The biggest limitation to hand-held plasma cutting is that an operator is required to have a high skill level in order to make clean and accurate cuts on complex geometry. Even the most talented plasma torch operators would struggle to replicate machine quality parts with high repeatability. With the emergence of Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) technology, machines were created that utilized a plasma cutting torch to produce high quality parts with incredible speed and accuracy.
The process of CNC plasma cutting involves the electromechanically controlled movement of a CNC cutting torch along a pre-programmed tool path. The system is comprised of a plasma cutter, torch (either machine or hand-held), motion controller, electromechanical drive system, and a cutting surface. Parts are first designed in a two-dimensional CAD software and then tool-paths are generated from the part geometry in a CAM software. The CAM software creates a numeric ‘G code’ that can be uploaded to the CNC plasma machines motion controller which then translates this code to execute the desired cut. Given the complex nature of CNC plasma cutting, the process has been largely reserved for industrial uses only.