There are many solutions available for sheet metal machining. Depending on the geometries you want, you can end up scribing it by hand and cutting it with a circular saw. After taking into account all of these man-hours, you might be let down by the price per piece. With the low margins, it’s already challenging to turn a profit on a project; now, if one of the machinists cuts a hole incorrectly, you might suffer a financial ʟᴏss.

A CNC plasma cutter is a computer-controlled machine that cuts sheet metal with electrical arcs. They are very useful for sheet metal since they cut through it like butter. Your heart skips a beat when you hear the phrase “CNC,” and you start to worry about how much it will cost, but CNC plasma cutters aren’t like that. You can buy many extremely cheap tables just to perform a proof-of-concept and determine how much money you can save. You decide to buy a CNC plasma cutter with a specific table size. The largest sheet you can load will depend on the size of the table.

A CNC plasma cutter works with a plasma tip attached to a 3-axis gantry. The x, y, and z axes are all in motion. Most tables power the gantries with a few small, accurate servo motors to maximize accuracy. The plasma tip and the drivers are electrically connected. It cuts by heating the tip, producing an arc, and then blowing the arc through the sheet below it using compressed air. The tip is rated for a specified amperage. These devices are capable of cutting through a variety of metals with different thicknesses. Certain tables are capable of cutting titanium. Other tables will assert that they can cut hot-rolled steel that is 1.25 inches thick. The table becomes an extremely helpful tool if you work in a general machine shop because of this.

Running one of these machines only requires the operator to load a sheet of metal onto the table and press the “Go” button, which is a significant component. The CNC plasma cutter will be given an a.dxf file representing a 2D CAD drawing. The engineer will import the drawing into their preferred CAM software and lay out the parts on whichever sheet size you want. To conserve space on the sheet, the application will automatically stack the components. After saving and uploading the file to the computer connected to the CNC plasma cutter, the operator loads the material and presses “Go.”

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Video resource: ESAB