What are CNC Plasma Cutting Machines and What to Look For?
With CNC plasma cutting machines, businesses can greatly increase their capabilities, offering their clients and consumers high-quality, high-end results. Known for precision, efficiency and versatility, CNC plasma cutting machines are an effective solution for manufacturing businesses, and with operations of all sizes and scopes. Here, you’ll learn more about plasma tables, CNC machines, and more.
What is a CNC Machine?
If you’ve come to this page, it’s likely you already know what a CNC machine is, however, it’s important to take a quick moment to clarify. CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and CNC machines utilize computer systems to automate the complex steps and processes of machinery through a variety of industries and needs. Taking it one step further, a CNC cutting machine, such as a CNC plasma cutting machine, utilizes their intricate software systems and components to efficiently, accurately and smoothly handle cutting processes.
Plasma Cutting vs. Other Cutting Methods
Of course, plasma cutting is only one variety of system which CNC machines may be designed to work with. Another common variety is the waterjet cutter. Waterjets can use either a mixture of pressurized water and abrasive, or purely water. One benefit to a waterjet cutter is that there’s no HAZ, or heat-affected zone, which can alter a material.
Another cutting method utilizing CNC machines is oxy-fuel, using fuel gases and oxygen, which dates back about 100 years. Here, a stream of oxygen is blasted onto a metal heated to kindling temperature, turning it into a flowing metal oxide.
With plasma cutting, a plasma torch blows an inert gas at high speeds out of a nozzle, essentially through a created electrical arc, which turns some of that gas to plasma.
While all of these options remain widely used today, CNC plasma cutting machines are typically seen as a solution for manufacturers who are concerned with quickly and efficiently cutting conductive materials up to 3″ thick. The plasma cutting process has superior cutting speeds and piercing speeds, and generates very precise cut qualities. More speed and higher quality also produces superior efficiency and productivity.
How to Choose Your Plasma Cutting Machine
There are many different factors to consider when you’re looking to invest in one or several CNC plasma cutting machines for your business. Of course, overall quality, durability, reliability and cost are always going to be important to keep in mind.
More specifically, however, you’ll want to think about the requirements you have for widths and lengths of materials. Consider which types of materials and thicknesses can be accurately cut.
You’ll also want to think about how many different cutting systems are available to use at once, and how quickly different types of jobs can be completed. Be sure to also consider the type and quality of computers and controls are included, or are compatible.
What is Oxy Fuel and How Does it Work?
Oxy fuel cutting use a combination of fuel gases and oxygen to cut metals. A variety of different fuels may be utilized, although the most common is acetylene. Other gases utilized include natural gas, propane, hydrogen, propylene, liquified petroleum gas (LPG), and combinations of these gases.
Oxy-fuel cutting begins by using a torch to heat a metal to its kindling temperature. This is the lowest temperature at which the metal in question will spontaneously ignite. At this point, a stream of oxygen is trained onto the metal, in turn burning it into a metal oxide.
This new metal oxide then flows out and away from the intact material being utilized. Any leftover slag can be wiped or tapped away. It’s actually the heat produced by the metal oxide and its contact with the rest of the material which actively continues the cutting process. The torch itself only heats the metal to begin the process.
Comparing Oxy Fuel to Other Methods
Popular alternatives to oxy-fuel cutting include plasma cutting and waterjet cutting. With plasma cutting, the plasma torch blows an inert gas at high speeds and through an electrical arc, turning some of the gas into plasma and providing the means for cutting.
With a waterjet cutter, a mixture of water and abrasive is utilized to cut the metal. This method provides no heat or heat affected zone as one of its key benefits.
However, each specific method works better depending on materials utilized, specific needs for cutting and applications, and other circumstances and specifications.
Versatile CNC Cutting Machines That Can Do Both
Today, the need to choose between oxy-fuel and plasma cutting can be in some ways eliminated. That’s because many of the leading CNC cutting machines and CNC cutters provide apparatus to perform both plasma cutting and oxy-fuel cutting operations.
This provides a great convenience to most businesses, as they are able to cut down on overhead and cost for purchasing different types of equipment, and are able to reduce their usage of physical space and other resources. They’re able to tackle a full range of jobs which could call for either or both of these different systems, all conveniently from the same place.
Having a machine which can provide both oxy-fuel and plasma cutting improves their overall capabilities, as well as efficiency, productivity and profitability, and it is therefore sometimes a key trait and deciding factor when comparing different types of cutting systems and CNC machines.
How do waterjet cutting machines work?
Waterjet cutting machines work with a highly pressurized jet of water, or a mixture of water with an abrasive. In the former case, these machines are known as pure waterjet cutters, or water-only cutters, while for the latter, they may sometimes be referred to as abrasive-jets.
What is the benefit of waterjet cutting machines?
One of the chief benefits of waterjet cutting over thermal cutting processes is that there is no heat affected zone created. A heat affected zone is a concern when the design of an application is concerned with the properties of the metal being cut, as is the case with thermal cutting processes. Furthermore, waterjet cutting can be used by any material ranging from wood to steel and does not produce smoke.
Waterjet CNC machines can also deliver great precision and fine-tuned control. They reduce the amount of scrap material produced as a by-product of cutting, and allow cuts to be placed closer together.