CNC Plasma cutting is an ideal way to cut metal for many metal fabrication shops for a variety of reasons. There are a multitude of metal fabrication mediums but only a few can produce precise, clean cuts. Oxy-fuel cutting has long been a powerful tool in the metal fabricator’s shop. Oxy-fuel is one of the world’s oldest welding techniques, for cutting the torch mixes fuel with air and heats metal to such a high degree that it burns the cuts into metal. Oxy-fuel torches do have an advantage when it comes to cutting thicker metal. But, while oxy-fuel does have advantages, most metal fabrication shops use CNC plasma cutting systems rather than oxy-fuel – and for good reason. While oxy-fuel has a few benefits, CNC plasma cutting has 3 primary advantages over oxy-fuel, making CNC plasma systems the ideal metal fabrication choice.

  1. Cuts More Quickly
    • Many metal fabrication shops invest in a CNC plasma cutting system because they want to increase their productivity which will enhance their profitability. Plasma cutting systems cut much more quickly because they do not require a pre-heat cycle. TheFabricator explains how much more quickly plasma can cut than oxy-fuel, “An automated high-precision plasma system costs an average of 10 times more than an oxyfuel system. Its torch consumables cost more too—about $45 for an electrode tip and shield cap—and the electrode may last for only two shifts, depending on the application. However, the speed of plasma cutting gives it a pronounced economic advantage. Equipment manufacturers have developed 400-amp plasma systems that increase travel speed on medium-thickness material and remain competitive with oxyfuel on steel up to 2 in. thick. For example, they can cut 1-in.-thick mild steel at more than 80 IPM, while oxyfuel cuts at less than 20 IPM. On thinner materials, the speed advantage is even more significant, with plasma cutting 0.5-in.-thick steel at 150 IPM. The cost per foot is about $0.045 for plasma and $0.210 for oxyfuel…In places with high labor rates, including the U.S., Canada, and Europe, obtaining fast cutting speeds and cycle times is critical for profitable plasma operation. As a result of higher-capacity and higher-speed systems, plasma now is commonly found in heavy equipment, pressure vessel, ship, rail, and other fabrication operations that previously were the domain of oxyfuel cutting.
  2. Less Kerf & Smaller Heat-Affected Zone
    • Metal fabrication shops looking to reduce waste and produce the most pristine cuts possible will likely want to invest in a CNC plasma cutting system because it produces a small and more precise kerf and has a smaller heat-affected zone. This is important because it will prevent things like warping or damaging of paint.
  3. Ability to Fabricate Both Ferrous and Non-Ferrous Metals
    • When you want flexibility and variety, CNC plasma cutting systems are the best investment because, unlike oxy-fuel, they can cut any type of electrically conductive metal. Oxy-fuel is not able to cut stainless steel or aluminum.