As we have seen in Part 1 of the series, consumables are vital components of the plasma cutting system and in order to get superior quality, precise cuts and for the plasma cutter to work optimally, all the consumables must be in good shape and not worn out. They must be inspected regularly and replaced whenever they are damaged or worn out due to wear and tear.
Regular Maintenance of Consumables
With regular use of the plasma torch, the consumables get worn out. It is very critical that these consumables are inspected and replaced regularly, especially if you find that the orifice has become distorted or widened, if the pit depth has increased and if you find that there is a build-up of slag on the shield.
Apart from replacing the consumables, regular maintenance of the plasma torch is also important i.e. replacing the leads of the torch. The torch must also be replaced in the long run especially if you see cracks in the body of the torch or wires exposed due to cuts in the lead’s jacket, etc.
A hand-held plasma cutter does not have too many consumables that need to be replaced, however, there is significant damage caused due to oil or water present in the air. Many times, plasma cutters make use of the shop air via an air compressor. It can be very damaging to the system and the torch consumables if there is any water or oil present in the line. This results in consumables wearing out and reducing the life of the consumables and it also affects the quality of the cut.
Maximising Consumable Life
If you consider the point, how long will properly maintained consumables last? It is pretty difficult to answer the question as a consumable’s life depends on several factors.
In the case of hand-held cutting systems, many different operators handle the equipment. Beginners or inexperienced operators may cut very slowly and end up burning the consumables as too much of heat is generated due to slow cutting. Another factor to be considered is the thickness of the material. More energy is consumed in cutting thick materials than thin-gauge materials as you must increase the amperage when cutting thicker materials. The greater the amperage used, the shorter the life of the consumables.
The consumables in a hand-held cutting system are usually cooled by airflow. In case there is a leak in the torch lead or it is kinked, the airflow to the torch is hampered and the torch becomes very hot. This also reduces the life of the consumables.
In short, maintaining your cutting system essentially means – ensuring that the condition of the lead is good, you are using good quality consumables and the air being fed into the cutting system is water and oil-free. Keeping all these things in mind will ensure that that the life of the consumables is maximised.