The plasma cutter is a tool that many people are able afford to have in their home workshop. The prices have fallen to levels where even the backyard mechanic can own a plasma cutting torch to help them fabricate parts for their car remodel or to just build metal objects. Plasma cutters operate with a high voltage arc that melts the metal as it cuts through it. Unlike bulky oxy-acetylene tanks, plasma cutters are very portable and can run on regular household current. As great as plasma cutters are, as an owner, you will still run into some problems and malfunctions.
Use Grounded Connections
One of the problems people run into with plasma cutters is that they do not plug them into 3 pronged, grounded outlets. The outlet may have the third prong available, but it isn't set up as a true grounded outlet. The plasma cutter must be grounded correctly in order for the electrical arc to work.
Grounded Clamp not Connected
The plasma cutter must also be grounded through the workpiece. There is a grounding clamp that must be connected to the workpiece, near where you are making your cut. This completes the circuit so that the cutter can create the charge it needs to melt away the metal. Make sure the connections on the ground clamp are good.
Keep Air Pressure Up
As the cutter is working, the built in air compressor does the work of blowing away the cut material and debris. The cubic feet per minute rating on the air compressor should be set at the specified amount that is determined in the owner's manual. Make sure that you can keep this level maintained.
Clogged Cutting Tip
As the plasma cutter is working, there is a tendency to collect dirt particles and metal slag. This slag, or metal dust, can cause the electrical current to discharge and not make a good connection. When this happens you should stop cutting and wipe off the end of the tip to clean it of any dust or slag.
One inherent problem with the plasma cutter is that it can burn through tips very quickly. As the cutter is working, it will burn back the tips so that the cutting hole is misshapen. This hole must be a specified diameter. If it gets any larger the conductivity of the electric charge will not work as efficiently. Keep a supply of new cutting tips on hand so you can quickly change them.
Unclean Cutting Surface
Since the plasma cutter works through making a conductive connection with the piece that it is cutting, you will see problems when the metal surface is dirty. Make sure you take the time to clean the surface of any dust, oil, rust, or other contaminates that can hamper the electrical current.
After some use, the tip can build up a lot of dust. Like a battery cable, this will cut down on the amount of charge it can build up. Use an emery cloth to wipe off the cutting tip so that it has a shine to it. This will help it make a stronger conductive electrical charge.