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Plasma arc cutting Basic operation

Plasma arc cutting is divided into two types: transfer type and non-transfer type. The operation method of non-transferred plasma arc cutting is similar to that of oxyacetylene gas flame cutting. When transferring plasma arc cutting, the cutting torch and the workpiece form an electrical circuit, and the workpiece is an indispensable pole of the plasma arc. During the cutting process, if the distance between the cutting torch and the workpiece is too large (greater than 10 mm), it may break arc.

Due to the large structure of the plasma arc cutting torch, the visibility during cutting is poor, and the operation is inconvenient, so its operation is more difficult than oxyacetylene gas cutting.

Preparation before plasma arc cutting

Determination of diameter and shape of tungsten electrode material

In the plasma arc cutting process, if the burning loss of the tungsten electrode is small, the cutting process is stable. Usually, WTh-15 and WTh-30 thorium tungsten rods with a mass fraction of thorium of 1.5% to 2.5% are used as electrodes, and the burning loss is smaller than that of pure tungsten electrodes, and the arc is relatively stable.

When plasma arc cutting, the cutting current is usually selected according to the thickness of the workpiece, and then the diameter of the tungsten electrode is determined according to the cutting current. It is more appropriate to control the current density of the thorium tungsten electrode within 20A/mm2. If the current density is too high, the tungsten electrode will generate a lot of heat, and the burning loss will be serious; if the current density is too small, the arc will be unstable, which will affect the cutting quality. The relationship between the diameter of thorium tungsten electrode and the maximum working current is shown in Table—Relationship between Thorium Tungsten Electrode Diameter and Maximum Operating Current.

Relationship between Thorium Tungsten Electrode Diameter and Maximum Operating Current

The shape of the tip of the tungsten electrode affects the stability of the arc. When in use, the flame flow generated by grinding the top of the tungsten electrode to a certain angle is more stable than the plane shape, as shown in Figure—The shape of the tip of the tungsten electrode.

The shape of the tip of the tungsten electrode

Choice of power supply polarity

In order to make the plasma arc burn stably and reduce the burning loss of the tungsten electrode, DC positive connection is used in plasma arc cutting, that is, the tungsten electrode is connected to the negative electrode, and the workpiece is connected to the positive electrode.

Adjust the concentricity of the tungsten electrode and the nozzle

Poor concentricity between the tungsten electrode and the nozzle will seriously affect the cutting ability, cutting quality and nozzle life. In order to ensure the concentricity of the tungsten electrode and the nozzle during cutting, careful adjustment should be made before cutting, and then the arc is ignited. The method to check the concentricity is to observe whether the spark generated by the high-frequency oscillation between the tungsten electrode and the nozzle is evenly distributed around the nozzle hole. Concentricity is best when sparks are all around the nozzle. If the electric spark only occupies less than 1/2 of the circumference of the mouth, it means that the concentricity is not good, and it should be adjusted before continuing to use.

starting point

Before cutting, the starting point of the cutting workpiece surface should be cleaned to make it conduct well. For thick and large workpieces or workpieces with unclean surfaces, it is best to preheat the starting point with a small arc, and then close the high current switch to make the arc turn smoothly.

When cutting, start from the edge of the workpiece and wait until the edge of the workpiece is cut through before moving the torch. If the workpiece to be cut does not allow this, a small hole with a diameter of about 15 mm can be drilled on the workpiece to be used as the starting point of cutting, so as to avoid splashing around the melting inspection under the strong blowing force of the plasma arc, which is convenient for operate. Especially in the case of severe flying, the slag blocks the nozzle, or accumulates on the nozzle to form a double arc with the workpiece, which will cause the nozzle to burn out. When the thickness of the workpiece is not large, it is not necessary to drill holes in advance. When cutting, tilt the cutting torch back at an angle in the vertical plane of the cutting seam, or place the cutting piece in an inclined or vertical position, so that the slag can be easily discharged until When cutting, restore the normal cutting posture and position.

Plasma arc cutting speed

After the cutting process starts, the speed of the torch movement has a great influence on the cutting quality. If the speed is too large or too small, the incision with satisfactory quality cannot be obtained. The torch moves too fast, and the molten metal turns up at the front end of the incision, so it cannot be cut through; if the speed is too slow, in addition to the uneven width of the incision and the increased heat-affected zone. In addition, often because the workpiece has been cut through, the arc is pulled too long and extinguished, which interrupts the cutting process. On the premise of ensuring the cut through, the torch movement speed should be as large as possible. In addition, the moving speed when switching from a small arc to a cutting arc is particularly important, because on the one hand, the arc switching process itself is not good for the continuous combustion of the arc; Before turning the arc, a small arc should be used to pause at the starting point of the tangent, and when the arc has stably burned and started to cut through, move forward immediately.

Plasma arc cutting torch angle

During the entire cutting process, the cutting torch should be kept perpendicular to the incision plane, otherwise the incision will be skewed, the incision will not be clean, and the bottom surface of the incision will be melted. In order to increase the cutting speed and thus increase the productivity, the torch can usually be directed and cut in the plane of the incision.

The opposite direction is inclined at an angle (0° ~ 45°), as shown in Figure The back angle of the torch when cutting. When cutting thick plates and using high power, the back inclination should be smaller; when cutting thin plates and using low power, the back inclination should be larger.

The back angle of the torch when cutting

Features of large thickness workpiece cutting

Large thickness workpiece cutting has the following characteristics:

  • Large-thickness workpieces have strong heat dissipation capacity and increase heat loss, so the plasma arc is required to have greater power, and the diameter of the nozzle and tungsten electrode used should be increased accordingly.

  • The plasma arc should have greater blowing force, and the arc column should be drawn longer. The main method is to adjust the gas flow to make the white and bright part of the plasma arc long, straight and powerful.

  • When cutting thick workpieces, the instability of the arc increases, so a larger gas flow and a power supply with a higher no-load voltage must be used. The no-load voltage of the dedicated plasma arc cutting power source can reach 400 V, which can meet the requirements of cutting thick workpieces. When using DC arc welding machines in series, more than 3 welding machines are often required to be connected in series.

  • When cutting thick workpieces, the power of the plasma arc is relatively large. When the arc is changed from a small arc to a cutting arc, the current suddenly changes, which often causes the arc to be interrupted and the nozzle to burn out. In this regard, the method of graded arc switching can be adopted, and a current limiting resistor (about 0.4Ω) is connected in the cutting circuit to reduce the current value during arc switching, and then the resistor is short-circuited to make the plasma arc switch to normal cutting specifications. The circuit diagram is shown in Figure Classified arc ignition circuit.

Classified arc ignition circuit

Plasma ARC cutting Operation practice

The practice piece is made of stainless steel, the length x width x thickness is 500mmx200mmx12mm. Carefully clean the surface of the practice cutting piece according to the above cutting points, and draw a secant line every 25 mm along the 500 mm direction, and punch the sample along the line. The specific parameters during cutting can be referred to as follows:

Electrode diameter5.5mm
The distance from the tip of the electrode to the outer end face of the nozzle hole10 mm
Nozzle mouth to cutting surface distance8 mm
cutting gasIndustrial pure nitrogen, purity 99.9%
Airflow for arc ignition0.4 m3/h
Air flow for cutting3 m3/h
non-transfer arc current30 ~50 A
Operating Voltage100 ~120 V
Nozzle Aperture3.5mm
cutting current300A
cutting voltage130V
cutting speed120m/h

During operation, practice cutting and normal plasma arc cutting repeatedly. Through practice, the cutting can be achieved accurately, and the transition from the non-transfer arc to the transfer arc should be stable, no arc extinguishing, no undercutting and melting, the cutting seam is straight along the line, and the cutting surface is smooth.

Operation Example - Cutting of 1Gr18Ni9Ti Stainless Steel Flange

The outer diameter of the flange is 219 mm, the inner diameter is 60 mm, and the thickness is 20 mm. Cutting machine model LG-400-1, the worktable adopts a multi-column frame, as shown in Figure Multi-column bracket, to prevent the bracket from being cut off during cutting, and to avoid the gravity of the cut part when the workpiece is cut to the end. Make the workpiece sag and cause misalignment.

Multi-column bracket

Plasma arc cutting method——Hand cut

Plasma arc cutting process parameters

The cutting current is 320 A; the cutting voltage is 160 V; the gas flow rate is 2 400 L/h; the cutting speed is 25~30 m/h; the diameter of the cerium tungsten rod is 5.8 mm;

Plasma arc cutting Steps

  • After installing the IG-400-1 plasma arc cutting machine, because manual cutting is used, disconnect the multi-core plug “Z” of the control cable connecting the trolley, and connect the multi-core plug “S” of the manually cut control cable (Fig. LG-400-1 plasma arc cutting machine external installation wiring diagram shown by the dashed line).

  • Check that the installation and wiring of the cutting machine are correct, and then test for water, electricity, gas and high-frequency arc ignition. After the inspection is completed, it is ready to be cut.

  • According to the drawing design process size of the parts to be cut, draw lines on the stainless steel plate first, as shown in Figure Flange cutting process dimension design. When drawing a line, leave a margin for the incision, and the margin is calculated according to the following empirical formula:


  • b——Cut width (mm);
  • δ——Thickness of workpiece to be cut (mm)
  • Drill a hole of φ12mm at a certain distance from the cutting line of the inner circle of the flange as the arc starting hole when cutting the inner circle.
plasma arc cutting
Flange cutting process dimension design

1. 12-power cable (S=70 mm2); 2-cutting power supply (ZX400); 3-multi-core cable: 4-flow meter:5-control box (LG-400-1); 6-automatic traveling mechanism; 7-cutting torch; 8–workpiece;9-Water cooling cable; 10-Inlet; 11-Outlet; 13-Multi-core cable;14-Water outlet; 15-Water inlet; 16-Manual torch control cable

Put the drawn steel plate on the multi-column support, and pay attention to lay it flat.

Cut the inner circle of the flange first

Turn on the power, hold the cutting torch, make the torch nozzle 8-10 mm away from the workpiece, pull the switch on the cutting torch forward, the circuit is turned on at this time, and the action procedure of each part of the cutting machine is the same as that of automatic cutting. The arc start starts from the tangent point, from the small arc to the large arc, and then enters the normal cutting.
If the cutting cannot be carried out after the arc is ignited for some reason, and the arc needs to be disconnected, just move the manual cutting torch away from the cutting workpiece, turn the toggle switch back from the front position, then push it forward, and then return to the arc. is cut off. Note that in the process of disconnecting and striking the arc, the time the toggle button of the switch is pulled back for the first time must be short, otherwise the nozzle of the torch and the water-cooling resistor will be burned. To stop cutting, push the toggle switch forward, and then dial it back to stop cutting.

 After cutting the inner circle of the flange and then cutting the outer circle, the cutting method is the same as before, but it is not necessary to drill holes when striking the arc, and the cutting starts from the edge at a certain distance from the workpiece to be cut, as shown in Figure Schematic diagram of cutting flange outer circle .

After cutting, turn off the power switch and air source, and turn off the cold water and the main power switch.

Schematic diagram of cutting flange outer circle