Welding together complex joints between various metals has no competition when it comes to TIG welding. On the other hand, nothing cuts metals any smoother, faster, and cleaner than a plasma cutter. Now imagine the ground-breaking outcome that may result from morphing both TIG welding and plasma cutting together.
There is already an existing machine known as MPM or Multi-Process Machine. This machine has 3 of the core features by default, allowing it to be used as a plasma cutter, stick welder, and even TIG welder. You can carry out multiple tasks just by using a specific one-in-all tool.
However, there’s still a lot more than meets the eye about this topic. Hence I’ll be discussing the sciences involved, the core differences and if it’s possible to directly convert the TIG welder to the plasma cutter. Lastly, I’ll discuss a controversial method of converting a TIG welder into a plasma cutter. So stay tuned and stick with me till the end of this article.
Difference Between A TIG welder and a Plasma Cutter
Let’s talk in basic terms of functionality. In Layman’s terms, both of these machines have their respective processes and are used for different purposes.
TIG welders allow for TIG welding to take place which is a manual process that requires both hands to fuse multiple pieces of metal into one single piece. This process requires parent subject metals to be melted by using an electrode made of Tungsten, a metal that can withstand high pressure and temperature.
The electrode is responsible for producing an electric arc which makes the melting take place. The welding also requires the operator’s participation which makes this process one of the hardest processes to learn by hand. The operator should add filler metals to the joining block simultaneously all the while it is being melted to successfully weld the pieces together.
Compressed, shielding gases called Argon flow over the welding area as means of protecting impurities from forming thanks to its non-reactivity.
Now let’s talk about plasma cutting. TIG welding pretty much involves the process of melting and creating a junction using both skills and heat. Plasma cutting is a lot more different than it may follow.
Plasma cutting utilizes the 4th state of matter, more commonly known as ‘plasma’. This state is achieved by heating gases to the point that they turn into ions and allow for electric conduction to take place. The plasma state is achieved by a central power source which transfers energy to an electrically conducting metal by forcing pressurized gas like nitrogen into a narrow opening.
The pressurized gas then interacts with an electrical arc to produce what is known as a plasma stream. The tip of the plasma cutter can then be pointed towards a metal being cut and allows the plasma jet to simply cut through it with ease.
With these basic knowledge in mind, let’s move on to our next concern.
Can You Convert Your TIG Welder to A Plasma Cutter?
The answer is quite complex, given that it will require you to alter the total mechanism of your TIG welder as well as create various safety concerns. On the other hand, even when you may be able to pull the conversion process off, you’ll see that your TIG welder can’t do plasma cutting just as well. It will only work for very thin materials
Let’s talk about technical differences and aspects about why this conversion process just might not seem very possible. TIG arcs usually use about a voltage of 15-25V and a current of 100 to 300 amps when welding begins.
Unlike Plasma cutters which run at around a voltage of 90-120V and 15 to 30 amps during the cutting process. Their overall power is just about similar but the voltage required in case of plasma cutting is very much higher.
However, welding is more prone to causing electrocution due to its different functionality. This is why welders put a limit to their output voltage to around 80V as the electric arc is exposed to the operator.
In plasma cutters, however, the electrode is well within the constrictions of the torch and can’t be exposed just as easily with safety locks present to make it safer. Hence, for a TIG welder to be for plasma cutting, the voltage limit is to be crossed and extra carefulness is to be taken in terms of not being electrocuted.
Now the final verdict lies, is it wise to convert a TIG welder into something that could execute plasma cutting? Well, as long as you do it right and at your own risk. Yes, it is possible, however, I wouldn’t recommend doing so given the fact that their technicalities are not very prone for interchange to be made possible.
The best solution to getting your TIG welder to work as a plasma cutter? In my humble opinion, I would say the best option is to buy a multi-process machine that can get both TIG welding and plasma cutting done at a reasonable price. It may not do just as good of a job but it’ll do just enough while also being safe and easy to operate.
These machines are built by professionals and hence can be trusted. I wouldn’t suggest a DIY conversion take place when you can get the best of both worlds with MPM instead.
How to Use A TIG Welder as A Plasma Cutter? – Step by Step Guide
I understand that not everyone may be packing the dough to buy a new machine altogether. Though I will suggest you try this at your own risk, there is still a way for you to use your TIG welder as a plasma cutter by following these steps. This light conversion process is not very effective as actual plasma cutters but they can still get the job done for light and thin objects.
Here, is a step-by-step process of how you can use a TIG welder as a plasma cutter:
Step1: An external 1/8” Electrode will be needed to replace the default bulging electrode. The electrode can be preferably sharpened but not too much.
Step 2: A lot of gas will be needed and pressurized enough to create a plasma-like effect to show up through these gases. Since TIG welders use argon by default, you have to set the flowmeter to the max to have as much argon popping out of your torch as possible.
Step 3: The settings of your TIG machine should stay the same as you would keep it while welding. However, a little variation on the amperage side is needed. The more amperage you will have the faster you will be able to cut, however, you can go as low as you can and test it out to see how it works. The preferable range is around 200-250 Amps.
Step 4: You will be required to use a number 3 or 4 TIG cup and use it to recess the tungsten of your welder to about 1/8” and then flush it down within the tip of your tig cup.
Step 5: Operate the welder like you would operate any plasma cutter by dragging the tip of the cup while clamping on a straight edge and guiding it consistently.
That’s pretty much how you turn a TIG welder into a discount plasma cutter ready to cut through thin metals with ease. It may not be as promising as your multi-purpose machine but it’ll still get the job done if needed.
Do this at your own risk, as you will be prone to be electrocuted and also may suffer burning injuries if you’re not careful enough. Don’t do this without the supervision of experts and the proper tools. Operation of your modified TIG welder is to be done steadily and with prior experience.
Also, wear proper insulating heavy-duty non-flammable clothing at all times to safely cut through materials using a TIG welder during plasma cutting. Plasma cutting which I’m sure you know can be very hazardous and requires you to wear the proper protective clothing and gears.
Also, you might want to read this article: 5 Ways A TIG Welder Can Kill or Hurt You.
TIG Welding and Plasma Cutting with a Multi-Process Machine
I guess it’s no surprise that TIG welders indeed can be made to act as a plasma cutter through some technical tweaking and by following proper safety measures. However, this will require you to undo the changes again and then redo them again over and over in the long run if you wish to use a machine that wasn’t specifically made to do plasma cutting.
I already discussed above why Multi-Process machines are the best option for getting this job done as technically it is a TIG welder that can be used for plasma cutting. These machines are worth buying if you see yourself doing both of these activities a lot in the future. Hence, I believe it’s definitely worth investing in these bad boys.
Let’s talk about some tips and tricks while working in terms of both TIG welding and Plasma cutting in a multi-process machine.
Tips for TIG Welding with A Multi-Process Machine
Multi-process machines work the same way as TIG-only exclusives machines out there following identical requirements. The AC machines operate at about a current output of 20-200 amp whereas the DC machines operate around 5-200 amp output. Their pulse frequency also lies around .5 to 250 pulses/s which covers enough range to handle various TIG welding jobs.
Note: DC multi-process machines are not sufficient enough to weld aluminum which is why AC multi-process machines are more widely preferred.
In terms of operating a Multi-process machine for TIG welding, any previously experienced welders will know what to expect. However, I still can’t help but feel liable enough to provide some extra tips just for those who are just starting with TIG welding. Here they are as follows.
- Almost all TIG welder rookies make this common mistake voluntarily or involuntarily. Which is simply letting the tip of your welder touch the metal while you’re welding. This creates a junction with the molten metal with the tip of your electrode allowing impurities in the mix to form.
- Make sure you keep the tip away from the material you are welding, try to hover it across the welding line instead of letting it touch. Though this requires practice, you’ll eventually get there as many of you fellow experienced TIG welders already have.
- It’s rather easy to bend the dimensions and control how your final welding product will be just by maintaining the proper distance needed. The smaller the distance from the electrode tip and the material in custody, the better and smaller the final weld will be. A much larger distance will as expected produce wider and bigger welds. Thus, consistency is key.
- How you hold your TIG torch is also quite important. The angle at which you will be holding the TIG torch will affect the overall welding quality. Holding a torch at an angle too high will restrict a weld pool from forming safely. Welding through a thin piece of material can cause the arc to puncture a hole through it if the torch is held upright.
- Holding the torch too low an angle will cause the arc to spread and weaken the penetrating abilities on the surface of the material.
- The best way to hold your TIG torch is by tilting it away from where you’re welding by about 15 degrees. This angle will concentrate sufficient heat towards the material to make it weld as well as provide you a clearer vision to tell you how to position your rod in the weld pool.
- TIG welders are known to regularly brace their forearms while working on the surface to retain consistent and stable hand positioning. This allows them to maintain the optimum angle for welding precisely.
Tips for Plasma Cutting with A Multi-Process Machine
The major perk of buying a multi-process machine is how you can always TIG weld the metal pieces together after you have cut them with the plasma cutter. The MCM plasma cutter can slice off metals that are about 1/4″ thick and the usual rate for cutting ranges from 15-20 inches/m.
For thicker pieces of materials such as 3/8”, the cutting rate can sink low but still will remain at about 4 inches/m. To shift from TIG welding mode to plasma cutting mode in your Multi-process machines, simply follow the instructions that will be given with the hand manual. You must connect various components safely and correctly.
The sooner you familiarize yourself with assembling and bringing on the plasma cutter equipment on your MCM the better. Let’s hop into some basic plasma cutting tips that will aid you whenever you’ll resort to plasma cutting with your multi-process machine.
- Be sure to not leave your work cable unclamped with the work material if you’re facing some trouble starting the arc and shifting it towards the material. The contact should be touching and rigid between the jaws of your clamp and the work material. You can at times reposition the clamp to a much lower surface of the work to get this done.
- One unique take-away of plasma torches is that they always have safety features by default. The most important safety contingency that may be required by plasma cutters to take is to turn off their arc if any intricate components are missing or wrongfully installed. Almost everyone is prone to getting things wrong at times.
- The best way to get clean and smooth edges while cutting is to simply maintain consistency and appropriate cutting speed and angle. If you’re a rookie, you should know the best way of initiating plasma cutting is from a selected edge of the material to delay components from wearing out faster.
- In the case of thin materials, the best way to initiate a cut is by holding the torch upright at the cutting spot. After that, once you see the plasma penetrating through the material, simply allow the jet to flow through the direction of the cut. Make sure the end of the torch is tilted away from the cut simultaneously.
For thicker materials, make sure the angle of the torch is a bit more upright to get better results in cuts.
- Any sparks or flammability of plasma cutting can reach further than 35 feet, hence proper gear is mandatory to be worn at all times. Protective head, eye, and non-flammable clothing will provide enough safety from being injured.
That pretty much covers all the basics that revolve around converting a TIG welder into a Plasma cutter. Whatever knowledge you have attained here I hope you use them wisely in the future and implement them if you are looking to plasma cut or TIG weld. How you want to do them is totally up-to you.
For now, I hope I was able to answer your question regarding TIG welder being able to operate as a plasma cutter. Thanks for reading this article till the end and I wish you all the best in your projects ahead! Have a wonderful day.