9 Common Plasma Cutting Mistakes to Avoid

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These plasma cutting mistakes can cost you thousands of dollars and time. A well-maintained plasma cutter handled by a skilled person can bring more profits to a company. A skilled person will be able to follow the instructions provided and thereby avoiding the mistakes we’ve discussed below.

When plasma cutting, you may make cutting blunders that could damage the consumable parts faster and also produce poor quality cuts and interruption. Therefore, it is good to learn the cutting mistakes, avoid/solve them and get the most out of your plasma cutter. Here are some common cutting mistakes that you should avoid at all cost:

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1. Extreme Use of Consumables

Extreme use of consumables especially severely worn consumables is one of the common plasma cutting mistakes that can ruin the material you are cutting, damage the torch and even cause a lot of downtimes. To identify worn out consumable parts, check to see whether there is coloring of the parts or whether the arc has started to produce sound. Another indication of worn out consumable parts is the reduction in the torch height.

To avoid this mistake, you should inspect the plasma cutter unit on a regular basis and keep a record of the average lifespan of each part so that you can know when it’s time to replace the consumable parts.

2. Regular Changing of Consumable Parts

Although it is advisable to change consumables regularly, it should be noted that this should be done only when the parts start to show wear and not after some few hours of using the machine. Regular changing of consumable parts is a costly affair especially if they are still functional. Always change consumables when you notice the following:

  • If the grease or dirt starts to accumulate in the holes, if you observe excessive wear and arc burns, it’s time to replace the gas swirler.
  • If the shields start to show physical damage, replace them
  • The pit of the electrode component should be above 3/32 inches for air and 1/8 inches for N2. If you observe changes in the dimensions, you should change it.
  • If you observe a scratch in the nozzle, either inside or whether there is wear in the hole all around, the nozzle should be replaced.

3. Using Incorrect Consumable Parts

The consumable parts you choose should be based on the thickness of the materials you are working on, the required power supply and the plasma gas required. Usually, the manual/guidelines that come with the cutting machine specify the correct consumable parts for different plasma cutting needs.

Using incorrect consumable parts can hinder the cutting quality and reduce the lifespan of consumables. You should also feed the machine with the correct amperage. Working with low amperage produces poor quality cuts; consequently, if the amperage is too high, it can damage the nozzle.

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4. Piercing Too Low

The far or close the material you are cutting and the torch will intensely affect the cutting quality. This also affects the lifespan of the consumable parts. The torch height is essential when piercing. Note that piercing too low can cause molten metal to splatter which is not good. To avoid this mistake, you should use automatic torch control (ATHC)

5. Fast Or Slow Cutting

Cutting too slow or too fast can impact the quality of the cuts and also result in utilizing the consumable parts before their expected time for replacements. If you want to get good quality cuts, use the correct parts and cut at the right speed.

6. Poor Maintenance

Poor maintenance of the plasma cutter can affect its performance. Maintaining the cutter extends the lifespan of the torch. In fact, it can last for several months before it can be replaced.

Therefore, ensure to properly maintain the torch thread by keeping it clean. Get rid of metal dust, excess dirt, and oil from the torch regularly. You can clean the plasma cutter torch with hydrogen peroxide or cotton swab. Also, keep the O-ring lubricated all the time.

7. The Gas and Coolant Flow

Letting the gas and coolant to flow without monitoring it may lead to damage of consumable parts and torch. You should be monitoring these components every day.

Note that the less the gas that flows, the consumables will remain hot and this reduces their lifespan. It is important to keep the coolant level constantly flowing frequently.

To get the most out of the cutting arc, you should maintain constant gas pressure.

8. Installing the Torch Inappropriately

The electrical contact and flow of gas can be affected by inappropriate installing of the torch. Thus it is crucial to ensure the torch is installed properly. The torch should be installed with all its parts aligned and fit.

When replacing the parts, ensure to be keen on the consumables to keep them clean from dust and dirt avoid contaminating the torch. Cleanliness is important when installing the torch. Ensure to put sufficient lubrication on the O-ring. Excess lube can be harmful as it may cause clogging of the swirler and thus dirtying the torch with metal dust.

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9. Elongating the Arc

To get good quality cuts, the plasma cutter’s arc shouldn’t stretch to find the material you are cutting. This is especially prone to happen when you start to cut the material or at the end of the cutting. The worst that can happen as a result of stretching the arc is cutting the side walls of the nozzle by the arc during the cutting process.

To avoid such mistakes from happening, you should ensure to point the nozzle opening directly over the surface of the metal you are cutting. You can also program the lead out and time the arc off signal to prevent arc stretching.

Take Home Message

Taking the time to understand how the plasma cutter works can help to avoid these mistakes from happening. The cutter like any other machine comes with a manual and this can be a helpful resource to help you know how each part works, periodic maintenance of the machine, what should and what should not be done on the machine and many other things. We hope you now understand the common plasma cutting mistakes and how to avoid them.

All the best in your fabrication work!

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