Then and Now: The Evolution of Plasma Cutters

by Jul 25, 2019Services

Plasma cutting technology lets us achieve highly precise edges on steel and other metals. Plasma torches can yield parts with an accuracy of plus or minus 0.004 inches using nothing more than a stream of ionized gas. If that sounds like a futuristic technology, you might be surprised to learn that plasma cutting’s origins date back to World War II.

At the Short Iron Store in Fort Worth, we use CNC plasma cutting technology to bring your artistic vision to life and save you money on large fabrication projects. Plasma torches can cut any conductive metal and pierce thick metals very quickly, resulting in fast turnaround times. Here is some more information about this fascinating process and how it all started.plasma cutter dfw

The Origin Story

The year was 1941, and the US War Department (which later became the Department of Defense) needed many more airplanes for the World War II effort. They were looking for a way to join light metal pieces together quickly and effectively. This demand led to the development of TIG welding (Tungsten Inert Gas). It used an electric arc to melt metal. The arc was shielded by inert gases like argon and helium to prevent oxygen from mixing with the melted metal.

By the 1950’s, TIG welding had become the gold standard in metal joining techniques. Then scientists at Union Carbide’s welding laboratory made a discovery: by passing the inert gas through a smaller opening, the velocity of the stream was greatly increased. The arc became much hotter. It was able to cut straight through metal without creating a molten puddle. This discovery was ionized gas, also known as plasma.

The industry was slow to adopt plasma cutting at first. The gases involved were expensive, the systems were costly, and oxyacetylene torches of the era were able to cut through thicker materials. The public was also uninformed about the capabilities of plasma cutting. The process didn’t gain widespread acceptance until the mid-70’s.

The Tech Boom

The 1980’s brought many advances in plasma cutting. More affordable systems were introduced, electronic torch height control became available, and the PC was integrated into the process with user-friendly controls and icon-based navigation. By the late 1980’s, Computer Aided Design (CAD) programs were released that wrote machine code. Now operators could guide the torch using a computer with predetermined settings, or they could program straight from the computer.

This technology boom improved plasma cutters by making them more affordable and easier to use. This resulted in the high-precision plasma cutters of the 90’s. They produced smooth edges with no dross. As time went on, they became a more affordable solution than laser cutting.

Plasma Cutters Today

Modern plasma cutters are more refined and accurate than ever before. Computer-guided controls and the introduction of high-precision torches, linear guiding technology and automatic nesting software have made plasma cutting a quick process that produces very little material waste. The end results are parts edged with laser precision in a quick turnaround time.

The Short Iron Store: Your Source for Plasma Cutting Services

The Short Iron Store in Fort Worth, TX, provides a full array of CNC plasma cutting services. We work with all metals, and we stock most of them right here in our shop. Feel free to come on by and take a look at our inventory when choosing a material for your next project. Our experienced staff is always happy to answer your questions and recommend the best metal for the job.

Whether you’re an artist with a vision or a fabricator who needs parts to practice on, the Short Iron Store has what you need! We serve the entire Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.