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Tactical CNC Plasma Tables Blog

The Basics of CNC Plasma Cutting

CNC Plasma Table

When you start out in metal fabrication you always need to start with the basics of what the plasma cutting process is. And, even highly experienced metal fabricators sometimes need to go back to the basics of CNC plasma cutting.  You must understand first what plasma cutting is and why it is used and then understand why a fabricator would opt for a CNC plasma cutting system rather than handheld plasma cutting.  Lincoln Electric provides us a description of exactly where we need to start, with what plasma cutting is, “In simplest terms, plasma cutting is a process that uses a high velocity jet of ionized gas that is delivered from a constricting orifice. The high velocity ionized gas, that is, the plasma, conducts electricity from the torch of the plasma cutter to the work piece. The plasma heats the workpiece, melting the material. The high velocity stream of ionized gas mechanically blows the molten metal away, severing the material.” (more…)

8 Important Features of CNC CAD/CAM Software

CNC plasma Cutting

CAD and CAM software are a critical component of any CNC plasma cutting system.  Without software, the controller would not be able to tell the torch where to move and what cuts to make.  There are many different CAD and CAM software options but they do not all have the same features and some are easier to use than others. So, how do you know which software you need to efficiently and effectively run your CNC plasma cutting system, which Fabricating & Metalworking notes, “The software that runs the equipment and designs the drawings is arguably the most important component of your CNC plasma table setup. The software performs two distinct functions: designing the piece to be cut, and controlling the table and the plasma cutter. Although high-end design software like AutoCAD is perfect for creating high quality designs for a large number of applications, be careful you’re not using a sledgehammer to swat a fly. AutoCAD and the like have built-in functions to handle extremely complex requirements, and often those extra functions can distract the user and actually inhibit the creation of perfect cut-paths. A better option is to look for software specifically designed for creating CNC plasma cutting drawings. This software is optimized for making perfect cut-paths, and can do so quickly and easily. Controlling the table and the plasma cutter must be performed by the software that came with your table. The best software will be created to maximize the characteristics of the table it’s running on. Be sure to look for software created and optimized specifically for your table. Ideally, the software running the table should be written by the same company that makes the table.”  Even the most seasoned of fabricators want a system that is robust, easy-to-use, reliable, and ultimately, that produces the cuts they want.  (more…)

What is a CNC Plasma Water Table & How Does it Work?

When you invest in a CNC cutting system you will determine whether you want to utilize a downdraft, water table, or hybrid downdraft/water table.  The material you tend to cut and a few other factors will influence which option you choose. For the purposes of this article, we are going to look more closely at what a CNC plasma water table is, how it works, and why you would choose it for your means of fabrication. (more…)

A Closer Look at the Hypertherm Powermax85 Plasma System

CNC plasma Cutting

At Tactical CNC, we have worked hard to research and develop outstanding CNC plasma cutting systems that are durable, long-lasting, and produce the highest-quality, most accurate cuts.  We know that every single component of a CNC plasma system influences the quality of the final cut which is why we have opted to only work with the industry’s best-of-the-best, such as Hypertherm, for components of our plasma systems.  There are many different Hypertherm plasma cutters and they each have their own unique benefits but for the purposes of this article, we will be taking a closer look at the Hypertherm Powermax85.

The Hypertherm Powermax85 plasma system can be paired with any of our plasma tables to create a powerful fabrication tool.  Hypertherm describes the Powermax85 plasma system and what sets it apart, “The premier system for cutting 25 mm (1″), the Powermax85® has the same features and options as the Powermax65®, but with more power from an output current of 85 amps. Designed to maximize uptime and productivity, the system offers the latest technological innovations, such as Smart Sense™ technology to automatically adjust the gas pressure. With a variety of Duramax™ torch styles, operators can easily select exactly the right tool for the job: hand cutting or gouging, portable automation, X-Y table, and robotic cutting or gouging.”

The Hypertherm Powermax85 plasma system offers a number of benefits to the user.  Any metal fabricator that can complete jobs more quickly without sacrificing accuracy and precision knows that they will be able to ultimately increase profitability.  Fortunately, the Hypertherm Powermax85 is able to finish jobs faster with cut speeds that are two and half times greater than oxyfuel on 12mm mild steel.  Further, the quality of the cut and gouge achieved with the Hypertherm Powermax85 is far superior so it allows the fabricator to spend less time on grinding and edge preparation.  Also, the Powermax85 plasma system has multiple torch styles that are easy-to-use and allow the user to tackle a wide variety of jobs using the same system.  In fact, the Powermax85 is so easy to use that the user does not need to change the air pressure because it is equipped with Smart Sense™ technology which ensures that the air pressure is always correctly set.  Additionally, the plasma system is equipped with SpringStart™ technology which ensures that the torch consistently start and is also more reliable.  And, we know that all fabricators want to reduce dross.  The Powermax85 is able to drag a cut at full output with a patented shield.  This reduces dross buildup for smoother cutting.  The Hypertherm Powermax85 is ideal for applications that include drag cutting, extended reach cutting, extended reach gouging, fine feature cutting, flush cutting, marking, max control gouging, max removal gouging, and mechanized cutting.

What Sets High Precision CNC Plasma Cutting Apart

CNC Plasma Table

When it comes to fabrication of any kind, precision and accuracy are always a priority.  But, every fabrication shop and every piece being fabricated are different.  What one fabrication shop needs in terms of cut quality, vs. what another shop needs, may vary significantly.  At Tactical CNC, all of our CNC plasma cutting systems are complete systems that come with everything you need to start cutting right away and achieving the excellent cut quality that you want.  But, you may have seen the term ‘high precision CNC plasma cutting’ and wondered if that is any different.  The answer – yes.
There are ‘high precision’ or ‘high definition CNC plasma cutting torches and systems that take cut quality, precision, and accuracy to the next level.  AZO Materials explains the difference between traditional CNC plasma cutting and high precision CNC plasma cutting, “Plasma cutting employs gas heated by an electric arc (50-400 amps) to offer a focused plasma beam (highly energetic mixture of ions and atoms) that can rapidly melt a metal. The cutting mechanism is provided by a combination of high energy plasma and the pressure of gas stream. As the plasma beam melts through the steel’s thickness, the gas pressure pushes the molten metal aside. Usually, plasma cutting is chosen for cutting stainless steel, mild steel and even copper because of the oxides formed in flame cutting that slow down the cutting process…In the past, difficulties were faced with profiles cut with plasma systems including imprecise bolt holes and edge.”  AZO Materials goes on to note that precision plasma cutting advantages include “Cuts smaller holes due to a lower kerf (width of cut)…Provides a cleaner cut dross free edge and precise bolt holes…Conveys less heat into the profile steel and this leads to a reduced Heat Affected Zone on the cut edges.”

Every high precision CNC plasma cutting torch and system is different so the specifics should be closely examined before making an investment to ensure that it will meet your needs.  Not all CNC plasma cutting systems, and high precision plasma torches are created equal and it is not enough to just have one element of a system be high quality or high precision, the entire system must work together to provide the type of cut quality and accuracy that you want, as The Fabricator notes, “A fully integrated system includes the plasma power source, CNC, torch height control, torch lifter and its associated motors and drives, and an automatic gas control console. Some fabricators have the misconception that using a high-precision plasma power supply will allow them to save on other components. In an automated plasma system, integrated components work seamlessly to control cutting amperage, torch height, speed, and gas pressure. Some fabricators also balk at the cost of CNCs and associated software. But their capabilities provide fast payback, especially if a company lacks operators with programming skills and plasma cutting experience (both of which are otherwise essential without a CNC).”  At Tactical CNC, our CNC plasma cutting systems are complete with all components, including software and training, that you need to achieve the high precision plasma cutting that you want.

CNC Plasma Cutting Terminology: Torch Lifter

At Tactical CNC, we believe in providing our clients with the best CNC plasma cutting systems on the market and along with that, we believe it is important to provide our clients with useful education.  All industries have unique technology and terminology and it can feel complex and overwhelming to not only understand CNC plasma cutting but also the intricacies that come along with unique terminology.  For this reason, from time to time, we like to take a closer look at CNC plasma cutting terminology and for the purposes of this article, we will be looking at torch lifters.

At Tactical CNC, our CNC plasma cutting systems come with all the components you need to complete the cuts you want with accuracy and precision.  The Z axis movement of the torch lifter is done with rescission guides and linear bearings that are fully enclosed for a smooth and precise motion.  The Fabricator further elaborates on what the torch lifter’s important role is in CNC plasma cutting, “Now is a good time to review the condition of the lifter. In plasma cutting, the lifter correctly positions the torch for piercing and keeps it at the correct height while cutting… Depending on the control system being used, the lifter’s settings can be integrated into the CNC or in a stand-alone control unit. Either way, the lifter is the middle man between the CNC and the plasma. The lifter usually is the device that tells the plasma power source to start after the pierce height is found, typically with a contact closure; it then receives a signal back from the power source indicating the plasma torch is up and running, again typically via contact closure.The lifter also receives a voltage signal proportional to the torch height. This voltage is usually scaled down to a safer level via a voltage divider card. If the lifter system uses a voltage divider card, it needs to be removed from the old power supply and mounted and wired into the new power supply.More times than not, the lifter has three pairs of wires used to interface with the plasma: start/stop, OK to move, and arc voltage.”  The torch lifter helps you maintain an ideal height between your torch and the material being fabricated and will ultimately heavily influence the quality of your cuts.  For this reason, it is important to choose a high-quality CNC plasma cutting system that comes with an exceptional torch lifter.  Tactical CNC systems come with high-quality torch lifters and, should you opt for the HD series, your system will come with a heavy-duty torch lifter.

Introduction to Dynatect Cable Tracks

Every component of a CNC plasma cutting system influences the ultimate quality and accuracy of the cut achieved.  At Tactical CNC, we know just how important it is to have a complete, high-quality, and durable CNC plasma cutting system and we know that attention to every last detail matters.  For this reason, we have used only the most durable and high-quality materials when constructing our plasma systems and we have worked with some exceptional industry partners to help create the ideal CNC plasma cutting system.  One of those partners is Dynatect.  Our systems use American-made Dynatect cable track enclosures for our cable harnesses and wiring.  These wiring harnesses with solid locking connectors keep all of the electrical wiring neat and able to move easily and smoothly within the Dynatect cable track. This makes it possible for our CNC plasma cutting systems to have smooth and frictionless motion during the cutting process.

Dynatect’s cable track enclosures are designed for optimal durability and strength so that they can handle the vibrations experienced during the cutting process.  Dynatect elaborates on how their cable track enclosures are uniquely well-made and assist in improving the CNC cutting process, “For heavier loads, Dynatect’s metal carriers offer longer unsupported spans and greater strength. Some steel carriers have been specifically designed to outperform plastic in terms of strength-to-weight ratio and unsupported span, while remaining cost competitive. Should the cable package should be accessible or enclosed? Open-style carriers make it easy to inspect cables and hoses for signs of wear. Enclosed-style carriers protect against sparks, shavings, and hot chips. Dynatect offers both tube-style carriers, bolt-in lid, and snap-in lids to satisfy enclosed-carrier requirements.”

Dynatect’s cable track enclosures help guide and protect the cables in your CNC plasma cutting system so that they can withstand regular use and so that your system can provide you the longest lifespan while minimizing the need for repairs or replacements of components.  At Tactical CNC, your CNC plasma cutting system is always a ‘complete system.’  By ‘complete system,’ we mean that it contains everything you need to start cutting as soon as it is installed.  And, while our systems are competitively priced, the quality of every single component that makes up a Tactical CNC CNC plasma cutting system is exceptional.  Further, we believe so strongly in the quality of our systems that we offer a 1 year warranty on all parts.


Which is the Best Plasma Cutting Fume Control Method: Water or Downdraft?

One of the biggest concerns with plasma cutting safety is fume control.  Without proper fume control and ventilation, the working environment may become hazardous.  When it comes to plasma cutting, there are different options for fume control and ventilation.  As anyone that has ever fabricated metal knows, when using a plasma cutter there will be a lot of smoke, fumes, and particles.  All of that has to go somewhere but which is better and more effective method of ventilation and fume control, water tables or downdraft?

Water Tables for Fume Control

Water tables filter fumes and particles without the use of filters.  Rather, water tables use a sealed frame that holds water and the water level is just below the material that is being fabricated.  During the cutting process, kinetic energy forces the fumes and particles into the water that captures and removes dust, debris, particles and fumes.

Downdraft Tables for Fume Control

Downdraft tables filter fumes and particles by circulating the air through perforations in the table and pulling out the dust and particles to remove them from the cutting area.  Those fumes have to go somewhere to be ventilated so a full ventilation system must be in place that takes the fumes out of the shop.  While the method is effective, you will have to change the filter every time you change the material that you are cutting because different materials require different filter settings.

Who Wins for Plasma Cutting Fume & Particle Control? Water Tables or Downdraft Tables?

While there are advantages to both options for plasma cutting, when looking strictly at fume and particle control, water is the more effective and less expensive method as The Fabricator points out, “Depending on the material being cut, cutting amperage, and the water level, a water table can capture 90 to 95 percent of the smoke and dust generated by plasma cutting. Cutting with the water level about 1 in. below the bottom of the material contains most of the smoke and dust. A dust collector is not required. If an air curtain is added, the plate can be fully submerged under 2 to 3 in. of water, so that the water traps almost all of the smoke. The air curtain uses compressed air to create a bubble around the front end of the torch, protecting the precision arc from the water. No matter the size of the plate on the table, underwater plasma cutting captures the same amount of smoke and dust…The downdraft table captures nearly all of the smoke and dust, provided certain criteria are met. Filters must be in good working condition. Also, sufficient air velocity must be moving downward into the open area of the table to prevent the smoke from billowing out and escaping capture. Downdraft tables and dust collector systems are designed with specific minimum coverage percentages, typically between 50 and 75 percent. The downdraft system is most effective when a full-size sheet is on the table, as this provides plenty of downward-moving air velocity because there are no open spaces. But when smaller sheets are used, or if much of the sheet has already been cut and removed, more of the table is exposed, and air velocity is reduced, affecting the table’s ability to contain smoke and dust.”

CNC Plasma Cutting Terminology 101: Lead-Ins & Lead-Outs


An investment in a CNC plasma cutting system can have a significant ROI for your business.  CNC plasma cutting systems increase efficiency, cut accuracy, and reduce material waste.  But, without being fully informed about the various facets of your CNC plasma cutting system and the methods and techniques used to fabricate materials, you cannot take full advantage of all that your system has to offer.  For this reason, we at Tactical CNC believe it is important to take a closer look at some common terms and phrases to ensure that our customers, and potential customers, understand all that is involved in CNC plasma cutting.  For the purposes of this article we will be exploring lead-ins and lead-outs.

Lead-ins and lead-outs are important because they are essentially the starting point of any project.  CNC Programming Techniques: An Insider’s Guide to Effective Methods and Applications offers some insight on what specifically lead-ins and lead-outs are, “The terms lead-in and lead-out refer to the programming method of moving the tool from a start position towards the contour (lead-in) and moving the tool from the contour back to the start position (lead-out).  Start position is typically located close to the counter but not touching the contour…By definition, lead-in is the tool path motion where the cutter radius offset is applied, lead-out is the tool path motion where the cutter radius offset is cancelled.  In practical terms, one motion is the opposite of the other motion.”

Lead-ins and lead-outs are very important because if they are too short or too long then the quality of the cut will be diminished.  There are different types of lead-ins and lead-outs but the automation that CNC plasma cutting provides makes it easy to get the best lead-in and lead-out for maximized cut quality.  The Fabricator explains how different lead-ins and lead-outs can impact cut quality, “Lead-in cuts determine the starting point of your cutting process. The lead-in and lead-out cut length is determined by the material thickness and the contour of the part being cut. Normally, longer lead-in and lead-out cuts are required for thicker material. The lead-in allows the torch to initially pierce the material, then ramp up current, gas, and speed before cutting the desired part or hole. The lead-in may be very important, but not as important as the lead-out which is about ¼” to ½” long. The lead-out is a straight or curved cut made at the very end of the part or hole which completes the cutting process. If the programmer makes the lead-out too long, the part may fall from the work piece as the torch is still looking for material to cut. As a result, arc stretching will occur damaging the exterior of the nozzle orifice and in turn negatively affecting cut quality.” If you have any question about lead-ins and lead-outs, we at Tactical CNC are always here to answer questions and assist you with your CNC plasma cutting needs.

CNC Plasma Cutting Terminology 101: Kerf-Compensation

While many experienced metal fabricators may be very familiar with the assorted terminology of the industry, there are often phrases or terms with which many are not familiar.  At Tactical CNC, we believe it is important that every potential customer, customer, and their employees be fully versed in all relevant terminology so that they can fully understand their CNC plasma cutting system capabilities.  While there are many different CNC plasma cutting systems on the market, not all are created equal and certain systems come with very few options while others are robust with features.  Tactical CNC plasma cutting system are ‘complete’ systems which means that our systems have all of the features necessary to begin plasma cutting right away without having to buy a lot of expensive add-ons, unlike many other systems.  For the purposes of this particular article we will be exploring kerf and what is often referred to as kerf-compensation to see what it means and why it is important.

What is Kerf?

Kerf is a term that is interchangeable with ‘width.’  And, while many people hear that, they may wonder what width to which we are referring.  Hyertherm provides further explanation of kerf ,”Kerf is the void created by the plasma cutting process, or the amount of metal removed by the plasma arc. The plasma arc is dynamic (it changes in size and shape depending on amperage, voltage, gas flow and velocity of the moving torch) and so as the plasma arc column changes so does the kerf. Nozzle size also has a direct affect on kerf width since the nozzle orifice constricts the plasma gas jet to a particular diameter.”

What is Kerf-Compensation?

So, if kerf is width, why does it need to be compensated for?  There are certain factors in fabrication that impact the kerf such as amperage, voltage, and consumable tips.  Depending on the material being fabricated and what the specific cuts are, adjustments (compensations) will need to be made to preserve the desired kerf.  ESAB explains what kerf-compensation is and why it matters, “When cutting parts on a CNC plasma or laser machine, you want to produce accurate cut parts, with final dimensions as close as possible to the programmed shape. So if you program a 6” by 6” square, and the plasma arc removes 0.200” of material, as it cuts, then the resulting part is going to be 5.8” by 5.8”. So the actual tool path has to be compensated by 0.100” to the side of the programmed path, all the way around the part.

Rather than re-program the part at a different dimension, the CNC will take care of this automatically just by telling it which direction to offset, and by how much. Most modern CNCs take the actual kerf amount and automatically offset the tool path by 1/2 of that amount, so that the finished part comes out very close to the programmed dimensions. That is why the kerf value is often referred to as “kerf offset”.”  Fortunately for anyone that invests in a Tactical CNC plasma cutting system, our systems automatically adjust to provide the needed kerf-compensation for any cut you desire.

Latest News

Still need an oxy-fuel station for the really thick plate? Not a problem. Tactical CNC introduces a single oxy-fuel station to compliment your plasma cutting system. With the new Tactical 5 software, oxy-fuel parameters are also loaded for operator convienience.

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