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Tactical CNC Plasma Tables Blog

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.

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