Plasma cutting was invented way back in the 40s during World War II. It was created as a faster means of welding war crafts such as helicopters, aircrafts and other vehicles. Joining metal was a laborious process and the US Defence Department was finding ways and means to develop a more efficient process. This was the time that the electric arc process was discovered.
● In the 50s
After World War II, it was discovered that when an electric arc was sent through pressurized gas via a nozzle, the temperature and the speed of the gas increased dramatically and the gas turned into plasma. This plasma could cut through metal easily and thus the process of “plasma cutting” and the “plasma torch” were born.
In the 50s many ways were discovered to change the properties and characteristics of the plasma jet by changing various factors such as gas type, flow rate of the gas, nozzle size, voltage, etc. By conducting various tests, sheets of varying thickness of around 10-23 cm could be cut.
R&D in the field of plasma cutting continued in the next 20 years and the dual flow cutting process was discovered. Towards the end of the 70s, underwater plasma cutting was invented. The metal to be cut was placed around 5-10 cm under water and this greatly helped to reduce noise levels, radiation and toxic smoke.
At the start of the 80s, the first Low Amp Air Plasma Cutter was launched and this opened up the market for plasma cutting technology. Later, oxygen was used to develop an improved plasma torch which could produce superior cuts. In the 80s, oxygen plasma and underwater cutting techniques became very popular and dominated the market.
● 90s and beyond
In the 90s, plasma cutting faced a major threat as laser cutting became very popular owing to high quality cuts and precision. This led to a flurry of modifications in the plasma cutting technology as well as the plasma cutting equipment, which brought plasma cutting on par with the top-notch quality of laser cutting. Since plasma cutters were more economical than laser cutters, they were better options and were widely used by various industries.
The next two decades saw the rise of new plasma technologies including CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) plasma cutters and portable cutters and they began attracting small and medium businesses, home and personal users.
Plasma cutting has evolved over the years and has come a long way since World War II. Over time, plasma cutting technology and processes have only gotten better and today has become an all-encompassing trend in the machining industry.