What Are the Best Tips for Making a DIY Plasma Cutter?

K'Lee Banks

Perhaps the best and most important tip regarding making a do-it-yourself (DIY) plasma cutter is to exercise extreme caution. Any individual undertaking the task of making his or her own DIY plasma cutter should have an advanced knowledge of electronics, for safety’s sake. This particular DIY project involves many electrical components, as well as highly pressurized gasses. While some do-it-yourself plans are available, some specific tools and materials are needed.

Plasma cutters can be extremely dangerous, and should only be made of purpose-built materials.
Plasma cutters can be extremely dangerous, and should only be made of purpose-built materials.

It’s difficult to find any plans of designs for a DIY plasma cutter because it is a highly technical tool for which the design is already proven and not in need of revision. As a comparison, if a person wants to build a go-kart, he does not need to redesign the wheel or the internal combustion engine. All he needs to do is follow the existing design.

Keeping that in mind, the DIYer should also understand that he cannot realistically derive all components of a DIY plasma cutter from DIY materials. For example, the cutting tip, or head, has a specially-designed configuration that will handle the high power currents and pressurized gasses. Almost all do-it-yourself plans include contact information that direct the reader to sources where he can purchase the cutting nozzle. It is almost certain that the DIYer will need to make an investment into the cutting nozzle for this DIY plasma cutter project.

The do-it-yourself crafter simply cannot reproduce several other components inside the nozzle. Copper tips, ceramic insulators, diffusers, and in some models, laminated tungsten electrodes, are all located inside a plasma-cutting torch. In the metal fabrication trade, these are known as "consumables" and they require periodic replacement, depending on the amount of usage the plasma cutter receives.

When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, a DIY plasma cutter may be one of the most challenging, and potentially one of the most dangerous projects, that can be undertaken. The temperatures introduced during the plasma cutting process can reach 30,000°F (16,649°C). Regulating gas pressures is another inherent danger because the velocity of these superheated gasses can reach speeds of 20,000 feet per second (6,096 meters per second).

A professional in the field advises that anyone considering creating a DIY plasma cutter needs a high level electronics background, an understanding of how plasma cutting machines work, and a source for parts that simply cannot be produced from a collection of DIY materials, specifically the torch and its consumables. Most plans offered on the Internet suggest preparing for an investment of up to $300 US Dollars (USD). Coincidentally, used and small-capacity plasma cutters also tend to be available for about the same amount — without the risks.

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