Tracing the Sparks: A Fascinating Journey Through the History of Plasma Cutting

Aug 20, 2023 | Plasma Cutting Tips

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For nearly a century, plasma cutting has gone through various stages of evolution to the hypotherm plasma cutters we have today. Let’s trace the history of plasma cutting so you can have a clear idea of just how far this technology has come. Keep reading.

Where It All Started

Plasma cutting came into existence in the mid-1950s. The patent holder discovered that directing a high-velocity jet of supercharged gas through a constricted opening creates ionized gas, or plasma, which can melt metal. 

Oxyacetylene cutting was the most prevalent technique of thermal cutting at that time. You had to manually control the torch head or mount it to a linear tracking rail or gantry-style trace-eye machine. 

NC gantry machines started gaining popularity by the mid-1960s. The integration of oxyacetylene with NC gantry machines took the flame-cutting process to a whole new level. 

However, it was not until the mid-1970s that American industry readily embraced plasma cutting. But why did plasma cutting take so long to become popular?

Here are some reasons:

  • Affordability: Systems costs were quite limiting, particularly the cost of the gases needed. 
  • Technological limitations: The technology couldn’t match the cutting capability of oxyacetylene. 
  • Limited skills: Only a few people had programming know-how. 

Plasma Cutting in the 1980s

In the 1980s, plasma cutting became increasingly popular as manufacturers began making more low-amperage machines. Cutting thinner metals with plasma became a reality. This period also saw the birth of electronic torch distance control. 

By electronically controlling the distance between the torch and the workpiece, the torch head could penetrate the metal at a further distance from the workpiece. This allowed for a higher precision while minimizing consumable wear. 

You can’t speak about the history of plasma cutting in the 1980s without mentioning the PC. Equipment programmers used the PC to create machine G-code, which helped in directing the machine controller. Most systems still use this technology to create plasma arcs today. 

Plasma Cutting in The 1990s

The 1990s saw the plasma market grow by fifty times with the advent of high-precision plasma cutting. In the next two decades, plasma-cutting machines became increasingly available. Even the average welder could afford a plasma cutter!

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Many welders felt this new, powerful cutter had a couple of issues compared to older cutting techniques like oxyacetylene or tungsten inert gas welding. 

Plasma Cutters Today

Today, plasma cutting has made significant strides. While some fabricators are still a little apprehensive about the electrical arc process, plasma cutters have become common equipment, with the ability to create cleaner cuts than any other machine you may think about. 

Get High-quality Plasma Cutters

If you need to learn more about the history of plasma cutting, including leading industry players like the Linde Division, the experts at Cyrious Metal Works can help. Give us a call at 903-329-2791 for your free quote and to learn about troubleshooting a damaged plasma cutter nozzle.