Cutting Metal with Plasma- New Machines and Opportunities as FabLab Tacoma Grows
Tacoma, WA , June 19th, 2013 -- FabLab has added CNC (computer numeric controlled) plasma cutting to its list of tools and capabilities.
FabLab Tacoma, Pierce County’s first membership-based high-tech workshop and fabrication studio, provides public access to computerized cutting or etching of wood, plastic, glass, fabric and other materials. With the new plasma cutter, steel, aluminum and a variety of other metals can now be cut as well. The Torchmate CNC plasma cutter brings robotic control to metal work.
“We are happy to bring this capability in house for our members.” Said Stephen Tibbitts, Director of FabLab. “It should be useful for custom metal art, robot design, machinery, tooling, product development and more. We are looking forward to adding additional capabilities periodically as activity and membership grows at FabLab.”
Over the past 9 months, members have embraced other computer-controlled pieces of machinery in the FabLab including the a CNC router and a laser cutter. Many have attended introductory classes for each machine to learn or sharpen their skills. For many members, the laser is their first introduction to computer controlled machinery, where they learn safety, 2D computer design, and the settings and techniques necessary for cutting a variety of materials. The laser can cut many materials such as wood, leather, or acrylic but it cannot cut metal. This is where the need for the Plasma CNC comes in.
“I see the plasma CNC as a natural progression of the equipment here at the lab.” said William Davis, class instructor and co-founder of FabLab Tacoma. “The laser, like most computer controlled machinery, works on a basic coordinate system moving along 3-dimensional axes to cut out a design in a material.” Once students have an understanding of this, they can understand the plasma cutter, the CNC router, or even 3D printing.
What is Plasma?
The plasma cutter is a technology that has been around since the mid 1960’s but recent advances have allowed plasma cutters to become more accurate and accessible through computer control. Plasma, as you may remember from science class, is the fourth state of matter. Like a solid, liquid, or gas, matter can be changed from one state to another by changing the temperature.
Plasma is formed when gas is superheated; in this case, plasma is formed by heating oxygen to an extremely high temperature using electricity. At high temperatures, the oxygen molecules begin to break apart and the atoms start to split. All the parts of the atoms move around very fast and break into ions and electrons. When all these parts of atoms move around, the collide and create lots of energy creating plasma.
When the plasma cutter contacts metal, it creates a spark, and the reaction creates a stream of plasma moving at 20,000 feet per second and at a temperature of 30,000 degrees fahrenheit, enough to blast a slab of metal a ½ inch thick!
The computer controls the intensity of the spark, moving the cutting head back and forth along the metal to cut out intricate designs. Since the machine is computer controlled, designs can be repeated and cut with precision not possible by hand.
About FabLab Tacoma
Fablab Tacoma is a membership-based, do-it-yourself workshop and fabrication studio providing access to a vibrant community of highly creative people and a multitude of high quality 3D Printing and milling machines, fabrication tools and software. FabLab offers meet-ups, classes, workshops and instruction for people of all ages and skill levels.
For information visit http://www.FabLabTacoma.com, email info@FabLabTacoma.com. You can follow FabLab on Twitter at "@FabLabTacoma". FabLab is also on Facebook as "FabLabTacoma".