Do you need to replace your CNC plasma consumables?
As your plasma cutting jobs progress, you may start to notice your cut-quality diminish. CNC plasma cutting is used for precise applications, so it’s important that you maintain your plasma consumables to extend the life of your torch.
Use this checklist to determine whether or not you need to replace your CNC plasma consumables.
1. Get back to basics
When a computer won’t work, someone always asks “Is it plugged in?” If you’re having trouble achieving the perfect cut, start with your consumables. Are you using the correct parts for the job, and are they assembled correctly? Make sure all of your CNC plasma consumables are seated correctly in the right places. Consult your operator’s manual, and follow its recommendations for maintenance.
2. Inspect your arc
A healthy arc is bright white to light blue in color. If it starts to turn orange or purple, it could be a sign of contaminants in your gas (keeping your gas supply system in optimal condition). A green arc is a red flag, indicating that you have burned through the tip on your electrode and are now burning (and melting) copper. If your arc turns green, replace your parts immediately to avoid full torch failure.
3. Check your nozzle
Nozzles come in a variety of sizes to accommodate various types of cuts – the more focused the cut, the smaller the orifice. A visual inspection that reveals either an enlarged orifice, or one that has become oval vs. circular, is a sure sign that the nozzle needs to be replaced. One thing that isn’t a factor here, though, is color. A discolored nozzle is not a sign of wear. (See how your plasma tips can affect cut-quality.)
4. Love your electrode
The electrode is a crucial piece in your CNC plasma consumables setup, although it is largely made of copper, its tip is made from hafnium. When the arc powers off/on tiny pieces of the tip flake off and exit through the nozzle. Keep a close eye on the pit at the tip, which should never be deeper than 1mm. If you work beyond that, you could end up completely unable to cut. This causes torch failure and it’s a lot cheaper to replace the consumables vs. the entire torch.
5. Go for the silver
One of the most efficient materials used in plasma electrode manufacturing is a silver insert. Silver conducts both heat and electricity well. When used near the hafnium tip, silver provides much-needed additional cooling and heat-protection. If you want to extend the life of your torch tip, upgrade to a silver electrode.