The demo video packet includes an in-depth
video demonstration of the machine and software, a detailed color
brochure, full specifications, plasma cutter and computer requirements,
and current pricing. A web site alone cannot give you nearly
as good of a picture of what you can do with this system. If
you're serious about buying a machine, the demo video packet
is well worth getting. It really pays to have all the information
before you make a big decision.
The PlasmaCAM system is not a kit and doesn't
require you to build, weld, grind-to-fit, paint, or assemble
drive components. You don't have to fabricate any framework
or supporting structure (like the cutting grate) to have a functioning
machine. We provide a total system that has been manufactured,
tested and crated for shipment. The whole design has been carefully
engineered, tested and refined over the course of many years.
Precision fabrication and quality control ensure that parts fit.
There are no hidden costs, and no upgrades to buy. For one flat
price you get a complete, state-of-the-art system that has everything
you need for optimum performance. You simply provide the required
computer and plasma cutter. Financing options are available;
call for details.
The PlasmaCAM cutting system includes the
complete, tested machine plus the PlasmaCAM design and control
software. The machine consists of a precise, rugged frame with
an integral cutting grate, drive components with servo motors,
a controller and electronics, and high-tech Digital Height Control™.
The PlasmaCAM software creates designs and directly controls
the machine. Every part of the system has been specially designed
to work together, giving you the best possible plasma cutting
You will need to provide a plasma cutter with a hand-held torch
and a Windows-based personal computer (and a compressed air supply).
Refer to the requirements provided in your demo video packet
for details. The optional art discs, HVAC software, and custom
tool holder (for routing or other specialized applications) are
not included with the cutting system.
Size the plasma cutter according to the
material thickness you want to cut. You can mount virtually any
hand-held plasma torch in the machine. However, it's best
to use a cutter that incorporates contact start technology (as
opposed to high frequency/high voltage start technology). Contact
PlasmaCAM for compatibility information on specific plasma cutter
models. Getting the right plasma cutter will save time and money
in the long run. We highly recommend new Hypertherm brand plasma
cutters for their overall performance. Refer to the requirements
and recommendations given in the demo video packet before you
buy a plasma cutter or computer.
You don't need PlasmaCAM Art Discs
to make products with this machine. Even complex ornamental iron
is easy to make by scanning your own hand-drawn artwork or using
artwork from another source, such as clip art. However, PlasmaCAM
Art Discs make a great investment for individuals, businesses
and schools who want to work with ornamental iron projects. You
can use them to make all kinds of outstanding projects with very
The enormous amount of creativity and time that PlasmaCAM artists
put into each art piece is paid for by a pool of customers, meaning
that each customer gets an excellent value. Plus, the number of
Art Discs in circulation is relatively low. PlasmaCAM aggressively
protects the Art Disc copyrights, diligently finding and prosecuting
violators. This helps PlasmaCAM Art Discs retain their value and
Because the PlasmaCAM software is so powerful,
fast and easy to use, several companies currently use it to program
their laser, water jet, and other X/Y cutting machines. In order
to do this, your machine must be programmable (for example, magnetic
and optical tracing machines are not). Also, you need some way
to upload programs to your machine from a computer. Our software
can create program files in DXF, G-Code or HPGL/2 format. If your
machine uses some other unusual format, it probably has translation
software to turn one of these standard file types into the format
needed. Our technical support department can help you work out
the details once you receive the software.
Depending upon your machine, you may even be able to use our software
to cut images from PlasmaCAM Art Discs. (Check with the manufacturer;
most machines don't have sufficient memory, controller throughput,
and acceleration to handle the intricate shapes and details present
in these images.)
If you've watched our demo video, you know that the PlasmaCAM
control system is truly unique. Instead of making you generate
and run machine programs, the PlasmaCAM software directly controls
the machine and cuts shapes from on-screen drawings. Keep in
mind that these capabilities are only available when our software
is used with our machine. We can't make other machines
work like this, since they only run off of programs. Our software
can really help with the design process, but the control process
will still be very cumbersome.
There are 2 reasons. First, when you buy a PlasmaCAM system, you buy wholesale.
Traditionally, CNC machines have always been built by system integrators.
These companies purchase motors, controls, software, etc. from several other companies,
assemble the components together, and sell the machine at a markup. It's easy money
for the system integrator. (Distributors may also be involved which means more markup.)
Since the system integrator doesn't have control over the design process of the components,
they typically aren't specialized for the application and don't usually work together efficiently.
This makes such machines very cumbersome to use and hard to learn. In most cases the machine doesn't even include adequate software.
By contrast, our complete system was designed solely by PlasmaCAM, solely for plasma cutting.
The motors, controls and software were engineered from the ground up, just for this machine.
This means that no middlemen are involved in the components. It also means that the system
is specialized for plasma cutting, very efficient to use, and easy to learn.
The second reason is economies of scale. The PlasmaCAM system is manufactured on a scale
never seen before in this industry. The efficiency of our manufacturing process minimizes
the unit cost and helps us maintain great pricing. Our vast customer base also means you
are buying a well-tested and perfected machine that will be supported in the long-run.
Plasma cutting was invented as the result of trying to develop a better welding process.
Many improvements then led to making this technology what it
is today. Plasma cutters provide the best combination of accuracy,
speed, and affordability for producing a variety of flat metal
shapes. They can cut much finer, faster, and more automatically
than oxy-acetylene torches.
How a plasma cutter works:
Basic plasma cutters use electricity to superheat air into plasma
(the 4th state of matter), which is then blown through the
metal to be cut. Plasma cutters require a compressed air
supply and AC power to operate.
Initially, the electrode is in contact with (touches) the nozzle.
When the trigger is squeezed, DC current flows through this contact.
Next, compressed air starts moving the electrode back and flows out the nozzle.
A fixed gap is established between the electrode and the nozzle. (The power supply increases voltage in order to maintain a constant current through the joint.) Electrons arcs though the gap, turning the air into plasma.
Finally, the regulated DC current is switched so that it no longer flows to the nozzle but instead flows from the electrode to the work piece. Current and airflow continue until cutting is halted.
The nozzle and electrode require periodic replacement. For this reason, they are called “consumables.” Plasma cutters are only useful for cutting metal. Non-conductive materials like wood and plastic prevent the plasma cutter from doing step 5 above.
The above steps describe the operation of a contact start plasma torch. Some older plasma torch designs use high voltage sparks to bridge the gap between a fixed electrode and nozzle when starting the arc. These high frequency/high voltage start units are generally not recommended for use with a computerized machine, because they cause severe electromagnetic interference.
Virtually any metal can be plasma cut including steel, stainless
steel, aluminum, brass, copper, etc. Any thickness from 30 gauge
through 1 inch can be cut, depending on the plasma cutter used.
The material used can be as large as 4ft wide by 20ft long. Plastics
and wood are not electrically conductive and cannot be plasma
cut. However, you can use a rotary saw, router, or other tool
if you want to cut these materials in the PlasmaCAM machine.
The accuracy of the machine is better than that of the plasma
cutter. When the machine is coupled with a plasma torch, part
accuracies as high as ±0.005 inch can be achieved, depending
on material and setup conditions. Cutting speed can range from
0.1 to 1000 inches per minute.
The machine and software will cut pieces up to 4ft by 20ft. The
cutting table itself is over 5ft by 5ft, with a cutting area
of 4ft by 4ft. After cutting the first 4ft area the table pauses,
the sheet is indexed, and cutting is resumed until the entire
shape is cut.
Because it works so well for most applications, the Model DHC™ is
the only machine we make. If you want a larger machine, consider
the following tradeoffs and ask yourself if size is really worth
A larger machine of the same quality would be much more expensive and complex. Not only would many larger, additional parts be required, indirect costs would be higher too. The cost of shipping, installation, operation and maintenance would all increase drastically with size. We find that most customers prefer an affordable, trouble-free machine to a large machine.
Material handling would be much more difficult with a larger machine. You would have to spend a fortune on complex drive mechanisms and pallet changers to allow easy crane or forklift access to material. Otherwise, getting large sheets in and out of a big machine would be harder than indexing the same sheet through the Model DHC™, with rollers at each end.
Larger machine tools are less accurate (consider lathes, for example). As size increases, accuracy decreases because tolerances are harder to hold on larger parts. Alignment of parts in a large assembly is also more difficult and complex, requiring extensive field work. Because it's the optimum size, the Model DHC™ achieves outstanding accuracy.
A larger machine could have lower performance (if built wider and heavier). Heavier moving parts cannot move as fast and would result in lower productivity and poor quality when cutting lighter materials. By contrast, the Model DHC™ keeps moving parts free of extra weight.
Most plasma cut parts are less than 4ft in size and can be cut on the Model DHC™ without indexing. Though material is usually bought in 8ft and 10ft lengths, sheets are easier to move through a smaller machine than a larger machine.
Economies of scale make the Model DHC™ very affordable, because we build so many of them. We're also able to focus on making this one system the best that it can be.
If you really want a larger
machine, you can always take the “do-it-yourself” approach
(after you get and use your new Model DHC™). You can
fabricate your own supporting frame and grate for a 10ft long
cutting area, for example. Then, you can purchase an extra
set of drive rails and gear racks from PlasmaCAM for very little
cost. When you finish mounting and aligning them to your frame,
you'll have a bigger machine.
Many of our customers buy machines with the intention of making
them bigger. Yet very few have actually followed
through and done it. Why? Customer feedback suggests that once
our customers get their machines and start using them, the perceived
need for a bigger machine usually evaporates.
It's true that this machine could be made a lot cheaper
if we used stepper motors and drives instead of high-tech servo
motor systems. But when it comes to something this critical,
quality cannot be compromised. Experienced machine tool users
know that servo motors are vastly superior to stepper motors,
because newer, high-performance machines (like CNC mills) use
servo motors, whereas older, more troublesome machines used stepper
motors. Yet the real reason for the performance difference requires
PlasmaCAM's servo motors use optically-encoded feedback,
so the controlling software always knows the true position of
the machine. A simple stepper motor controller must “trust” that
the motor has moved exactly as requested each time a step current
is made. Without feedback, the controller cannot identify and
correct whenever the motor misses a few steps (like during jolts,
vibrations, hang-ups, etc). Since a single shape may require
millions of steps to trace, errors in position will continue
to accumulate unbeknownst to the controller, until the machine
is finally re-zeroed against a physical stop. Hence, errors in
stepper position are both unpredictable and unreported.
To solve this problem, optical encoders can be coupled to stepper
motors so the controller can determine the true position and
make corrections when needed. However, the added cost and complexity
prevents the system from being a low-budget alternative to servo
systems. The more common solution involves overrating the motors
(using larger, higher-geared motors that are under utilized)
to reduce the probability of slipping. This extra rotating inertia
(typically much greater than the mass of the moving parts) brings
undesirable side effects: diminished acceleration and speed.
For plasma cutting, the machine's ability to cut intricate
shapes (which require abrupt changes in direction during high-speed
cutting) would be greatly limited.
Powerful, lightweight motors are a must, because their torque
is needed for speeding up and slowing down all the moving mass – including
the spinning motor armatures. (To picture
the importance of this, imagine pushing a 100 lb cart at a walking
pace and trying to make a sharp 90 degree turn without overshooting
at all.) That's
why the Model DHC™ fully utilizes the 300 oz-in capability
of its servo motors, providing over 1.5 G of acceleration. (An
object traveling at 100 inches per minute can totally reverse
direction in only 0.002 inch at this acceleration.) See the photos
of intricate sample parts throughout this web site and watch
the demo video to see what this machine can do for you.
The Model DHC does provide some cost savings by utilizing a stepper
motor for the Z axis only. This motor can miss steps and is much
slower and weaker than the X/Y axes motors. However, it's
not nearly as critical because the motor only has to control
the height of the torch. Accuracy is not affected, less speed
is required, and the position is automatically reset by the controller
between each cut.
PlasmaCAM machines are made from laser-cut, cold-rolled steel
components. Steel is much more durable and has a higher melting
point than aluminum. Our precision manufacturing process allows
higher accuracy as well. Comparing tolerances, our guide rails
are about 3 times straighter than standard aluminum extrusions.
Another benefit of an all-steel frame is that temperature distortion
is avoided. If we used aluminum frame pieces, we would still
have to bolt steel parts to them (like gear racks and guides).
This would create bi-metal strips that actually curve under temperature
changes. Also, the whole table would grow and shrink under the
material. But since all steel is used, the machine remains accurate
to the material.
PlasmaCAM is the best-selling CNC plasma cutting machine in
the world. As you will see from our demo video, there is no other
system with similar capabilities. Because of the number
of machines we manufacture, we are able to provide you with the
best possible quality and service for the price.
The PlasmaCAM software/control system is the most unique part
of the system. With this visual, interactive technology PlasmaCAM
has brought a whole new level of fabrication capabilities to
everyday metalworkers who would have otherwise struggled with
traditional, complex CNC programming.
Our quality control and commitment to customer support are unprecedented.
Examples include free, unsolicited mailings of software upgrades
to our customers, improvements in warranty and technical support,
readily available replacement parts, and a trade-in program for
owners of our older models who want to get the latest technology.
PlasmaCAM is continually working on new technology
to better assist our customers. We also develop new art packages
on a regular basis to help our customers with metal art businesses
make more money. Our designs are all protected by copyrights, patents
and trademarks which we rigorously defend.
We don't have dealers because we sell the machine
directly. Dealers would need an added markup, so you would
have to pay a much higher price for the machine. Also, dealers
probably wouldn't be able to support the machine as well
as we can. Our staff specializes in this machine and is readily
available to help you if you need help. Even if your local dealer
bought a machine and kept it on display, you'd find that
our demo video gives you a much more thorough demonstration of
the machine than you could get there. You can also schedule a
visit to our Colorado facility if you want to see a machine in person.
If you're a dealer checking into this product, there
are other incentives for promoting it to your customers – without
getting involved in the order processing and support side. There
are many opportunities to sell plasma cutters and consumables.
In some cases, dealers purchase machines at full price and resell
them at a higher price. This is not a bad strategy if you're
based in a country other than the United States, since you're
uniquely positioned to help your customers.
In order to keep the cost of our system low, we don't sell
through dealers. Therefore you avoid having to pay more for
the machine, plus you get direct access to
the highest quality support. We avoid costly local showrooms
and demonstrations by instead providing an excellent demonstration
video. The video actually demonstrates the machine more thoroughly
than a live demonstration could.
We also try to minimize the interruptions to our customers, since
they have their own shops to run and appreciate this consideration
as you probably would. So watch our video first; also read our
survey results and testimonials. You can even order a sample
part if you like. Once you have taken these steps, call us to
discuss any further accommodations that you feel you need.
The PlasmaCAM system is very easy to learn and use. There's
no need for expensive training seminars or long startup times.
Our video manual provides fast and effective training. Live-action
illustrations guide you through setup and operation of the machine.
Several example projects also help you learn the software.
Depending on your prior experience with computers, CAD and CNC,
you should be up and running in a few hours to a few days. If
you lack basic computer skills and are not familiar with Microsoft
Windows, we recommend that you buy a book, learn from a friend,
or take a computer class for beginners.
Because the PlasmaCAM system is so well designed, maintenance
and repair requirements are much lower than you might expect.
We provide excellent support for the machine in case you need
help, and replacement parts are available. Please see the purchase
info in your demo video packet for more details on support and service.
Many of the samples shown throughout this web site were made by
our customers in their businesses and schools:
PlasmaCAM machines are often used as a main part of an ornamental iron, sign, or landscaping business. You can make products like railings, gates, sculptures, benches, tables, furniture, truck racks, weather vanes, wind chimes, security doors, fireplace screens, company signs, ranch entries, address & welcome signs, key & coat racks, hardware, garden ornaments, candle holders, lamps, picture frames, mirrors, clocks, business card & napkin holders, decorative kitchen items, and so on. Our customers do both high-end custom work and low-cost, large-volume manufacturing.
PlasmaCAM machines are also used to fabricate geometric, mechanical parts for manufactured products. Your shop or plant may be currently making flat parts that could be made much more quickly and economically with PlasmaCAM. Not only can plasma cutting replace many shearing, drilling, and sawing operations while reducing scrap, but plasma cutting generally outperforms laser and water jet in terms of cutting speed. Some of our customers run as many as 4 machines at once, on a nearly continuous production schedule!
A related use of PlasmaCAM machines is low-cost, rapid prototype building for research & development. The ease with which a new product can be drawn in CAD and then cut on the machine is revolutionizing the design process in some companies.
Another related use is by repair shops, which use PlasmaCAM machines to make various parts that are needed to repair a large piece of equipment, for example. You can quickly measure a part that needs to be replaced, draw it in our software, and cut a brand new replacement.
Several PlasmaCAM machines are used in heating & air conditioning businesses to make custom HVAC fittings. Often these same machines are used to build other types of projects on the side (like metal art).
A large number of high schools, colleges, and tech schools use PlasmaCAM machines in their shop classes. Because PlasmaCAM is considerably easier to teach than conventional CNC, instructors are better able to equip their students with cutting-edge skills they can use in the real world. A significant portion of current PlasmaCAM owners originally used the machine in school or business.
If you don't have a PlasmaCAM system, you may be making parts the
hard way. Get our demonstration video today and see the difference!