In metal fabricator shops and steel centers, it is not every day that plasma cutting goes without glitch or trouble. There will be downtime or operational stops especially when you need to replace consumables or need emergency repairs. This kind of scenario is common in any plasma cutting metal shops given that equipments and components will soon falter or fail. Yet, if operational stops that lead to long periods of downtime occur in your shops more of a rule than an exception, then there must be some mistakes on how you go about your day to day plasma cutting operations.
Most of the time, long stretch of downtime, repairs and operational stops can be avoided if only proper plasma cutting preparation, setup and application are observed. Being an expert in these aspects can save your shop costly downtime and unnecessary consumable replacements that result to productivity loss. The savings you get from these can also mean cutting on your operational cost and greater profits for your company.
Preparation and Setup
Efficient plasma cutting operations starts with proper preparations and setup to avoid common mistakes. Observe these and you can save your shop costly downtime.
Shop Environment is Important:
The most basic preparation for an effective plasma cutting operation is a clean shop. You may store scraps of metals here and there, but a general clean atmosphere should be observed. This includes air in the shop. Normally, about 90 percent of compressed air systems in shops accumulate moisture in their airlines. Using airlines with moisture can greatly affect the torch head and shorten the life of consumables which will require frequent replacement for your plasma cutting operations.
A good way to solve this is to use filtration system to avoid moisture accumulating in your compressed air system. This simple step will protect your torches and consumables and make them last long.
Read the Manual:
One of the best ways to avoid common mistakes in your plasma cutting operations is to read the equipment’s manuals. There are times when operators forget this for some reasons. But equipment manuals are the bible for proper plasma cutting. Here you learn the proper setup, performance measure, and plasma cutter troubleshooting in case there are equipment problems. Getting a good understanding on how the plasma cutting system works and knowing its common pitfalls can help operators avoid many operational disasters.
The manual provides charts and references so you can maximize the machine’s performance. Through the guide provided by charts, you can determine proper settings and assembly of consumables for your plasma cutting system. These charts also give information on the list of best materials and their thickness that are right for your plasma system. Additionally, the manual also gives guides on your equipment’s proper amperage and gas selection.
Reading the machine’s manual in its proper setup is your first step in avoiding common operational mistakes.
Plasma Cutting Equipment Checkups and Maintenance:
Similar to any mechanical operations, plasma cutting needs regular equipment checkups and maintenance. Usually, when the operators are engrossed with series of days or weeks of metal cutting, routine checkup is neglected. It must be remembered that torch can last for months if not years if proper maintenance is observed. Likewise, regular checkups can help the shop avoid unnecessary equipment failure, ensure metal cut quality, and protect torch and consumables at the same time.
You can begin your equipment checkup with this short list:
- Consumables: Check for dirt and metal dust given that contamination from these can greatly affect its performance.
- Electrode: Should be checked for correct pit depth considering this component can wear out quickly due to constant starts and stops.
- Coolant Flow: This should be checked on a daily basis. Incorrect coolant flow can lead to shorter consumables life. Check for worn pumps, clogged filters and coolant level.
- Gas Pressure: Check this to maintain proper cutting arc. Excess gas pressure usually leads to “hard starting” wherein the torch fails to start an arc even if all conditions are met.
- Torch Assembly: Check if components fit snugly and are properly aligned.
- Torch seating areas: Check this component for mechanical damage or contamination.
- Torch threads: Should be checked for cleanliness.
Tip: To remove metal dust, dirt and excess o-ring lubricant, use hydrogen peroxide, cotton swab or electrical contact cleaner to clean the torch.
Proper Plasma Cutting Applications
Another measure on how to avoid common mistakes in plasma cutting operations entails proper metal cutting practices:
Don’t Wait for Consumables to Blow:
It is a common practice for some metal fabricator shops to maximize the life of their consumables to save on the cost of these components. Ironically, this can result for the metal cut quality to deteriorate, frequent torch failures, and avoidable downtime that proves costly for the company.
The best way to tell when consumables should be replaced:
- Changes in cut quality
- Changes in color or sound of the plasma arc
- Changes in torch height
Or better yet, you can record times when you replaced consumables and make a schedule based on this.
Don’t Pierce Too Low:
One common wrong practice in plasma cutting is piercing too low. This can cause molten metal to splatter on the torch shield and nozzle thus damaging the consumables. If the nozzle touches the metal piece it can also result to arc “snuffing” that damages the gas swirler, nozzle, electrode or even the whole torch. The best distance between the tip of the torch and the metal should be at .062 to .100 inches.
There are times when there are downtimes and operational stops occurring in day to day operations of plasma cutting. Yet, there are cases when some of this can be avoided through simple procedures. Costly downtime and frequent consumables replacement, for example, can be avoided by simply taking time to read the machine’s manual.
These troubles can also be avoided by maintaining a clean shop and practicing regular maintenance and checkups for plasma cutting components. Furthermore, simple correct application practices like not waiting for the consumables to “blow” and not piercing too low can save the shop from costly operational disruptions.