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How Important is CNC Plasma Pierce Height?

 

When it comes to CNC plasma cutting, there are many factors that influence important things like cut quality and consumable life.  The initial pierce that your plasma torch makes is important because it is the beginning of your project.  If you do not have proper piercing technique then you may be burning through your plasma torch consumables more quickly than necessary which wastes money.  The correct pierce height is determined by where the torch is placed which is why automated torch height control is very important and makes the cutting process much easier and accurate.

The proper pierce height will be determined by the cut height and the material being fabricated.  Generally, estimating the pierce height manually can lead to error or miscalculations which result in burning through consumables too quickly. The Fabricator elaborates on some helpful tips for proper CNC plasma pierce height technique, “At the beginning of the pierce, all the plasma energy concentrates on the surface, but as the pierce deepens, plasma energy spreads over a wider area. “As you go deeper, you form sides to the pierce hole,” said Stephen Liebold, plasma process engineer at Hanover, N.H.-based Hypertherm. ‘So now the energy not only is being directed down, but also toward the sides of the hole. This causes the process to melt more metal and widen the hole at the top.’

High gas flow rates may help blow molten metal up and out of the pierce hole. And during carbon steel cutting, oxygen shielding reacts with the superheated metal. Although this accelerates the pierce, it also enlarges the pierce hole…Plasma arc cutting uses constant-current, DC power sources, which can supply output current at any voltage up to the system’s maximum operating voltage for the selected current. As the torch rises and the arc length increases, the arc voltage increases until a critical point, approaching the system’s maximum operating voltage, before current begins to fold back. ‘At some point the power source can’t supply enough voltage to support the arc, so the arc will just snap out,’ said Jackie Winn, research and development manager at Kaliburn Inc., Ladson, S.C.The power supply itself must have enough reserve on the arc voltage to withstand the increased standoff distance and arc length, added Ott. ‘When you’re so high above the plate, you minimize the spatter on the torch.’” So how important is CNC plasma pierce height in regards to the overall cutting process – very.  Pierce height is the beginning of the cutting process and influences how long your consumables last so pierce height best practices should always be implemented.

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