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8 Steps to Protect Your Handheld Plasma Cutter

Handheld Plasma Cutter in Use

How to Keep Your Handheld Plasma Cutter Running Trouble-Free 

All trade professionals rely on their tools to make a living. Like any piece of equipment, your handheld plasma cutter requires regular preventative maintenance in order to maintain optimal performance. Below are some tips to keep your equipment in tip-top shape. 

1. Keep Plasma Cutters Covered When Not in Use 

This is one of the easiest steps you can take to maintain your handheld cutter when working with plasma. In most fabrication environments, dust, grime, and metallic particles settle and adhere to almost every surface. Just as these can make you sick, they can seriously impair the proper function of your machine. Metallic particles can find their way onto sensitive circuitry and cause expensive and dangerous shorts. Grime may obscure small, easy-to-fix problems which may later turn into big, expensive ones. In order to avoid these scenarios, simply cover your machine when you’re not using it. Many machines have optional fitted covers, but a common drop cloth will suffice. 

2. Turn Off The Air Supply And Purge Your System 

This is a good habit to get into whenever you shut down your handheld plasma cutter for the day. Turning off your air supply and purging the air from your machine and will extend the life of hoses, fittings, valves, regulators, and solenoids and prevent unnecessary wear on your compressor if a leak happens to develop while you are away. Shutting off your compressed air system also serves to reduce fire risk, as atmospheric air is approximately 21% oxygen. When cutting, that oxygen serves to boost the plasma arc. For this same reason, it acts as a powerful oxidizer which can accelerate the spread of a fire. 

3. Hang It Up! 

When you are done working for the day, coil your cutting torch loosely and hang it up off of the floor. Not only is this a good general practice for keeping your work area clean, but it will also prevent your torch from becoming damaged when not in use. 

4. Inspect The Work Lead And Clamp 

Work leads and clamps are often taken for granted. We tend to assume that if the clamp is touching the workpiece or table, it’s doing its job. The truth is that your work lead and clamp serve a very important function in the welding process and they need a little attention from time to time. First, inspect the cable for damage. Then, check the tightness of the connections at the machine and at the clamp. Lastly, ensure that the clamp is clean and the contact surfaces are free of buildup. 

5. Inspect The Cables 

This is just as important for safety as it is for proper function of your equipment. First, unplug your machine. Then start at the back and inspect the power cord for cuts, burn marks, cracks, and any other damage. Ensure that the plug is properly installed and fits tightly into the socket. Then, inspect the torch cable. Look for damage. Ensure the strain relief springs are properly attached. Check to make sure that the connection is secure. 

Pay special attention to the front end of the cable. Most cable damage occurs within six feet of the handle. If you find any damage, repair the cable or replace the torch. 

6. Inspect The Compressor, Air Lines, Regulators, Filters, and Fittings 

The plasma arc is formed by electricity and gas. Your air supply is a crucial part of this combination. In order to ensure that you have an adequate supply of clean, dry air you must regularly inspect all components of your compressor and delivery systems. Start by unplugging the air compressor. Locate the drain valve and drain the moisture from the tank. When no more moisture is present, close the valve.

Then, repressurize the system. Start at the tank outlet and check for leaks and damage to fittings, hoses and components. Work your way to the end of the line. If you suspect any leaks are present, spray soapy water on the line. Bubbles will indicate if a leak is present. Check any downstream regulators and filters to ensure they are clean and set properly. Finally, if your plasma cutter is equipped with an onboard filter element, check it for serviceability and replace it if needed. 

7. Keep Your Machine Clean 

Even if you follow the first tip and keep your machine covered when not in use, eventually debris will find its way in. When you notice that there is an accumulation on and inside your machine, dust it off. Compressed air and a clean cloth work very well for this task. A clean machine is a happy machine! 

8. Clean or Replace Consumables 

This may seem like common sense, but your consumables take a lot of heat. If they are getting long in the tooth, hit them with a wire brush, clean the spatter off, apply a coating of anti-spatter, or replace them. Waiting until your consumables fail to replace them can come back to haunt you in the form of cut defects and lost time. The cost of an electrode and nozzle is small compared to the cost and hassle of botched cuts. 

Following these easy preventative maintenance tips will keep you and your handheld plasma cutter productive and yield better quality cuts with fewer headaches. For more in-depth maintenance, consult your machine’s operator manual or your local welding equipment supplier. 

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