While enumerating the key features of the best plasma cutter, we’d mentioned that some of the parts of the cutter, such as electrodes and tips, tend to wear out over time and need replacement.
Many users, however, limit themselves to replacing these parts but ignore other vital aspects of maintenance.
Such lopsided maintenance can lead to situations where the machine does not function properly, while the consumable parts themselves are worn out faster and thus raise the overall cost of production.
To help you avoid such situations, we have come up with a complete guide to explain to you how to maintain a plasma cutter.
As our plasma cutter reviews have shown, the products are expected to run for long hours. A corollary of such long hours of work is sufficient rest time. During this rest time, a number of important maintenance tasks should be completed:
- Purge the gas/air source, before and after cutting: Before cutting, this precaution ensures that any moisture buildup that may have occurred overnight is removed. Moisture can cause the arc to become weaker and also reduces the lifespan of unit. After cutting has been completed, there is always a chance of there being residual compressed air or gas left in the pipes. If a large amount of air/gas is left, it can reinforce the air/as that starts to flow at the start of the next cutting session. This reinforced flow can lead to flareups.
- Alignment and internal cohesion: Oftentimes during operation the alignment of the torch will get disrupted. While this does not require one to stop cutting (unless the misalignment is severe), it is always advisable to realign the torch once the cutting is complete. If by any chance internal components have been displaced, one should take the time to disassemble the unit, align the parts correctly and then reassemble and test the torch to see if everything is working properly.
Most electrodes are made of common metals but with a small tip made of hafnium. Hafnium is a rare earth metal that is vital to the conductivity of the electrode. This hafnium wears out over time, leaving a small crater at the top of the electrode that is often difficult to see. If you’re wondering how to maintain a plasma cutter on a weekly or fortnightly basis, you should start by verifying whether the electrodes have lost their hafnium or not and if there are small pits at the tip of the electrodes, you should change the electrodes immediately.
2. Start Cartridge:
The start cartridge uses its springs to initiate the pilot arc mechanism. As part of maintenance, it is always desirable to test the cartridge a few times to see if the start is quick and smooth. If there is any delay and/or the arc appears weak at first before gathering strength, it is time to change the cartridge.
Note: Despite the cartridge wearing out every few months, it is not regarded as a consumable.
3. Nozzle tip:
The nozzle tip is made of metal and has a perfectly circular hole that is visible from the rear. Check every week to ensure that the hole remains circular and does not become oblong. An oblong hole will cause the arc to become elongated and lose its precision. Generally, an oblong hole will also cause the tip to wear out much faster. Hence, to avoid situations where even the best plasma cutter is unworkable because of a poor tip, it is best to change it when the first signs of wear appear.
4. Air pressure:
Verify that the air compressor (if included in the unit) or the external air/gas provider has sufficient pressure. If obtaining gas/air from a source that is outside the workshop and hence cannot be measured, start working on a piece of metal and have someone measure the pressure of the pipe while the air is flowing.
Must Read: Lincoln Plasma Cutter With built in Compressor
1. Ground Clamp:
While ground clamps don’t wear out very often, they do need to be checked every 3-6 months to ensure that the edges are free of debris, rust and paint scraped from the metal that they were holding at some point of time. Further, the springs of the clamp should be in good shape – if these are weak, the springs can be replaced or in extreme cases, the clamp itself can be changed.
2. Air filters:
While one of the benefits of using a plasma cutter is that the fuel used is far less combustible, it is true that the compressed air contains oil that can damage the internal parts of the unit over time. Air filters prevent such accumulation of oil as well as the entrance of stray pieces of dust and debris. One should always open the covers and check whether the air filter is clean or full of debris and therefore not working at full capacity. If checking is time-consuming or difficult, the filters should be inspected by a qualified technician at regular intervals.
3. Contacts and pipes:
Electrical contacts should be checked for signs of damage (pitting, as it is called) or for malfunctions such as overarcing. If such signs are found, the contacts need to be changed at the earliest. The pipes on the other hand, are harder to inspect and to avoid problems, they should be changed every year.
One of the greatest adages associated with cutting is that the best maintenance is carried out while actually working the machine. Hence, one should always be wary of any potential problems and correct them immediately after the work has been completed (unless they are too dangerous for the work to continue). Along with such vigilance, the tips mentioned above can go a long way in ensuring that the question of how to maintain a plasma cutter is never one that is vexatious or overtly costly. While individual models may have their own requirements, the above should give the user a bedrock of ideas from which he can innovate depending on his needs and his usage pattern.