Metal-cutting is an extremely delicate procedure that entails the best of professionalism and expertise. Most trained professionals have spent years perfecting their art and ensuring their jobs are next to perfect.
But far from spending years of experience in the field, you will see these professionals constantly looking for the proper technique to cut certain metals.
This is the deciding factor in quality and a mediocre job. The ability to choose what cutting method will be best for metal is the real dilemma in the field.
For many professionals, the need to get the best solution to make their job easier continually lingers in their minds.
Interestingly, this is where experience comes in. Many experienced professionals have tested different Cutting methods to see the best one for each job. This is because there are specific cutting methods well suited for some projects.
However, some cutting methods pitched against each other to see some of their peculiarities and abilities.
As a result of the constant need to find the best and easiest cutting method in metalworking, we will pitch Oxy-acetylene vs. Plasma cutting in this article. We will get to see their differences and the best ways these methods can be applied.
There have been questions for professionals opting for a plasma cutter, like what kind of metals can be cut with a plasma cutter? Also, for Oxy-Acetylene users, the issue of knowing what other properties can be combined with oxygen to cut metals has been raised.
We will answer these questions, and more will be answered. Also, the differences between Oxy-Acetylene and Plasma cutting will be examined.
What Is Oxy Acetylene Torch?
The oxy-acetylene torch is a component of the whole oxy acetylene welding process itself. The Truth is more or less the piece de resistance of the process; it is where the mixed oxygen and gas come in a bright flame form to melt the metal. It has a nozzle through which this flame comes out.
We will look at more on this welding process to understand the relevance of the Oxy-acetylene torch.
If you have ever come across the phrase “Gas welding,” be sure that it is often used as an alternative for Oxy-acetylene.
However, Oxy acetylene is only a form of gas welding, although the most commonly used. Welders also use gases like hydrogen, butane, and others, but it is no surprise that oxy-acetylene and gas welding are used interchangeably.
The reason for its gas welding name is because of the process which the welding process follows. The fuel gas used during this welding process is acetylene.
Oxy-Acetylene is a process that entails the mixture of oxygen and acetylene within a blowpipe or, most times, within a hand-held torch. Acetylene, which might look rather strange, is a colorless hydrocarbon gas that is unusable in its pure form but used as a solution.
It burns with a bright flame and is also used as a chemical building block.
Now back to the process of Oxy -acetylene welding. As a result of the mixture of oxygen and acetylene in their correct proportions.
At this, a hot flame is produced – this flame has a temperature of 3200°C. Although gas welding is relatively easy to do, you still need to have some degree of proficiency as a welder.
When the temperature reaches the said 5,700°F, equivalent to 3200°C, the torch melts the metal in question.
The melting process of the metal is what people refer to as melt which is more or less like liquid metals diffusing into each other.
The exciting thing about the Oxy-acetylene process is that it melts and forms a very strong unit when the metal is cooled. However, the Welder has to be careful when removing the flame from the joint.
Some parts are intricate in the oxy-acetylene method of welding. We will briefly look at some of them before we proceed to the advantages and disadvantages.
Components Of Oxy Acetylene Process
The fuel gas, which in this case is acetylene, is usually stored here, which has to be properly sealed for obvious reasons. The fuel cylinder is made of heavy steel that is impermeable and fortified so that the compressed fuel gas does not reduce its potency.
For easy identification, you can know the fuel gas cylinder from its color, most times in maroon.
Since the oxy-acetylene process involves the correct mixture of oxygen and acetylene, it will only make sense if you have an oxygen cylinder.
Once a welder is making use of this process, there is an ample supply of oxygen. One important similarity between the Fuk gas and oxygen cylinder is that they are made to hold both gas and compressed oxygen pressure.
The torch, which is the final output, is like the finishing touch to the whole process going on in the cylinders.
The nozzle at the end of the torch is where the oxygen and fuel mixture burn brightly for the Welder to melt the metal.
Other components such as control valves are used to control the ratio of fuel to oxygen. Another component for a successful oxy-acetylene process is the mixer chamber, where the fuel gas and the oxygen are mixed for the melting process.
Places Oxy Acetylene Is Mostly Used
Some specific industries have been able to tap into the possibilities of oxy acetylene welding. Some of the common industries that relish its importance are:
- Carbon steel
Advantages Of Oxy-Acetylene
One of the things welders enjoy the most about this process is its convenience. It has been regarded as a relatively easy process of welding which makes it accessible to welders all over the world. Aside from being easy, there are other advantages of using Oxy-acetylene. Here are some of those benefits:
- The oxy-acetylene pieces of equipment are not as expensive as other types of welding and metal cutting procedures. Plus, they are easier to access than others because of their popularity and frequent use by welders.
- The equipment is not as heavy as other types of welding procedures. They are known to be portable enough to carry around.
- The process is also palatable for cutting large pieces of metal.
- Oxy-acetylene can join different types of metals together, which is one of its most outstanding features.
Disadvantages Of Oxy-Acetylene
Although the advantages denote a certain level of comfort and ease while using it, there are still some disadvantages to this process. One of the issues welders’ attributes to Oxy-acetylene is its ineffectiveness of cutting thick metal. This is one cog in the wheel of the process. There are other issues associated with the process, and some of them are highlighted below:
- The cutting process is not as smooth as other types of welding. The Welder will still need to ensure that the cutting process is in its finished state, taking more time and effort.
- The heated zone affects the metals’ mechanical properties, making it difficult to use for steel sometimes.
- The heating rate is slow and does not reach the temperature of other forms of welding, such as arc welding.
- It can also lead to some weld issues as the process continues.
We need to examine the other welding procedure in the mix. Let us take a look at what Plasma cutting is as well as its advantages and disadvantages.
What is a Plasma Cutter?
It is a known fact that Plasma flows well when in an electric field, then the plasma cutters use the flow of Plasma to cut through the sheet of metal.
Since we understand that Plasma cutting entails piercing through electrically conductive materials, the plasma cutter sends an electric arc through the gas, which passes through an enclosed opening.
The gas coming from the opening can be oxygen, argon, and even nitrogen. The intensity with which the gas comes out cuts through the already molten metal. This molten phase is a function of the gas around the metal.
Plasma cutting occurs in different stages in which the Plasma cutter is the center of the process. In the first stage of the pilot arc initiation, the plasma cutter ionizes the gas and intensifies the Plasma before transferring the arc.
Furthermore, the three stages characterize how the plasma cutter functions while the Plasma flows through the electric field through the restricted opening with force.
One major component of the plasma cutter is the Swirl ring, a unique part that allows the Plasma to turn as it passes through rapidly.
However, the electrode and the nozzle require replacements after some time.
Plasma cutters come in different grades as they have different years of make; one of the most common is the Computer Numerically Controlled Plasma cutter, a machine that automates the shape that the metal will take during the production process.
The variation of plasma cutters also occurs due to the materials, power, and other functions they need to perform.
Advantages of Plasma Cutting
Aside from being one of the most popular metal cutting methods in manufacturing, there are other advantages that professionals can derive from using plasma cutting. Here are some of them:
- Professionals can cut metal into their desired shapes and objects to direct the beam precisely as they cut through the metal. It is best for those intricate and precise shapes that not many cutting methods can do. It is more or less like drawing with your pencil, except this uses a sufficient amount of gas and power.
- It is a fast process as the Plasma cutter takes up only one-fourth of the total time of other cutting methods. One of the reasons for its speed is the absence of a heating process. This means you get reduced risks of distortion and metal abrasion.
- As explained earlier, plasma cutting is suitable for many types of materials. Some of the materials you can use Plasma cutting are copper, alloy, steel, iron.
- The procedure does not take up too much energy like other cutting methods.
- Plasma cutting also uses inert gas, which is much safer than oxygen and other cutting methods.
Disadvantages of Plasma Cutting
As engaging as the advantages were, there is sadly nothing that doesn’t have a downside, no matter how good it is. Some of the issues associated with this cutting method are as follows:
- Plasma cutting is not suitable for thick and dense metals. They can only cut metal of death ranging to one inch, which is its highest. It is best to use traditional sawing to cut big blocks and other tougher pieces of metal.
- Although it uses inert gas, the plasma cutting process makes a lot of noise which can be disruptive; this is why some professionals use big earmuffs to cover their ears while they continue with the process
- Plasma cutting also takes up a lot of space, so you see most professionals sugging away outside in the open when it comes to this cutting method.
- It can be a complicated process if you don’t have the right gear. The process is known to create flashes; hence it is an experiment to put on eyeglasses when working with this method.
- Electrodes are expensive, and unless you have a gas supplier, the complexity of fabricating the plasma mix can be extremely grueling.
It is time to pitch both of them against each other, side by side. Let us see the differences between Plasma cutting and Oxy-Acetylene.
Plasma Cutting vs. Oxy-Acetylene
We understand that both these methods are used for cutting methods, plus they are extremely popular. However, to settle the scores in this article, we have to examine their differences to see which is the most preferred.
Firstly, Plasma cutting entails using an electric charge and a plasma jet to cut through metal. The process is used when you are looking to cut a desired shape into the metal. Therefore, professionals use it when it comes to cutting intricate shapes into materials. It is also great for weld preparation.
Whole Oxy-Acetylene is cutting prices that uses an intense heat source after the mixture of the oxygen and acetylene through a torch to cut through the metal. It is used to cut in general and is not effective when it comes to intricate shapes.
This is a major difference in the application of both metal cutting methods. For Oxy-Acetylene, there is a heating process that can take some time before the cutting commences. On the other hand, you have Plasma cutting which helps to save a lot of time. Professionals do not need to heat metal, all they need to do is to position the torch and cut the metal to its desired shape.
For plasma cutters, the parts are more expensive than for Oxy-Acetylene cutters. This will influence many people’s buying options.
Furthermore, the Oxy-Acetylene cutters do not make as much noise as the Plasma cutters. When thinning thick cutting material, it is best to go for Oxy-Acetylene than the Plasma cutters.
Also, working with Plasma cutters requires a great deal of precision and experience to handle. In comparison, the Oxy-Acetylene cutters are relatively easy to handle, although you still need some form of experience.
Finally, Plasma cutters generally do a much cleaner job than Oxy-Acetylene cutters.
One way to spot the difference between Oxy-Acetylene and Plasma Cutting is based on their versatility. Plasma cutters are more versatile than Oxy-Acetylene since the former and cut through alloy, steel, and metal.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can Oxy-Acetylene Cut Through Aluminum?
Unfortunately, you cannot cut aluminum using an Oxy-Acetylene cutter. This is because the professionals can only cut ferrous metals such as carbon steel for this kind of process. So, they cannot be used to cut aluminum or stainless steel.
Q. What Components Do You Need To Cut With Oxy-Acetylene?
We talk about the component in the explanation of Oxy-acetylene; however, we can go over it again. For the Oxy-Acetylene cutting prices to be a success, you will need the following:
- Torch body
- Control valves
- Mixer chamber
- Flame tube
- Gas regulators
- Flame traps.
- Gas cylinders
Q. What Type Of Work Does Plasma Cutter Perform Best?
It is a known fact that Plasma cutters will cut all forms of material theatre electrically conductive. This means materials like stainless steel, aluminum, alloy, carbon steel, cast iron, bronze, copper, lead, tin, etc.
Furthermore, you are assured of finished work for the plasma cutter known for its clean-finished state. You can also be sure the Plasma cutter can cut the most intricate and complex shapes into a material.
Hence, Plasma cutting works in manufacturing, construction, automotive, restoration, and scraping all use the Plasma cutter for their works.
Q. What Can Metals Be Cut With Oxy-Acetylene Process?
The oxy-fuel process can cut into low and medium carbon steel and low alloys. It can successfully cut into metals that have a low melting point.
The metal has to have a lower melting point than that of the base metal so that when it oxidizes, it does not form a protective crust.
Q. Can I Use An Oxy-Acetylene Torch With Propane?
A resounding yes is the answer to this question. However, there is a downside to the use of Oxy-Acetylene with propane.
The issue here is, you cannot use the Oxy/propane for welding. It can only be used for cutting, heating, and brazing.
So, if you are looking at any of these options, Oxy/propane is an excellent option to choose as it can get to a temperature of 1800°C.
Q. Which Is Better, Plasma Cutter Or Oxy-Acetylene?
There are a lot of factors to consider when looking at these two cutting methods. Many people would choose Plasma cutting because of the precision and clean finished state.
Also, let’s not forget its versatility and ability to cut complicated shapes.
On the other hand, Oxy-Acetylene offers more power and can cut through rigid materials.
Therefore, it depends on the job at hand. A professional will look at the type of available material, the thickness, and the shape.
Q. What Does A Plasma Cutter Use To Cut?
A plasma cutter uses a copper nozzle to constrict the flow of gas that flows at an intense pace to cut through the metal. It requires an air compressor for continuous air pressure to cut through the metal.
Q. How Thick Of Steel Can You Cut With Oxy-Acetylene?
The Oxy-Acetylene process can cut through materials of thickness ranging from 1 mm to 120mm. It can also cut steel plates of up to 20mm in thickness.
It can easily cut ferrous materials of 8 inches thickness. While using an Oxy-fuel torch, professionals have been known to cut through 48 inches of steel.
Q. Why Are Plasma Cutters So Expensive?
The initial investment in a plasma cutter is usually expensive. But when you consider the amount of work and time you save while using it, you see a reason to buy. However, addressing the elephant in the room means asking why they are so expensive. As a result of its relative newness, the development costs are reflected in its pricing.
Also, it is said that the versatility of the plasma cutter also makes for the high prices.
Q. What Is The Temperature Of An Oxy-Acetylene Flame?
An Oxy-Acetylene is produced at a temperature of 3200°C, which is more than Oxy-propane with a maximum temperature of 2828°C.
You can spot many differences between Oxy-Acetylene and Plasma cutting with the information gathered from this piece.
More importantly, you have to know what kind of metal cutting job you are doing to know the best solution to choose.
Furthermore, experience is essential in the success of any job regardless of the cutting method that is used.