Plasma cutting seems easy right? Pull the trigger, make some sparks, cut some metal, easy as pie! Well it can be quite simple, but there are a few things that can cause your plasma to underperform. Below we cover 5 tips to allow you to cut any metal with ease.
1. Clean your ground location- Some of the modern plasma cutters like our Versa Cut Plasma Cutter have a "high frequency start" that allows the plasma arc to blast through rust, paint, and years of grime to cut metal without the need to clean the area you are cutting. This is great for those who hate cleaning metal; but one thing that people often forget is that they need a clean, solid ground to help create a strong arc to easily cut through metal. With a subpar ground you will find that your arc is unstable and will often result in inconsistent cuts. Take the extra 2 minutes to find a good ground location, or grind yourself a clean clamping area. It makes a world of difference!
2. Keep your torch "Slag-Free"- When cutting with a plasma, you have molten metal splattering and slag goes flying; especially when cutting with the torch below the work surface. The slag can inadvertently make its way onto your torch electrode or nozzle. The build up of slag on the business-end of your torch can create an unstable arc and block airflow out of the nozzle. That buildup leads to poor cutting ability even on the most expensive machines. We suggest that you check the end of your torch after each cut to make sure there isn't a build up of slag that can decrease the performance of your plasma cutter.
3. Dry Air is Friendly Air- Plasma cutters need a constant flow of clean, dry air to allow it to "punch" through the metal when cutting. This is another reason we can't stress enough how important it is to make sure your compressor has an adequate dryer and water separator system installed. For that reason we integrated a "last chance" filter in our Versa Cut plasma to make sure clean, dry air reaches the plasma torch. When you introduce dirty or moisture-rich air into the plasma arc you will notice that it will be difficult to get a stable arc going as the moisture in the air coming out of the torch will cause the arc to wander. You NEED clean, dry air to create a stable, focused arc!
4. Avoid extension cords- We put a 20' torch lead and a 10' ground lead on our Versa Cut for a reason; you need to keep the machine as close to the power source as possible. The same as using a welder, the longer and skinnier the extension cord, the more it drops the voltage your machine is receiving. This means you could be "maxing out" your machine cutting something that should only require 3/4 power because the drop in voltage at the machine is so low by the time it goes through that 20 foot extension cord. We suggest (especially on the 110V setting) to keep your plasma plugged directly into an outlet. If you do need to use an extension cord, get a dedicated heavy gauge extension cord that will have the least power drop possible. By heeding this warning you can get the most performance out of your plasma. Remember, move the work surface or torch and ground, not the entire machine!
5. More Air= More Punch- Like the amperage adjustment, we have an adjustment for air pressure along with a built-in pressure gauge. You need to make sure that you have adequate air pressure going to the torch to allow the plasma arc to properly "punch" through the metal. "Too much" air isn't as much of an issue as "too little" air, although you do want to dial the air down a bit with thinner metal to reduce the amount of slag and sparks from flying across the room.
Hopefully by following these 5 tips you can streamline your plasma cutting jobs, and keep your machine function properly.