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CNC Plasma System

When adding a plasma cutting system to your operation, it is important to consider logistical factors prior to system installation. You will want to have a plan in place before your new system arrives, so you will have an easy install and a smooth start up.

1. Desired Table Layout

Before system installation, confirm the space required and consider the positioning of the plasma system components. These include the cutting table, plasma cutter power supply, compressed air/gas and CNC controller. Your plasma cutter supplier will be able to help you determine a layout that optimizes workflow and operational requirements. Cutting surfaces should be a foot wider and three feet longer than the cutting area, to accommodate for loading and gantry parking. Additional options may change that footprint.

2. Required Power Supply

Make sure you have the correct input voltage to power your entire plasma cutting system. This will depend on the type of plasma cutter you have selected for your system: some plasma cutters will need single-phase power, but most will require 3-phase. Before system installation, let your sales representative know what kind of power you have as input voltage is set at the factory. You may consider an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for the controller.

3. Compressed Air

The systems requires a stable, dry compressed air supply of 15 CFM at 130 PSI with a 150 PSI regulator and pressure gauge at the machine. The compressed air supply can never drop below 120 PSI. We recommend a dedicated air compressor, as plant air systems often fall below 120 PSI when the plant is in full production.

4. Necessary Ventilation

The type of ventilation you require will depend on whether you have a water table or a downdraft. Water tables control the smoke and dust, so an exhaust fan isn’t required. However, downdraft systems will require a smoke and dust collector to clean the exhaust and return the cleansed air to the work area. Consider additional exhaust system requirements and location prior to system installation.

5. Proper Grounding for the Type of Plasma System

Transit voltage or high frequency electrical noise from the plasma power source could potentially interfere with the CNC controller and control cables, leading to a malfunction in the system. Grounding requirements will depend greatly on the type of plasma being used and soil conditions at the installation site. All systems require an earth ground rod located as close to the plasma system as possible. Your system manufacturer can assist in determining the required grounding.

6. Required CAD Drawing Software

If CAD drawing is not already a part of your business, you will need to select and purchase a program. Lite CAD programs included with controller software are not really useful except for light editing. The controller software includes a ‘Shapes Library’, therefore you will have access to fifty common shapes. These shapes will need a dimension entered prior to cutting. There are several very good CAD software packages available for a few hundred dollars, so you won’t have to pay thousands to get a program equal to AutoCAD.

In order to cut a part, you need a CAD drawing saved in either a DWG or a DXF file. If you have DXF files of the parts you want to cut ready, you’ll be able to start cutting right away. For a shortcut to getting up to speed on CAD, contact your local high school or tech school, many of which now teach CAD. Students interested in working part time can help your people learn CAD or do it for you.

7. Water Table Water Treatment

An adequate amount of water treatment, such as Plasma Quench 44, will be needed at installation to prevent rust and bacterial growth in the table.

8. WiFi

Before system installation, you should install a WiFi router (connected to your network) and place it within range of the machine controller. Quality CNC systems will include WiFi in order to connect your system to the manufacturer for software updates, operator assistance and diagnostics. While WiFi can be used to transfer cut files from the office to the machine, USB drives are recommended so WiFi can be turned off when not needed. Antivirus software can’t be installed on the controller, as it often scans at random and can interrupt a cutting program. 

9. Torch Consumables

The consumables required for plasma cutting differ, depending on the system. Your plasma cutter will arrive with a limited amount of consumables for the torch. It is a good idea to order an extra supply of consumables – your manufacturer will be able to assist you.

10. Required Training for Operation

Determine who the primary operator(s) will be before your plasma system arrives. This is essential because system training typically occurs at installation, and it is best to have the operators trained directly. This allows operators to ask and have questions answered by those most knowledgeable person in the plasma cutter operation. It is always good to have a stable member of management learn to operate the system as well.