How to Make Your Own Plasma Cutter....

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Introduction: How to Make Your Own Plasma Cutter....

About: Hi I'm Joe and welcome. I love to make Homemade Tools & More. I will have many things to put on the instructables for you to gander at. I hope you enjoy there educational value and have fun. Come se my hom…

Check out new video of the Plasanator on utube.com

This Ebook is designed for Guys and Gals who like to create tools and machinery.

I hope my Ebook gives you hope that no matter how hard a project may seem, keep plugging away until you finish and you will succeed.

I spent 3 years putting this together and now finally all my hard work and research has paid off.

I studied diagrams from commercial venders, but to no luck. They tend to leave a lot out – on purpose - so it’s hard to reproduce their design. I’ve see different attempts at people making their own on You Tube and other sites, but what a death trap. Messy water resistors and wiring like a darn Christmas tree.

So I began reading books and articles on their workings and took my home schooled-knowledge of electronics to build my own plasma cutter. I was determined; failure was not an option.

I started by collecting parts from old microwaves, stoves, water heaters, air conditioners, car parts and more in the hopes of creating a low budget way to create a plasma cutter for myself. I mounted it all on a simple piece of scrap wood; well it’s scrap wood now. We, didn’t need that table anyway (shhhhhhh don’t tell the wife).

Then one day it all came together. I hit the power switch, placed the head to the metal, started the arc, felt the air kick and then a second hard kick (the current being drawn into play). Then BAM, it was slicing through quarter inch steel like a hot knife through butter.

How sweet it sounded! I felt the amazement of completing a project that I just couldn’t let go of.

So, take your time, enjoy and be safe.

The Plasmaman

P.S.

Like Steam Punk?

Check out my Tesla Levitating Steam Punk Lamp Video. Also my Thingaverse projects you might like about 3d printers.

https://www.thingiverse.com/plasanator/designs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jip8HYd39g0



Step 1: Assembly

When I started assembling my cutter, I began with taking a good look at my parts. As shown in Section 5 and Section 6, my parts are laid out so I can begin checking off from my parts list. Once this was accomplished, I would study each the parts pictorial to get familiar with each part/component and they would be placed.

The next step was to study my schematic and create a layout diagram. My board layout diagram is the most valuable piece in the building, repairing, and modifying process of my cutter.

As I began mounting my parts, I organized my board into four sections. Those sections are Power Control, High Current DC, Low Voltage DC and High Voltage Arc Start.

Power Control
3KVA step down transformer and contactor. The transformer is mounted off board because it is big and heavy, as you can see in Section 13. The contactor became my first part on the board. I wired it so when the head trigger is pressed, it turns the contactor on and allows my DC components to come on line. Then I began with my next system, High Current DC.

High Current DC
Bridge Rectifier
Large Capacitors
Reed Switch (which I used as a current sensor), what it does is allow the high voltage arc system to fire and as soon as high current starts to travel to the head and cutting starts it shuts down the high voltage arc system while cutting since it’s not needed at this point.
If you lose your fire it restarts the arc and gets you going again automatically.
My next system was placed on board.

Low Voltage DC
The low voltage DC components are mixed with power switch and 120 volt terminals.
Power Switch
120-volt terminal blocks
12 volt transformer
Low voltage bridge rectifier
Auto relays
Terminal strip, 4 position is all I needed but 5 position was what I had in my toy box.

High Voltage Arc Start
Microwave capacitor or run capacitor, a household dimmer switch rated for 15 amps. A Ford or Chevy ignition coil. I used the Chevy on this cutter. As you can see, I have terminals to all parts that get an external connection outside of their system so all I have to do is run a piece of wire in-between. Now look at the pictorial of board mounted parts in Section 11. It shows all the wires on the board, but here you can see all terminals and parts mounted, as I wanted. When wiring all my components, I used my Chevy board layout diagram to run my wires.

I checked and re checked all wires before mounting external parts. If you go to the final wiring section, you will also find pictures of my rigging of these parts. I could have done it many different ways, but this is what I chose at this time.

It took me about 3 hours of procrastination to finally assemble it all. You know how it is on a project, once you are ready with all your parts, your mind starts giving you a million ways of doing something. And, at last you just pick a way and go with it.

Once I got it all together, I connected my air tank hose and put the pressure setting at 28 for a safe point to start. I fired it up and BAM - that baby didn’t need any more adjusting. It was cutting!

You can imagine all the relief and pride I felt when the Plasanator started kicking ass. Yea, I said it Kicking Ass Baby. Oops Wife just told me I need to stop, hee hee and for all you creators – ah ah ah ahhhhhh.

I hope you enjoyed riding along with me in my journey.

Take care and be safe.

The Plasmaman

Step 2: Parts List

Parts List

Step 3: Warning Warning

Step 4: Schematic

Chevy Pictorial Schematic

Step 5: Another View

Step 6: Another Schematic to Looksy At

Step 7: Board Lay Out

Now this is to demenstrate how I set it up before putting it in a case configuration.
So dont think you would leave it like this for it would be to dangerous to do so.

Step 8: Transformer I Used

Its a control transformer I got off ebay for 50 bucks.
It's 220 to 120 3kva 25 amps and works great in power isolation.

Step 9: Transformer Connected to Board Terminals.

Step 10: Power to Contactor Terminals

These are the contactor terminal conections on the transformer side and then the contactor to large bridge rectifier connections.
Also you will see Bridge rec to Capitor connections and how they are connected.
This is your Main Current set up.

Step 11: Reed Current Sensor

Step 12: Low Voltage Side

Step 13: Relay Connections by Color

Step 14: Chevy HV Transformer Connections

Step 15: Arc Tip Assembly to Head

Step 16: Head Air Coupling

here is where you will connect your air line to your head if you dont have a fitting to do so then hook to board connections.

Step 17: Air Filter/ Element and Solinoid Hook Up View

Just showing temp hook up.

Step 18: Final Power Connections

Ok now you can put all your final connections together and keep going over your schematic to double or triple check everything.

Step 19: Extra Photos of Past Cutter Projects

Here are some photos of past cutter projects for you to enjoy.
Now remember that you will need to put in a case for safty.
It can be would metal or plastic just enclose it.
My photos are in a testing stage and that is why you see them exposed.
The photos of the red cutter was a china one that burnt up on my neighbor and I ripped out the guts and replaced it with my design.
He just loves it.
The black box on side is the housing for 2 elements to draw more current.
You will also see here some other designs where I used a chevy control module as the hv arc start and my first plasma cutter on test stand using stove coils as current resistors.
Have fun and be safe ya'll. Joe

Step 20: Plasanator 3's First Cut

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA6zWHNn6zU


Goto link and watch it's first cut while listening to the mission impossible song.
Thanks for stopping by and God Bless.

MakerBot Challenge

Participated in the
MakerBot Challenge

2 People Made This Project!

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274 Comments

0
clint1506
clint1506

Question 1 year ago on Step 1

Question? I've got 'bout hundred of 'em. 1st, I always assumed that the reason plasma cutters were so obscenely expensive was that you needed a DC power source. But I don't see any rectifiers on yours so that must not be the case. 2nd What is the purpose of the heating element? Doesn't it overheat and burn out? Could an electronic resistor be used that doesn't produce a ton of waste heat? 3rd Could a cheapie little suitcase welder be used as a power source, or are the output voltages all wrong? Thanks for taking the time to share this awesome project.

0
ccoop975
ccoop975

Answer 6 months ago

There is a rectifier. It feeds the capacitors. As far as the resistor is concerned if the probe touches the metal being cut it would create a short circuit without the resistor (water heater). Second, the resistor also limits the amount of current. Any resistor with the approximate resistance and wattage rating would do. This could be nichrome wire or even a high power resistor but the water heater element appears to work.

0
gilrand
gilrand

1 year ago

I'm wondering if you would have to turn on and off the high amperage dc source or if you could just leave it on and turn the high voltage on and off to initiate the cut. I suppose turning the high amp supply off with the trigger would stop any possibility of the arc maintaining within the torch head and a meltdown. I'm leaning toward a DC buzzbox add on, which could be controlled with a contactor or a large SCR (Silicon controlled rectifier for those unfamiliar). It would not necessarily require switching both legs of the AC input supply as the SCR would effectively turn off the transformer by switching one leg. Of course you might have a LOT too much current available at that point, but the PT31 torch claims it can handle 50A. I was also thinking about a current sensing transformer instead of a reed switch but....
I'm probably going down a rabbit hole....

0
ccoop975
ccoop975

Reply 6 months ago

Switching one leg of the transformer with an SCR would effectively cause DC into the transformer causing it to saturate. If you want to switch one leg of the transformer you should use a triac that is switched using zero crossover sensing. Much simplier to use a contactor. To keep it simple I would use a SSR. Looking at the circuit it would be simple to change a lot of the design to a circuit board, Using a dc power source the relays could be changed to other devices that would easily handle the currents and voltages but take up a lot less space. The two main devices, the capacitors and power resistor (water heater element) would still be used. The arc starting circuit could possible be replaced with a tesla HV generator assuming it would generate enough to allow the air to be charged thereby allowing the initial arc to generate. Of course all this is theoritical. Also, a CT works using AC current. The output of the capacitors is DC so you could not use a CT but using a FET transistor might work. The simplicity of the reed switch is simple and doesn't take up much space. The problem might be, after using it many times the contacts may fail or fuse. The one thing about this circuit is that most parts can be had for next to nothing if you have access to used parts. I would add a few things to it. The line and other places should have fuses or circuit breakers. Again, might be a rabbit hole as the above is almost a complete rebuild and may not be any better, just smaller.

0
Mr-Wizard24
Mr-Wizard24

9 months ago on Step 2

Do you have this list with where you go each component? That would be extremely helpful.

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 9 months ago

You can get everything you need on ebay.

0
Mr-Wizard24
Mr-Wizard24

Reply 9 months ago

I dont have alot of money but I do have alot of some of the components and the ability to get appliances for free.

0
dhammika.kariyawasam

Can you please explain the working principle and purpose of each electrica/electronic components (Not the obvious ones like switches, transformer). I'm not an electronics guy, but have some knowledge on basic electronics.
Also, can this plasma starter mechanism be used as Arc starter for a stick welder?

0
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein

Reply 1 year ago

Depends in the arc welder. It could introduce electrical noise/ interference in an inverter welder, but if you're talking a basic transformer based welder, I don't see why not.

0
ermitjr
ermitjr

Question 1 year ago on Step 8

Hi, Has anybody had any luck on finding 3 Kva 25amp transformer

0
jakeB82
jakeB82

3 years ago

is it possible to just use some kanthal a-1 or nichrome instead of heating elements? I don't want to have to go around contractor dumpsters breaking apart water heaters if I don't have to. >_>

0
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein

Reply 1 year ago

You can use any resistive element capable of handling the power dissipation and current and voltage maximums. A ton of light bulbs could work in the right configuration lol. It just wouldn't be efficient or durable.

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 3 years ago

any kind of resistance will work as long as it can handle the power.
Cooling is another issue it would be easier just to buy one from lowes for about 15 bucks and be done with it.

Plasanator, I have a question for you and the rest of the community. Have you figured out how to change amperage? And a way to rid the design of the wasteful resistors? Like a simple pwm circuit to control amps?

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 3 years ago

As it stands now I just parallele 2 or 3 elements together for more current cutting power.
I am just about done with COMPLETELY NEW PLASMA CUTTER where all you do is turn selector for more power eleminating resistor elements. Stay Tuned Folks.

0
MitchH25
MitchH25

Reply 3 years ago

How do you wire the elements in parallel? I'm looking at parallel as being a positive on one element terminal and negative on the other, but that creates a short circut.

0
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein

Reply 1 year ago

Not with a resistor designed for proper current and voltage loads and power dissipation. A high enough value resistor can actually stop the current from crossing.

0
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein
Albermedes CoperniVinci HawkingStein

Reply 1 year ago

Yes sir. As I understand the circuit you have, the resistors are used as both inrush current resistors and to set the max current correct? What I'm wondering is if you've tried any old school (for simplification) means of changing the amperage in a floating point way? Die, you could have different set resistor values and change each point of contact like old welders did, or use something that is more linear, like a mag amp circuit on the line side of the primary? I imagine it would be to bulky, heavy and cumbersome to put on the secondary.
Many thanks for the replies.

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 3 years ago

By using 2 in paralled with one in series gives you 16 amps off 220 for 1/4 inch cuts
3 paralled one in series gives you 24 amps for 5/8" cuts off 220 volt

0
nojoe
nojoe

Question 3 years ago

where is the best place to get a contactor with a 110 coil? also, where can i get a plasma head?