When it comes to plasma cutting, most people in the industry understand that it’s a technology capable of cutting through metals and other hard materials, but that’s the extent of their knowledge. If you really intend to master the technical skill of plasma cutting though, it’s important to understand the science behind a CNC plasma cutting table and all that a Wright CNC system can do for you.
Plasma, the Fourth Element
Plasma is one of the four fundamental states of matter, even if it’s the most elusive. First described by chemist Irving Langmuir in the 1920’s, plasma does not exist under normal conditions on Earth. Plasma is created when a gas consisting of positive ions and free electrons is subjected to low amounts of pressure, like the upper atmosphere or fluorescent lamps; or when subjected to extremely high temperatures, like stars, nuclear fusion reactors, or, for the purpose of this blog, a CNC plasma router.
CNC Technology and Plasma
The creation of plasma starts with a “cutting gas” that is neutral to the strong electromagnetic fields existing in the conductive metals that CNC systems use. Cutting gases include nitrogen, oxygen, argon, and even just the air that we breathe. These gases are heated to extreme temperatures that cause the electrons to break free from the nucleus of the gas molecules. Plasma cutters direct plasma by sending an electric arc through the gas stream and heating it to the point that it becomes plasma. The electrons in the plasma collide and release energy, creating incredible amounts of heat and an extraordinary cutting ability for hard materials. If you’re curious about how you can use a plasma CNC machine for your next metalworking project, check out our different plasma cutting systems.
Cutting and Gouging
This sounds like a violent process, but CNC plasma routers are safe, flexible, and energy-efficient. They have a high output and are environmentally-friendly. Plasma cutters are the optimal tool for cutting thick and thin metal, hard plastics, fiberglass, and other non-metal materials. They are sharp, precise, and are capable of cutting angled and curved designs.
CNC technology uses a plasma torch to create cuts. It is blown at high speeds and temperatures inside of the torch. The speed is effective for precise cutting and is fast enough to blow molten metal away from the cuts. Plasma cutters can be controlled by CNC using computers and software applications to manipulate the settings of the torch-head. CNC plasma technology provides sharp, clean cuts; can be used on a variety of materials, and has multi-axis cutting capabilities for thicker metals.
Plasma gouging can also be done using CNC technology, but the torch must be configured so that it is farther away from the workpiece. Gouging is generally used for reworking metal and welding.