Flame Cutting vs. Plasma Cutting: What Are the Differences?
Suppose you have two options: a plasma torch (plasma cutting) and an oxyfuel cutting torch (flame cutting). Which one will you choose and why? It may be difficult to choose. In fact, you may want to choose both of them. But it’s important to know the differences between the two so that you understand why you are choosing one over the other.
Flame Cutting vs. Plasma Cutting
First of all, it’s important to understand how these two systems work.
A cutting torch doesn’t merely melt any material in no time. It uses oxygen that blasts into a flame to oxidize the steels which in turn becomes slag. There is a proper chemical reaction that takes place between the steel and the moment you hold the cutting torch in front of it. It’s the heat that speeds up the reaction.
The flame from the torch preheats the steel at approximately 1800o F. On the other hand, the pressured oxygen blasts the material and melts it within a few minutes. With this system, you can adjust the thickness of steel and bring it to the level you want.
Plasma Cutting Is Slightly Trippier Than Flame Cutting
The primary source that cuts a metal through using a plasma torch is gas. It can be any gas, such as nitrogen, oxygen, or even compressed air. The plasma cutter uses gas to send quick electric arcs. The electric arcs convert the gas into plasma. The moment it converts gas into plasma, the torch blasts rapidly and cuts through metal. This may seem like a long process, but it hardly takes a few seconds to execute.
You may also come across the term plasma jet. That’s precisely what the plasma torch applies on metal to cut it. The jet has such a high temperature and pressure that it can heat and cut through metal at approximately 20,000 feet per second. Moreover, the temperature that blasts through a plasma torch is between 30,000 and 40,000° F. That’s the reason why people use plasma torches to cut through heavy and thick pieces of metal.
What Metals to Cut?
The best way to decide whether to use a plasma torch or an oxyfuel cutting torch is to determine what metal you want to cut. A plasma torch is a clear winner in this category. It can cut through literally anything that conducts electricity, such as brass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum, steel, or any other material. It is quick to react and would cut through the material in a flash.
On the other hand, you need to be choosy with the material if you use an oxyfuel cutting torch. These are ideal for mild steel. The quality of the torch and its capacity also decide whether it can cut through thin stainless steel and aluminum. In most cases, people use an oxyfuel cutting torch to turn metal into slag. Therefore, it’s better to use it to melt materials and not cut through them.
The choice between flame cutting and plasma cutting depends on whether you want to cut a piece of metal or melt it. If you want to melt it, go for flame cutting; if you want to cut through the metal, choose plasma cutting.