One of the best tools for cutting metal is a plasma cutter. It is effective and convenient to use, and thanks to the latest technology being applied in the area, it is now possible to cut metal with almost laser precision.
A plasma cutter works differently than a conventional welding torch. Rather than using a flame produced from a burning gas in the style of oxy acetylene welding, a plasma cutter uses a jet of inert gas such as compressed air, and then applies a very high voltage charge. The electric charge arcs through the jet of air, and ionizes the gas. The ionized gas reaches extremely high temperature, and becomes what is called plasma.
This highly charged and hot temperature jet of plasm laser engraving is able to melt through metal at the point of contact without having a massive impact on the surrounding material. This makes a plasma cutter a very precise way of cutting metal.
For small jobs in a workshop where metal is being cut in order to make a bodywork patch, or a replacement panel, plasma cutters are the ideal solution. One of the most important aspects of plasma cutters is that they use an inert gas, meaning that you do not have to worry about storing volatile and explosive gases.
In the past, plasma cutters were a fairly imprecise and blunt means of cutting metal thanks to their large “flame”, however, thanks to advances in the materials and technology used to manufacture plasma cutters, they are now able to produce a much more focused flame. This means that you not only get a more exact and neater cut, but are able to do it with lower power.
Plasma cutters are available from under $1000. You can get a Firepower 12 amp plasma cutter with its own compressor that uses compressed air to create the plasma torch for $998.75. This tool, which is ideal for small jobs in any work shop, is flexible enough to carry out a range of tasks.
With a basic compressor driven plasma cutter, you get a torch with two settings. The pilot arc of plasma is ideal for burning off paint, while when you turn up the power; the cutter is able to cut through sheets of steel an eighth of an inch thick at a rate of around nine inches per minute.
By spending a little more, it is possible to get a more powerful and flexible tool. For less than $1350, you can buy a Lincoln Electric Welders Century 25 Amp Plasma Cutter. This tool is designed for effective auto body repair jobs, and provides a fully earthed cutting arc that removes the high frequency harmonics that are able to damage the complex electronics in a car.
The century 25 amp plasma cutter has its own built in compressor, which has an adjustable regulator to control the size of the actual plasma. This means that you can vary the intensity of the cutting edge of the tool, and deal with metals of different thicknesses up to 3/16″ of milled steel, at an acceptable cutting rate.
At the top end of the plasma cutter market there are complex and powerful tools such as the Miller Auto Arc 4500 Plasma Cutter. This tool, which retails from around $2500, is a much more flexible and powerful cutter than most other models. Its 27 amp power supply, coupled with a strong compressor means that it can deliver a flame hot enough to cut through steel more than half an inch thick at an acceptable rate, and get through most body panel metal like a hot knife through butter.