A Comprehensive Overview of CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

Posted on Nov 27, 2020

CNC plasma cutting machine

A CNC plasma cutting machine, also known as the CNC plasma cutter, is commonly used for cutting metals for a wide variety of purposes.

Why Is CNC Plasma Cutting Machine Needed

A CNC plasma machine typically carries a plasma torch, and the torch can be moved in a path directed by a computer. The term "CNC" is referred to as "Computer Numerical Control", meaning that a computer is used to direct the machine's motion based on numerical codes in a program.

The torch of the CNC plasma cutting machine can cut into steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass, and copper, as well as other conductive metals. CNC plasma cutting machine is often deployed in fabrication shops, automotive repair and restoration workshops, industrial constructions, or salvaging and scrapping operations.

Due to the high speed and precise nature of a CNC plasma cutting machine, the utilization of plasma cutting has been widespread from large-scale industrial CNC applications down to small hobbyist shops.


Construction and Process of CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

The main components of a CNC plasma cutting machine are listed below for the reader's reference:

  • CNC: The CNC of a plasma cutter may be an actual controller designed for machine tools with a dedicated control console, or it could simply be a Windows-based computer running special software and communicate with the cutting machine through an Ethernet port.
  • Torch and Torch Controller: To cut parts from metal plates, the CNC directs the motion of the torch. A part program is then responsible for telling the torch when to turn on and off. These part programs are normally created by a piece of software referred to as the "post-processor", which can take a part geometry from a CAD file and translate it into a language (usually referred to as the M-codes and G-codes) that the CNC is able to read.
  • Drive System: A CNC plasma cutting machine also includes a drive system that comprises drive amplifiers, motors, encoders, and cables. There are at least two motors for the X-axis and the Y-axis, respectively. There is then a driver amplifier for each motor, which takes a low power signal from the CNC and transforms it into a high power signal to initiate the motor. Each axis incorporates a feedback mechanism, typically an encoder, which generates a digital signal to indicate how far the axis has traveled. Cables then direct the power to the motor from the amplifier and carry the position signals from the encoder back to the CNC.

    The CNC reads the part program and then sends output to the machine's drive system which moves the torch in the designated direction at the programmed speed. The CNC reads the encoder feedback and makes corrections to the drive signals as required to keep the torch motion on the programmed path.

    All of the electronics in the CNC and drive system work and communicate very quickly, often measuring and updating position information every few milliseconds. This allows the machine motion to be smooth and accurate enough to produce plasma cut parts with a smooth, straight, consistent edge quality, and precise part dimensions.
  • I/O System: CNC plasma cutter will have an electrical system that takes care of the inputs and outputs. This is essentially how plasma is turned on by the CNC at the optimal time. For instance, this can be done by turning on an output that closes a relay. The CNC of the plasma cutter uses inputs as a prompt to when the plasma arc has initiated and is poised to move. Those are the most fundamental inputs and outputs required, but obviously, there can be many more.

Many other features can be supplemented to the CNC plasma cutter, such as arc voltage height control systems, plasma bevel systems, integrated plasma control systems, and so on. Nevertheless, the basics of a CNC plasma cutter described above will be common to all such machines, from the simplest to the most complicated.


:: Read More: Main Applications of CNC Plasma Tables

Operator Safety for CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

To ensure the safety of those operating a CNC plasma cutter, proper eye protection, and face shields are needed to prevent eye damage (i.e. arc eyes) as well as damage from debris.

Leather gloves, an apron, and a jacket are also recommended to prevent burns from sparks and hot metal. Working in a clean area free of flammable liquids, materials and gases are very important. Sparks and hot metal from a plasma cutter can quickly cause fires if they are not isolated from flammable objects.

Plasma cutters can send hot sparks flying up to 5 feet away in certain situations. The operator of the machine is typically blind to any fire that has started because they are behind their face shield. Take safety precautions to make sure your work area is free of fire hazards.


Cost of CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

CNC plasma cutters, particularly the torches, were once quite expensive. For this reason, they were usually only found in professional welding shops and very well-stocked private garages and shops. However, modern plasma torches are becoming cheaper and now are within the price range of many hobbyists, which can be less than $300.

Older units may be very heavy, but still portable, while some newer ones with inverter technology weigh only a little, yet equal or exceed the capacities of older ones.


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