You may not think much about how your plasma torch produces that plasma stream capable of pristinely fabricating materials with precision and accuracy. ESCCO describes what happens during the plasma cutting process, “Energy is transmitted from a power source to a conductive material such as metal through electrically charged gas by the plasma cutter, which results in a faster and cleaner cutting process.When air or any gas like oxygen, argon or nitrogen is passed via a small opening in a nozzle, a plasma arc is formed. The power source generates an electric arc which is introduced to the compressed gas. A jet of plasma is formed that reaches very high temperatures of around 40,000° F. This plasma jet has the capacity to cut metal. The metal turns molten and is blown away. But, that stream of plasma does not just magically appear – there are components inside a plasma torch that work together to produce the stream.”
So, what makes up a plasma torch? First, to produce the plasma arc, you need an arc starting console as ESCCO describes, “A spark is produced by the ASC circuit inside the plasma torch, which in turn creates the plasma arc. The AC voltage used is usually 5,000 volts at 2 MHz.”
In addition to the arc starting console, a plasma torch contains the shield, retaining, cap, nozzle and electrode swirl ring which The Fabricator elaborates on, “The nozzle does one of two things. First, it focuses the plasma arc. The larger the orifice, the less defined or wider the arc is. Nozzles with a wide orifice are used in gouging applications, while some have very small orifices that constrict and focus the arc. These are used for fine-feature, detailed cutting. Second, the nozzle helps to funnel gas flow, which also helps to shape and constrict the arc…The electrode carries the current from the torch to the plate. It’s a slender piece made of copper or silver and contains hafnium or tungsten. These materials have been found to be excellent conductors of electricity. The electricity comes from the machine out to the torch and goes into a cathode block, which the electrode is in contact with, and then focuses that charge on the end of the electrode through the hafnium/tungsten insert which then arcs to the plate. The nozzle takes that arc and really focuses it in a way that cuts metal, but the electrode carries the current…And last, the swirl ring channels the gas in a couple of different directions as it comes from the machine and down the torch.” When you invest in a plasma cutting system, invest in one that has a high-quality, reliable, and accurate plasma torch to ensure that you can produce the cuts that you desire.