For most people, plasma cutting seems like a high-tech weapon from a classic James Bond film. However, believe it or not, a plasma cutter is a common tool in engineering that has been in use since World War II.
In a world of gigantic cranes and skyscrapers, the need for a durable metal that can withstand thousands of tonnes of pressure is essential. But durable building material is only good if we have the tools to mould it to your design. If you want to know how a car or a wing for an aeroplane is constructed, it’s practically a sure thing that a plasma cutter was used somewhere along the line.
The reality is that a plasma cutter is – mechanically speaking, at least – very simple. A plasma cutter makes use one of the most abundant forms of matter in our universe.
Plasma cutting history
Plasma cutting has been in use since World War II. One of the reasons for the widespread adoption of the plasma cutter during World War II was its ability to manufacture metal components with a high degree of accuracy (and with much more speed). It was also a method of welding that used inert gas that was fed via an electric arc.
By charging the gas with an electric current, scientists discovered that a barrier could be created around the weld, shielding it from the perils of oxidation. This amazing discovery meant that seams and joints were much cleaner and sturdier; moreover, it allowed the Allies to output aircraft at a rate that was nearly five times the rate of the Axis powers.
The science of plasma cutting
As for the science behind this impressive tool, the heating of gas to insanely hot temperatures creates plasma. The massive amount of energy begins to break down the gas molecules, and even the atoms begin to split. The electrons in plasma soon divide from the nucleus. Soon, the overwhelming energy compels the electrons to separate from the atom. Once the rapidly moving electrons collide with ions and electrons, a huge amount of energy is released, providing a plasma cutter with an incredible amount of energy.