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Tactical CNC Plasma Tables Blog

An Introduction to Mixed-Gas Plasma Cutting

oxy fuel parked on gantry

CNC plasma cutting is used in a myriad of industries and in metal fabrication shops large and small.  Plasma cutters are used for small, unique, artistic projects and large-volume mass production projects.  There are many reasons this is the case.  Plasma cutting is fast, effective, efficient, boosts productivity, enhances profitability and more.  While plasma cutting with a handheld torch has been around for a long time, CNC (computer numerical control) cutting has fast become the industry standard because of enhanced accuracy and cut quality, as well as dramatically improved productivity.  Plasma torches use gas to cut a variety of materials including various metals (steel, aluminum), plastics, and so much more.  There are two kinds of plasma cutting: air and mixed gas.  Mixed gas cutting sounds vague – which gases are mixed, is it just one formula or different formulas, etc. – but the types of gases used is actually very important and dramatically impacts cut quality.

Mixed gas plasma torches are particularly versatile for fabricators because they can be used to cut a variety of materials and thicknesses and the gases can be combined as needed. To achieve optimal cut results it is important that the correct plasma gases are used depending on what types of materials are being fabricated.  Choosing the wrong gas could not only produce a poor cut quality but literally render certain material parts completely useless – a waste no fabrication shop wants. Gases used in mixed-gas plasma cutting include oxygen, nitrogen, and argon hydrogen.  At Tactical CNC, we carry three mixed-gas plasma cutter options such as the Hypertherm HSD130 and MaxPro200 as well as the Victor Thermal Dynamics Auto-Cut 200.

As a helpful shortcut, Hypertherm provides this handy summary of how different mixed-gases are best used depending on your specific material of choice:

  • For mild steel use oxygen plasma and air shield for the best cut quality, lowest dross levels, minimal rework, excellent weldability and highest cutting speed/productivity.
  • For best cut quality on stainless and aluminum under 1/2″ use nitrogen plasma and air secondary for a good balance of cut quality and affordability. For a slightly better and faster cut, use CO2 as the secondary. If your system allows, water shield will provide the best edge quality.
  • For best cut quality on thick stainless and aluminum use argon-hydrogen with nitrogen secondary. WARNING: your system must be equipped for safe operation with argon hydrogen gas.
  • For most economical cutting, clean dry shop air is the best choice for mild steel, stainless, and aluminum.

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