Plasma cutting is a proprietary metal cutting technology, much like laser and waterjet. It has been considered an ideal workplace solution for metal works across the board. However, many people wrongly believe that plasma cutters wont work on aluminum. Most modern plasma cutters will work on aluminum.
Misconceptions surrounding aluminum plasma cutting
Will your plasma cutter work on aluminum? If you made the right pick, it will work just fine. These common misconceptions about aluminum plasma cutting could affect your ability to make the right purchasing decision.
Aluminum cant stand the flame
Opponents of plasma cutting for aluminum will claim that it oxidizes quickly and causes porosity along the cutting edge. The high capacity of plasma cutters has also been pointed out as being too overpowering for aluminum. With the right gas, you can cut through aluminum without any problem. A helium/argon mix has been identified as superior to air when cutting through aluminum. This reduces the likelihood of porosity, which should ensure a more thorough cut. Plasma cutter heat can also be channeled to a specific cutting arc, with no damage to the surrounding metal.
Plasma cutting cant meet the high tolerance
Aluminum cutting with plasma technology often faces the challenge over its tolerance capacity. Older models may have struggled to hold tolerance, but newer models can hold similar tolerance to laser technology. High precision plasma cutters will hold better than industry standard tolerance levels, which makes them ideal for use on aluminum.
Plasma cutting will leave a mess on the surface
Cutting metals with heat could be the recipe for disaster. Beads of molten metal will usually develop on the surface, which could affect the quality of your finish. Plasma cutting technology guarantees little or no dross, assuming the process is carried out well. Using the right gases, such as inert helium/argon mix, will ensure a clean cut all around. By preventing any oxidation, you could be able to cut thorough aluminum easily.
Tips to get the right cut on aluminum with a plasma cutter
Aluminum is generally used in cold temperature application, such as in the transportation of liquid gas and cryogenics. Understanding the chemical properties of aluminum that make it different to steel and iron could help you get an unerring cut. It is important to keep in mind that aluminum’s melting point is just about half of steel’s 2500-degree temperature, with its oxide layer melting at about 3750 degrees. So, how should you approach an aluminum cut?
You need to strike balance between amperage and speed. You should move the arc as fast as you can without over speeding, which can affect the arc’s ability to penetrate aluminum. You may need a drag tip when tracing a template, as well as cutting in grain with the pattern to prevent slag from forming on your finished sheet.
Torch placement is a big part of cutting aluminum, since the high temperatures produced can quickly cut thorough the material. Instead of placing it on the surface of your aluminum sheet, you should hold it at an angle and removed from your metal. This will protect the model from damage while ensuring a clean cut. You could make a sketch outline to guide your efforts, especially when working on larger surfaces.