Helping to make an informed Verdict onto your Then Cutting Machine

If you are a primary time buyer or have existing installations of plasma and/or oxy-fuel shape cutting systems, continuous advancements in technology and a growing landscape of low-cost manufacturers and integrators has clouded the automated plasma shape cutting machinery landscape.

Plasma cutting is the consequence of introducing an electric arc by way of a gas that’s blown by way of a nozzle at high pressure, evoking the gas to turn into plasma and producing a focused flame that reaches temperatures of 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Automated plasma cutting systems are classified as either conventional or precision (high-definition), on the basis of the characteristics of the cutting flame. Precision plasma systems are designed for producing parts to tighter tolerances, achieving faster cut rates, and producing less kerf and bevel than conventional plasma systems. The expense of these units can also be significantly more than conventional plasma systems. It is therefore extremely crucial that you properly match the shape cutting machine with the appropriate plasma cutting system.

One of the very most common and costly pitfalls buyers encounter is when manufacturers or integrators mismatch machines and power sources. This really is often the consequence of manufacturers not finding the time to know the buyer’s requirements, having a limited or single-product distinct machines, limited OEM access to power sources, and/or deficiencies in industry/application knowledge. These manufacturers will likely then often sell with an emphasis on lowest price rather than cheapest of ownership, highlighting the strong point of the plasma system or the device without regard to the limitations of the other. The best precision plasma power source available won’t provide users with the desired cut quality and accuracy if it is not mated to a suitable base machine.

You can find various types of plasma shape cutting machines available on the market today. The most typical machines are bridge or gantry style machines produced from either fabricated steel or extruded aluminum. Construction of the device is extremely important relative to your application. Machines made of extruded aluminum are usually regarded as hobbyist or artisan machines and most appropriate when carrying out a limited amount of cutting or when cutting light gauge materials. The plasma and oxy-fuel cutting processes create large levels of heat that is retained in the materials being cut and may cause deflection or warping of aluminum machine components traveling on the hot cutting surfaces, greatly effecting accuracy and cut quality. Fabricated steel machines are strongly recommended for any kind of continuous cutting process, cutting of plate steel, and where auxiliary oxy-fuel torches may be used. Auxiliary heat shields may also be available to further protect the device and components from extreme heat conditions.

Cutting machines can be found with many different drive systems including single-side drive, single-motor dual-side drive, and true two-motor dual-side drive systems. A well constructed single-side drive system or single-motor dual-side drive system will perform very well in conventional plasma applications. The main benefit of the excess precision offered by two-motor dual-side drive systems won’t be realized in conventional plasma applications because of the limitations in the precision of the standard plasma cutting process itself. Two-motor dual-side drive systems provides the accuracy and performance required to accomplish optimal results from a detail plasma process.

Sizing of the motors and gear boxes relative to the mass of the device can be extremely important. Undersized motors and gearboxes won’t be able to effectively change the direction of the mass of the device at high traverse and cut speeds, leading to un-uniform cut quality and washed-out corners. This not just affects the cut quality, but will even cause premature mechanical failures.

The CNC control is the unit that ties together every one of the functionality and top features of the device and plasma source. You can find basically two classes of controls utilized on most of these machines today. Most industrial applications use industrial PC-based control systems such as those produced by Burny or Hypertherm. These units have user-friendly touchscreen control panels and are housed in enclosures that can endure the harsh environments they operate in. Smaller machines of the hobbyist or artisan types often utilize standard PCs with I/O cards to control the drives and plasma systems. Industrial based controls are strongly recommended for just about any application, are designed for industry specific requirements, are less vulnerable to the conventional PC problems, but may be cost prohibitive in smaller applications.

Another important, and often overlooked, feature to consider when selecting a device is the construction of the rail system. Plasma cutting machines produce and reside in a harsh environment. It is therefore important that the components found in the construction of the rail system be robust enough to exist in this environment. All rail surfaces should be made of hardened materials and cleaned frequently in order that they don’t become pitted and gouged by the splatter of molten steel that w Multifunctional single ply digital fabric cutter ill inevitably fall on them. Self-cleaning wheels will also be a recommended feature to help keep the wheels clean between regular preventive maintenance (PM) cycles. Sizing of the rails must also be robust enough to prevent deflection as the device travels across them.

The mixture of every one of the above factors results in the precision and accuracy of a system. Unlike other mechanical machining processes, it’s difficult to assign a standard tolerance to plasma cutting processes. Many manufacturers will strongly promote the fact their machines have positional accuracy of +/-0.007 in. and repeatability of +/-0.002 in.. The fact is that just about any machine on the market can hold tolerances that far exceed the tolerance and capability of the plasma cutting process itself. There are lots of factors that will influence the cut quality you will achieve on your own parts including: the characteristics of the part itself, power settings, consumables, gases used, material type, gauge/thickness of material, part layout on plate, etc.. Ask the manufacturer to offer you cut examples of your parts or parts that closely approximate the parts you will be cutting, made on a machine/plasma combination that’s comparable as to the you are looking at. This will give you the absolute most realistic representation of what to expect from a particular machine/plasma combination and the plasma cutting process itself.

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