How to Choose Between Industrial and Non-industrial Plasma Cutters

Rotterdam – Netherlands plasma cutting with a cnc machine

Plasma cutting technology is a widely used process that has gained widespread popularity for its ability to cut most forms of metal. It is favored because of its simplicity in use. Its flexibility and usability in a wide range of applications have made it a popular metal cutting method.

Non-industrial Plasma

Non-industrial plasmas are ideal for garage workshops that need plasma cutting perhaps 2-3 hours daily for 3-4 times per week. A plasma within this class is ideal for small job-shops that perform custom parts manufacturing. Non-industrial plasma cutters are much cheaper to purchase than industrial plasmas but cannot withstand the continual high volume production that an industrial plasma is made for. Air plasmas and lower end conventional mechanized plasmas normally fall into this class.

Industrial plasmas refer to plasma cutters that are used in large manufacturing centers, which have sufficient jobs to wring a full eight hour shift, five days per week from the machine. Plasmas in this class can even operate up to three eight hour shifts every day, seven days per week if needed. If your operation fits into this class then an industrial plasma is an absolute necessity.

Higher-end-conventional plasma belong to this class of industrial plasmas. With technological advancements, high-performance is usually the plasma cutter of choice because of its higher level of automation and superior capability.

Important Elements of an Industrial Plasma Cutting Machine

A plasma cutter’s ability to cut continually with consistent quality is of paramount importance. This is provided by the ‘controller’ of a plasma cutter.

A well-constructed and well-engineered control unit will provide a high level of cutting precision and quality, even when the production rate is high and after working long hours. An inferior to average control device is very likely to overheat or break down when the hours of operation is extended. The five components of controller are: power source, controller, a lifter, drives, and servo motors.

Power Source

It’s important to get a reputable-brand power source for your plasma cutter to achieve a high performance and reliability. This will give you consistent cut quality, higher productivity, and lower operating costs. And, you won’t need to replace the power source for a long time.

Lifter

The lifter is a vital element. It provides accurate height control of the plasma torch. Implementing an excellent THC height detector will lower the time to complete one cycle of an operation. (up to 60 percent cut-to-cut time) You will get a better cut quality because the torch height is better assembled, savings on electricity, and longer consumable life.

Also, the better torch height controllers automatically regulate voltage at different torch height to enhance cut quality and lengthen the life of consumables. Conventional torch height controllers need an operator to occasionally change the arc voltage to ensure appropriate cut height.

Control

The controller has to have all of the process functions built in. This will provide flexibility and ease of use for your end user. A better controller has an electronic I/O servo system for reliable motion, enhancing the cut quality and increasing productivity.

The software needs to be flexible and simple enough for your end user, so an individual with very little or no expertise on the controller can learn to cut like a seasoned professional within a day.

High End Servo Drives and Motors

High end drives, such as Bosch, help to ensure offer perfect reputability despite the frequent change of speed. The drive vary the electrical power fed into the motor, and thus controls the motor’s speed and torque.

Servos main advantage over DC and AC motors used in non-industrial plasmas is the addition of motor feedback, which is used to detect and compensate for undesired motion. This ensures the accuracy of a command motion.

A servo that changes speed constantly usually last longer than DC/AC motors, and it may also act as a brake by shutting off electricity from the motor itself.

Bosch Servo motors

Bosch servo motors allow for precise control of angular position, velocity, and acceleration. It consists of a sophisticated motor attached to a sensor for position feedback.

Stepper motors are typically used in low-end CNC machines. These do not have any encoder for feedback. This reduces performance because the stepper motor may only drive a load that is well within its torque capacity. Otherwise, the motor loses steps and this leads to positioning errors.

Low Rails

An industrial plasma cutter typically feature low rails secured to the floor to ensure the highest level of stability. Helical drives provide optimal accuracy for the rapid motion of the plasma beam during prolonged operating hours.

On non-industrial plasmas, the table-design rails will not have the same rigidity, So they are less suitable for high volume, high speed production. Since the rails are built on the cutting table and are so close to the plasma torch, the rails are continually exposed to heat and thus liable to get distorted.

CAD / CAM software

To enhance the efficiency of production in a high volume settings, you require a better software with a wider array of functions. Using more advanced software units can provide a number of advantages. For example, multiple parts from one CNC file can be separated, cut directions and cut sequencing can be controlled separately or all at once, CAD and CNC files can be easily be imported, parts can be grouped into clusters for nesting, nest sequencing can be automatic or manual.

Better software also automates more processes, reduces the programming requirements, and is user-friendly enough for a novice machinist to cut parts as if he is a seasoned professional.

Cutting table

The cutting table must be heavy and durable for industrial fabrication. The cutting tables of most non-industrial plasma machines are made from thin sheet metal or aluminium castings to lower its price. But the thin, light structure of the cutting table can shake or wobble. This has an adverse effect on the precision of a cut part. These tables are also likely to distort over time because they are continually exposed to the heat generated from the plasma.

For an industrial plasma cutter, the table must be robustly constructed to be stable enough to achieve the highest degree of accuracy, It must be durable enough to not to be distorted by heat.

Industrial plasma cutters are usually fitted with a water table or a dry table with a dust collector. The former are cheaper, but they require a lot more maintenance and cleaning. Over time this becomes more costly than having a dry table with a fume extraction unit. Either table may be used in an industrial environment.

Most non-industrial plasma cutters are fitted with water tables to lower the price of these cutters. A few may have dry tables and fans. These are just sufficient to remove fumes and dust in a light production setting.

Have a Support team

Although the plasma cutting machine is an expensive investment, it can offer enormous returns to any company where there’s a demand for work. But in order for the machine to work well, they must be well maintained.

A complete support team must be available for continual maintenance, in the event of a breakdown, or when any other form of technical support is required.

In a high-volume industrial environment, any downtime will lower profits, so it’s necessary to get a service team that is near you. And one that knows the full operation of the machine, to shorten the time required to fix the machine. And, if they do not charge for phone support, you have found a support dream team.

Why Non-Industrial Plasmas are so much cheaper to purchase than Industrial Plasmas

First-time buyers of plasma cutters usually look at the lowest level of non-industrial plasma, without comparing its limitations with industrial-grade plasmas.

A less costly price tag is often the rationale to go with a non-industrial plasma cutter, but once users have taken the time to compare their functionality, productivity, and reliability, it becomes clear why non-industrial plasmas are so much cheaper.

Most manufacturers who start out with non-industrial plasma cutters find that their functional capacity is very limited. As they research more and are exposed to industrial plasmas, they eventually upgrade to one because these are more productive and flexible. Parts are cut with better quality and are consistently precise. Industrial plasma cutters also last longer. They are more durable and are built to handle a much higher volume of production. In short, you should be able to obtain better value for price with an industrial plasma.

Most manufacturers of non-industrial plasma machines try to capitalize on the low-end, cheap market by supplying just the bare essentials. Cheaper prices can be offered because:

1. Software isn’t bundled with the hardware. A separate laptop or PC must be purchased to operate the CNC cutter. Even when software is provided, it is very basic.

2. Tables and beams are built of thin, light sheet metal. These are not only unsuitable for heavy-duty fabrication but will also distort in shape over time because they are continually exposed to heat from the plasma. Rails can also be bolted onto the table instead of the ground.

This sort of design doesn’t provide the stability required for high-speed, precision cutting since the table structure is too light and lacks rigidity.

3. Using DC/AC motors and stepper motors in place of servo drives and servo motors will limit performance, slow down cutting, cause inconsistency, and be less precise. They also have more positioning errors, slower acceleration, and less speed.

4. Fume extraction components are not included. This is another means of reducing the purchase price. But if you are only using the plasma cutter for light fabrication, a water table or dry table with fan is usually sufficient.

5. Cheaper components are normally incorporated. Without a brand or with an unknown brand, these components are not reputed for performance or reliability.

6. Non-industrial plasmas are generally used 2-3 hours a day, 4-5 times a week, and they last for 3-5 years.

Conclusion

For those looking at buying a plasma cutter, it is extremely important to be clear about the capability of the unit and whether or not that unit may meet all their needs, not merely fabricating a single part.

Plasma cutters are designed to perform a variety of different functions. Multi-function cutters cost more than single-function cutters.They are made with a variety if components. Industrial plasma cutters are more expensive, but when the components break down, it is easy to tell that the cost is commensurate with the quality.

When used in the appropriate situation, business owners often find an ROI between 2 and 3 years. As smaller companies develop, they naturally progress to industrial plasmas.

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