Could you have imagined it, melting the stiffest materials with a gash of the brightest element? A plasma cutter makes it happen. It works more effectively than all other cutters out there.
So, to keep this effective tool working its best, taking care to maintain your equipment is important. A little mismanagement can result in decreasing the life of your consumables. Though the technologies included in plasma cutters have increased over time, these alone do not guarantee the optimal consumable experience. It mainly depends on how well you care for them, yet problems are relatively easy to identify and correct.
If you’d like to learn more about plasma consumables and how to improve mechanized plasma consumable life, this is the article for you.
Plasma Cutter and Consumables
A plasma cutter is a machine that transfers plasma energy from a power supply to any conductive material, resulting in fast and clean cutting.
Wait! Do you know what plasma is? It’s the same as the lightning you see on rainy days. This ionized gas becomes electrically conductive with current-carrying capabilities. A plasma machine produces exceptionally high temperatures that ionizes gases, and with high pressure, it can melt and sever sections of electrically conductive metals.
Now, on to the consumables. The main consumables commonly seen in every plasma cutter are:
- Retaining cap
- Swirl ring
Proper management and awareness can lead to improving the life of these consumables. Let’s learn what you can do to protect these mini-tools from damage by understanding the problems that can shorten their life.
Factors Affecting Plasma Consumable Life
Let’s look at the factors you must be aware of.
• Low Coolant Flow
The electrode of your plasma machine produces a lot of heat with high power. And this leads to a quick heat up of the electrode interior if there is not a sufficient coolant fluid flow to minimize the high temperature on time.
So, what happened to electrodes in getting to heat? Well, it can be destroyed entirely and unexpectedly.
• Improper Gas Flow
The cool gas flow through the nozzle prevents it from melting in excessive heat. Premature failure of the nozzle can occur if low gas flow occurs in your plasma tube.
• Incorrect Pierce Height
The distance you set between the nozzle and plate while piercing greatly affects the life of your consumables.
If it’s too low, the plate will incur damage, and too high a distance can cause misfire, which decreases the electrode life.
• Impurities in Water or Gas
If there is a contaminant in the gas or water being used an unwanted deposit can occur in the nozzle that changes the correct amount of output pressure. This will negatively change the desired cut and damage the nozzle orifice.
• Wrong Electrode Setting and Parameters
One small mistake while setting the consumables, putting a wrong nozzle for example; can lead to a remarkably shortened life of the entire plasma system.
Using the wrong parameters can cause great damage to your system in general.
Also, cutting the plate with wrong parameters; hope you know how misleading it is!
• Improper Shutdown Sequence
While cutting off the scrap, your imbalanced shutdown can cause the arc to snap off. And this creates a chance for the nozzle to make contact with the edge of the material, which will result in damage.
Also, more power will be required as the arc is stretched while moving along the scraping area.
• Crashing the Nozzle on a Plate
If your plasma nozzle runs into a ball of slag on the plate this can shorten the life of the nozzle.
What if, a ball of slag placed on the plate, and your plasma nozzle run to it causing a crash? You know it’s an ordinary happening. And your unconscious mind can lead the impact; shorten the nozzle life as well.
How to Improve Mechanized Plasma Cutter Consumable Life
1. Check the Gas Pressure
As we said, a low gas flow can lead the nozzle to melt in higher temperature. And you know heat depends on the pressure of the gas.
More pressure causes more heat. So it should be controlled. If you increase the pressure by more than five psi, then the electrode will wear faster and this creates the possibility of damage to the nozzle.
Also, if the pressure is lower than five psi, it will cause poor cut quality. So, it is best to follow the prescribed cutting chart while setting the gas pressure.
2. Maintain Proper Pierce Height
For saving the plasma torch from damage and having the best cut quality, you must ensure the pierce height is perfect. You should maintain the torch-to-work distance, as well as initial pierce height, while cutting.
The proper pierce height of torch-to-work distance (during cutting) is 1.5 mm. And the initial pierce size, which means the distance set while triggering the torch or before descending, is 3.8 mm.
3. Clean the Consumables When Needed
Deposits of impurities, also grease, dirt, and metal dust can buildup in a different part of the plasma machine during daily use.
This can easily block the holes of the swirl ring or inner retaining cap, which lead the plasma arc to become skewed, and then you face low cut quality of your materials.
So, make sure to keep the parts as clean as possible. You can wipe down the piece with a clean towel whenever you remove these from the system.
4. Poor Electrical Connection? Check It Out
A poor connection can inhibit the arc transfer established between the nozzle and electrode.
Where the arc transfer normally occurs within 100 milliseconds, a poor connection leads it to delay 10 seconds or more. And if given a chance to misfire, this also increases consumable wear.
It is best if you can connect the work cable to table ground directly from the power supply and after that connect the jumper cable from the table to the work piece. It’s only for reducing excessive slag production that causes poor connection.
5. Use Proper Coolant Flow
You have already seen what happens during low coolant flow. Electrodes can be damaged with rapid erosion. So, what to do for a proper coolant flow?
Check the coolant system filter to see if it’s clogged with particles. Make sure it’s not. Do a flow test to ensure the flows are consistent with the OEM specifications.
6. Avoid Adding Circular Lead-Out
Proper management of gas pressure at the beginning and end of the cut is tricky but important to save the consumables from a shortened life. At the end of cutting holes, a lead-out occurs when you shutdown the arc.
You can use nesting software that can include a little over burn to clean up the hole at the end of the cut. Proper programming of the CNC can eliminate lead-out at the end of the cut.
Moreover, always try to shut off the plasma in the scrap area.
Managing Your Plasma Cutter and Consumables
Now that you know how to improve plasma consumable life and the factors that affect it, you can properly care for your plasma cutter and consumables.
For more information about consumables, plasma cutters, and other welding tips and tricks, follow the American Torch Tip blog.