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In the metal fabrication industry, aluminum alloys continue gaining popularity. As such, many people ask, “Can a plasma cutter cut aluminum?” The answer is yes; you can cut aluminum with a plasma cutter.
However, the aluminum cutting process differs from cutting traditional stainless steel. Achieving a clean and quick cut requires using the correct equipment and techniques. This brief guide will explore how to cut aluminum using hypertherm plasma cutters.
Four Tips for Cutting Aluminum Using a Plasma Cutter
You can achieve a clean cut with your plasma cutter by utilizing these four tips:
1. Exercise the Right Safety Measures
Like with cutting steel, you should implement the correct safety measures. These safety measures include wearing protective equipment, having proper ventilation, and referring to your plasma cutter’s manual and procedures.
2. Use the Correct Amperage and Travel Speeds
You should always set your travel speeds and amperage to your base aluminum’s thickness. Doing so produces cut edges with excellent surface finishes that don’t require additional measures.
Using air plasma gas can be cost-effective for many general purposes. However, using air can also cause aluminum oxide, negatively impacting your weld’s quality.
Mechanically removing a cut edge before welding can help avoid this process. Regardless, it’s better to use a nitrogen plasma application for projects with a strict weld porosity standard.
3. Choose the Correct Plasma Cutter
Many cutting and shield gas combinations exist, including a water shield and nitrogen plasma, air shield gas with air plasma, and more. For thicker aluminum, it’s better to use a nitrogen shield gas alongside argon-hydrogen plasma.
Higher-end machines often produce better-quality costs. However, creating satisfactory cuts is still possible using more cost-effective solutions.
Regardless, you’ll want to ensure any plasma cutter you use can utilize ideal gases at the correct cutting speed and pressure levels.
4. Use High-quality Consumables
Using the right consumables can help you achieve outstanding quality at higher travel speeds. Your equipment manufacturer’s manual should have recommendations and specifications for what consumables to use.
You should also routinely inspect your consumables for excessive wear and tear. Unfortunately, worn-out parts can pose risks before you notice reduced cut quality. Additionally, check for debris and remove it using a wire brush.
Plasma Cutting Versus Laser Cutting
Alongside asking, “Can a plasma cutter cut aluminum?” many people ask if a plasma cutter is better or worse than laser cutting.
Laser cutting is more precise than cutting with plasma. However, this precision is generally only necessary for projects requiring fine details, such as in the aerospace industry.
Plasma cutting has many more advantages than laser cutting, especially when cutting thick aluminum. For example, plasma cutting can cut aluminum up to 160 mm thick, versus laser cutting which only cuts up to 25 mm.
Plasma cutting is also less expensive regarding equipment and operating costs.
Explore Plasma Cutting Today
The answer to “Can a plasma cutter cut aluminum?” is yes. However, choosing the right option requires consulting a professional.