Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Plasma Cutter

I have wanted one of these for  a long time... And I finally realized that I wan't saving money, time or energy by putting it off any longer. I have a lot of fabricating to do, and so I bit the bullet and bought a plasma cutter.

I shopped around to find reviews on cheap plasmas, and tried to ignore all the anti-Chinese sentiments from people who shelled out for a Miller or a Lincoln. I found several folks that said this model cuts as good as the name-brands, if you don't need the bells and whistles. As it turns out, plasma cutting technology has come a long ways in  a few years, thanks to digital power inverting chips that can crank out the amps in a small form factor. Everything is solid state inside, except the cooling fan and the compressed air.

I found the one I wanted, one of the few that can run 110 and 220v. Got it on Ebay for $285 shipped.

Here's my new Lotos 5000D:


It requires 110v or 220v, and a source of compressed air. It actually didn't come with an electrical plug, just bare wires. So I had to run to town and get one. I also had to assemble the air fittings and try to get them not to leak. Fit and finish? Yeah. But it's the right price.

It's not even as big as my Harbor Freight welder:



Sure it took a little work to assemble. But it ran like a dream. I've never used a plasma cutter before, and within 10 minutes of use I cut this 9" circle out:


Not bad, eh?

The jagged parts are operator error. I did this entirely freehand:


I also tripped the breaker, since this thing pulls a solid 20 amps along with the compressor's 15 or so. My shop suffers from Unplanned Electricity Syndrome, causing extension cords to sprout from unlikely places and get strung together at scary lengths. I make it a rule to only run one thing at a time, and for the most part this works out. But the plasma cutter counts twice. Plus, even when it was running on stored air, dad said he could hear a funny buzzing in the wall upstairs(?!) High frequencies, etc... don't want to buy everyone new computers. So I will be moving operations to the barn, which is wired with a basic service panel, and plenty of room for more if needed.

Here's the project compressor I got, which should be able to keep pace better. Needs new valves and switch.


And just for grins, here's a shot of my supply of tanks and pipes for the gasifier. I still need more, because some of them are the wrong size.


So now that I can cut and weld equally well, the first project is the condensate tank, visible to the right above. It will go under the truck bed to collect water condensing in the cooling rack. Here's Wayne Keith draining the same tank under his truck: