Think back to high school and you may have heard the term ‘plasma’. You may also remember that it is a fourth state of matter. When we heat solids, we get liquids. When we heat liquids, we get gases. Now when we heat gases…you guessed it, we get plasma. It does this without using oxygen for fuel, which makes it much faster and residue-free.
The principle upon which it works is this: a electric arc is sent through a gas, which can be oxygen, nitrogen and some other gases. The path that the gas takes is intentionally made to be narrow. Doing this results in an incredible increase in temperature. It shoots up immediately to as high sa 40,000 degree Fahrenheit! That’s almost four times as hot as the Earth’s core!
What is It Made of?
With that kind of heat in play, the plasma cutter must surely be made out of something reliable. It’s not as complicated as you would imagine though, as it all boils down to three major components: the plasma torch itself, the bit that creates the arc and the power supply.
The plasma torch is the part that can vary in quality and thus offer better or worse cuts. A solid source for information on which models have the best plasma torches and result in the cleanest cuts is http://www.cutslikebutter.com/.
The bit that creates the arc is called the Arc Starting Console, which generates a high voltage output that sparks the arc into action inside the plasma cutter. The power supply simply maintains the arc by converting the AC voltage into a steady DC voltage.
It isn’t a very large setup, but the quality of materials and construction play a huge role in determining how a good plasma cutter is.
The growth of technology has touched plasma cutting too, with more recent models offering near laser-like accuracy and cleanliess. Modern plasma devices are also selling for cheaper than ever before – making metalwork as a hobby much more accessible. Portability is no longer a problem either. What was once confined to workshops and large garages is now very much in the hands of anyone. Several models offer a nice balance between power and portability. There has been no better time to invest in a plasma cutter.