Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2021
    Location
    Minnesota
    Posts
    2
    Post Thanks / Like

    Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Complete noob with plasma cutters here so forgive any inane questions I may ask and chalk it up to the ignorance I am slowly eliminating over time!

    I am a hobbyist looking for my first plasma cutter. I've read dozens of review and watched many videos, but no one seems to have answered the question I have, or at least I just haven't found it yet. So here goes:

    FIRST: Some of the plasma cutters include spacer guides that are designed to maintain the proper distance from tip to project piece. However, other cutters do not include them and none of the product images or videos show any sort of spacer. What gives? The reason that I ask is that in addition to utility cutting tasks, I also want to create some metal art. I am thinking that the cutters with guides will make tracing templates more difficult than the cutters without guides.

    So, can I simply remove the spacer guides off any of the plasma cutters whenever I need to or, if the Mfr includes them should I always use them? Would love some feedback from experienced metal workers and especially metal art creators.

    SECOND: I've read about different technologies that work better than others when plasma cutting expanded metal. This, of course, makes me wonder whether cutters that use a different technology will be a pain in the a$$ when trying to cut expanded metal. It this the magic of market-speak messing with my mind, or is there a significant difference that I should be aware of?

    MOST COMMON PROJECT SPECS: (at least for now!)
    • The max metal thickness will be ľ" and a rare 3/16", but most work will be on thinner metals.
    • Materials will be mostly mild steel and thinner sheet metal, thin stainless steel sheet metal, expanded metal
    • General usage will be occasional - I am not a production shop, just a weekend warrior
    • Electric supply is 110/120 at my place, buy my son (who is learning with me) will have a 220/240 outlet installed next week.
    • Hoping to purchase a plasma cutter under $700, better under $500.


    I'm new to all of this, but as I've heard so many times: "Buy once, cry once" (versus buy a cheaper product only to have to buy a more expensive model a year later when you find that you actually DO need the nicer features.

    Thanks ahead of time for educating and informing the new guy (who, at 57 years old is having a blast learning a new skill!)
    Last edited by jmedema; 1 Week Ago at 05:55 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    Dalton, GA
    Posts
    2,005
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    First Iím older hobbiest and started welding about your age. After a couple of years I too bought a plasma cutter - it is a cool tool, but it is the least used tool I own. I have used it with great success on expanded metal so that is a plus for you. Mine is a Miller that is built to handle expanded metal start/stop but not all plasmas are. Since that is one of your intended uses you need to make sure it is built for that.

    I rarely use it because I can cut some other way quicker when you count cleaning off the dross and grinding the ridges off the edges. Using a guide helps but freehand I have to do a lot grinding to look right.

    As far as under $500-700, you may want to look at used. I see name brand machines pop up at a good price. Name brand is important when you need consumables (and you will) and want them to be easily available.

    If budget is a concern be sure you have calculated an air compressor and driers big enough to service your plasma. You will need that 220v line to cut 1/4Ē.

    All that said, if I had known all this back then, I probably would not have bought one. On a CNC table you can do a lot of cool stuff and many guys on here do amazing free hand work, itís just not something that has earned its keep in my shop.
    Burt
    _____________________
    Miller Syncrowave 250
    Millermatic 211
    Miller 375 Plasma Cutter
    Hobart Handler 120

    10FtDrillBit.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    central Wis.
    Posts
    5,995
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Keep in mind EVERYONE overated the cutting capacity on their plasma cutters. At least as far as realistic cutting speed is concerned. The vast majority of Chinese machines are worse yet at cutting speed. I have a razor cut 45 which performs quite well on the thicknesses the OP described. I would look for a 40-60 amp machine for what you intend. Keep in mind a larger machine can be turned down but you can only get so much out of a small machine. As for the standoff, better quality torches ( or machines in general) use a shielded drag tip that doesn't require a standoff. You can use the non shielded tips without a standoff, just don't make contact with the material.

  4. Likes whtbaron liked this post
  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,291
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Ditto to everything said so far. #1 is that you will need an adequate source of CLEAN, DRY air, and a dedicated 50 amp 220/240 volt circuit to get the full use out of a plasma. Under $500 you're pretty much talking cheap Chinese junk (which is what I have so I'm not knocking it) with questionable repair opportunities. I consider them disposables but I'm sure others will disagree. That said I have used my Cut50 on numerous occasions and have been impressed as long as you don't push it much over it's rated 1/2" capacity.... or forget to turn the air on... but that's operator error. Watch the suppliers of the low end machines, some give free freight and some don't which is a bigger issue for me in Canada. Freight and duty easily doubles costs of some machines for me. For expanded metal I assume you would want pilot start which I don't have. If you are in the US, you can probably find better prices than I can, but the low end machines can be had cheap enough to consider them disposables anyway. This is Amazon.Ca... you'll want to search a similar product on the US site. https://www.amazon.ca/Inverter-Volta...8TT1MG8Y&psc=1

    Basically I'm saying if I was going to spend $700 on a plasma, I would put it towards a $2800 name brand machine. For less then $300 I'll take a gamble on a cheapy that might not last as long.
    Last edited by whtbaron; 1 Week Ago at 08:49 PM.
    The harder you fall, the higher you bounce...

    250 amp Miller DialArc AC/DC Stick
    F-225 amp Forney AC Stick
    230 amp Sears AC Stick
    Lincoln 180C MIG
    Victor Medalist 350 O/A
    Cut 50 Plasma
    Les

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    CT
    Posts
    4,537
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    For the budget you have I think you would be better served with a metal cutting circular saw like the one Milwaukee makes

  7. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Ceres, California
    Posts
    3,916
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    On most plasmas you can remove the stand off guide/shields and cut with an exposed tip. some torches have extended pipe tips that are beveled and you can cut angles and into corners. Most torches have a selection of different tips for different cut amps. drag cutting and shielded cutting. Check out owners and torch parts manuals before you buy. Most plasmas can drag cut to 30 amps with out a stand off shield. Some even reduce the cut amps to 30 if the tip touches.
    When looking at cut specs. There are 3 type of cuts. we have cut, sever and production. cut = clean cut at slow travel speed. sever is a rough cut that can be broken off, very slow travel speed. production is a fast travel speed with clean cut. clean cut is very little dross. fast travel is 100 to 200 ipm. while a 35 amp plasma can be rated for 1/2 cut. 3/4 sever or 3/8 production. The faster the cut the less dross will have to be cleaned off. Some of the real cheap plasmas promote the sever spec. while the name brand use either the cut or production spec.
    You can't go wrong with any of the name brand units.( miller, lincoln, ESAB/Thermal dynamics, Hypertherm. ) They cost more but will last longer and there are more repair stations. Have more tip selections. Hypertherm has fine cut tips that use 30 amps and make a very small cut is gauge metal. Great for art projects.
    Might try and find a auto/ tool show or farm equipment show near you.
    welders are sometimes demonstrated and you can check out several different machines. Once and a while welding supply stores have demo units or have the demo truck stop by from one of the name brands.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,291
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by Louie1961 View Post
    For the budget you have I think you would be better served with a metal cutting circular saw like the one Milwaukee makes
    That's actually not a bad idea, but it may take some work for expanded metal. I'm thinking something like a track saw like they use for wood, but incorporate either a metal saw or thin disc grinder. It would almost need something like an angle iron guide clamped on each side of the cut to keep from distorting the expanded metal. Somebody with more experience with them might chime in, but going to 1/4" sheet I would think is fairly thick for a metal saw.
    Last edited by whtbaron; 1 Week Ago at 01:23 AM.
    The harder you fall, the higher you bounce...

    250 amp Miller DialArc AC/DC Stick
    F-225 amp Forney AC Stick
    230 amp Sears AC Stick
    Lincoln 180C MIG
    Victor Medalist 350 O/A
    Cut 50 Plasma
    Les

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    3,146
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by whtbaron View Post
    It would almost need something like an angle iron guide clamped on each side of the cut to keep from distorting the expanded metal. Somebody with more experience with them might chime in, but going to 1/4" sheet I would think is fairly thick for a metal saw.
    If I was going to cut expanded metal with my Evolution Rage circular saw, I think I would clamp a piece of 1/4" lauan over where I planned to cut -- making kind of a "zero clearance insert" for the blade -- to keep the expanded metal from moving around and possibly causing kickback.

    "Optimum" mild steel thickness for my saw is specked at 3/8" surprisingly...though I've never cut steel that thick with it.

  10. Likes whtbaron liked this post
  11. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Texas
    Posts
    34
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    https://weldingweb.com/vbb/threads/7...-Plasma-Cutter
    Same advice I gave in post 16 and beyond.
    I'm all about the fancy brands and own a lot of em, but a $700+ piece of hobby equipment is way out of what I'm willing to spend for a plasma cutter.

    As far as the stand off thing, mine didn't come with any. I ordered some but don't really find them useful for what I'm cutting. And as pointed out you do need air and power to make one run. Mine runs way better on the 220v. But will cut plenty fine on the 120v if it is thin and I'm too lazy to pull out the big cord and plug it in.
    Rich


  12. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    CT
    Posts
    4,537
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    That's actually not a bad idea, but it may take some work for expanded metal.
    Here's the thing, most plasma cutters except the high end ones (well out of the OPs budget) have trouble with expanded metal. The arc keeps going out every time you hit a gap. Keeping the pilot arc lit causes you to go through consumables at a much higher rate of speed. The Milwaukee circular saw doesn't have that issue. https://www.milwaukeetool.com/Produc...r-Saws/6370-20

    That saw will cut quarter inch plate all day, every day with ease. It will cut up to 3/4 inch plate sparingly. This isn't a wood working circular saw with a metal cutting blade. This saw turns at a much slower 3700 RPM. It is designed to cut steel. For under $300, that is they way to go if you don't have a decent compressor, especially if you aren't cutting compound curves.
    Miller Multimatic 255

  13. Likes whtbaron, Oscar liked this post
  14. #11
    Join Date
    Oct 2014
    Posts
    3,822
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    You want something that consumables will be readily available now and in 5 years. For expanded metal a cut off wheel in an angle grinder works just fine. I personally think plasma torches are too hyped. On 3/16" and thicker, I can do a better cut with an O/A torch and the torch is much more comfortable to hold. Most plasma torches don't have a 90* head so you can't hold the torch parallel to the plate. Very awkward to hold compared to a O/A torch. Plasma shines on thin material. If I was to buy plasma I'd look at the name brands with Hypertherm at the top of the list. There's a reason they are the most popular out there.

  15. Likes Oscar liked this post
  16. #12
    Join Date
    Sep 2013
    Location
    central Wis.
    Posts
    5,995
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    On #9 expanded metal( which is very common, 3/4" opening) I use a 6" disc on a metabo. I would wager I can cut that 3 times faster than plasma and twice as fast as the Milwaukee saw with better results. On heavier non flattened material the Milwaukee saw possibly would be faster but the irregular surface would make that a struggle. Sheet and plate is a different story, 3/8" steel cuts very smooth if you have a 50 amp or so plasma. For most people a 2,000$ + plasma cutter is kind of a waste of money as most find out it's not a frequently used machine. Good cutting discs often get it done in less time when you figure out the time it takes to set up a plasma, air hose, cord, moving machine, etc.

  17. Likes wb4rt, Louie1961, Oscar, Welder Dave liked this post
  18. #13
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Draper, UT
    Posts
    454
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    For expanded metal I've had really good luck with an 8" bench top shear.
    I like the fact that the kerf is zero so I can easily split where the zig-zags meet and keep the edges less pokey.

    Name:  shear.jpeg
Views: 104
Size:  2.5 KB
    Last edited by frieed; 1 Week Ago at 04:09 PM.
    MillerMatic 252, HTP 221 w/cooler, Hypertherm PM45, Lincoln IdealArc 250 AC/DC

    "I'd like to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible"

  19. Likes Louie1961, whtbaron, Oscar liked this post
  20. #14
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Manitoba Canada
    Posts
    5,291
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by frieed View Post
    For expanded metal I've had really good luck with an 8" bench top shear.
    I like the fact that the kerf is zero so I can easily split where the zig-zags meet and keep the edges less pokey.

    Name:  shear.jpeg
Views: 104
Size:  2.5 KB
    Hmmm.... I have one of those sitting here but I've never tried it on expanded metal. Makes sense though. Next up is to make an attachment to hold the shear at the same level as my welding table so I can put the metal I'm cutting on it.
    The harder you fall, the higher you bounce...

    250 amp Miller DialArc AC/DC Stick
    F-225 amp Forney AC Stick
    230 amp Sears AC Stick
    Lincoln 180C MIG
    Victor Medalist 350 O/A
    Cut 50 Plasma
    Les

  21. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Laredo, Tx
    Posts
    5,967
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by M J D View Post
    On #9 expanded metal( which is very common, 3/4" opening) I use a 6" disc on a metabo. I would wager I can cut that 3 times faster than plasma and twice as fast as the Milwaukee saw with better results. On heavier non flattened material the Milwaukee saw possibly would be faster but the irregular surface would make that a struggle. Sheet and plate is a different story, 3/8" steel cuts very smooth if you have a 50 amp or so plasma. For most people a 2,000$ + plasma cutter is kind of a waste of money as most find out it's not a frequently used machine. Good cutting discs often get it done in less time when you figure out the time it takes to set up a plasma, air hose, cord, moving machine, etc.
    I agree, as with most here, expanded metal usually gets a grinder with a cut-off wheel. But there are times when the plasma cutter is indispensable!
    1st on WeldingWeb to have a scrolling sig!



  22. Likes whtbaron liked this post
  23. #16
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Draper, UT
    Posts
    454
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by whtbaron View Post
    Hmmm.... I have one of those sitting here but I've never tried it on expanded metal. Makes sense though. Next up is to make an attachment to hold the shear at the same level as my welding table so I can put the metal I'm cutting on it.
    the first thing you will find is that expanded metal does not expand evenly.
    MillerMatic 252, HTP 221 w/cooler, Hypertherm PM45, Lincoln IdealArc 250 AC/DC

    "I'd like to believe as many true things and as few false things as possible"

  24. Likes whtbaron liked this post
  25. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Location
    AR
    Posts
    2,111
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    Quote Originally Posted by Louie1961 View Post
    For the budget you have I think you would be better served with a metal cutting circular saw like the one Milwaukee makes
    Quote Originally Posted by whtbaron View Post
    That's actually not a bad idea, but it may take some work for expanded metal. I'm thinking something like a track saw like they use for wood, but incorporate either a metal saw or thin disc grinder. It would almost need something like an angle iron guide clamped on each side of the cut to keep from distorting the expanded metal. Somebody with more experience with them might chime in, but going to 1/4" sheet I would think is fairly thick for a metal saw.
    Great for expanded metal and straight cuts....circular saws (despite the name...LOL) won't cut curves and circles. OP may want to do those.

  26. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    145
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: Shopping for Plasma cutter - ?'s re: tip types and cutting expanded metal

    primeweld multi model ct520D

    tig stick plasma

    has AG 60 Torch

    this cheapo welding table, 1/8 diamond plate

    needed this cut out to mount my swivel arm ventalator thingy...all welding inside garage

    Name:  diamond plate ventalator.JPG
Views: 45
Size:  158.5 KB

  27. Likes whtbaron liked this post

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Page generated in 1,638,722,368.99232 seconds with 15 queries