1. What is plasma? 

Plasma is the fourth state of matter.  When a gas, such as oxygen, is super-heated, it becomes ionized and is capable of conducting electricity.  A DC voltage is then introduced, and the gas is forced through a small nozzle orifice at high pressure resulting in a plasma jet capable of cutting metal at a high rate of speed.

2. What is FineLine™ high definition plasma? 

This is technology that builds upon conventional air plasma cutting to produce parts with much higher cut quality.  Engineering advancements in the design of the torch and consumables, coupled with higher amperage power sources and a higher current density plasma arc, result in faster cut speeds, square edges, reduced kerf lines, and nearly dross free cuts.  Also, FineLine™ high definition plasma incorporates additional cutting and shielding gasses such as oxygen, nitrogen, and H17 (hydrogen, argon, nitrogen mix).  This produces cleaner and smoother edge finishes, which virtually eliminate the need for secondary processing such as grinding for weld preparation.

3. How do I cut materials that are not in the cutting charts? 

The answer depends upon the composition of the material that needs to be cut.  Most cut charts cover the basics: carbon (mild) steel, stainless steel and aluminum.  Metals such as copper and brass can be cut using the same parameters as carbon steel, with a slight reduction in speed due to their heat sinking properties.  Other materials like titanium and INCONEL® can be processed using stainless steel parameters.  With the multitude of alloys available today, the best advice is to contact your torch manufacturer for their recommendations.  This will save you both time and material. (INCONEL is a registered trademark of Special Metals Corporation.)

4. Can I cut underwater? 

The short answer is yes; however, there may be some loss of part quality and cutting speed due to the cooling properties of water.  It is generally recommended to keep the water level a minimum of one inch below the plate at all times.  This will allow for smoke absorption while retaining optimal results for both cut quality and speed.

5. What gasses do I need to cut carbon steel, stainless steel, and aluminum? 

High density plasma systems, like the Spirit® II, require oxygen, nitrogen, and air for carbon steel and aluminum.  A mixture of hydrogen and argon may be used for stainless steel.  Conventional plasma uses air to cut all materials.

6. Can I use my shop compressor instead of air cylinders? 

Air compressors can be used to supply high density plasma systems as long as a few requirements are met.  The most important is that the air is clean and dry to prevent reduced cut quality, consumable damage, or torch failure.  It is recommended that the air is filtered to ISO 8573.1 Class 1.4.1 (particulates, moisture and oil).  Secondly, the compressor must be able to maintain the minimum input pressure needed to operator the plasma system.  Check the specifications section of your operator’s manual for the requirements of your plasma system before connecting to an air compressor.

7. What causes dross on the bottom of my parts? 

There are many variables in the cutting process which can result in the formation of dross.  The most common is cutting speed.  Cutting too slow for conditions results in a continuous bead of dross, while cutting too fast causes a sporadic or “dotty” line of dross.  Low speed dross can be easily removed with a scraping tool, while high speed dross usually requires grinding for removal.  Other factors include the composition and thickness of the material and the cutting amperage being used.

8. Should I choose a water table or downdraft table? 

Both table types have their pros and cons.  A water table requires a smaller initial investment, has lower maintenance costs and effectively eliminates most of the smoke and noise associated with plasma cutting.  The downside is that it doesn’t take long for the water to become infused with dirt and metal dust.  If proper care is not taken, the water can contaminate the torch and disrupt gas flow in the consumables, which results in a loss of cut quality.  Conversely, downdraft tables are more expensive due to the cost of the air handler and filtration systems, as well as the need to regularly replace as many as six filters.  However, since they avoid the problems associated with water tables previously discussed, they contribute to optimum cut quality and are, therefore, preferred for high density plasma cutting.

9. Plasma vs. oxyfuel? 

A plasma cutting machine is capable of cutting material much faster than oxy-fuel.  This translates into a smaller heat-affected zone than oxy-fuel cutting.  Plasma is also able to cut any electrically conductive material, whereas oxyfuel is not generally used on non-ferrous metals. However, plasma is somewhat limited when piercing thicker materials, which is why some cutting machines have both plasma cutting torches and oxyfuel cutting torches mounted to the same gantry.  For most jobs utilizing material that is 2” (50mm) thick or less, plasma is more efficient than oxyfuel as it is able to process the parts twice as fast.  Finally, plasma cutting produces a much smaller and more precise kerf, which translates into more accurate parts and better plate utilization.

10. Are CNC plasma machines difficult to operate? 

For most 3-axis CNC plasma cutting machines, operators with little or no experience can be trained in a couple of days. With today’s advancements in equipment technology, most machines are equipped with a high degree of automation, which greatly reduces the learning curve and gets the operator into production faster than ever before.

11. How thick can a plasma system cut? 

We must first differentiate between piercing and cutting to answer this question.  The term “production cut” is often used when describing a plasma power supply’s capabilities and refers to the process of piercing through the plate before cutting the part.  The maximum production cut is determined by the type of material and the maximum amperage of the plasma system.  For example, a 400 amp plasma system can pierce 2 in. (50mm) carbon steel, but only 1.5 in. (38mm) stainless steel.  Commonly, plasma cutting systems will have the ability to cut even thicker materials when an edge start is implemented.  This method will allow the same system to cut up to 3 in. (75mm) carbon steel and 2 in.  (50mm) stainless steel.  Refer to the manufacturer’s data sheet for the piercing and cutting capacity of each model before making a buying decision.

12. Why should I buy Spirit® II plasma instead of some of the others available?

The Spirit® II plasma systems feature the unique FineLine™ high definition plasma cutting technology that delivers unequaled performance in cut quality at lower operational costs.  We provide the best cut quality over consumable life by achieving the least part taper over the life of the electrode, while using an average of 48% less plasma gas than our competition.  Couple this with faster cutting speeds and longer consumable life thanks to our Hafnium Optimizing Technology™, and the choice is clear.

13. How is Spirit® II better than the previous model?

Some of the feature improvements of Spirit® II include:
• Flexibility to select between automatic or manual gas console
• On-board CAN communications enable single wire setup
• Optional built-in INOVA™ plasma cutting torch height control system reduces connection cable requirements
• Patented starting technology eliminates high frequency noise concerns
• Remotely mounted operator’s pendant with touchscreen that is larger and easier to use
• Faster proportional valve gas regulation
• Plasma marking with nitrogen or argon

14. I want to buy a Spirit® II plasma, but do I need the automatic or manual gas console? 

If you plan on cutting multiple material types (mild steel, stainless, aluminum, etc.) during a shift, and plan to do so regularly, then the automatic gas console is the best choice.  This PC-based control requires the operator to input only the material type and thickness, then it automatically selects the optimum cutting amperage, the gasses needed to cut the material, and finally sets the correct pressures according to the pre-loaded cutting charts.

15. How do I choose the amperage that is right for me? 

You must first determine your current cutting capacity requirements, or decide what capabilities you would like to have in the future.  Spirit® II systems come in 150, 275, and 400 amp models, each with its own maximum piercing and cutting ranges.  Visit www.burny.com  or www.lincolnelectric.com  to download the datasheets for each system, or call us at 1-800-321-8072 to learn more.

16. How many consumables do I need to stock? 

This is based on your production requirements. Most high density plasma systems have eight or more amperage options; each has its own specific set of consumables.  Stocking requirements will vary depending on how many different plate thicknesses you cut on a daily basis.   Lincoln Electric offers its customers the ability to order consumables online, 24 hours a day, with free next day delivery on orders received before 3:00 PM EST.  Running out of stock is a thing of the past!

17. How do I retrofit my current machine? 

Older, less efficient shape cutting machines, built by virtually any OEM, can be retrofit with new Burny® CNC systems and Spirit® II plasma equipment to improve quality, increase throughput, and eliminate costly secondary processing. Extend the life of existing equipment without making a six-figure investment in a new machine.  Complete the retrofit request form on www.burny.com, or contact a Regional Sales Manager directly at 1-800-321-8072.

18. I need to upgrade my motion control.  Should I buy the Burny® 10 LCD Plus, Phantom™ II or Phantom™ II ST?

The answer to this question lies in your current cutting machine configuration.  Phantom II ST is designed for use with a one or two plasma or oxyfuel torch set up.  The Phantom II incorporates a built-in Operators Console that contains full functionality for two plasma stations and up to six oxyfuel torches.  The Burny 10 LCD Plus requires an external Operators Console, which can support oxyfuel, plasma, waterjet or laser cutting.  All three CNC models utilize the same 15 in. (381mm) TFT USB touchscreen and Burny software.