The CNC Plasma Cutter
The plasma cutter is a device that is able to quickly cut through metal surfaces by directing heated gas onto the surface. The cutting implement itself is sometimes called a torch, and it comes in different forms depending on the size and capacity of the cutter. High capacity plasma cutters can be quite large, but cutters can also be so small as to be hand held. The internal components are essentially the same in all plasma cutters. The key components are the electrode which serves as a torch, the electrical arc, the gas that is converted to plasma, and the nozzle through which it finally passes onto the surface to be cut. The gas is generally standard shop gas such as nitrogen, argon, or oxygen.
The computer numerical control (CNC) plasma cutter serves to improve the plasma cutting process by using a computer to control the cutting head so that the dimensions of the cut can be precisely defined. These devices generally employ more exacting tolerances and they are normally larger and more expensive than non-CNC plasma cutters. CNC plasma cutters range in size from counter top devices on up to enormous machines operated by mechanical functions. The larger CNC plasma cutters employ a cutting table where the material to be cut is held. The cutting pattern followed by the CNC plasma cutter is controlled by software running in the device’s computer. This software manages and controls the cutting torch throughout the cutting process. The accuracy and precision of these machines is variable. Generally, less expensive machines follow lower standards of precision, and more expensive machines follow higher standards. Price is largely dependent on construction of the machine and accuracy of the software.
CNC plasma cutters generally cost a minimum of $3,000 to $4,000. Some people claim to have built their own CNC plasma cutter at costs of less than $1,000. Plans are available for these do-it-yourself projects, but even building a CNC plasma cutter for oneself can easily cost $3,000 or more. The cost to purchase a machine can be much higher, even up to $100,000 and more. In most cases, software is included with a purchase, although in some cases it is sold separately.
The most popular brands of CNC Plasma Cutters are the PlasmaCam CNC Cutting system and CNC Plasma tables from Torchmate in Reno, NV.
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