History of Plasma Cutting
What is plasma cutting? It is a process that uses a plasma torch to cut through steel and other kinds of metal or materials of various thicknesses. An inert gas (in a few units, compressed air is used instead of a gas) comes out of a nozzle at high speed while an electrical arc forms through the gas to the surface that is to be cut. The arc turns some of the gas into plasma, which is hot enough to melt the metal that is to be cut and is also fast enough to blow the molten metal away from the cut as it is produced.
Plasma cutting began in the 1960s. It came about as a part of plasma welding and was a very productive way of cutting plate and sheet metal in the 1980s. There were several advantages to plasma cutting. For one thing, no metal chips were produced and cuts were more accurate. Another advantage was that plasma cutting produces a cleaner edge than oxy-fuel cutting. In the beginning of plasma cutting, the cutters were rather large, expensive, and slow. This led to plasma cutting being used in mass production areas.
Plasma torches used to be found only in well-stocked shops and private garages as well as in professional welding shops. Over time, the plasma torches became much cheaper and even hobbyists are now able to afford them. Advances in technology have led to newer plasma cutters that have inverter technology. This allows the units to work just as well, and in some cases better, than the original plasma cutters, but they are much lighter and easier to work with.
In just the last decade, advances have been made that allow plasma cutters to have smaller nozzles, thinner plasma arcs, and precision that is almost as exact as a laser. Some models of plasma cutters have become so small that they are easily held by hand and can be used for precision work anywhere a hand can reach. This has opened the door to many new uses for plasma cutting. Originally, plasma cutting machines were dedicated to simply cutting patterns in factories for the mass production of products. Even when the plasma cutting machines came to be controlled by computers – CNC plasma cutting machines – they were still too big and expensive. They were still limited to cutting parts and patterns out of flat steel sheets using X Y cutting.