Picking a CNC plasma cutter
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  1. #1
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    Default Picking a CNC plasma cutter

    Hi All!

    I'm looking for advice on choosing the best/right CNC plasma cutter. I'm looking at expanding my business more into the digital realm and have a budget of around 90k for a machine, but I'd like to be smart with how that's used.

    I'll mainly be cutting 14ga to 3/8" mild steel with the rare possibility of cutting up to 5/8", so I'm looking at machine with a Hypertherm Powermax 125 or an equivalent plasma cutter. I've got 1600 sqft, so I'm looking at a unitized 5x10 machine with a water table to conserve space and reduce the need to put in collection systems.

    The machine won't be running 3 shift, but after previous experience with an unnamed machine that was a bit ill equipped (stepper motors and such), I'd like a machine that's semi-industrial and pretty dang reliable with servo motors, THC, dual side drive, etc.

    As important as the machine itself is, I'm also looking for a company that has reliable service, is accessible to get replacement parts quickly and assists in installation with training.

    The current companies that are on my radar are:

    Koike
    Messer
    Rhino
    AKS
    Hornet

    I was just at FABTECH in Chicago and it was great getting to look at all of these machines in the same place and see how they're constructed. Right now I'm at a point where I'm ready for a machine that is reliable and also has the potential for add on in the future - oxyfuel, HD.

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    With that budget you should be able to get a pretty nice machine.

    Work just bought a piranha. I have not used it yet. But I will say the setup guy didnt seem to know what he was doing. Spent all day looking at manual and calling the mothership. I was supposed to sit in on training. But after waiting 4 hours with no headway on his part I went home.

    In other words whoever you buy from, make sure if it says 2 days setup and training that you state in writing how long each is.

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    With that kind of space constraint, it might make sense to partner with an existing laser shop and focus on sales and design and value added service (tapping, forming, welding) side of things. A bigger shop is going to have better raw material pricing, room for storage etc. and you wont be saddled with the payment. Yeah I know its not as cool or sexy as having your own toy to play with, but there is probably better margins in there for you.

    That being said, I was at Fabtech this week as well and all the Hypertherm XPR 300 power supplies with the incorporated gas mixing and water injection systems looked pretty flippin sweet with great cuts and even bevels. Also saw some really nice budgeted oriented 4 axis tube cutting systems in both plasma and fiber laser.

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    I've had a 5x10 Bulltear with Hypertherm 45 since 2013 and it's been great.

    They changed the name to Starlab and they have a version with Servo Motors instead of steppers now.

    I think these are the best bang for the buck, though it looks a little downmarket from what you're willing to spend.

    They held my hand back when I first got it....I use it everyday and couldn't get along with out it.

    NGEN Next Generation Star Lab CNC System, Plasmaland

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    IMHO you don't really have the space, sheet storage takes a lot of room, you need to be buying multiple tons to really get the price down and a plasma cutter can eat a lot of sheets in a shift in these thickness ranges.

    A similar sized laser in 2K feet was tight by the time you have a brake press and a few other bits of kit. handling large sheets with a forklift needs a fair bit of space, there’s no getting away from that fact!

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    A couple posters above nailed it on the head. U dont really have the space. i hope that 90k was a typo and you meant to say 9k. I successfuly run a welding shop and i have 1000 sq feet which is pretty close to what you have. With 90k id buy a new building for a larger shop and expand my space. Forget the plasma table unless you really can see it making you more money or saving you a bunch of time on your jobs.

    Come to think about it, how about a small 4x4 table you find used for 5k or less. That way you can make some 4' max length signs or small parts. If i had more space id consider a plasma table, but id prob need 2000 sq feet min for me to be comfortable.

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    As others have said, I don't think you have the space. You need to be able to get full size sheets on the table in addition to have full walk around space plus material storage and a way to move the sheets from a truck to storage and then to the table.

    The 5X10 is not a very economic sized table. The problem is that the controls and plasma power supply cost a lump sum irregardless of size. The table cost is a direct function of size.

    You have not stated what the intended work will be. I would strongly recommend to be considering the high definition Hypertherms. This will give you excellent arc height control, good kerf control, and good cornering corner in addition to optimal gas mixing and control for various metals.

    For a small table of this size, I would not really plan on adding to it unless you are getting a 10ft. wide machine. The 5ft. dimension is going to be a future bottle neck.

    I'm partial to Messer and AKS. Messer has superb service but at a significant cost.

    AKS is basically all Hypertherm so your support will actually come from them but again at a significant price.

    Neither has rates which I would consider unfair bit good technicians cost money.

    Another thing you need to keep in mind is that you need to budget some serious dollars for nesting software.

    As others have stated, that you would probably be better off at this point in your business to be jobbing the work out unless you can get more space immediately.

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    MegaFab/Whiteny sells a nice Plasma burn table, but if you want more production you might want to look at their 657 or 3400 lines of CNC punch plasma machines.

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    Megafab (piranha)Are chinese cnc control and torch height control. I suspect the entire table is made in china.

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    I have a 42x60 shop and I have a 1/4 x 10 Wysong mechanical shear, 230 ton Cincinati brake, 11' 6 OAL lathe, Bridgeport, 5x10 cnc plasma, 4x10 sheet rack a 90 ton ironworker, cnc tube bender, 2 band saws, 2 4x8x1" tables, plus carts hand trucks etc. I have all the machinery in the edges of the building and the center is wide open. Plasma is 16" of wall. I don't think I can squeeze anything else in period.

    You really need to layout your shop before you do a cnc plasma like that. You need room for new sheet, old sheet, product going out, plus room to maneuver.

    Sent from my 2PS64 using Tapatalk

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    ^ Don't forget scrap pile outside too, if your even going to run that plasma hard on one shift your looking at needing a fully size scrap skip you can drop whole ghosts into. Thats at least one parking spot and you need great forklift access to it too. Then theres gas, because chances are your going to want oxygen at a minimum and your probably going to want a couple of cylinder manifold pallets at that. If not oxygen has your compressor got the spare capacity?

    Also worth asking the question whats your forklift like health wise? Sheet handling for a plasma means that the few times a day typical smaller shops forklift gets used becomes several times a hour on thinner materials. For electric that means either a decent newer battery or near constant charging of something thats tired. if sheets kept stacked there’s a lot of forklift work playing musical stacks to get to the layer you need. Gas forklifts do well IME, electrics struggle to make it through a whole shift unless batteries in good knick. Diesels just flat out don't like all the frequent starts.

    if your fortunate enough to have decent crane coverage you can ignore that bit, but you then need to look at sheet hooks - magnets or best option is vacuum lifting for thin non ferrous. With out the capability to load sheets well a decent plasma, laser or even cnc punch is crippled, its akin to trying to run a CNC mill with out good vices!

  13. #12
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    Everyone!
    Thanks for all of the advice so far.
    It is a tight space to work in, so I definitely agree with the challenge of 'if its happening it needs to be planned'. I've been space planning a bit and I know it's going to be a tight fit, but I think I can make it work with enough room around the machine, room for sheet material storage, room for forklift storage (and driving space), and additional room still for working. I'm looking at making larger architectural components, so 5x10 might be pushing it, but I think a 4x8 could limit some future growth.


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