Using a plasma cutter has become very common in a lot of metal shops, car garages, and even for the home hobbyist who likes to tinker around. They are relatively inexpensive to own and operate, and fit nicely into a well-rounded workshop. There are plenty of uses for a plasma cutter, from cutting metal plates, cutting out old parts on vehicles, making metal sculptures, or anything else you can imagine. Plasma cutters work by using a high voltage electric arc to melt the metal as it cuts through the surface.
Materials for Plasma Cutters
Metal is the most common material that people use a plasma cutter on. For many years the only way to cut through thicker pieces of steel plates was with an oxy-acetylene torch set up. This was very cumbersome and expensive to operate. Today, with the readily available plasma cutters, this is a simple process. However, there are other materials that will benefit from the use of a plasma cutter. Tin, aluminum, copper, fiberglass, and all sorts of different materials can be cut successfully with the plasma cutter.
Different Cutting Styles
With each different material there is going to be the need for a different way to cut it. A plasma cutter works through the conductive material in order to charge the piece so that the cutter will work more efficiently. Some of the materials are not going to conduct electricity very well, so you need to place a piece of metal, or something that conducts electricity well, on top of some things, like fiberglass, in order to cut it. Copper is an easy material to cut through, but will have some special tips you need to think about.
1. Keep Area Ventilated
One of the properties of copper is that is has a high smoking temperature. When you use a plasma cutter on the copper it has a tendency to absorb the heat and let off a lot of smoke. While there is little toxicity to the smoke that comes with cutting copper, you will need to keep your area ventilated well for cleaner air and less congestion due to the fumes. A breathable air mask will also be something you will want to use if you are working in a closed in space.
2. Cut Slower
Copper is a great heat conductor, but has a low electricity conduction rate. While you can still cut the copper material with the plasma cutter, you should not force it and cut too fast. Take your time and let the cutter work its way through the copper for a straighter and even cut. Cutting slower will also give you plenty of opportunity to blow away the bits and pieces of copper and dust caused by the cutting process.
3. Use a More Conductive Material
Because copper tends to absorb more heat than it does the electrical charge you will be much better off placing a piece of steel, or other metal, on top of the copper. You do not have to cover the entire surface. A small piece where you can place the grounding clamp will work enough to give the plasma cutter enough power to cut through the copper easier.