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any plasma cutter experts in the house?

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by BEER, Mar 9, 2010.

  1. BEER

    BEER bad example

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    after spending 3 hours with an angle grinder and eating 3 wheels making an axe today i've decided to look into getting a small plasma cutter. before i dive off into this endeavor i have a few questions.

    1) do i need to take any sort of classes to learn to use one of these doohickeys or is it something i can learn from a couple of instructional videos?

    2) from what little reading i've done so far it appears that plasma cutters don't use much in the way of consumable materials like gas, rods, or material and it basically eats and runs on compressed air and electricity. is that correct?

    3) how much juice does one of these things typically eat? am i going to have to wire in a dedicated circuit in the shop just for this machine?

    4) what are the major dangers with plasma cutters?


    the actual machine i'm considering.
    http://www.plasmametalcutter.com/product_info.php?cPath=22&products_id=31
     
  2. turbobrick

    turbobrick

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    You really won't need much in the way of education, just practice on some scrap until you get the feel for it. Plasmas need little to no maintenance or consumables. Many plasma cutters work great on common household power. The better ones with higher duty cycles, will usually be 220v. Other that accidentally cutting through unintended materials, or spending too much time chopping up scrap, they are really safe. The slag coming off cools very quickly. The other danger is buying one that is beneath your needs, or you quickly outgrow its ability.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2010

  3. KIMFAB

    KIMFAB Kangaroo tooth

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    1 A couple of videos should do

    2 You will burn out tips which are considered consumables. You will probably use more at first till you get the hang of it. Other than that just air and electricity.

    3 The one you are looking at will draw 24 amps but their literature is confusing. I'm assuming that is at 220 volts. You will need a special outlet with 10 ga.wire and a 30 amp breaker.

    4 You are playing with a HOT unit so burns are a possibility and you will need to protect your eyes from the arc.
    Get welders gloves and a welding mask preferably an automatic one.

    It's actually not bad once you get going, I think you will enjoy your new capability.
     
  4. Cubdriver

    Cubdriver

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    Beer -

    I'm no expert, but have one and haven't damaged myself with it yet, so here goes...

    You shouldn't need a class to run it, they're pretty simple. Strike an arc on the piece to be cut and move the gun along to cut. It does make quite a shower of sparks, so make sure that there's nothing combustible near by.

    Yep - the consumables are the nozzles (which seem to last a relatively long time) and the electricity and compressed air. From what I understand, DRY air will extend the life of the nozzle. Mine consumes a LOT of compressed air - my ancient compressor runs a lot when I use it.

    I have a Miller (can't recall the exact model, think it's a Spectrum 375) that runs on a 20A, 120V circuit. (Ideally it wants a 30A circuit and occasionally trips the breaker, but I haven't been inclined to run one - might eventually switch it over to run on 240, which would be better than trying to draw lots of current on a 120V line.) If you're planning on cutting thick material and running the machine near its capacity, you'd probably be best off running a 240V line for it.

    The major dangers are getting burned either by the plasma arc (VERY hot) or the slag coming off the cut, and the possibility of getting shocked (make sure your workpiece is well connected to the machine's ground lead).

    Good luck and have fun making molten metal!

    -Pat

    Edit to add: And get a welding helmet to protect your eyes. As Kimfab mentioned, the arc is bright and the intense UV will mess up your eyes. An auto darkening helmet is a nice thing to have. I usually use TIG welding gloves - they're thinner and lighter, and less tiring to the hands. And I usually wear a long sleeved shirt because I sunburn easily. Probably less an issue with the plasma cutter than the TIG torch, but why take the chance?
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2010
  5. Bill Powell

    Bill Powell Cross Member CLM

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    How thick is the material you plan to burn? These little home use plasma cutters have some serious limitations as to the thickness of the material they will cut.
     
  6. BEER

    BEER bad example

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    since the majority of it's use will be for cutting out knife and sword blanks 3/8" will most likely be the thickest i'll ever be working with, and that won't be very often. most of the steel i've got laying around is 1/8" and a couple of chunks of 1/4".

    that brings me to another question.

    i know the thickness of the material matters but what about the steel itself, will a plasma cutter rated to cut 1/2" cut through all 1/2" material regardless of what it's made of? will it cut through stainless and other steels as easily as mild steel, or is that something handled by adjusting the machine controls or something?
     
  7. CCO

    CCO Wandering CLM

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    http://www.lincolnelectric.com/knowledge/articles/content/plasma.asp

    We have a 220 3 phase older plasma at work and I've used it quite a bit. However, I'm not at all familiar with home units. If you're not careful with ours, you can burn through a bunch of tips and electrodes fairly quickly. It's all about keeping proper distance from the material as far as that's concerned. Aluminum is a very difficult material to cut, but all your steels, including stainless should be pretty easy. Ask me about a laser for your garage...I'm much more of a resource for that. lol
     
  8. Annoyedgrunt

    Annoyedgrunt Dry Heat my ASS

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    For what you're doing, yes, if it's rated for that, it will cut 1/2" whatever metal you have on the bench. For precise CNC-type plasma cutting where you need a really nice cut, you can switch electrodes, and gases, but I'm assuming that you're going to cut out the rough piece and then grind it to shape?
     
  9. RenoF250

    RenoF250

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    If you are cutting at the machines rated capacity you will not likely get a very nice cut and have to move very slow. I am interested in getting one myself and watching Craigslist for a good used one with more capacity than I need. The problem is no one is selling those, they are selling the little home units. That says it all if you ask me.
     
  10. hill billy

    hill billy Head Case

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    Remember to look carefully at a machines capacity rating. Many cutters are rated at, say 1/2", but that's only for making a small cut off. Like cutting the end of a pice of strap but only rated to 3/8" for pattern cutting. Buy a machine that is rated to at least 3/4", you will thank me later.
     
  11. Bill Powell

    Bill Powell Cross Member CLM

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    Find one rated for half inch stainless. Then it will cut half inch anything.
     
  12. Andy123

    Andy123

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    Remember that the plasma cutter will decarbonize the steel for about an 1/8 inch back from the cut. Even though you can get a glass smooth cut, you will have to grind the edge back.