Plasma vs oxyfuel is a hot topic for some experts, like that of inverter vs transformer, when talking about welding equipment. The experts on oxyfuel usually say that it is the best option in every case, while the experts on plasma broadcast how effective the latter is. So, finding a balance is hard, but still, it is possible to figure out how oxyfuel and plasma cutting can complement each other, instead of excluding mutually.
Oxyfuel has been here for a long time
Oxyfuel is a type of combustion that uses oxygen and fuel gas as reactants. The oxygen is typically supplied in a high-pressure cylinder, and the fuel gas is usually natural gas or propane. Oxyfuel combustion produces a very hot flame, which is ideal for a variety of applications.
The history of oxyfuel combustion dates to the mid-1800s, when it was first used in glassblowing. In the early 1900s, oxyfuel combustion began to be used in other industries, such as welding and metalworking.
It has a number of advantages over other types of combustion. First, it produces a very hot flame, which is ideal for a variety of applications. Second, it produces very low emissions, which makes it a more environmentally friendly option than other types of combustion. Third, it is very efficient, which means that it produces more energy from the same amount of fuel.
Nowadays, oxyfuel still is a versatile and efficient technology that is used in a variety of industries.
A timeline of the oxyfuel history
Here are some additional details about the history of oxyfuel combustion:
1802: English inventor Sir Humphry Davy discovered that burning a fuel gas in oxygen produced a much hotter flame than burning it in air.
1830: French chemist Jean-Baptiste-André Dumas developed the first oxyfuel torch.
1845: American glassblower John Frederick Taylor invented the oxyfuel blowpipe.
Early 1900: Oxyfuel combustion began to be used in welding and metalworking.
1970: It began to be used in power generation, to reduce emissions.
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Plasma cutting came to stay
Now, oxyfuel is not the only one that has been shining throughout the years. Plasma cutting is an established industrial process that is growing and growing.
Plasma cutting is a versatile and efficient process that can be used to cut a wide variety of metals, including steel, aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium. The process is also relatively fast and accurate, making it a good choice for high-volume production.
During the period 2022-2027 plasma cutting equipment sales are expected to grow 11.23%. It is clear that plasma cutting is the preferred industrial process for metal cutting.
A short history of plasma cutting
The history of plasma cutting dates to the early 1950s, and it was first demonstrated by Dr. Robert Gage at Union Carbide. The process used a high-velocity jet of superheated gas to melt metal. This was quickly adopted by the aerospace industry, where it was used to cut sheet metal for aircraft and spacecraft.
In the 1960s, plasma cutting began to be used in other industries, such as manufacturing. The process continued to develop in the 1970s and 1980s, and by the 1990s, plasma cutting had become a widely used method of metal cutting.
Plasma vs. Oxyfuel: When is better to use oxyfuel
Here are some situations where oxyfuel may be a better choice than plasma:
Cutting thick materials: Oxyfuel cutting is more effective than plasma cutting when cutting thick materials, typically those over 2 inches (50 mm) in thickness. Oxyfuel cutting can cut through thick materials more quickly and efficiently than plasma cutting.
Cutting carbon steel: It is particularly effective for cutting carbon steel, which is a common material in metal fabrication. Plasma cutting can also cut carbon steel, but oxyfuel is generally faster and more cost-effective for this material.
Lower cost: Oxyfuel cutting equipment is generally less expensive than plasma cutting equipment, making it a more economical option for small-scale metal fabrication operations.
Outdoor cutting: It can be used for outdoor cutting, even in windy conditions, whereas plasma cutting can be affected by wind and requires a more controlled environment.
Portability: Oxyfuel cutting equipment is more portable than plasma cutting equipment, making it a good choice for on-site cutting jobs where mobility is required.
Now, let’s see the other side of this story.
Plasma vs. Oxyfuel: When is better to use plasma
Here are some situations where plasma may be a better choice than oxyfuel:
Cutting thinner materials: Plasma is more effective than oxyfuel when cutting thinner materials, typically those under 2 inches (50 mm) in thickness. Plasma can make cleaner, more precise cuts on thin materials, which can be important for certain applications.
Cutting non-ferrous materials: Plasma can cut non-ferrous materials such as aluminum, brass, and copper, which cannot be cut effectively with oxyfuel.
High precision cutting: Plasma can achieve higher precision than oxyfuel, particularly when using CNC controls. This is important for industries such as aerospace and automotive, where precision is critical.
Faster cutting: Plasma is generally faster than oxyfuel, particularly when cutting thinner materials. This can be important in high-volume production environments where efficiency is key.
Cleanliness: Plasma produces less slag than oxyfuel, which can result in a cleaner, more finished cut.
So, when asked plasma vs. oxyfuel: which process is the right one? The answer is: It depends. Bearing in mind all these points will help us to define what process is best for each case. Let’s see some scenarios.
Defining what process is the best
Here are some considerations you need to keep in mind to determine which cutting method is better for your specific application:
Identify the material to be cut: The type of material being cut is a key factor in determining the best cutting method. Oxyfuel cutting is more effective for cutting carbon steel, while plasma cutting is better suited for non-ferrous materials and thinner materials. In some cases, according to the material to be cut, there is actually one option.
Determine the thickness of the material: Oxyfuel is more effective for cutting thicker materials, typically over 2 inches (50 mm) in thickness. Plasma is better suited for thinner materials, typically under 2 inches (50 mm) in thickness. Then, according to the thickness of the material to be cut, there is actually one option.
Consider cutting speed: Plasma is generally faster than oxyfuel, particularly when cutting thinner materials. If you need to cut a large volume of material quickly, plasma cutting may be the better choice. This is usually the case when you face an increase in production during a season.
Evaluate cut quality: Plasma can achieve higher precision than oxyfuel, particularly when using CNC controls, resulting in a cleaner, more finished cut. If precision and cut quality are important for your application, plasma cutting may be the better choice.
Consider cost: Oxyfuel cutting equipment is generally less expensive than plasma equipment, making it a more economical option for small-scale metal fabrication operations and hobbyists.
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Possible scenarios for cutting
With all this stated, let’s play a couple of scenarios to define whether plasma vs oxyfuel as our cutting process of choice.
Let’s say that you need to cut 2.5 inches thickness plates of carbon steel in a daily basis. Precision is not quite important at this time. Due to the thickness, type of material and high-quality not being essential, oxyfuel should be your process of choice.
Now, on the other hand, let’s suppose you need to cut ¼ inches thickness aluminum, and you require fast speed and high-quality cutting. Well, if that is the case, plasma should be your process of choice. In fact, an automated system, including a CNC, would be ideal for your production goals.
Regardless of the specific case, we are here to help you out with your cutting needs. Our experts have decades helping companies to improve their production by means of solutions based on the latest technology. Give us a call or contact us so we can help you too.