Although high-voltage plasma cutters were once the exclusive domain of heavy industries populated with CNC machines and cutting tables, they’ve matured into the go-to cutting tools for everything from delicate metalwork to automotive salvage.
Unlike oxy-acetylene type cutters, plasma cutters use electrically conductive gas to carve through metals up to 57mm thick at temperatures close to 22,000°C. And with cutter sizes ranging from lightweight 45A/220V systems for the home hobbyist, to powerful 125A/600V systems for worksites, plasma cutters are also cleaner, faster and more portable than oxy-fuel cutters.
With operating temperatures that are 4 times hotter than oxy-fuel cutters though, plasma cutter consumables like nozzle tips, electrodes, and shield caps don’t last long. Getting to know your consumables can save you a lot of unwanted plasma cutter frustration; and if you’re using a cutting system from Hypertherm, you’re especially fortunate to have some of the finest OE-quality consumables available at your disposal.
Top Quality Consumables for Hypertherm Plasma Cutters
When it comes to multi-purpose plasma cutters, Hypertherm’s Powermax line of professional and hobbyist cutting systems are the industry leaders. No other family of portable plasma tools deliver the cutting and gouging power that Hypertherm does, and long-life Hypertherm parts and consumables allow you to enjoy that superior performance and precision without worrying about quality or availability.
Consumables are the heart and soul of a plasma cutter, and there’s a range of factors that contribute to how often they need to be replaced, including:
· The rated duty cycle of the cutter;
· The time needed to make cuts;
· The number of stops and starts made when cutting;
· The amperage used when cutting; and,
· The thickness of the metals being cut.
The fact, however, is that regardless of the number of cuts made, consumables will typically only last from 1-3 hours before needing to be replaced. It means that even on a workhorse like the Hypertherm Powermax 125 with a 100% duty cycle, periodically checking the nozzle tip and electrode for wear is an essential part of the cutter’s operation; and when they need to be changed, insisting on only OE-quality parts to keep it operating at peak performance.
Get Familiar With Your Plasma Cutter Consumables
Plasma torches typically contain 5 consumable parts that need to be inspected and replace regularly:
· The nozzle tip. The nozzle focuses the charged plasma arc and the surrounding shielding gas as it leaves the torch.
· The electrode. An electrode conducts the electrical that’s produced in the torch and directs it to the tip.
· The shield. This part resides over the nozzle tip and prevents sparks and molten metal from damaging the other consumables.
· The swirl ring. This component swirls shielding gas around the plasma arc and provides cooling for the nozzle tip.
· The retaining cap. The retaining cap holds all the other components of the torch.
You can buy replacement Hypertherm plasma parts individually or in 21-piece kits for all of their Powermax 45, 65, 85, 105, and 125 systems. These kits include:
· 10x nozzle tips;
· 5x electrodes;
· 3x shields;
· 2x swirl rings; and,
· 1x retaining cap.
It’s important to remember that Hypertherm plasma replacement consumables are sold, and need to be installed, according to the amperage of the cutter that they’re rated for. A consumable’s maximum amperage is normally stamped on the outside of the part, and you’ll experience noticeably accelerated parts wear and reduced cut quality for using consumables that aren’t consistent with the amperage setting of the cutter.
Recognizing When It’s Time to Replace Your Consumables
Of the 5 consumable Hypertherm machine torch parts, the nozzle tip and the electrode are the most important and should always be replaced together. The speed you’re cutting at, the type of cutting you’re doing, and even the moisture content in the air can impact their wear, and typical signs that they’re in need of replacement are going to include:
· An enlarged, or irregularly shaped nozzle tip orifice;
· Pitting, or enlargement and deepening of the crater in the electrode; and,
· Dross buildup, or beveling into the piece you’re working on.
The swirl ring, handheld shield, and retaining cap are the consumable Hypertherm parts that are least prone to wear, and won’t ordinarily require replacement unless they’re displaying signs of excessive wear, such as:
· Cracks or clogged holes in the swirl ring;
· Cracks, slag buildup, or a misshapen orifice on the shield cap; or,
· Cracks, corrosion, or slag buildup on the retaining cap.
Ultimately, if you’re using a high-piercing capacity system like the Hypertherm 125 in your business, you want to stay as far ahead of the maintenance, and consumables replacement curve as possible. Replacing worn consumables in a timely manner not only lets you get the best use out of your cutter, but also ensures that neither the quality nor the rate of your production has a chance to suffer.
Simple Steps to Make Your Consumables Last
Let’s be honest: eventually, all consumables wear out. But even though wear is unavoidable, there are a handful of simple precautions that can be taken to make all of your consumable Hypertherm machine parts last as long as possible.
Double-Check Your Installation
Take the time to ensure that you’ve installed your consumables correctly, and that the amperages you’re using are acceptable for both the consumables you’ve installed and the type of cutting you’re going to be doing.
Manage Your Cuts
By avoiding cutting too quickly, too slowly, or at an improper distance from the piece you’re working on, you can spare your consumables from premature wear.
Inspect Your Equipment
This point has already been mentioned several times, but it’s worth mentioning again. Allowing any one consumable to wear excessively increases the rate of wear on the others, so inspect your consumables periodically, and replace worn parts when necessary to avoid placing an unnecessary burden on the others.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, when it comes to making plasma cutting a feasible alternative for the piercing, severing, and gouging tasks that have been dominated by oxy-acetylene and mechanical cutters, Hypertherm plasma cutters are in a class all their own. No other family of cutters boasts the speed or quality that they have, but it takes regular inspections and the right consumables to get the most out of them.
By using only high-quality, long-life Hypertherm parts and consumables, you can be confident that your plasma cutter is delivering its best at all times. And you’ll be surprised by how much of a difference a smart consumables management policy is going to make in costs and productivity.