Last Updated on April 30, 2021 by Antonio H. Johnson
The process of plasma cutting occurs by using an accelerated jet of ionized gas delivered from a constricting aperture to cut through electrically conductive materials like stainless steel, aluminum, brass, etc. Although, in the case of mild steel, operators experience faster and thicker cuts.
Let’s briefly take a look at its exciting history.
It was developed in the 1960s to cut through metals that were difficult to fire up (e.g., aluminum, copper, etc.). Plasma cutting aluminum is used widely in fabrication, manufacturing, automotive repair, industrial construction, etc. Most of these materials we use for welding.
Now, how do we use a plasma cutter to cut an aluminum plate? It’s pretty tricky but easy, trust me. We will thoroughly explain everything related to this process in this article; hang in there.
How Does Plasma Cutting Work?
The prioritized parts required for plasma cutting aluminum are the:
- Nozzle and
- Swirl ring
To improve the cut quality, an additional shielding cap may be used by a welder. Other than that, with the help of inner and outer retaining caps, the parts are held together.
Since plasma cutters use high voltage or frequency, they can cut conductive metals at high-speed rates per ampere, minimizing the heat level to achieve great results. It ignites an arc between the electrode and the working material for increasing the energy transfer.
The nozzle, then, helps pass the gas out of the cutter causing it to squeeze at high speed, which cuts through the molten metal.
- A plasma cutter according to the material you’re going to cut (in this case, your aluminum plate)
- A water table in which you will keep the materials.
- A protective shield like a facemask
- Eye goggles
- Ear cotton to shield your ears from the noise and vibration that will produce from trying to cut the plate (which may be harmful to your ears) and
- A sound mind
Let’s get into it.
How To Plasma Cut An Aluminum Material?
Some plasma torches can cut through aluminum plates bearing thick steel of about 150mm. These are controlled by a computer, which makes the process a whole lot easier.
Nonetheless, here’s how you could cut an aluminum sheet with ease:
- Establishing a ventilation source – It’s necessary to keep the aluminum at an average/room temperature by allowing cross ventilation. Therefore, you would have to establish a connection between the machine and the vent you’d use as an air source. Otherwise, the aluminum could get sticky/matte/rock-hard, making it challenging to work with.
- Response within patience – Following the safety measures, turn on the machine and wait for it to respond. Let it get used to the room temperature. Even though it takes some time, it’ll have to vent up all the heat energy within itself for it to be able to cut through the aluminum.
- Positioning the machine – It is a significant step to maintain accuracy and prevent uneven cuts. So, proper positioning of the device is mandatory. Doing so, focus on the type of cuts you want instead of the traced outline on the aluminum.
- Cutting according to the thickness – You must choose a plasma cutter that cuts out an aluminum sheet with ease, depending on the metal’s thicknesses. If the thickness exceeds ¼” amperage, it’s better to use a machine that’s provided with thicker gaps and more significant arcs. If the sheet isn’t that thick, then you could use the exact opposite, and it’d work just as fine.
- Speed setup – You need to keep in mind that you’d have to adjust the speed setting based on the metal’s thickness and the cut they’re going to create. In this case, you’d have to move the torch faster and the arc much slower to keep track of the cut you’d make.
- Haven’t you started yet? – Go on, start cutting out your first cut by following the above procedures. You might always feel the need to move the torch according to the cut while paying attention to the aluminum sheet.
- Moving the plasma as required – You need to make sure that you’re dragging the plasma cutter on the aluminum rather than advancing the plasma when required. You’ll minimize the damage done to the plasma cutter while working and could save yourself from its dangers.
- Sketching out the pattern – It’s required to trace the line or pattern you intend to cut. You’ll be following the pathway, and it’ll reduce your working time.
By the given techniques, you’ll master the aluminum cutting with a plasma cutter and any other metal. However, It is important for a welder to follow all the extra safety measures and ensure your safety.
Technical aspects of a plasma cutter:
By now, you’d understand why we would recommend plasma cutting over other conventional processes. Since the cutting quality and the cut’s rectangularity have significantly improved, and the functional materials are used for welding, it can cut through expanded metals, something that is nearly impossible in the case of other ‘metal cutting’ techniques.
Hence, We are listing few features for choosing a cutter –
- Air Compressor – An external compressed air supply is necessary for better results.
- Reliability – Choosing a brand that you could rely on, knowing that they’d provide you with quality products, will ensure you with good appliances.
- Voltage – Using a 115V plasma cutter is beneficial for beginners.
- Cut Rating – As a beginner, you should use a high cut rating. This way, you can cut the materials easily.
- Pilot Arc – This feature is one of the important ones because it provides a more stable cut without letting the torch tip touch the metal.
- Duty Cycle – It’s essential to choose a machine that’ll last longer with fewer consumables to run along with ease.
- Operating Cost – A machine with a lower operating cost might benefit you more if you’re a beginner.
- Cutting Torch – This is another feature you must focus on for when you work on larger fields, you’ll need a longer torch to move around quickly.
- Weight – Don’t you want to feel lightweight working with an appliance even though it has many consumables? Well, try buying one that weighs 20lb-100lb.
- Cutting Quality – It’s a must to make sure you’re using a machine that’ll ensure you a high cut quality.
Before Wrapping Up
Yes. Even though plasma cutting aluminum could be expensive and hard to deal with, it’s still an effective, economical way to do professional cuts and produce parts. However, one must understand the process first and then start working. Good luck!
Hi, this is Antonio. I’m a welder. I Love welding and writing blogs about welding. I know, choosing the best welding tools is very difficult. That’s why I have created this blog to teach people the basics of welding, what the best welding tools are, and where they can find it at a cheaper price.