With various metal projects, including many steel applications, a common need is cutting of the material to a specific size. There are a few options available here depending on your precise needs and the type of metal you’re using, and it’s important to know the differences between them.
At Wasatch Steel, we can help with various steel services and processes you need carried out. This two-part blog will detail three of the most common cutting methods used for cut-to-size formats, plus will help you by laying out some of the situations where each choice might be best for you.
If you’re looking for a cutting style that gets the job done quickly and with great accuracy, plasma cutting is likely the way to go. It’s what’s known as a thermal cutting process, one that utilizes heat in the form of an electrical arc. This arc ionizes and heats gas to form a plasma that cuts the metal – there are a few gasses that might be used here, depending on what you’re cutting. The jet of gas disconnects the metal, of course, but also blows away any remaining dross.
Plasma cutting is great because it’s good for use on a variety of different metal types, including steel but also extending to areas like aluminum, copper, titanium and stainless steel – virtually any metal that conducts electricity, basically. It’s also a fully automated process if you desire, great for convenience.
At the same time, it should be noted that plasma cutting has limits when it comes to material thickness. Flame cutting, which we’ll go over below, can cut much thicker materials, and is advised for any that are more than a few inches thick. Plasma cutting also only works for materials that are part of its electrical circuit, which might limit your choices a bit.
Another common thermal cutting process is flame cutting, which utilizes a combination of oxygen and a fuel source to create the required heat. Flame cutting is also referred to as “oxyfuel cutting” in some cases due to this basic connection, which uses a basic flame to reach kindling temperature before a stream of oxygen is used to direct the flame.
As we noted above, flame cutting is very powerful and can be used even for thick steel. It’s also a highly portable process, one that requires just a couple cylinders and a hose, torch and striker to perform. For this reason, it’s commonly used by contractors in the field when cutting is required – equipment is also relatively cheap, another plus here.
The limitation of flame cutting, however, is seen in the versatility of materials it can cut. It’s usually limited to carbon and low-alloy steel, plus cast iron materials. But because it can’t perform the job cleanly on other materials, it usually isn’t used for them. In addition, flame cutting is a bit slower than the other types we’re listing here, and may leave a residue that needs to be removed through a separate process.
For more on the right cutting process to use for cut-to-size needs, or to learn about any of our steel products or buy our steel online, contact the pros at Wasatch Steel today.