3. The Duration of the Duty Cycle
Another factor that takes a direct toll on the productivity quotient of the product is the duty cycle of the tool. The duty cycle is defined as the time a plasma cutter can efficiently run before it requires cooling off. If you are involved in high duty construction or fabrication, which needs to deliver a long run at one go, it’s better to opt for cutters that have a higher duty cycle.
#4. The Nature of the Arc
Consider cutting a rusty surface. Quite naturally, you need a cutter that will equip you with an arc that is stable and runs for a long time. That way, you can operate the machine for a sustainably longer period without having to touch the surface of the material with the tip of the cutter. The recent innovation of pilot arcs proves to be of immense help in this regard. Go for plasma cutters with a pilot arc to comfortably deal with rough surfaces.
#5. The Weight of the Cutter
This is a factor that is often overlooked when purchasing a plasma cutter. A mechanic or technician needs to comfortably bear the weight of a plasma cutter. Also, the lighter weight of the instrument makes it easier to carry from one location to another. A plasma cutter can weigh anywhere between 20 lbs and 100 lbs. However, although being convenient to carry, a lighter plasma cutter can not effectively create a deep cut on thick surfaces. Therefore, the tip is to choose a plasma cutter that strikes the right balance between being enough comfortable to operate and effective to create deep cuts.
#6. Consumable Use Rate
The plasma cutter does not run alone. It needs consumables, such as tips and electrodes, to be fed to it from time to time. The cost of these consumables is practically the variable cost associated with the tool. It’s recommended that you gather enough information on the consumable use rate of the cutter beforehand. A high use rate of consumables implies an expensive plasma cutter in the long run even if its cost is lower at the time of purchase.
#7. The Appropriate type of Torch
The selection of the right type of torch for a specific type of a plasma cutter often makes all the difference. From a utilitarian point of view, a longer torch is appropriate when working with a heavy machine in a workshop. This is because heavier cutters are often difficult to move from one place to another and a longer torch helps to get the work done without moving the cutter much when working with materials spread across the floor. Apart from the length of the torch, the shape and built of the torch should also be convenient for the worker to operate it for hours at a stretch.
It is quite evident that the selection of a plasma cutter is not solely dependent upon the price of the tool. Its a combination of different factors ranging from its weight and torch length to its duty cycle and voltage bearing capacity.
When making a purchase, you must not only consider the short-term savings opportunities. Tools, such as plasma cutters, are meant to be used for years and are expected to perform well on tough surfaces, without taking a toll on the person using it. Therefore, buy a plasma cutter taking its convenience, durability, and cost-effectiveness into consideration.