plasma cutter questions

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by Christina R., Jul 29, 2005.

  1. Christina R.

    Christina R. Well-Known Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    Northern Arizona
    My husband is interested in buying a plasma cutter for serious hobby work. We have tried doing internet searches on what brands are worth their snuff and what models will allow him to use it with a computer to cut out silhouette type items. What kind of computer software is the most relaible for doing this kind of work. The plasma cutter would also be used as needed for house and workshop projects (one of the first ones will be cutting galvanized corrogated sheet metal for use on a wall in our guest room). Please lend your expertise and experience with me. Thx.
  2. travlnusa

    travlnusa Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2004
    My first question is how thick of metal will you be cutting? Rule of thumb is 25 amp for 1/4 inch and 50 amp for 1/2 inch.

    Make sure you have a very good air dryer on your compresser!!!!! Am LOTS of power. Dont buy anything 110 volt.

    Thermal Dynamics makes a drag style gun that is really nice. Parts are easy to come by as well. They use Victor style guns so comsumables can be found anywhere.

    I would also look at the units marketed by Lincoln Electric.

    Most every plasma cutter is made by one company in Italy. They are very good, so just find what you like.

    If you are looking to link the cutter to a robotic arm, hooked to a computer, you are looking at spending tens of thousands of $$$$.

  3. Beeman

    Beeman Well-Known Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    East TN
  4. Cosmic

    Cosmic Well-Known Member

    Jan 19, 2005
    Try Harbor Freight they may have something in your budget.

    I doubt you will be able to afford a CNC version unless you cobble together something your self. One way is to simply make up patterns and run the tip around by hand. The software is unique to the CNC machine. To try to adapt a personal computer you would use some type of plotter software but more than likely would be forced to write your own. Could search the Web for code and get on your programming goggles. Most good systems are not going to just direct the cutting nozzle but feed back its position via some sort of measurement device.
  5. jukebox

    jukebox Well-Known Member

    Jun 20, 2004
    We had a computerized plasma cutter until the price of steel went out of sight. China's appetite for steel is driving the market crazy. If you are going to cut silhouettes you had better do your homework because joe-public is only going to spend x amount of dollars on what you have to sell. If you cut it in volume how are you going to move the steel? We cut 16ga sheets and the weight adds up. No pick-up is going to take that beating.

    We had a HYPERTHERM on the computerized cutter and it was superb. In the three years that we ran the unit I would bet it turned on and off 250,000 times if not more. (Never a machine malfunction.)

    You had better have big airrrrrrrrr. Have a "Quincy" 2 stage that does 23CFM and we worked that thing to death. Lots of repair on it and it is a commercial unit.

    Who is going to do the drawings? We drew in AUTOCAD and after many steps ended up with a plotter file. Many hours of drawing time.

    You also need dry air and it must be very dry.

    We kept our "Lincoln" plasma cutter for odd jobs around the house but it is a pile of junk compared to the "Hypertherm". Tips for it will cost you a bunch.

    Hyperthem tips can be purchased from Zapp (see below). Big $$$ savings and they are wonderful people to deal with.

    If you think you are going to go out and do arts and craft shows think long and hard. It was costing us $1,000.00 everytime we started our BIG truck to go do a show.

    Joe public does not have the expendable $$$$$ they use to have.

    If you have any questions fire away.
  6. cutinpony

    cutinpony Active Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    N.E. Oklahoma
  7. CWebster

    CWebster New Member

    Sep 22, 2004
    Hypertherm is the best when it comes to plasma machines. I have a Torchmate III from and it works great. I have the 6' x 12' with all of the bells and whistles (for my business), but they sell a small "garage-sized" unit for people wanting to start small or have limited space. If you do a search you will find that there are LOTS of these companies coming out with CNC plasma units.
    Clean, dry air in ample supply is a must or you will burn your money up on consumables and have a difficult time controlling your cut. Another option is to use bottled gas (typically oxygen) for your air. It eliminates the need for a dryer and compressor and will produce a much better cut.....but it will not be as cheap as shop air. If you don't run constantly, bottled gas may be a short term solution to get you up and running until you are generating enough cash flow to get your compressor, dryer, etc.
    Also (as mentioned above) make sure you realize all of the things that have to happen just to use the machine.....receiving the steel, getting it on/off the machine (especially in the thicker guages), secondary clean-up operations, shipping the product, etc. These are things that the manufacturers do not discuss, but are just as important as using the machine.

  8. luckypabst

    luckypabst Active Member

    Oct 16, 2004
    Lone Pine, CA
    Yup, the CNC route will be BANK even if you build your own and with that route you have to write the program yourself.

    Try building a pantograph tracer or adapting an old-tech optical tracer that follows the outline of a white cutout...

  9. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2002
    South West MI