How Plasma Cutters Work. The plasma cutter uses compressed air that is passed through an electric arc inside the cutter nozzle. Here is where the flow of air is heated, becomes ionized, and becomes electrically conductive. At this point the airstream becomes a hot plasma stream. But the temperature is increased further when the plasma arc is forced through a restrictive orifice that concentrates the plasma stream which increases it's temperature to 30,000°F and also increases the velocity of the plasma arc to more than 20,000 ft./s.
The plasma arc leaves the nozzle and attaches itself to the work piece completing the electrical circuit and conducting current just as if it was a wire. The diameter of the plasma jet is about .050 inch more or less. The extremely high temperature and high velocity plasma arc melts the work piece and pushes the molten metal out of the cut to form the kerf. How Does a Plasma Cutter Work? and How Plasma Cutters Work.
The plasma cutter consists of a power supply, a hand-held torch, air supply, and a starting circuit.
Hand held plasma cutter power sources start at about 12 amps and range up to about 100 amps. The smaller units can have a built in air compressor.
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