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  • cnc plasma cutter

    Again ,

    How hard is a cnc plasma cutter to play around with before i buy one?


  • #2
    Why "again"? Have you asked about this before?
    HTP Invertig221 D.V. Water-cooled
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    • #3
      Your better off going to a cnc forum. And asking. Most the people here dont have a clue.
      Miller Bobcat 225NT onan
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      (Retapped to fit regular mig tips)
      Work better & less parts to stock.
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      • #4
        I used a Dynatorch for awhile. Its pretty simple to use and you get a full day training from them when you buy one. I would recommend one for a small business.


        • #5
          Originally posted by eecervantes83 View Post
          Your better off going to a cnc forum. And asking. Most the people here dont have a clue.

          Actually.... there are quite a few folks here with CNC plasma tables and or working knowledge of them here .. I have had a PlasmaCam with Hypertherm PMax-1000 for several years now and it is very easy to use...
          Here is a link to their site..

          There are a lot of affordable CNC machines out there these days and most run similar programs... If you have a drawing program that can generate DXF files for the artwork.. that is the front end... there are many options for CNC control...
          You might download and play with a demo version of Mach-3

          Certainly not discouraging your going to CBC sites ... but there are folks here that coild give you some insight despite a naysayer or two..

          Like they say... It aint Rocket Science... get your hands on some demo software and start playing with it....
          Last edited by H80N; 05-21-2015, 07:12 AM.

          The more you know, The better you know, How little you know

          “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten”

          Buy the best tools you can afford.. Learn to use them to the best of your ability.. and take care of them...

          My Blue Stuff:
          Dynasty 350DX Tigrunner
          Dynasty 200DX
          Millermatic 350P w/25ft Alumapro & 30A
          Millermatic 200

          TONS of Non-Blue Equip, plus CNC Mill, Lathes & a Plasmacam w/ PowerMax-1000


          • #6
            There is a fairly steep learning curve, but most of us old guys can hack it. Machine price is usually the deal killer. I have about 5K in my plasma cam, that I bought as a 2x2 and hacked as time, money, and jobs permitted. I am much faster at drawing now, that was the hardest part for me.


            • #7
              the table is easy. the hardest part is learning the cad programs to actually draw stuff. go to a site called youll find everything you need or want to know there. they started to charge $20 a year but people post files and projects theve made and you can get those. you can still join for free but cant download the files and stuff.


              • #8
                There are about 25 "entry level" OEM cnc plasma builders in North America. Each of these machines have some sort of CAD (drawing) software, CAM (post processing) software and Machine Control software.

                The CAD is for drawing whatever part you want to cut. CAD seems a bit overwhelming if you have never used it....however the quickest and easiest way to get familiar is to take a beginner course in CAD drawing at a local community college. Other than this find someone you know that is willing to sit at a computer and teach you the basics to get started with CAD drawing....once the basics are learned you will keep working with it and it becomes very intuitive.

                CAM is software that your import the CAD drawing (usually a .dxf AutoCAD format) into.....and the CAM adds things such as a lead-in (where the plasma pierces in scrap metal to start the cut), applies the kerf width compensation (shifts the cut to accommodate for the width of the the part comes out properly sized), lead-out (where the arc extinguishes at the end of each cut). CAM can do a lot more such as nesting multiple parts as well as generating reports on cut costs, material utilization (scrap rate) and many more things depending on the capability of the CAM software you use. Essentially the CAM turns the CAD drawing file into machine code (often called G-Code or M-Code) that is used by the cnc machine electronics to provide cut direction, cut speed, plasma on/off signals, torch height control functions and more.

                Machine control software is the internal software on the onboard computer (a PC or Laptop on entry level CNC plasma machines) that interprets the G-Code from the CAM software and turns it directly into electrical signals that drive the machines motors for x and y directions as well as Z (up and down or height control) to guide the torch accurately.

                So......many of todays machines have all three of these software packages as separate entities. There is CAD drawing software produced by one company (AutoCAD is one), there is CAM software produced by another company (SheetCam is one) and there is machine control software from yet another company (Mach3 is one). The machines that use 3 separate softwares often take a bit more of a learning curve to each requires importing and exporting files from one package to the others. Also, often these softwares are "universal", meaning they were not developed specifically for plasma cutting, but perhaps for machining or routing or milling there are a lot of different, possibly confusing terms that may not apply to just a plasma cutting application.

                In my experience (37 plus years in the CNC plasma industry) the easiest to learn and easiest to use machines in this relatively new "Entry Level" machine market are from the companies that have developed their own specific plasma cutting software. This means the CAD , the CAM and the machine control software are integrated into one package, so the less experienced operators do not have to jump from one software to another to get the job done. Often you spend 5 minutes drawing a part, then click on a function called convert to cut path....which auto converts the CAD drawing into a ready to cut file. These packages make the step by step process of drawing, converting and setup into an intuitive easy to learn process. Typical machines that use this integrated software are Plasmacam, Dynatorch, EZCut and a few others.

                Any of these machines can import predrawn part files. As an example if you search online for a ".dxf file", maybe a small block chevy header often can find it on a free site or a pay site. Input the .dxf and you have skipped the whole CAD drawing step....the .dxf file goes right to the CAM portion of the software where it converts to a cut file.

                Still, if you want to do CNC plasma should learn basic CAD drawing. Say the previously mentioned .dxf of a header flange was drawn with 3/8" bolt holes and you wanted to change a couple to 5/16", and slot a few......if you don't learn CAD you won't be able to modify that drawing. If you do you can literally make the changes in seconds.....and get the exact part cut that you want.

                Jim Colt Hypertherm
                Last edited by jimcolt; 06-02-2015, 11:48 AM.


                • #9
                  Don't be too afraid of the CAD though. While you need it to draw, it is learned in baby steps. What used to take me hours to draw not takes minutes. You start with basic shapes and work from there. The good thing about plasma drawings is that they are generally flat, so no 3D drawing.


                  • #10
                    I agree 100%. CAD starts out slowly and then all of a sudden it feels completely intuitive. I can CAD draw and cut virtually anything about 3 to 4 times faster than I could when I had to lay parts out by hand, and cut with a hand torch. Plus, once you have a drawing it is stored be used as is or to be easily modified for other needs. My shop will never be without a cnc plasma...and it is primarily a hobby shop.

                    Jim Colt


                    • #11
                      cnc plasma cutter

                      Thank you Jim. That explains a lot I didn't completely understand.


                      • #12
                        Wow, that really simplified a lot of the general guidelines of cnc plasmas. Thank you for the post Jim, I always perk up when I see your input. Very nice to have such an asset here on the forum.