It was around this time fifty years ago that a new method of steel cutting was born. Today, plasma cutters in their many forms are crucial to so many industries, from construction to manufacturing.
In today’s article, we take a brief look at the history of plasma cutting, a process that’s been refined over decades and one which continues to prove its worth to metal workers.
Origins in World War II
Plasma cutting can trace its origins right back to the Second World War when plasma arc technology was being used intensely to weld aircraft, vehicles and armaments. Manufacturing speed was critical, so it was during this time that considerable effort was put into advancing the process of plasma arc welding.
The discovery of plasma cutting
Shortly after WWII, research continued into plasma arc technology. That is, a process of blowing a gas (oxygen, air, inert and others) at high speed out of a nozzle, while at the same time sending an electrical arc through the gas turning it into plasma. The metal to be welded is melted by the arc’s intense heat and fuses together. Stay with me…
During the 1950s and 1960s, scientists discovered that by restricting the inert gas flow opening to the nozzle, it dramatically increased the arc speed and temperature. The heat and voltage were so powerful that instead of welding two metals together, it cut them with ease. And the plasma cutter was born.
Other major discoveries in plasma cutting
There have been many ways that the plasma cutting process has been refined since the post-WWII discovery period. For instance, researchers discovered that by adjusting the gas type, flow rate, voltage current and nozzle size, they were able to cut metal sheets as thick as 230mm and improve the cutting quality. In the 1980s, the technology advanced to such an extent that it could be used under water.
Spurred by the launch and market threat of laser cutting technology in the 1990s, plasma cutting manufactures responded with a range of modifications including a low amp machine, which further refined the cut quality and speed. Also, manufacturers since have introduced high definition CNC (computer numerically controlled) capability.
Plasma cutting in Brisbane
For those of us who work with these mighty machines each day, we get to appreciate the plasma legacy first hand. ShapeCUT has five modern high def plasma machines at our custom facility in Carole Park near Brisbane. And, we love our plasma cutting machines so much, this is our second article on the subject. If you’re interested, check it out – What is high definition plasma cutting?