Plasma CNC systems are an amazing technology that can be used to cut a variety of materials. The main characteristic is that these materials must be some sort of conductive metal or alloy. Take a look at the following materials to help you decide which will be the best for you next plasma table project. If you’re ready to purchase your own CNC plasma cutting tables, check out our different table sizes and plasma CNC systems.
Mild steel is a carbon steel with low amounts of carbon. It is also referred to as “low carbon steel.” Because of its low levels of carbon, it is more malleable and cuts easily on a plasma CNC machine. However, this also means that it can’t be hardened or strengthened through heating or quenching. It has high levels of iron and ferrite, making it magnetic.
Stainless steel is a steel alloy, with at least 10.5 percent chromium content by mass. Stainless steel is resistant to corrosion, and becomes more resistant as the amount of chromium increases. Because it is an alloy, it is more difficult to cut than mild steel. It does not conduct electricity as well as other metals, like copper, but ferritic and martensitic stainless steels are magnetic. Austenitic stainless steels are non-magnetic.
Aluminum is one of the most abundant elements on earth, making it more affordable than other metals. It has a low density, making it light. Aluminum has high electrical and thermal conductivity, is nonmagnetic, and non-sparking. It is resistant to corrosion because it forms a layer of aluminum oxide when it comes into contact with air. It has a low melting temperature, which makes it easier to cut on a CNC plasma cutting table than other metals or alloys.
Copper is soft, malleable, ductile, and very high levels thermal and electrical conductivity. It is easy to cut with plasma CNC systems, however, if it used for outdoor pieces it will oxidize after long periods of exposure to air or seawater and form a green pigment, or verdigris.
Brass and Bronze
Brass and bronze are both alloys of copper. Brass is 70 percent copper and 30 percent zinc. It is light yellow-gold, and can be cut into decorative objects, flatware, or dishware It is also malleable and ductile like copper. Bronze is 90 percent copper, 6 percent tin, and 4 percent zinc. Because of its high levels of copper, it can also form a light green pigment, but it will range from this to a dark brown. It can also be cut into decorative objects or sculptural forms.
Cast iron contains more than 2 percent carbon and is easier to cut than other cast metals like steel. It is resistant to corrosion and more cost-effective than cast steel. While cast iron is easier to cut than cast steel, it is still a sturdy material for many decorative objects. Don’t plan to use cast iron for projects that could face sudden impact though. It is much more likely that it will bend or break on impact.
There are plenty of other metals and alloys that could be appropriate for project ideas on your CNC plasma cutting table that are not listed above. The main thing to remember is that the material must have some level of electrical conductivity, you should know whether or not you want your project to have a magnetic quality, and you should be aware that if you decide to plasma cut an alloy it is going to be more difficult than cutting a pure metal. With these factors in mind, you’re ready to choose a material for your plasma table project. Check out Wright CNC’s different plasma CNC systems and CNC plasma cutting tables, as well as our course on operating your new CNC system.