Today, with advancements in plasma cutting technology, you can do a lot more with plasma systems, whether they are hand-held or mounted on a CNC table, automated track or on a robotic arm. You can use them for gouging, removing welds, marking and a whole lot more.
In the past, the use of plasma cutting machines was limited to only cutting metal of varied thickness at very fast speeds. However, today, plasma cutting systems are quite versatile and not only can they cut metal, they also offer marking, gouging for weld preparation, weld removal, weld repair, production of scores for weld placement or bend lines, part identification, art creation, etc. So, these processes are now available to operators and plasma cutters are being used in various industries like heavy machinery, shipbuilding, metal artists, auto body shops, etc. for many more applications.
Plasma cutting systems can be used for precision gouging, as the power supplies of these systems are quite stable which makes them suitable for precision gouging. Precision gouging requires low gas flow for low arc intensity, low pressure and low cooling of consumables at low amperage, which helps to control the removal of the metal better. The specialized gouging nozzle and marking shield allows for greater control of the process and allows you to remove the metal without penetrating too deeply into the material.
Spot Weld Removal
Removing a spot weld can be quite challenging, especially if you want to remove the top metal while keeping the base metal intact particularly if you want to do it cost effectively and quickly. For instance, if you want to remove a damaged body panel from an automobile, you need to remove several spot welds before you can detach the panel from the frame. In the past, usually special drills, belt sanders, grinders or a hammer and chisel were used to do the job.
However today, with plasma gouging, you can use a torch with a special nozzle at around 10-25 amps to remove the metal surrounding the spot weld effectively. Removing the spot weld by gouging increases the chances of making a hole through the base metal. You can avoid this by placing the tip of the torch on the metal at a 40o to 45o angle that helps to distribute the heat over a large area. Achieving the perfect gouging requires practice, especially if you want to avoid application of too much heat to gouging into the base metal, which will cause the metal to warp.
Metal marking is used for various purposes such as part identification, making dimples for drill starts, for bend location or weld placements, adding texture to the surface of the metal, etc. Precision plasma gouging can also be used for metal marking where a low-amperage arc is used with a specialized shield and nozzle. If you make a heavy score, the gouge can be seen even after painting; however, if you do not want the gouge to be seen, then you should use a light score that can be either removed with a grinder or covered with paint. For different metals, you can adjust the various parameters to obtain different mark widths, depths and appearances.
Advancements in modern plasma cutting technology have enabled operators to use the plasma system for much more than cutting. Today, you can use the same plasma systems for cutting, marking and gouging and they can easily switch between the 3 processes effortlessly. The versatility and portability of plasma cutting systems make them suitable for varied applications that could not be envisaged in the past.