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Plasma Cutter Definition, Working and Uses – Complete Guide for Beginners

Ever wondered how huge gates or metal objects are shaped so accurately? Well, the answer to your curiosity would be plasma cutting. Originating from the 1960s’ Plasma Welding’, this process has become mainstream for quite a while. But, you can’t do plasma cutting unless you have a plasma cutting machine, portable or industrial. This tool is interesting enough to be our topic for today, so let’s go over what is a plasma cutter and its working.

What is Plasma Cutter Machine?

Plasma cutting is a thermal melting process that utilizes an ionized gas jet. The electrically conductive material that needs to be cut is melted at temperatures of 20,000°C and even up to 30,000°C. The material (s) that are cut with the help of the plasma torch (cutting) are as follows:

  • Steel
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless Steel
  • Copper
  • Brass

Plasma cutting is used in various industries as the method has precision and high speed. Moreover, it does not require pre-heating and is lower in cost. Furthermore, plasma cutters are extremely helpful in cutting and welding the material’s sheet of shapes like curved or angled, thanks to its localized heating and melting.

Plasma cutters also don’t need contact with the torch and the material when starting. Therefore, they are suitable and ideal for Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) cutting applications.

What is a Plasma Cutter Used For?

It is widely used in industries such as:

  • Manufacturing
  • Industrial Construction
  • Automotive repair and restoration
  • Salvage and scrapping

This method effectively cuts both thin and thick materials. For instance, the freehand or hand-held torch cuts to 38mm thick steel components/sheets. At the same time, the more powerful computer-controlled torches can cut up to 150mm thick steel components/sheets. Moreover, plasma cutting can also be carried out underwater with specialized equipment.

How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?

Let’s understand the operation of the plasma cutter. The process starts by ionizing a gas that makes an electrical channel of heated ionized gas. Then, sending the ionized gas from a narrow passage.

So, an accelerated jet of hot plasma is created that cuts metals that are electrically conductive. Altogether, it forms a complete circuit from the nozzle of the plasma cutter to the metal piece that goes back to the cutter via a grounding lamp (an electrical return pathway established from the ground).

How is Electrical Arc Generated?

The electric arc that ionizes the gas is formed via phases. Generally, each cutter performs differently, but the main working principles are the same. It starts as a spark ionizes the gas present within the torch head; this makes the air conductive, and the formation of the pilot arc takes place.

Inside the torch head, an electrode passes the electricity to the nozzle within this head. Soon, the pilot arc heats the nozzle and blows along with the plasma outside the nozzle; this makes a new arc called the main arc that directs towards the metal or workpiece. In other words, the main arc establishes the new complete circuit and also causes the power source to keep a suitable cutting electric current.

In short, the electric arc that passes through the gas elevates its temperature and thus, converts the state of the gas to a 4th state called plasma. The gas being converted can vary depending upon the type of metal being cut; however, some common examples of gasses found in the plasma cutter are nitrogen, oxygen, inert (noble gasses like argon).

The cutting of the metal involves steps as follows:

  • The electrical arc made ionizes the gas and converts it into plasma.
  • The electricity that passes from the torch goes through the plasma that provides enough heat to melt the metal piece.
  • At last, the metal piece is pierced by the compressed gas and high-velocity plasma as they move the melted metal away and make a cut on the workpiece.

Where to Use a Plasma Cutter Machine?

As we discussed above, plasma cutters are observed to be widely used in numerous industries such as on-site construction, metal fabrication projects, and more. In addition, plasma cutting is also commonly used by artists or even designers for interior/ decorative work like sculpture and signage.

Different types of plasma cutting systems are used in different industries. However, there are mainly two kinds of plasma cutting concerning specific appliances, including Manual Plasma Cutting and Mechanized Plasma Cutting. Let’s look at their uses below.

1. Manual Plasma Cutting

Manual Plasma Cutting is widely used in the following areas of work:

  • Manufacturing
  • Factory maintenance
  • Agricultural maintenance
  • Commercial shipbuilding
  • Thin metal processing workshops
  • Construction work
  • Trailer production
  • Car repair
  • Welding repair
  • Metal repair

2. Mechanized Plasma Cutting

Coming to Mechanized Plasma Cutting, this method refers to larger plasma cutting in comparison to Manual Plasma Cutting. It is mainly used for fabrications and large objects such as tables or home decor.

The type of plasma cutting you use should depend on the size of the object needed. Manual cutting with plasma cutter would be the way to go for smaller jobs, and mechanized cutting is a better option for more significant works.


To wrap up, a hand plasma cutter is an essential electrical instrument that helps to cut down metals of any thickness. Hence, it allows the manufacturing of tough metal objects used widely. In short, a plasma cutter is quite advantageous to cut down on electrically conductive materials with high speed and precision in the performance.