Plasma cutting versus oxy fuel cutting

Choosing whether to go plasma or oxy fuel for your steel cutting job depends on a number of factors. These can include the type of alloy, its thickness and any specific requirements for tolerance and cut quality.

As a general rule, when it comes to cutting the thickest in steel plates, nothing beats oxy cutting. Whereas, for more intricate designs on thinner materials, plasma and even laser cutting would be your machines of choice.

That said, over the years there have been significant advances in steel cutting technologies, making the choice between plasma and oxy fuel that much more difficult. To help, ShapeCUT has pulled together definitions and uses for each process.

What is plasma cutting?

Plasma cutting is a process that involves blowing a gas (e.g. oxygen, air, inert gas) at high speed out of a nozzle, while at the same time sending an electrical arc through the gas turning it into plasma. The plasma is hot enough to cut metal and moves fast enough to blow the molten metal away from the cut.

Plasma cutting is ideal for cutting electrically-conductive, ferrous and non-ferrous metals such as mild steel, aluminium, copper and stainless steel. It is typically much faster on thinner materials (less than 25mm) and is more efficient on non-linear cuts than oxy fuel machines.

What is oxy fuel cutting?

Oxy fuel cutting uses an oxygen and fuel combination to cut metals. The most common fuel gases used are is acetylene and LPG. However, a range of other gases can be used including propane, hydrogen and even a combination of these.

The oxy cutting torch heats the metal to kindling temperature, at which point a stream of oxygen is trained onto the metal burning it into a metal oxide that flows out as slag.

Australian oxy cutting machines are ideal for producing products like industrial weights, counterweights and heavy componentry. More specifically, oxy fuel cutting machines are used to cut ferrous (iron-containing) steels up to 600mm thick.

Metals such as aluminium and stainless steel cannot be cut using oxy fuel method due to the formation of an oxide that prevents oxidation from fully occurring.

Choosing the right machine for the job

When it comes right down to it, your answers to the following two questions will point you in the right direction:

  • What do you cut on a day-to-day basis?
  • What is the thickest metal that you’ll ever cut?

ShapeCUT has 10 modern cutting machines with high definition plasmas, oxy fuel cutting machines and a brand new LVD Impuls 6020 laser. From intricate one-off designs to heavy bulk orders, we have the equipment and the team to achieve your specification no matter the size or shape.

For reliability, precision and speed of service, contact ShapeCUT today and get our team working for you.