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What is the Plasma Cutting Duty Cycle & Why Is It Important?

 

As with any specialized mechanical process, there are certain phrases or terms that only an insider would know and understand.  If you are new the plasma cutting process you may not be familiar with what the plasma cutting duty cycle is and why it is important.  But, it is most certainly important.  Hypertherm explains what exactly a CNC plasma cutting duty cycle is, “Duty cycle tells us how long a machine can operate within a 10 minute period. In theory, a system with a 100 percent duty cycle can run for 10 out of 10 minutes, while a system with a 50 percent duty cycle is designed to run for 5 out of 10 minutes, and so on. In reality, though, duty cycle can’t simply be listed as a percentage of “on time” in a given period. Many factors, such as the output power of a system, the thickness of the metal you are cutting, ambient temperature and more, go into determining duty cycle. For example, your arc is longer and therefore arc voltage is higher when cutting thicker materials, and shorter and lower when cutting thinner materials. This makes it possible to run at full output amperage when cutting gauge material without exceeding the duty cycle of a plasma system, even if the system is said to have a 50 percent duty cycle.”

So, if duty cycle is so important, you probably want to know how it is calculated. But, there is actually no industry standard for calculating duty cycle because there are many. Variables that have to be considered such as what material is being cut, what the temperature of the shop is, etc.  All of those factors will influence a plasma cutting duty cycle.  Any metal fabrication shop or industrial business that is going to be performing many cuts and running their CNC plasma cutter for longer periods of time needs to factor plasma duty cycle into their estimation for project completion time.  At Tactical CNC, we work with only the best plasma torch manufacturers including Hypertherm.  So, since there is a large change that if you invest in one of our systems you will have a Hypertherm torch, we thought it would be helpful to see how Hypertherm calculates their plasma duty cycle, “Hypertherm’s duty cycle ratings are calculated by running a given system at full output power while cutting metal at the maximum recommended thickness in a controlled environment set to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Input voltage also affects duty cycle. A power supply that operates on a wide range of input voltages is always more efficient with higher input voltage. Hypertherm shows these different duty cycle ratings for all of our systems.”

 

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