Prior to plasma cutting, shops would employ one of several different methods, depending on the type of cut you needed and the material to be cut. One of the most popular was oxyfuel cutting, which works well as an economic choice for single cuts of mild steel that are over about 5mm thick. Unfortunately this is a pretty limited range of cutting capability. For smaller thicknesses, laser cuts were an option, at a significantly higher cost. With both methods, the ability to get a consistent, quick, clean cut on the burn table is difficult.
- Cutting speeds much faster than oxyfuel. With very thick cuts it could be as much as twice as fast, but as the metal thickness decreases, you could see speeds up to 12 times faster than more traditional methods.
- The ability to cut more metals at varying thicknesses, without losing any of the precision. Laser cutting, while it is precise, is only useful for very thin metal plates. As the plates get thicker, the method for cutting gets less and less precise. By using nitrogen, plasma cutters can get through steel, aluminum, and many other types of metal.
- Easy and economical use. Unlike some other metal cutting techniques, training for plasma cutting is minimal, and it is more cost-effective than other methods.
- Safety, since the gas used for plasma cutters is not highly flammable. The hazards of operating this type of cutter are far lower than some other methods. In addition, the materials remain cool, which can prevent burns and prevent warping or damage to other parts of the metal as it is cut.
Other Advantages and Uses for This Technology
The introduction of plasma cutting brought a revolutionary new method for cutting steel with incredible accuracy and precision, even for thick steel. However, plasma cutting has other advantages. First, it can be used for cutting a wide variety of metals that were previously impossible, or nearly impossible to cut, including painted, dirty, or rusting metals.