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Hypertherm Plasma cutter

Whether you are upgrading or purchasing a new cutting table, there are a number of factors to consider in deciding if plasma or oxy-fuel is best for your job. The best place to start is with understanding how each of these processes work.

Oxy-fuel cutting uses natural gas, or in some cases another type of fuel gas, which heats metal to its self-ignition point, allowing a high-pressure stream of oxygen to quickly oxidize and blow away the metal. Oxy-fuel cutting works well with carbon steel, but not with aluminum and stainless steel.

Plasma cutting is a high-precision process, which involves heating a gas such as oxygen, nitrogen, or hydrogen to the point of ionization. This creates an electrically conductive arc that melts the metal, while the force of the plasma and shielding gas blows away the molten metal. Plasma cutting works well with any electrically conductive metal, including stainless steel and aluminum.

In addition to considering the type of material that will be cut, cost will also be a consideration. Oxy-fuel has the advantage here, as it requires less of an investment to set up and operate, and once installed, it is virtually maintenance-free. Oxygen is the largest operating cost, with the oxy-fuel cutting system using much more oxygen than the plasma system uses in cutting mild steel.

Speed is the primary advantage that precision plasma cutting offers over oxy-fuel cutting. Though much more expensive than the oxy-fuel system, plasma cutting ultimately can deliver an economic advantage in terms of higher productivity, use over a wider range of materials and with advanced precision.

Both oxy-fuel and plasma cutting will require changing consumables and process variables in order to optimizing cut performance, speed, and quality. In oxy-fuel cutting, selecting the right tip and adjusting gas flow rates is key, as is operator experience. In plasma cutting applications, cutting different material thicknesses will require changing torch consumables and has an easier learning curve.

Need assistance in determining which cutting system will best address your needs? Let our experienced team at Victory Plasma help!