If you are trying to find the best cutting metal option, then your choice will likely whittle down to two types of cutting tools - oxy-fuel and the plasma cutter.
Both are strong options, and the cutting process you eventually opt for will largely depend on the sort of alloy you are cutting, where you are cutting it, the thickness of the metal, and the amount of money you are willing to spend.
When you start researching the benefits and limitations of both oxy-fuel and plasma cutting, the vast amount of information can quickly become overwhelming. It is why it is best to break both options down into bite-sized chunks.
This should help you quickly ascertain the best option for you, and the level of performance you can expect from each.
It is also important to learn a little about how each process works to give you a strong understanding of how each cutter operates, why it operates the way it does, and whether this is the right approach for your specific requirements.
Here are the benefits and limitations of both oxy-fuel and plasma cutting to help you decide which is the most suitable for your needs:
When you use an oxy-fuel cutter, oxygen and fuel heat the metal to its ignition temperature. Once this has been achieved, an intense jet of oxygen is then directed at the metal, creating a reaction between the oxygen and the metal. If you were to perform this on steel, for instance, the two would react to form iron oxide.
If you are planning on using oxy-fuel cutting, bear in mind that the cut quality is significantly influenced by the fuel gases you use - which are usually propylene, natural gas, propane, and acetylene.
There are many benefits of using an oxy-fuel torch.
Firstly, oxy-fuel cutters are easily portable because they don’t need electrical power. This makes them a better option than plasma cutters if you need to transport them around regularly.
Secondly, oxy-fuel cuts through thick metal (usually between six to twelve inches thick) and is even available with extended length, meaning the operator can be kept further away from the process.
However, keep in mind that oxy-fuel is best for cutting ferrous metals, which may limit your flexibility.
A strong alternative to oxy-fuel is plasma cutting, which is an ionised gas that is electrically conductive.
It is created by combining energy (which is electricity) with an electricity-friendly gas (which is usually compressed air). Once they are combined, the gas becomes imbalanced and creates plasma gas.
Using a high air pressure, this plasma is forced through the nozzle to create a plasma arc, which is what you use for cutting metal.
There are a few compelling benefits to consider with plasma cutters, such as that they are able to cut through a wide variety of metals - whether ferrous or non-ferrous.
Plasma cutting torches are also good for precise cutting, have faster cutting speeds than oxy-fuel variants, and are easy to use.
However, they are not as portable as oxy-fuel cutters and trying to transport tanks, and a torch can be tricky.