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How To Operate A Plasma Cutter
Doesn’t matter if you are a contractor, gear head, or an artist, there is no replacement for the convenience and efficiency of using a Longevity Plasma Cutter. Unlike oxyfuel, which doesn’t have the precision to cut thin metals or the ability to cut stainless steel or aluminum, the Longevity Plasma Cutter cuts faster, doesn’t require a pre-heat cycle (minimizing the heat affected zone), cuts any type of electricity conducting metal, gouges, pierces, bevels, traces shapes, and can yield a cut with even the most minimal kerf. If that wasn’t enough, over 90% of Longevity customers report the combination of consistency and overall portability of this powerful technology is reason enough to kiss the oxyfuel method, saws, cut-off wheels, shears and snips goodbye! A Longevity Plasma Cutter improved their productivity and lowered the cost of cutting. Really the hardest part of this time saving device is selecting which Longevity Plasma Cutter is right for you. Visiting the Help Me Choose section of our website is a great way to help you make an informed decision.
Plasma Cutting Basics
Before we get started on how to use a Longevity Plasma Cutter the Longevity Facility Testing Team would like to review the basics of plasma cutting technology and how it works. First, it is important to understand the technology being applied when using a particular Longevity Plasma Cutter. Each Longevity Plasma Cutter has several specific "options" that are involved in the cutting process and therefore, the purchasing process. A few of the options a perspective buyer would need to consider are High Frequency, Pilot Arc, Dual Voltage, and if a Longevity Multi-purpose Unit will be a better fit for their needs.
One common description of plasma is to describe it as the fourth state of matter. We normally think of the three states of matter as solid, liquid and gas. For a common element, water, these three states are ice, water and steam. The difference between these states relates to their energy levels. When we add energy in the form of heat to ice, the ice melts and forms water. When we add more energy, the water vaporizes into hydrogen and oxygen, in the form of steam. By adding more energy to steam these gases become ionized. This ionization process causes the gas to become electrically conductive. This electrically conductive, ionized gas is called a plasma.
All Longevity Plasma Cutters are used to cut or weld electrically conductive metals by forming a electrically induced, super heated "plasma arc" between the torch tip and the material being cut. The name “plasma arc” is a description of what happens during the cutting process. For example, let’s look at the Longevity Force Cut LP-80 plasma cutter. The torch has an electrode attached, as well as the torch tip. The torch tip heats the metal and the gas released from intensely heated metal (usually air) is then ionized by the electrical current of the electrode forming a “plasma arc.” The key to containing this plasma arc is what is known as a “swirl ring.” The plasma arc torch uses a "swirl ring" that spins the ionized gas around the electrode. The gas is super heated (up to 30,000° F) in the chamber between the electrode and torch tip, which creates a plasma gas that would rapidly increase in volume and pressure. However, because the narrow opening of the torch tip constricts the contained super heated plasma and accelerates it toward the work piece at very high speeds (20,000 ft./s), you are able to cut safely, accurately and quickly through any electrically conductive metal with your Longevity Force Cut LP-80 plasma cutter. The force generated by constricting the plasma arc pushes through the work piece and removes the molten metal. The plasma arc will easily cut through metals with poor heat conductivity, like stainless steel, or excellent conductivity, like aluminum.
High Frequency
High frequency refers to the type of ignition mechanism for your Longevity Plasma Cutter. For example the Longevity Force Cut LP-70 Plasma Cutter uses a High Frequency starting mechanism to ignite the spark at the torch tip of your plasma arc. This is a quality starting mechanism, however the high frequency emitted by the machine itself may interfere with your electrical and computer equipment in or around the work area. With this machine the plasma arc is ignited by electrical current produced at a high frequency. Also, the torch tip must be in contact with the metal in order to ignite a spark.
Pilot Arc
The Pilot Arc technology is a manner of ignition that allows a spark from at the torch tip with out ever touching the material. With the Longevity Force Cut LP-50D Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter a spark can be ignited at the torch tip several inches away from the cutting surface. The benefits of this cutting edge technology are the ability to cut materials quickly and accurately with out the negative affects of high frequency, but more importantly, the ability to ignite a spark with out the tip touching the material will help protect and prolong the life of your consumables.
Dual Voltage
Certain Longevity Plasma Cutters have a dual voltage capability. The Longevity Force Cut LP-40D Plasma Cutter and the Longevity Force Cut LP-40D Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter are dual voltage machines that use a different manner of igniting a spark at the torch tip. This means each machine, regardless of its method for igniting a spark, will operate at either 110 V AC or 220 V AC.
Primary Power Source
A Longevity Plasma Cutter requires two elements in order to ignite a plasma arc. You need a filtered consistent air supply and an electrical power source. Therefore, the next stage is to determine what power source is available, what voltage you need to operate, and the thickness of the material you will be cutting. When operating in your shop the required voltage of your primary power source is merely a matter of plugging in. However, many mechanical contractors opt for the lightweight versatility of a Longevity Plasma Cutter because the inverter technology it utilizes allows for great mobility and most units feature an option for TIG Welding and Stick Welding. Also, Longevity Plasma Cutter has a built in primary power management technology called Powerline. This technology allows a machine to accept input voltages ranging from 110 V through 240 V, single or three-phase, 50 or 60 Hz. This means you can plug in your Longevity Plasma Cutter anywhere in the world and make a quality cut regardless how much the primary power fluctuates between the 110V to240V range. Also, your Longevity Plasma Cutter will run off a diesel generator as long as the correct wattage is produced as specified in your owner's manual.
Dirty Environments
The Longevity Plasma Cutter, has a built in venting system that provides a dry cooling air flowing through the machine omitting the electrical components. This prevents grinding dust from settling on the PC boards and other critical components. Also, each Longevity Plasma Cutter ventilation system is designed only to run as needed and will urn and shut off automatically. The key here is to keep as much debris and airborne particles from entering your unit. The ventilation system was designed and developed with the understanding that this is a dirty job. And since the Longevity Facility Testing Team loves to make a mess, we figured you might like how dirty your job is. In that case we want to make sure dirt is the least of your worries.
The Air Supply
Your Longevity Plasma Cutter operates with a consistent air supply. You can use as little as a three gallon oxygen tank or nitrogen tank to power your Longevity Plasma Cutter. The choice is up to you, but with any plasma cutter you need an air compressor.
The Essentials Check List
Here are a few guidelines to follow when your cutting, but before that learn how to make a check list like this one for yourself. More importantly, always read (then reread) the owner's manual of your Longevity Plasma Cutter.
  Always where the specified safety exquipment
  Inspect the torch tip, electrode and shield cup and replace worn items.
  Check air pressure or gas pressure at the compressor.
  Activate your Longevity Plasma Cutter.
  Choose a setting for your amperage control, based on your desired use, and recheck the air flow.
  Cleanly sand or grind off paint and other foreign coatings at the place of your ground clamp, as this connection needs to be flush and clean against the metal.
  Place the ground clamp as close to the cut as possible and on the work piece itself when possible.
  Be certain there are no loose connections anywhere on the machine.
  Be relaxed and confident with the torch. Holding it tightly and timidly could cause a bad cut or weld, as you will be more inclined to shake.
  Have fun!
Establishing A Quality Cutting Technique
There are some basic steps and tricks to observe when developing a proper cutting technique that the Longevity Facility Testing Team would like to suggest.
  If using a drag shield to maintain the correct distance (between 1/16 in. and 1/8 in.), place the torch tip angled straight down and pull the trigger to begin cutting. Dragging the tip across the actual metal piece will drastically reduce tip life as well as other consumables. Make no mistake, poor maintenance and care of your consumable components will prove to be costly. This is one of the reasons the Longevity Facility Testing Team recommends the use of a Longevity Plasma Cutter with pilot arc technology.
  The plasma arc will form immediately after the trigger has been touched.
  At the correct pace, begin to move the torch across the material being cut. The proper speed depends on the amperage used, voltage, thickness of the metal, and which Longevity Plasma Cutter you are using. Also, there is truly no replacement for the quality of work gained by experience.
  A good measure of your speed is by watching where the sparks are going. If the sparks are not going through the metal, then you are not cutting it and moving too fast. Too slow and the sparks are only going straight down. Remember the Longevity Plasma Cutter is designed to cut and blow away debris and cuttings. Therefore, the sparks, during cutting, should be piercing the metal and deflected at a 45 degree angle away from the cutter.
  At the end of the cut pause for a moment longer, before releasing the trigger, to be sure the metal is completely severed.
  Post flow is a feature shared with each Longevity Plasma Cutter. Air will continue to flow through the torch for an additional 5-7 seconds after the trigger is released in order to cool the torch tip. If the trigger is pressed again during this 5-7 second window, the arc is instantly restarted.
Dross is unavoidable. However, dross can be minimized and the cut executed with little or no distortion/warping to the metal. When cutting at a slower pace than adequate, the metal becomes hot and accumulates more dross. Also, dross will tend to accumulate when you push your machine to it's full amperage. You should maintain an amperage that allows for a 100% Duty Cycle. If that measure doesn't get the job done then it is time for a bigger machine.
To remove imperfections or older welds, a technique known as gouging, the torch must approach the material at a 45° degree angle. Keep the sparks directed away from you and the torch. You want to make sure you do not gouge to deeply on the first pass. Gouging is a technique that requires a certain level of finesse and some experience.
In order to pierce through the material, begin with the same approach as to gouge the material, then upon igniting the spark and initiating the arc, point the torch tip down to a 90° angle. Generally speaking, a Longevity Plasma Cutter can pierce metal up to half of it's maximum thickness. A very powerful machine like the Longevity Force Cut LP-100 Plasma Cutter can pierce through 1.5" thick steel under two seconds.
We at the Longevity Facilities Testing Team want you to realize that these machines are highly reliable, powerful, and should be used in the most professional manner. Our deepest concern next to your product satisfaction, is your safety in performing the tasks you set out to accomplish with the products provided by Longevity Global Inc. Please take the time to consult your owner's guide and always abide by the correct ANSI regulations and standards. The Longevity Facility Testing Team is always available to answer questions on our free forum and invites any and all topics for discussion to further the advancement of safe practices.
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