Tips For Cutting Aluminum With A Plasma Cutter- Understanding Aluminum Cutting Compared To Steel Cutting


Guys with all the plasma cutters!!!

Cutting aluminum has some unique challenges compared to cutting steel or other common materials, particularly regarding the crack sensitivity and chemistry. The techniques and best practices for cutting aluminum are very different than those for cutting steel. In some cases, cutting aluminum needs to follow a particular procedure. Important factors when cutting the material include a proper cutting technique and so on.

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First of all, let’s have a look at the characteristics of aluminum.

Generally, aluminum is used in cold temperature applications, such as cryogenics and liquid natural gas transportation.

While iron is the principal alloy in steel, aluminum materials are mainly aluminum with the addition of a variety of elements.

A sound cutting result is all about the chemistry and proper techniques. The characteristics of aluminum are different from steel in various ways. You know, the melting point of aluminum is much lower than that of the steel. It’s 1,221-degree Fahrenheit for aluminum, where for steel it’s 2,500-degree. The oxide layer of Aluminum melts at approximately 3,700 degrees which is much harder than the aluminum. This layer helps the metal resist abrasion and corrosion.

Here Are Some Common Tips For Aluminum Cutting With A Plasma Cutter

  • The balance between the travel speed and amperage is key. Move the torch as fast as possible without moving so fast that the arc doesn’t penetrate the metal.
  • Move the torch following the correct direction to cut out the pattern. As a result, any slag that you do have will be on the scrap metal, but not on the finished piece.
  • If you plan to trace a template, a drag tip is a necessity.
  • Aluminum becomes VERY sticky when it gets warm.  Ensure that the air source is correctly connected to the plasma cutter and the air source is rightly in place. In many cases, the plasma cutter can’t be switched on unless the air source is put into the socket.
  • It is essential to place the torch correctly as the electric waves passing through these arcs will melt the aluminum sheet to liquid.
  • Consider a plasma cutter depending on the thickness of the aluminum sheet. If you plan to cut thick aluminum sheet, your plasma cutter should feature a wider gap and bigger arcs among them.
  • Take into account the high-speed machining: higher rates of feed (25 inches/min 635mm/min), small depth of cut (0.030"/0.75mm MAX).
  • Avoid dragging the plasma cutter on the surface of the aluminum sheet. It may damage the machine forever. Hold it above the area you plan to cut.
  •  It’s convenient to sketch it out first if you intend to cut a large chunk of aluminum sheet and then use the plasma cutter. Use a metal market to draw out the line.

How Do You Know If You Did A Good Cut?

Possibly, the best way to understand that you did a good cut is to take a look at the aluminum piece itself. The part you’ve just cut should features drag lines on it that travel in the opposite direction of the path that you cut it.

If you cut it properly following the correct speed, these draglines should be a 15-degree angle. If they are not, the reason is that you were moving either too slow or too fast.

In general, if you cut too fast, you’ll find the sparks flying on the top of the metal.

If you cut too slowly, the quality of the cut won’t be as excellent, and it may be less accurate or broader than you intended.


Hopefully, after reading this article, you will be able to do a better job when cutting aluminum using a plasma cutter.

Best of luck aluminum cutting with your plasma cutter.

Hope that you do an excellent job!
Tips For Cutting Aluminum With A Plasma Cutter- Understanding Aluminum Cutting Compared To Steel Cutting
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Ronald Wilson

I’m Ronald, Specialist engaged in the manufacture of fabricated metal product. I’ve been involved in the fabrication industry since 1998. To continue my love in welding and to share my experience I've formed a research team and have created this website for our valuable customers.

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