What is a CNC Plasma Cutter and How Does it Work?

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A CNC plasma cutter is a machine that cuts through metal or other material by using an electric arc. The CNC stands for "computer numeric control" which means that the computer controls what is being cut.

You want to cut metal, but don't know what a CNC plasma cutter is.

A CNC plasma system is a computer-controlled machine that carries an ionized gas torch with which to cut and shape metal. The term "CNC" refers to the Computer Numerical Control, where computations in a program control this cutting tool's movements by directing it along predetermined paths within precise tolerances.

If you're looking for a way to cut metal with precision, then you should consider investing in a CNC plasma cutter. They are easy to use and affordable enough for any budget.

This article will go into what a CNC plasma cutter does and what it can be used to cut, what makes it different from other cutting machines, what safety precautions need to be taken when operating one of these machines, and more.

What is a CNC Plasma Cutter used for?

CNC plasma cutters are a cutting and welding system used mainly for producing large quantities of complicated shapes out of metal. They are electromagnetic gadgets, which generate sunlight with the help of an electrical source. This enables them to cut through thick materials better when compared to laser cutting machines, as well as does welding too.

On the other hand, the CNC Plasma Cutting Machine can be enclosed into any type and size workspace that you need- this makes it flexible and easy to use in many different industrial productions like aerospace manufacturing, construction, engineering, or outer space exploration systems. It also is versatile enough in terms of depth for cutting different types of metals (up to 22 gauges).

You can be sure that this machine will cut through any thickness of the steel sheet. When cutting, it creates plasma by quickly electrifying the metal so that when you draw near to it with a specific tool, an arc is created which severs the metal.

Though laser machines have been using for many years now in industries and manufacturing plants- CNC plasma machines have been gaining popularity in recent years because of their versatility.

You Can Check Our New Article How to use a plasma cutter?

How Does A CNC Plasma Cutter Work?

Matter has 4 states - solid, liquid, gas and plasma. Solid becomes liquid when it is heated. When it is heated more, it becomes gas and then plasma. Plasma is the hottest state of matter because it can create electricity so strong that there are not many things you can contain them in! That is how a CNC plasma cutter works.

Plasma is the fourth state of matter and most energetic form. That can only be created by adding a large amount of energy or heat to any solid object before it transitions into its liquefied then vaporized gaseous form.

The passage describes 4 types of matters' "natural" states - solids become liquids when heated on top off becoming gases under even more extreme conditions; because plasmas have such high levels of temperature they create electrical currents so strong that it is almost impossible to contain them.

Plasma Cutting Process

CNC plasma cutting can cut all metals. One of the most common tasks for a CNC plasma cutter is cutting many types of metal, including aluminum, stainless steel, and steel. Plasma cutting systems have a wide range of amperage outputs, ranging from 20 amps to 1,000 amps.

Plasma systems are capable to cut up to 2.0 inches thick steel and producing 400 amps, even with oxygen as the device's primary gas.

Ar (Argon) and H2 (hydrogen) gas mixture generate high-powered plasma cutting up to 6.0" metal at 1000 amps

PAC power supplies are used in the Constant Current mode much like those that are common for stick welding and TIG Welding. It produces high voltage output. The voltage of the plasma cutter is as 400 VDC.

A plasma cutter relies on a jet of electricity that is directed through a nozzle to create friction. By constricting the plasma stream, increases the amount of arc present.

The plasma cutting torch has a component to swirl the hot, ionized gas to make sure that it doesn't react with any non-ionized gases. The swirling movement ensures better and more even cuts while also keeping you safe from harm if anything goes wrong in your workspace!

When plasma gas is swirled, it creates an un-ionized boundary layer, which is the cooler border of gas around it, becomes wider as a result and squeezes the arc. This increases its length, density, and temperature even more than before because now there are fewer boundaries for cooling to occur.

The plasma gas that is swirled inside the nozzle also helps to increase its life span. The heat of a plasma arc column can reach temperatures as high as 24,000º K (or 42,000° F).

CNC Plasma Cutting Configurations

There are 3 configuration types that you will need to decide on before cutting your material.

  • 2D / 2-axis plasma cutting
  • 3D / 3+ Axis plasma cutting
  • Tube and section plasma cutting

01. 2D / 2-axis plasma cutting

In 2D plasma cutting process, the machine moves on one axis along the material's length while a torch is passed back and forth to cut it.

This type of configuration is the easiest for beginners because there are fewer variables to take into account.

The downside of this configuration is that it often leaves burrs by the edge due to not being as precise as other configurations. This makes edges difficult if you need smooth, consistent pieces with tight tolerances that look like they were finished with machines using other processes like water jetting or laser cutting.

If you're looking for speed and economy in your project, this may be what best fits your needs.

02. 3D / 3+ Axis plasma cutting

3D plasma cutting is a process, typically powered by electricity, which cuts flat profiles from metal sheet or plate. However, with the introduction of an additional axis of rotation, the head can tilt as it goes through a conventional 2-dimensional path to cut out shapes and patterns on any material.

Besides this, the surface of some materials is cut at a slant, creating edges that are not perpendicular to the material's surface. The angle varies but it is usually somewhere between 30 and 45 degrees from right angles.

Moreover, this process is mainly used in situations where the profile to be cut will later form part of a welded fabrication. When an angled edge forms one side of the welding preparation, secondary cuts or grinding becomes unnecessary and can actually save money on production time

3D plasma cutting is a more advanced form of laser and water jet machining, which enables all-around shaped cuts to be made in high thickness materials. And, since the plasma torch can rotate in 3 axes, no support structure is required for complex shapes or multi-sided objects such as cylinders or bowls.

03. Tube and section plasma cutting

Plasma cutting is a process that cuts metal by using a gas, such as air or nitrogen. 

It can be used to cut through tubes and sections of metal without having to use an electric saw. The "cutting head" moves around like in other forms of cutting, but it has the advantage of being more controlled than with a saw.

If you are looking for ways to cut metal without having to use a saw, then this might be something for you.

Mainly, a plasma cutting head is used in the processing of long sections such as tubes and pipes. This tool usually remains stationary while a workpiece goes through it, rotating an entire 360 degrees around its longitudinal axis.

Depending on the design, a plasma cutting machine can tilt and rotate for maximum flexibility.

This allows angled cuts to be made through the thickness of a tube or section, commonly taken advantage of in-process pipe work fabrication where pipes can have weld prep on them before cutting.

What Software Do CNC Plasma Cutters Use?

CNC plasma cutting machine programming is a process that's used in the manufacturing sector to cut through various materials including aluminum, steel, and plastics.

The plasma cutter has three different programs: CAD, CAM, and controller.

CAM software is used as a post-processing tool on plasma cutting machines. It works by processing CAD data and developing the code for CNC control which tells it what speed, when to move in different directions (up/down), what height to cut at, and how long each pass of the torch should be.

If you're looking for a way to get your new CNC machine up and running as fast as possible, consider using pre-made DXF files or designing your own.

This method has many benefits-it cuts materials faster than lasers or water jets, it can make curves easily, it requires less power than other processes, and there are fewer issues with dusting since the plasma doesn't create sparks or sparks as much.

Advantages of CNC Plasma Cutting Machine

CNC plasma cutting machines have several benefits over others properly in the fabrication industry.  The main advantages include:

01. Design Capabilities:

The CNC plasma can design anything you want. You can easily add designs to the shapes or create your shape from a general design. This helps with consistency and makes creating unique pieces that may be impossible without a CNC machine much easier than other methods of fabrication (such as hand cutting).

02. Material Handling:

CNC plasma cutting machines can handle a lot of material at once and are able to cut through a larger variety of materials than other methods allow for (such as hand cutting). This allows companies to process more orders in less time, which leads to better profit margins.

03. Accuracy:

 The computer has increased the accuracy of CNC plasma cutting machines by a long shot. It is possible to use an old type of plasma cutting machine without a computer and get similar results but with much more effort.

04. Speed:

Speed is also one thing that makes a plasma cutter so good. Speed is often limited only to things like safety precautions (such as in a production environment) since there are no limits to how fast it can cut.

05. Coolant Capabilities:

 The CNC plasma also allows for coolant hose attachment. This is another thing that increases the number of materials you can use with the cutting machine, but it also helps keep the material cooler while you working on it.

06. Portability:

The CNC plasma can be moved from site to site which means that you don't have to buy a machine for every job you need to do or hire someone to come in and do it for you, saving time and money!

07. Repair Capabilities:

If there is ever an accident with the CNC plasma cutting machine then it is possible to repair it with the same company that made it or even better, sometimes you can get a new part from overseas that will fit on your machine. This makes repairing easier and cheaper than replacing the whole thing which is great for small businesses!

08. Less Labor-Intensive:

There is no need for a large workforce when using this machine since it can do the cutting in less time.

09. More Affordable Than Hand-Cutting:

Not only is CNC plasma cutting machines less labor-intensive but they are also way more affordable than having to hire someone to manually cut the pieces and material you have purchased.

10. Portability and Easy To Transport:

This is a huge advantage for plasma cutting machines. You can move them easily, even on the go. If your piece needs to be redone or you need a different part cut out then it is possible to take this machine with you!

11. Faster Production Times than Other Methods:

The CNC plasma can be set to cut out pieces all by itself, with no need for a human operator. This makes production times faster and more efficient and allows production to scale as needed.

12. Fewer Issues with Hidden Joints in the Material:

This is a great advantage because hidden joints lead to breaks in the material after it has been cut. This break may cause issues later in the design process or with the function of the finished product. The CNC plasma can cut out pieces much cleaner than other methods so you are less likely to clean up wasted material after cutting.

How much is a CNC Plasma Cutter?

Depending on which CNC plasma cutter you buy, it can be a lot of money.

There are a variety of different manufacturers and they produce different types for various machinery.

However, the average price ranges from five thousand to twelve and thirteen thousand dollars. While that sounds like a lot, it also includes a variety of different add-on attachments, like picking and placing arms.

The CNC plasma cutter itself may not be the most expensive investment (especially when you think about having to pay for someone else's work), but it is definitely one of the most expensive pieces of machinery to buy. In comparison, if you were to buy a CNC router, the price ranges from two to four thousand dollars.

Hand-Held vs. Mechanized Plasma

Hand-held cutting applications are often referred to as "torches" because they use torches designed for hand-held cutting. Hand-held devices typically use a straight barreled torch, which can be carried by the user.

On the other hand, mechanized plasma machines use a straight barreled torch which is mounted on a machine and cannot be moved once it has been turned on. It is important to note that mechanized plasma machines must have an air supply in order to function properly. Hand-held torches do not require this additional piece of equipment in order to work.

Hand-held torches are used primarily for welding operations such as brazing and soldering, but can also be used for other tasks where only localized heat input is required or desired - such as cutting and gouging. Hand-held torches are classified by the pressure at which they operate, and can be used with the same process parameters as mechanized plasma cutting units.

Hand-held torches are available in varying sizes and power capabilities, and typically use a mixture of gases such as argon, acetylene, or hydrogen. Mechanized plasma cutters are much easier to control and use than hand-held torches, but hand-held torches can be used on smaller jobs because they are portable. Mechanized plasma cutters are better suited for larger, more powerful projects.

Where CNC Plasma Cutting is used?

Maybe one of the most popular methods that CNC plasma cutting can be used is to cut stainless steel.

CNC Plasma cutting is used for a number of reasons, like some of those listed above. Take for instance stainless steel, it's perfect for CNC plasma cutting because it's flat with depth and doesn't warp under high temperatures unlike other materials like wood or aluminum.

Also, it remains virtually unaffected by air pressure which makes clean cuts easy to produce while also limiting heat buildup on the material being cut.

Of course there are many uses out there so we're only left wondering why you'd want to know where specifically CNC plasma cutting is used. We’ll tell you why, because we have the answer to that question. 🙂

From offshore oil rigs to NASA space shuttles, CNC plasma cutting is used in every field where high-quality cuts are needed. You name it and there's a good chance it uses CNC plasma cutter machines.

It's even being used now for lighter duty work such as hobbyists who make things like wooden signs or lamp post bases for their houses. So next time you come across an unfamiliar piece of equipment with welders on top ask around, and see if anyone knows what they're used for since chances are it's probably a type of CNC plasma cutter machine.

Other ways that CNC plasma cutting is used is to cut materials like:

Asphalt, granite, glass, rubber, stone, marble aluminum and so on... If you're still having trouble figuring out where CNC plasma cutting is used though then we have one final answer--anywhere there's a need for high-quality cuts--and that extends far beyond the resources mentioned above.

If it can be done with a saw blade or other tools then chances are it can also be produced via CNC plasma cutting in a relatively short amount of time (depending on how big your project), it's just that CNC plasma cutting has proven itself to be less wasteful than methods like those previously mentioned because overtime CNC plasma cutting has proven to provide for more accurate cuts while using less power and a smaller amount of time.


The CNC plasma cutter is a machine that uses electricity to heat up an air or gas mixture, which is then used for cutting and welding. It's important to have the right tools for your job site; you can find many configurations of CNC plasma cutters from hand-held models with limited capabilities to mechanized units capable of much more complex work. A high end unit could cost several thousand dollars - but don't worry! You may be able to rent one instead. Keep in mind all the advantages it offers before buying so you'll know what will best suit your needs as well as how much money you're willing to invest in this type of equipment.

Last Updated on November 2, 2021 by weldinghubs

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