PLASMA CUTTER

The CNC plasma cutter is a computer controlled machine which uses plasma to cut through sheet metal. The machine works by blowing compressed air through a nozzle whilst creating an electrical arc between the nozzle and the metal sheet which turns some of the air into plasma. The plasma is blasted at the sheet metal by the compressed air and melts the steel to pass through it. The nozzle is moved around at a constant speed dependant on the material thickness to slowly and accurately cut through the sheet metal. The machine can cut out simple shapes, a variety of patterns, text and any user defined drawing. These pieces can then be taken away to be used in other construction and shaping processes.

What materials can I use?

The CNC plasma cutter can cut through several different types of sheet metal but is primarily for use with sheet steel.  It can cut a variety of thicknesses but is more suitable for cutting sheet of 2mm and over.  Thinner materials can be cut but are less accurate and may require more clean up after.  Materials that we can cut are as follows:

  • Mild Steel (up to 10mm)
  • Stainless Steel (up to 5mm)
  • Aluminium Sheet
  • Copper
  • Brass
  • Gilding Metal
  • Nickel Silver

Softer metals are harder to cut and will not cut as cleanly requiring more finishing.

What are the limitations?

The CNC plasma cutter cuts away 2mm of material when cutting known as the kerf and does not have the ability to gouge or etch metal sheet.  Sheet metal when being cut is also subject to warping.  The thinner the sheet and the more complex a pattern being cut the more likely the material is to warp.

What size can I cut?

Width (x): 1500mm

Depth (y): 1250mm

​Please be aware that this is the absolute maximum size of the cutting bed.  Materials we provide are smaller than this size so please check the max material dimentions before you submit your file.

How much does it cost?

The plasma cutter is a charged service.  The price is based on the length of time it takes to cut the material.  The standard charge is £1 per minute so if a jobs cutting time is 10 minutes it will cost £10.  Thinner materials are cheaper to cut than thicker ones.  Complex pattern’s do take longer and can only be completed on thicker materials that are less likely to warp.

How do I prepare a file?

There are many predetermined shapes set up on the CNC plasma cutters operational software which can be very useful for cutting basic shapes especially if your shapes are components required for engineering purposes.  But for personalised shapes, drawings and text objects, files need to be imported into another software known as SheetCAM TNG that generates the correct instructions for the plasma to use to produce your drawing known as a G-Code.  Files imported into SheetCAM TNG need to be saved as a .dxf to work correctly.

We find the best software to produce a drawing in is Adobe Illustrator but sadly saving a file in Adobe Illustrator as a .dxf usually produces an unreadable file or a drawing which looks far different from that which you drew.  The way around this problem is to save your file as a normal illustrator file (.ai) and then import it into Rhino 6.  This way we can then export the file from Rhino as a .dxf and it will be exactly as it should be.

To assist you with your file preparation you can download a template on the Downloads page.

File Preparation for Rhino 6

To prepare your file ready for importing into SheetCAM TNG follow the following steps:

  1. Save your file in Adobe Illustrator as a normal Adobe Illustrator file.  This can be any version of Adobe Illustrator including CS6.  Alternatively you can draw your file in Rhino 6.
  2. Open Rhino 6. Click File>>Import and open your Adobe Illustrator drawing.  You may need to change the file type to ‘All Files’
  3. In the ‘Import Options’ dialog select preserve units and ensure that you make the unit type (e.g. mm, inch) the same unit you used in Adobe Illustrator.
  4. Once your drawing has been imported.  Select all of the drawing and go to File>>Export Selected
  5. Change ‘Save File Type’ to AutoCAD Drawing Exchange File (.dxf), name the file, choose a location and click save.
  6. When prompted choose the option ‘2004 Polylines’. Click OK and your file will be saved.

For information on preparing your file’s please visit the Downloads page.

Other CAD Software

Many other CAD packages can be used to prepare files for the Plasma Cutter.  For these packages please look to save your files as a .dxf and send it to us to be checked.
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