Plasma cutting is the most productive and cost effective way to cut carbon steel from gauge to 2” thickness. But in order to achieve the highest performance, operators need to ensure that the consumables in the torch are inspected and maintained to high standards.

In one of their latest webinars on plasma consumables maintenance, Hypertherm provided best practices on how to get the most out of every electrode.

Plasma torchHafnium emitterThe primary function of an electrode is to provide power to the plasma arc and to conduct high energy during the starting sequence. Its most important part is the hafnium emitter which helps to provide dimensional stability and ensure that cut quality is repeatable with an electrode that fits up well to the other internal torch components. An incorrect length or diameter of a hafnium emitter will affect alignment and impact cut quality.

To ensure that the electrode is running properly, you have to follow a few simple rules.

  • Avoid incorrect match-up with other consumable parts. This can be done by using the parts suggested by Hypertherm operator manuals.
  • Prevent any possible gas delivery system leaks or restrictions – even a minor leak in the gas system, a loose hose fitting or a split or kinked hose will cause both cut quality and consumable life issues.
  • Check the inlet pressure for plasma and shield gases daily; compressed air (when it’s supplied from a local compressor) must be clean, dry and oil free.
  • Keep the electrodes clean. Electrodes that are dirty or greasy when installed in the plasma torch can cause stray electrical tracking that eventually can lead to torch failure.
New and used electrode

The partially used electrode on the right has a pit that is .023” deeper than the new one

While it’s important to change electrodes to prevent other parts from breaking, it’s also important not to do it too early – this will help you cut your operational costs. So how do you know when to change it?

A new electrode wears rapidly for the first 10% of its life and also wears rapidly for the last 10%. You therefore need to perform the electrode change in the last 10% of its life. Standard oxygen electrode as used in HPR plasma systems should be changed when pit depth reaches around .040”. If not, cut quality changes will take place and somewhere between .045” and .050” catastrophic failure will occur – this failure will damage the nozzle, shield and possibly coolant tube.

The best way to cut plasma cutting costs without sacrificing quality is to fully utilize the consumable parts for the plasma system. Learning to gauge electrode wear, which will determine the most cost effective time to change the electrode, will allow dramatically longer use of the other consumable parts, nozzle, swirl ring, and shield.

Here at MultiCam we offer a wide range of Plasma solutions. Feel free to reach out, so we can help you choose the perfect machine for the application you have in mind.

At our online store – http://cncplasmastore.ca/, you can find a wide range of plasma consumables for your next plasma project.


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