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View Full Version : CAM type plasma machine opinion wanted!



Mcostello
04-27-2006, 11:32 PM
I am thinking of buying a computerized plasma cutting machine for home shop/possible artsy/crafty stuff. Any opinions on what to buy and what to stay away from? Anyone have anything running around central Ohio I could come see run? How about cost of consumables, and, cost to run? Durability etc?

winchman
04-28-2006, 01:33 AM
We have one like this (except it's only got one head) in the tech school welding shop:
http://img.photobucket.com/albums/1003/winchman/Aviatorxlt.jpg

It's pretty easy to use for the sixty or so standard shapes stored in the memory, and it can be connected to a computer/CAD program for more complicated work.

Roger

Ries
04-28-2006, 12:37 PM
I have the baby version of the one at Winchman's school-
His is a C&G Aviator, while mine is their smallest model, called a Navigator
http://www.thermadyne.com/evolution/subCategory.asp?div=cgs&catid=88&subcatid=92

I orginally bought mine as a 4'x4', then added another 4' of table to make it a 4x8.
Mine is an optical trace- at the time I bought it, in 1992, it was an extra 15 grand to go CNC. Now it would be a lot easier to upgrade to CNC, but at that time, it was Burny or nothing.

C&G is a division of Thermadyne, which also makes Hypertherm plasma cutting power supplies, one of the two industry leaders.
It is a real, industrial quality machine, built sturdily, with high quality motors, controls, and mechanicals.

Many of the cheapo "home" machines out there now, like plasma cam and torch mate
http://www.plasmacam.com/
http://www.torchmate.com/
Are extremely light duty in every way. Folded sheet metal bases, very light duty motors and controls, little clamps for a hand torch.

If price is your only consideration, and you are willing to put up with compromises and fiddling, I am sure you can cut parts with one of these. Depends a lot on quantity, metal thickness, and your expectations.

I often run 4x8's or even 5x10's of 3/16" or 1/4" steel on mine. I have to load these onto the water table with a forklift.
So I built my own water table with legs of 1/4" wall 3" square tubing, a tank made from 1/8" plate, and very hefty support slats.
It has lasted 14 years with no problems.
I would be extremely leary of trying to put full sheets of 1/4" plate on a plasma cam.

My C&G has had almost no problems in all this time- we have cut in the high 6 figures of parts over the years, and I have had the output board, which reads the signal from the plasma power supply, burn out a resistor a couple of times- thats it. No motor problems, no control problems, it just runs.

One thing I would heartily recommend is auto torch height sensing- this is where the control head reads the plasma power supply current output, and automatically adjusts the torch height to maintain a constant standoff distance while cutting. I have found this saves your ass all the time.

Metal warps when you put 50,000 degrees of plasma arc heat into it. And when it gets that hot, small strips curl up like crazy. Big sheets, that you would think are heavy and stable, also move. So if your machine cant compensate, the torch will either crash, or you will lose arc when it gets too high.

Ask more specific questions, and I will be happy to answer.

Mcostello
04-29-2006, 12:07 AM
Thanks all for advice. I was hoping to start another "cheap" hobby, I did not know you had to stack $100 bills up to highest point on machine to get a decent one, though.

Tinkerer
04-29-2006, 01:02 AM
Another option is to build your own. Here is a site with lots of info as well as plans.

http://www.cnczone.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=62