Plamsa cutting tips: Keeping it dry

If you are interested in purchasing a plasma, one of the first "investments" you will need besides a capable air compressor, is a good quality dryer to remove moisture from the compressor air. Moisture is the arch enemy of plasma cutting. Plasma cutting with moisture in the line can yield disastrous results! Symptoms of having moisture in the line include poor cut quality with snootiness, and angularity of cut, sputtering, quickly worn consumables, and possibly even a destroyed torch.

Most companies provide a fine micron filter with a water trap as a last ditch effort to catch slugs of water or dirt that may travel down the line, but do precious little for actually removing large amounts of water from the air supply. It is surprising how much consumable life can be affected. It can also affect torch life by creating hot spots or arcing within the torch head where it should not be arcing. Trying to keep the moisture down to 0 is a multi layered challenge. First tank moisture should be eliminated from the tank daily by draining it. Also, any lines and hoses should keep well maintained fittings, so that leaks, and condensation are kept at a minimum.

At the tank, it is recommended to have at least a water trap dryer at the exit. The line should then travel as straight and short of a path to the plasma cutter as possible. Use of a desiccant type drier, that you’d find in an automotive paint supply store is a good way to get started with your dryer system. These are economical, and disposable. More expensive types use a replaceable silica gel pellets that soaks up moisture, and changes color as it does so to alert the user to the need to replace the pellets. Replaceable filter element types such as Motor Guard’s plasma cutter filter, are long lasting, and economical while providing excellent protection.

These have a high initial purchase cost, but are worth the investment if you have the money to spend. These filters should be right before the air supply enters the plasma cutter for maximum protection. New or dedicated hoses should always be used as well, to keep moisture out of the system when the plasma cutter is installed. Existing hoses typically have large amounts of water in the line, just waiting to dislodge and travel through the plasma cutter.


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