How Does Plasma Cutter Work? Overview and Safety Tips You Need to Know

welder setting up plasma cutter

Welding Buddy Experts

July 11, 2022
welder setting up plasma cutter

It is hard to imagine industrial construction without plasma cutters. These tools make it possible to accurately cut and process different types of steel used for construction. The metals you see on a high-rise building or the ones used to repair automobiles are products for plasma cutters. 

There are giant plasma cutters for big-scale industrial construction and portable ones compatible with homes for all-around repairs and hobbies. In this article, we'll share an overview of how plasma cutters work and some essential safety tips so you can work with your projects injury-free. 

The Fourth State of Matter: Plasma 

Before you get too excited and wield a plasma cutter, let's know first what plasma is. Types of matter can change their state through the induction of high energy. For example, solid matter can transform through high heat into liquid, and as the heat continues to rise, the liquid turns into gas. 

When gas is inducted with the highest heat level, it becomes ionized gas, which we call plasma. In this state, the gas becomes electrically conductive, which workers use to cut metals used in different manufacturing processes effectively. 

There are three essential components of a plasma cutter: 

  • Arc starting console. The console is responsible for generating 5000 volts that produce the spark, which then becomes the plasma arc. 
  • Plasma torch. The plasma cutting torch is used to make contact with metals to make the cut. The torch uses consumables like the ring, nozzle, and electrode to make a clean and smooth metal cut. 
  • Power supply. The power supply is the main power source of plasma cutters. Plasma cutters are both DC and AC-based. In order for the console to work, you need a power source between 220V to 450V to run your plasma torch. 

Setting Up the Plasma Cutter 

Now that you know how plasma came to be, it is important to know the different components of the tool. Then, setting up your tool and cutting metals is fairly easy. Here are five quick and easy steps to operate your plasma cutter. 

Step 1: Attach the plasma cutter to an air compressor. There are 20-gallon tanks for quick work, but larger capacities are better if you intend to work for long periods and thick metals. 

Step 2: Connect your plasma torch to a power source. Most plasma cutters require 220V or 415V. Ensure the power source in your workstation is compatible with your tools for it to run properly. Otherwise, use a power adapter. 

Step 3: Attach the ground clamp to the plasma cutter. Don't miss this step, for this is a safety precaution that avoids grounding and electrocution. During work, when the ground clamp is detached or loosens, the machine shuts down to prevent accidents. 

Step 4: Prepare the plasma torch. Make sure to attach all consumables needed to do your work. Also, ensure that you have spare consumables within reach if you run out in the middle of your cutting job. 

Step 5: Set up the proper amperage for your activity. Plasma cutters usually come with a settings chart to tell you the right output depending on the material's thickness. After all this preparation, all you need is to pull the trigger on the plasma torch to start cutting metals. 

Safety Precaution When Using Plasma Cutters 

Construction tools may be hi-tech, but they also come with hazards. That's why only professionals are allowed to handle such things as much as possible. 

Now that you know how plasma cutting works, it's also essential to cover some safety precautions when using a plasma machine. Here are some important safety notes you need to remember. 

Wear Eye Protection 

Like welding, plasma cutters produce intense flares that could damage your eyes when you look at them directly. If you are uncomfortable with a full helmet, you can invest in dimmed eye goggles for plasma cutting. Furthermore, if you are in a shared workstation, having your goggles on would make the people around you to be cautious. 

Proper Work Clothing 

You can't wear casual clothes during your plasma cutting job. Your cotton shirt and jeans are more likely to be caught on fire because of the high heat the torch tip produces. There are safety clothes proper for welding and plasma cutting. Make sure to invest in fireproof boots, coats, and gloves

Moreover, throw in some protective earmuffs to complete your ensemble. Plasma cutting torches create a loud noise, and over-exposure to these noises can affect your hearing. So, don't forget to put on and invest in protective clothing. 

Never Work on Wet or Moist Areas

It's a big no to operate plasma cutter on wet areas. The machine requires a high voltage of electricity to run. A faulty wiring can cause grave accidents. 

Instead, invest in a plasma cutting table. It gives you a safer safe place to work in, and you can work in a more comfortable position. Check out how plasma cutting tables work and have some that suit your needs. 

Keep Away From Flammable Materials

Operating plasma torches involving flying sparks. So anything flammable should be kept away from your workstation. Flammable material also includes gases and chemicals that can react to the hot plasma and spark emissions that could burst in contact. Ensure there's nothing dry, flammable, or leaks when working with plasma cutters. 

Never Work With a Faulty Machine 

Some accidents are due to the user's stubbornness. If the machines are already faulty or you can hear creaking sounds, it is best not to use them. Instead, have them checked by experts for proper assessment. 

Don't repair your tools by yourself unless you have extensive plasma cutting machine maintenance knowledge. It's better to opt for another plasma machine or invest in a newer and better model. 

Final Thoughts 

It takes a professional to navigate how plasma cutter does work. In addition, it takes extensive training in proper handling and basic knowledge of the tool for you to wield it properly and safely. We hope this overview of the steps and preparation helps you handle your plasma cutters better. Also, keep in mind these safety tips so you can work away injury-free. If you need more reviews on tools such as welding machines, plasma cutting torches, welding accessories, and different safety gear, subscribe to our blogs for information.

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