Can a welder plasma cut?

While both welders and plasma cutters deal with metal and utilize electrical arcs, they serve different functions. A standard welder is designed to join metals together, whereas a plasma cutter is used to cut metals. Therefore, a typical welding machine cannot perform plasma cutting without specific equipment designed for this purpose. If cutting is required, a separate plasma cutting device would be necessary.

Relationship Between Welding and Plasma Cutting

Welding Overview

Welding is a fabrication process that joins two or more pieces of metal by applying heat and pressure, often with a filler material. It is a critical process in many industries, including automotive, construction, and aerospace.

Types of Welding
  • Arc Welding: Utilizes an electric current to create an arc between an electrode and the base material. Common types include Metal Inert Gas (MIG) and Tungsten Inert Gas (TIG) welding.
  • Oxyfuel Welding: Combines oxygen with a fuel gas to melt the workpiece. Commonly used in pipe welding and repair work.
  • Resistance Welding: Uses the application of electric current and pressure to create a weld between two pieces of metal.
Advantages of Welding
  • Durability: Properly executed welds are strong, ensuring longevity in the final product.
  • Flexibility: There are various welding methods to suit different applications.
  • Cost-effective: In the long run, welding can save money due to its durability. A well-executed weld might last for decades.

Plasma Cutting Overview

Plasma cutting is a process that uses a jet of superheated plasma to cut through electrically conductive materials, including steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. It is known for its precision and ability to cut through thick materials.

How Plasma Cutting Works

An electric arc forms between a continuously fed consumable electrode and the workpiece, converting gas into plasma. This plasma, being extremely hot (up to 30,000°C), melts the workpiece, and the molten metal is then blown away, resulting in a cut.

Advantages of Plasma Cutting
  • Speed: Plasma cutting is significantly faster than traditional torch cutting, especially for thicker materials.
  • Precision: With the right equipment, plasma cutting can achieve a high level of accuracy.
  • Cost-effective: Plasma cutting can be more cost-effective than other cutting methods for specific applications due to its speed and efficiency. The average cost might vary, but with the right equipment and materials, companies can save up to 30% in some instances.

Differences and Similarities

Both welding and plasma cutting are essential processes in metal fabrication, but they serve different purposes.

  • Purpose: Welding is for joining metals, while plasma cutting is for cutting metals.
  • Equipment: Welders use welding machines with various types of electrodes, while plasma cutters utilize a torch with a consumable electrode and a flow of gas.
  • Cost: Welding, depending on the method and materials, can be more expensive than plasma cutting in terms of initial setup, but the long-term durability it provides can offset the initial expense.
  • Both processes utilize heat to work with metals.
  • Both require skilled operators for optimal results.
  • Safety is paramount in both processes, with risks including burns, eye damage, and inhalation of fumes.

Plasma Cutting for Beginners: Sheet Metal | TIG Time - YouTube

Types of Plasma Welding

Plasma welding is an advanced method of welding that utilizes plasma, a highly ionized gas, to transfer an electric arc to a workpiece. The process is similar to TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) welding but is distinct in its approach and benefits.

Micro Plasma Welding


Micro plasma welding operates at lower amperages, typically between 0.1 and 15 amps. This makes it perfect for welding thin materials, sometimes as thin as 0.05mm.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 0.1 to 15 amps
  • Material Thickness: Suitable for 0.05mm and above
  • Gas Flow: Typically uses argon, with a flow rate of around 2 to 5 liters per minute
  • Precision: Due to its low amperage, it offers higher precision than other plasma welding types.
  • Versatility: Suitable for a wide range of metals, including stainless steel and titanium.

Micro plasma welding setups can be more expensive than standard TIG setups due to the precision components involved. The average setup may cost around $5000 to $10000, depending on the brand and additional features.

Medium-Current Plasma Welding


Medium-current plasma welding operates in the 15 to 200 amp range. It’s a bridge between micro plasma and keyhole plasma welding, suitable for slightly thicker materials.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 15 to 200 amps
  • Material Thickness: Suitable for materials ranging from 0.1mm to 3mm in thickness.
  • Gas Flow: Argon remains the most commonly used gas, with flow rates varying based on the specific application.
  • Balance: Offers a balance between precision and penetration depth.
  • Speed: Faster than micro plasma welding due to the higher current levels.

The cost of medium-current plasma welding equipment typically starts around $6000, reaching upwards of $15000 for more advanced setups.

Keyhole Plasma Welding


Keyhole plasma welding utilizes the highest amperages, often between 100 to 400 amps. This method allows for the welding of thicker materials, sometimes up to 8mm or more.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 100 to 400 amps
  • Material Thickness: Efficiently welds materials up to 8mm thick.
  • Gas Flow: Argon, sometimes mixed with other gases, is used, with specific flow rates depending on the application.


  • Depth: Provides the deepest penetration among plasma welding types.
  • Efficiency: Can replace multiple-pass welding processes with a single-pass, saving time and material costs.

Keyhole plasma welding setups tend to be the most expensive due to the power and efficiency they provide. Costs often range from $10,000 to over $20,000 for complete setups.

Comparison with Other Welding Techniques

Welding is a cornerstone of the fabrication industry, with various techniques employed based on the requirements of the job. This section will dive deep into the comparison of plasma welding with other major welding techniques, laying out advantages, disadvantages, and other specifics for each method.

Plasma Welding

Plasma welding, as previously mentioned, uses a highly ionized gas to transfer an electric arc to the workpiece.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 0.1 to 400 amps
  • Material Thickness: 0.05mm to 8mm
  • Gas Flow: Typically uses argon, flow rate varies based on type (micro, medium, keyhole)
  • Versatility: Effective across thin to thick materials.
  • Precision: Especially in the micro plasma range.

Depends on the type but can range from $5000 for basic micro plasma setups to over $20,000 for keyhole plasma setups.

TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas) Welding

TIG welding uses a tungsten electrode to produce the weld, shielding the weld area with an inert gas, usually argon.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 5 to 230 amps
  • Material Thickness: Suitable for thin materials, typically up to 5mm.
  • Gas Flow: Argon, with a flow rate of around 10-20 liters per minute, depending on the material and thickness.
  • Quality: Produces high-quality, clean welds.
  • Flexibility: Suitable for a variety of metals.

The average setup cost for TIG welding ranges from $1500 to $5000.

MIG (Metal Inert Gas) Welding

MIG welding uses a wire feeding gun that feeds wire at an adjustable speed, simultaneously providing a shielding gas.

Parameters & Specifications
  • Power range: 25 to 300 amps
  • Material Thickness: 0.5mm to 25mm
  • Gas Flow: Mixtures of argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Flow rate depends on the mixture and application.
  • Speed: Faster than TIG welding.
  • Simplicity: Easier for beginners to learn.

MIG welding setup costs typically start around $700 and can go up to $2500 for more advanced machines.

FAQ About Plasma Cutting: What is Plasma Cutting & More!

Comparison Table

Welding Technique Power Range (amps) Material Thickness (mm) Average Setup Cost ($)
Plasma Welding 0.1 – 400 0.05 – 8 5,000 – 20,000
TIG Welding 5 – 230 Up to 5 1,500 – 5,000
MIG Welding 25 – 300 0.5 – 25 700 – 2,500

What is the power requirement for plasma cutting?

Plasma cutting machines typically require power inputs ranging from 30 to 400 amps, depending on the thickness and type of material being cut. Thicker materials generally require higher power levels.

How does the cost of plasma cutting equipment compare to other methods?

Plasma cutting equipment can vary in cost, but it is generally more affordable than laser cutting machines. Entry-level plasma cutters can cost around $500, while industrial-grade systems can range from $5,000 to $50,000 or more.

What is the efficiency of plasma cutting in terms of material removal?

Plasma cutting is highly efficient, with cut speeds varying between 5 and 250 inches per minute (IPM) depending on the material thickness. Thicker materials might have slower cut speeds, but plasma cutting is generally faster than traditional mechanical cutting methods.

What are the advantages of plasma cutting over other cutting methods?

Plasma cutting offers excellent precision, especially on materials with irregular shapes. It has a smaller heat-affected zone compared to oxyfuel cutting and provides cleaner cuts. Additionally, plasma cutting can be used on a wide range of conductive materials, including steel, aluminum, and stainless steel.

Are there any limitations or drawbacks to plasma cutting?

While plasma cutting is versatile, it may not be as precise as laser cutting for intricate designs. It produces a wider kerf (cut width) compared to laser cutting, which might lead to slightly less accurate cuts on thin materials.

How does plasma cutting affect material quality?

Plasma cutting produces a high-quality cut, but the edge finish might not be as smooth as laser cutting. Depending on the setup and material, the edge may have some dross or slag, which can be minimized through proper cutting parameters.

What considerations are there in terms of machine size and specifications?

Plasma cutting machines come in various sizes, from small portable units to large industrial systems. The machine's size and specifications will depend on the intended application, material thickness, and cut quality requirements.

What is the lifespan of consumables in plasma cutting?

The lifespan of consumables, such as the plasma torch nozzle and electrode, can vary. Nozzles might last around 20-100 hours, while electrodes can last between 100-200 hours. Regular maintenance and proper use can extend the lifespan of these components.

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