It’s important to make sure your plasma cutting machine is running effectively and safely. Wear and tear to consumable parts is a natural and expected part of normal operation, but it’s important to ensure these parts are maintained properly and replaced quickly when required.
Not only do worn consumable parts negatively affect the cut quality of your machine, in extreme cases they can even be a safety hazard to the operator. Your machine should come with a specific consumable inspection guide, but there are many common elements between plasma cutting torch consumables. We’ve laid out some of the common checks below – all consumable parts should be checked for external wear and tear, but there are a few extra steps that should be taken on some parts.
Many consumable parts have o-ring and threaded sections. Care should be taken with these to ensure they remain lubricated and intact. In the case of a cracked or worn o-ring the part should be replaced, but if the part simply requires lubrication a thin layer of silicone lubricant can be applied to the ring and thread.
As the main point of contact for the plasma arc, the electrode gets very hot during the cutting process. The very tip of the electrode contains a hafnium insert, which is very good at conducting electricity but will slowly evaporate during cutting. If the pit depth of this insert is greater than the manufacturers tolerance, or the electrode itself is worn or damaged, the part must be replaced. As a general rule of thumb this is 1.0 mm for Powermax systems and 1.6 mm for HPR and XPR systems.
Nozzle & Shield
The nozzle constricts the flow of plasma gas and focuses the plasma arc. The shield protects the nozzle during cutting. The central holes of these consumables must be perfectly aligned but can become deformed or reshaped by the cutting process, adversely affecting performance. These parts should be inspected on a regular basis to ensure they’re still circular, and replaced if necessary.
As a final tip, always change the nozzle and electrode at the same time to maintain optimal cutting performance.