What is PlasmaCUT?
Lasers have made a huge impact on student project work but we are often asked “Why can’t they be used to cut metals?” In industry, lasers are used routinely for metal-cutting, but high costs and significant risk management issues make the technology unsuitable for educational use – at least at the moment! To meet the need for metal profiling in education, TechSoft are delighted to introduce PlasmaCUT
PlasmaCUT gives you all the simplicity and speed of laser cutting but without the cost and safety problems associated with high power metal-cutting lasers. PlasmaCUT is a high speed profiling machine that works from 2D CAD files generated in 2D Design V2. Output routine is much the same as any TechSoft machine, but now you can slice your way through mild steel, up to 12mm thick, with no more hassle than it took to slice through card on a CAMM 1.Safety First and Last
Safety is paramount of course and cutting mild steel has a few more concerns than card-cutting. PlasmaCUT is UK-built and CE marked to meet exacting EU regulations for Health and Safety, and TechSoft have worked closely with the manufacturers to take things even further. The PlasmaCUT 1000 machine is housed in an interlocked protective enclosure to contain stray sparks and particles. For both models there is an integral down-draft fume table and this connects to a high-efficiency extraction system which captures airborne particulates. The extraction unit filters and completely cleans the waste so that it can be safely exhausted internally. PlasmaCUT is not a machine for a regular classroom or design studio, but will fit into any workshop space where there are the usual provisions for hot metal working.Why invest in a PlasmaCUT?
Engineering departments and specialist engineering schools will clearly be interested in the potential PlasmaCUT has to bring sheet metal cutting up to date with industry-standard CAD/CAM techniques. More widely, many Design and Technology departments have found metalworking quite difficult to incorporate into schemes of work in recent years. PlasmaCUT will fit naturally alongside other CAD/CAM and ‘benchwork’ techniques, and has the power to revolutionise what students are able to do in their project work.The TechSoft Advantage
TechSoft’s unrivalled knowledge and experience mean that these machines are not simply compatible with, but have been optimised for the UK education market. We are proud of our reputation for excellent customer service and our close liaison with the UK manufacturers means you will have access to unlimited technical support should you need it. If you know how to operate one TechSoft machine you will be well on your way to using PlasmaCUT.The Technology Explained
We are used to three energy states for materials - solid, liquid or gas. Plasma is a fourth state where energy levels are raised further, and gas molecules break into free electrons and positive ions. When these particles collide, enormous energy is released and this is the basis of a Plasma beam. PlasmaCUT uses an inverter-driven plasma torch which creates the beam by forming an electrical arc in a high-velocity, highly focussed jet of compressed air, and it is this which so easily pierces mild steel sheet.
The main chassis of PlasmaCUT is built from precision-cut steel for rigidity, with aluminium being used where possible for the motion system. By keeping mass low, the motion system can accelerate rapidly which results in accurate hole-cutting and clean corners. The plasma torch is held on a pneumatically-operated cutter post which gently presses onto the work with five rollerball units; this ensures the torch is consistently held at the right height for clean cutting and easy starting.Commissioning, Training and Maintenance
PlasmaCUT machines are commissioned on-site by trained engineers who will remain for as long as necessary to ensure teaching and technician staff are happy with all operation, safety and maintenance issues. Maintenance is largely a matter of ‘housekeeping’ - the fume table will need to be cleared of off-cuts and dust from time to time, and bearing surfaces and slides will need to be wiped clean. The compressor and extraction system will also need monitoring to check that connections are good and filters are serviceable.What About Running Costs?
Using a PlasmaCUT is unlikely to have a significant impact on energy costs in most schools. The plasma torch will last indefinitely, but the torch electrode and tip will need replacing after about 500 piercings. Replacements are not expensive and an annual budget of a few hundred pounds should be more than enough to keep a PlasmaCUT going in a busy department.Only for Mild Steel?
Emphatically – yes! Plasma torches will cut a vast range of materials but the waste products will include metal powders and oxides. Mix them together and you have the basis of Thermite – an extremely dangerous, potentially explosive, compound. For this reason, it is extremely important that PlasmaCUT is used exclusively for mild steel.