Can You Cut Aluminum With A Plasma Cutter? Misconceptions Cleared!

The main question that comes to you when you are planning to cut aluminum with a plasma cutter is: Is plasma the most suitable method for cutting aluminum, and if yes, how am I m going to use it to yield the best results?

Plasma is the most commonly used method to cut steel exceptionally, but a lot different from cutting aluminum, as aluminum has different characteristics than steel. So, will it cut aluminum the same way as it cuts steel?

The answer is Yes! Plasma is the most suitable option to get over the job on a reasonable budget quickly. The technological advancements over the past decades and the right procedures can help you achieve tremendous results.

In the blog below, I have briefly explained the right solutions to cut aluminum precisely using a plasma cutter.

Can You Cut Aluminum With A Plasma Cutter?

As aluminum is an electrically conductive metal, cutting such metals with a plasma cutter is highly effective. In a plasma cutter, a high-speed ionized gas flows through a hole. The gas is electrically ionized and has a high temperature, which completes the circuit with the cutter using ground earth.

The ionized gas is referred to as plasma. You must increase the electrical input if you need a hotter plasma arc. The high-temperature plasma arc cuts the metals and eliminates the excess material.

But, there are misconceptions that plasma technology is not good enough to cut aluminum as it creates a mess on metal surfaces that is hard to clean.

Well, let me tell you that these are the problems welders used to face in the past. Now you won’t be facing such problems due to technological advancement.

Which Method is Best for Cutting Aluminum, Laser or Aluminum?

Professionals prefer plasma cutting over laser cutting as it has less expensive in terms of operational and equipment costs. Besides, plasma cuts aluminum up to 160mm in thickness, and laser can only cut up to 25mm.

Though laser cuts the metal more precisely than plasma, it is mostly used in industries like aerospace or task where utmost precision is that. If you do not intend to make such finer detail cuts, I suggest you opt for budget plasma cutting.

Can Plasma Cut Thick Guage Aluminum Plates?

Yes, plasma cutting is capable of cutting aluminum plates with heavy gauges. Back in the old days, it wasn’t possible, but thanks to the latest XRP system that uses the VWI(Vented water injection) process, it made it possible for plasma to cut gauges from 37mm to 51mm without much effort.

When cutting thicker gauges, gases such as argon-hydrogen-nitrogen are mixed. Besides, using higher amperage with fast cutting cuts simplifies the process.

Best Gas You Can Use For Plasma Cutting Aluminum?

The two main gases used are plasma gas and shielding gas. Plasma gas cuts the metal, while shielding gas keeps flowing around the torch and consumables, preventing everything from overheating. I have mentioned the most commonly used plasma gases below.

  1. Air
  2. Oxygen
  3. Nitrogen
  4. H-35 ( Composed of 65% argon & 35% hydrogen )
  5. F5 (Composed of 95% nitrogen and 5% hydrogen)

Air or nitrogen are mostly used as shielding gases. A mixture of two, such as CO2(carbon dioxide) and water, can also be used. However, you only consider using plasma gases when you have a dual or multiple gas system.

Cutting 80mm aluminum plate with plasma using nitrogen at 150A
Cutting 80mm Aluminum Plate with Plasma Using Nitrogen at 150A

We suggest you use argon H-35 when cutting thick aluminum of more than 12mm. For slashing the thinner aluminum with a thickness of less than 12mm, nitrogen can be used as plasma gas and CO2 as shielding gas. Besides, if you are low on budget, you can also opt for air as secondary gas, producing the best results.

Additionally, extended consumable life and best edge quality can be obtained using a water shield if your system allows use.

Is it Possible To Plasma Cut Aluminum on a Water Table?

It is not recommended to cut aluminum on a water table when using H-2 or H-35 gas mixture,

However, other gas mixtures mentioned above can be used to cut underwater only if you can avoid hydrogen gas accumulation under the aluminum sheet.

Fumes can be controlled in two ways when using a CNC plasma table. One, you can use a fume extractor, and second, a water table. From these methods, we recommend using a water table, as it helps to prevent the problems such as noise, dust, and UV light that occur during aluminum cutting.

But, you need to be cautious, as aluminum and water combination are prone to explosion. I recommend getting the water table specifically designed for cutting aluminum from the most reputed companies to avoid this scenario.

CNC Plasma cutting machine cut 3mm Aluminum with water table
CNC Plasma Cutting machine Cut 3mm Aluminum with Water Table

Can You Plasma Cut Aluminum Without a Water Table?

Since We are discussing the water tables, another question asked is: Is it possible to plasma cut aluminum if we don’t have a water table?

The answer is Yes! A water table isn’t necessary when using water as a shielding gas because you will be using a relatively low amount of water which usually evaporates during cutting thicker metals.

Only a small amount of moisture reaches the cutting table, as most of the water evaporates.

So, We recommend you contact reputable table manufacturers if you intend to use water as shielding gas. They will guide you to use the filters that will aid in managing extra moisture.

Basics Of Plasma Cutting

To take advantage of plasma cutting’s cost- and time-saving benefits, you must first learn the fundamentals of plasma cutting. You should also be aware of a few other aspects of the plasma cutting process:

Nozzle:

The plasma cutter’s nozzle is an essential component of the plasma cutting system. It works similarly to a nozzle on a water cutting system, focusing on the plasma arc cutting stream. The size, power, and angle of the cut you produce are all determined by the nozzle.

Because of its heat retention and electrical conductivity qualities, copper alloys are commonly used for the nozzles. A technique known as gas swirling shields the copper nozzles from the bulk of the heat produced by the plasma arc.

You may utilize a variety of nozzles with your plasma cutter, each with a different orifice size. The hole size is critical since it influences the size and voltage of your arc—the greater the arc and voltage, the smaller the hole.

When you are cutting these, a smaller opening is preferable:

  1. Thicker metal
  2. Non-conductive metal
  3. Tougher metals

Voltage:

The higher the voltage, the higher the temperature the ionized gas particles heat up the nozzle. However, on the box of each nozzle, there is a maximum temperature that it can resist.

Tips For Aluminum Cutting With Plasma Cutter

Here are some tips you should consider before starting the cutting process:

  • It’s essential to find a balance between travel speed and amperage. Move the torch as quickly as possible without causing the arc to fail to pierce the metal.
  • To carve out the pattern, move the torch in the proper direction. As a result, any slag you have will end up on scrap metal rather than the completed product.
  • When aluminum becomes heated, it becomes extremely sticky. Ascertain that the air source is properly connected to the plasma cutter and that the air source is in the proper position.
  • Depending on the thickness of the aluminum sheet, you might want to consider using a plasma cutter. You’ll need a plasma cutter with larger spacing and arcs if you cut a thick aluminum sheet.
  • If you plan to cut a massive chunk of aluminum sheet and then utilize the plasma cutter, it’s best to draw it out first. To draw the line, use a metal market.

Plasma Cutting is the Future

Plasma cutting will have a bright future. The accessibility of plasma cutting platforms has been a major focus of recent technical developments. Plasma cutting is now being utilized for increasingly complicated cutting tasks because of recent improvements in the ability to control the arc’s power and size.

Plasma cutting offers clear advantages over other metal cutting methods, and it is no longer contaminated by the primitive plasma cutting platforms of the past.

Final Words

So, here is the end of this writing, “Can You Cut Aluminum With A Plasma Cutter,” and hopefully, we have cleared all your misconceptions and queries. Indeed, after reading this post, you will feel more comfortable cutting aluminum with plasma.

About Dave Walker

Dave Walker, a professional welder who has been welding from an early age. Now aims to help others by making them learning skills and finding them new opportunities. He has written for many welding blogs and helped many pursue their welding goals by helping them in choosing the best welding tools of the time.