Here is an informative article from our friends at Hypertherm regarding Plasma System Maintenance, you can check out their site here.
While most shops are great at inspecting items like cranes, forklifts, and air compressors, an item that tends to slip through the cracks is the plasma cutting system. It could be because plasma systems tend to “just work,” but even if your system appears fine, failing to properly maintain it, is quietly impacting performance and life.
It’s kind of like the tires on your car. To get the best life and performance, you need to rotate regularly and fill with the right amount of air. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to keep a plasma system up and running. A small investment of your time is often all it takes to keep your system in good shape—and save you a service call. The key though is to stick to a schedule, which we’ll divide into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks.
- Verify gas inlet pressure. You should do this in both the “test pre-flow” and “cut-flow” modes by making sure your regulator dial reaches the recommended PSI.
- Inspect the air filters. You’re checking for moisture, oil, and particulates. If you see moisture, oil, or a lot of metal dust for example, you’ll need a new filter. If you only see a little dust or dirt, try to lightly vacuum it off. All air filters need eventual replacement, but if you’re going through more than your fair share then you likely have an issue with the quality of your air and should check its purity.
- Check your coolant level and condition. If the level is below the neck of the tank, add more. If the coolant looks dirty, flush out your tank and refill it with fresh coolant.
- Inspect your torch. Hypertherm strongly recommends taking your torch into an office or other clean place to do this. Also, wash your hands. Typically, the two items requiring careful inspection are the o-ring and coolant tube. Remove the o-rings from the torch and check for damage. If all looks good, apply a very small amount of lubricant to your finger tips and lightly rub this lubricant onto the o-ring. The o-ring should look shiny but you should not see any lubricant. If you do, you’ve applied too much and should wipe some off. Replace all o-rings so they fit snugly, then inspect all threaded consumables and remove any dirt that you see. You’ll also want to inspect the water tube to make sure it isn’t out of round, bent, or pitted. Inspect the nozzle and electrode mating surface for damage, then take a clean cloth and wipe off the torch, both inside and outside. Use a cotton swab if needed to clean hard to reach areas.
- Inspect all air hoses, coolant hoses, and torch leads. Look for scrapes and cuts, punctures, chemical spills and burns, or any kinks or bends that would restrict flow.
- Check for gas leaks. To do this, conduct the built-in leak and flow tests. Before doing this last test, make sure you are using the right consumables and have selected the correct plasma process for the test.
- Check your coolant flow. If you have an auto-gas console, this can be done right from your CNC. If you have a manual gas console, go to your console to read the flow rate. If the CNC detects a problem, then you’ll need to perform the specific Coolant Flow tests found in your owner’s manual.
- Clean inside your power supply. Turn off the power to your power supply, then remove the top and side panels. You’ll likely see a lot of metal dust and other particulates that you’ll want to either blow out or vacuum. Don’t forget to vacuum build-up on the fan and fins. Next, gently remove dust and particulates from your circuit boards, taking extra care not to damage them.
- Inspect electrical components. With your power still off, check the main contactor for excessive pitting, or a blackened or rough surface. If you see any of these things, replace your contactor.
- Conduct a more thorough coolant flow test. Though you should check your coolant flow once a week, you’ll want to conduct a more thorough test each month. Typically, this more comprehensive test should be conducted by a trained service technician or other specially trained resource. At the same time, you’ll want to inspect all connection points—for example where the hose connects to the ignition console, the torch body, and the power supply.
- Inspect the pilot arc relay. Remove the cover, and inspect the contacts for excessive pitting. Again, if you see a lot of pitting, you’ll want to replace the relay.
- Inspect your gas line connections. Spray with soapy water. If bubbles appear on a gas line, tighten or replace it as necessary.
- Inspect your ground and work lead connections. Verify that all system components are individually grounded to a driven earth ground and that your work lead connection—particularly the connection at your cutting table—is clean and tight. There should be no paint or oil directly on the connection as you need a clean metal-to-metal contact.
That’s it. Make it easy to stick to your schedule by setting aside a specific day and time for maintenance. For example, you could choose to conduct your daily maintenance every morning at 7 a.m., your weekly maintenance every Monday, and your monthly maintenance on the first day of each month.
As always, if you have any questions of problems, Hypertherm’s North American Technical Service Team is happy to help. Contact the team via email at [email protected] or by phone, if you’re in the U.S. or Canada, at 800-643-987.
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Please feel free to call (905) 738-7954 ext. 201 to place an order or email; [email protected]