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 h...

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.

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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254 Discussions

0
GabrielL63
GabrielL63

2 months ago

I thought about it while reading.... how could it be done with a plasma tv powerboard? There ought to be a way. Anyone? A new instructable maybe?

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 2 months ago

Uh NO.Just because they call it plasma tv don't mean it's actually Plasma.
First it don't have the power and second all it has is high voltage low current sourse.

0
GabrielL63
GabrielL63

Reply 2 months ago

oh snap.
thanks for your advice
i had high hopes it could ionize enough so it could cut through thin metal sheets
"high voltage and low current", you say? then i guess it would make a spark but no heat, am i right?

0
RCs Stuff
RCs Stuff

Question 3 months ago

Oh yea, I had another question about the placement of or how you located the water heating element. I didn't see any info. about how the heating element was supported, but it looks like you've bolted it to a piece of aluminum strap about 1 ft. long X around 1 1/2 in. wide X 1/8th to 1/4 in. thick. It also looks like you've bolted that bracket to a vertical piece of aluminum strap, bar or maybe some channel metal about 2 to 2 1/2 ft. tall & with, maybe, the same dimensions as the element support bracket. Is that correct? Is the heater element supposed to heat the air going through that short piece of plastic tubing or am I not looking at it right? It seems as though the air flowing through the solenoid valve should flow through some type of metal (copper) tubing coiled much closer to & around the element or maybe a piece of pipe big enough to fit on & around the element to act as a jacket so the air can be heated up as much as possible. If a piece of pipe is used, tubing & hose adapter fittings should be used on both ends of the pipe. The way aluminum dissipates heat & since plastic tubing would melt before conducting much heat, it seems like some 1/4 in. to 3/8th in. copper tubing should be coiled around the element or a piece of 2 in. + or - pipe for a maximum amount of heat transference. That is if ''hotter air'' is needed to help in the ''blowing out'' part of making a cut. Just curious about how that heating element is used in your project.

0
RCs Stuff
RCs Stuff

Question 3 months ago

I may need to do a little more scrounging, but I think I might ''almost'' everything you're showing to build this gem. I was curious about the 28 PSI ''air'' pressure you're using. Have you simply connected this to the regulator on your air compressor? For years, I've been scrounging/salvaging compressors out of anything with a compressor & I've been making dust blowers to blow crap out of whatever. I've never checked the pressure coming out of them, but I'm fairly certain I can easily get 28 or more PSI from 1. The adapter/reducer I've been making for so many years creates a very powerful & constant air source. If you're only using compressed to blow out your cuts, I'm sure I can get 1 of the compressors I use to make this work. By doing this, I could make the entire thing ''self-contained'' with no need for an external air hose. Again, are you simply using ''compressed air'' to blow out your melted cuts?

0
batchit
batchit

Question 9 months ago

Hi Joe, Just wondering how your new cutter is travelling are you any closer to releasing it on us diyers?
Regards
Geoff

1
Plasanator
Plasanator

Answer 9 months ago

IIt's almost there ,been really busy this year should be around end of december.

0
dhammika.kariyawasam
dhammika.kariyawasam

11 months ago

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?

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 1 year 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 1 year 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
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 1 year 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
jakeB82
jakeB82

1 year 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
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 1 year 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.

0
RobinR44
RobinR44

1 year ago on Introduction

First thank you for all the time you took to not only construct this, but to pass it on and reply to all these questions. This is especially of help to me as I am on a super tight budget, like next to nothing. I always try to buy only things that will either serve several roles, or things that I can not possibly make myself, and anything that will help me be more self sufficient. And, I have about zero knowledge on circuitry, but I have a lot of junk (can't really afford garbage pickup, so for the last 13 years or so, if it came on the property, it stayed on the property -- some day someone will mine my burn pile for all the aluminum that has melted) and I can follow instructions if everything is detailed and doesn't assume I have knowledge which I don't. I see your project here in my very near future, and if I can do it, then I will attempt to see where I can make changes to increase cutting sizes. Can't wait to cut some railroad track in front of my brother who can afford a store bought plasma cutter that he never uses -- maybe I can get some of the sparks to fly onto his $34,000 Harley in the process. Just wanted to say thank you, and your work is greatly appreciated.

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 1 year ago

Your welcome but railroad track is beyond what this cutter can cut.
5/8 is just about all your gonna cut but thats more than most shops cut anyhow.

0
Mantree91
Mantree91

Question 1 year ago

Have you considered using a alternator to drive your 220v? It would be super cool to have a gas mig/tig/arc/plasma air compressor combo on a trailer.

0
Plasanator
Plasanator

Reply 1 year ago

I have but never tried it.
Im currently working on an inverter type cutter.

0
Barrysrca
Barrysrca

Question 2 years ago on Step 20

Hi I am confused about hooking up a wire from the AC side of the rectifier to the second cap on the negative terminal won't that damage the cap as they work on DC current?

Thanks Barry

0
ferroman244
ferroman244

Answer 1 year ago

No, it won't hurt it. To better understand, redraw the transformer, diodes and rectifiers as a full wave bridge circuit without the wire. It produces approx. 1.414 times the bridge AC input voltage at two times the AC input frequency, i.e. 120 Hz in USA. Note that current path is through all four diodes. Now add the wire, and retrace the current flow. Notice that current only flows through two of the four diodes. Now, it operates as two half wave rectifier circuits in series. The output voltage is less than the full wave circuit, and the output frequency is the same as the input line frequency. Before universal voltage input power supply designs, the circuit was used to allow the equipment to operate on either 120/240 volts depending on whether the wire was in the circuit or not.