What Is the Difference Between Plasma Cutting & Oxy-Acetylene?

There is a lot of information available when deciding if plasma cutting or oxy-acetylene would best suit you. It’s important to understand the difference before deciding, as both methods have their advantages and disadvantages.

What is Plasma Cutting?

Plasma cutting is a type of non-consumable arc cutting method used to cut ferrous and nonferrous metals. As mentioned, plasma is a type of ionized gas that is used for this process. In this case, the plasma results from combining electricity and gas.

Plasma arc cutting is most commonly used when the metal is smooth, clean, dense, and has high conductivity. The method is also known for its clean, precision cuts.

As a non-consumable arc process, plasma has several advantages. It offers less distortion, which means your finished product will be more precise and thinner than using an oxy-acetylene method. The process will also allow you to make cuts on thicker materials than oxy-acetylene.

Plasma is also a great choice for materials that are difficult to cut, such as stainless steel. This is because the process is relatively cool and considered a clean process, which is a big plus for those concerned about the environment.

What is Oxy-Acetylene?

Oxy-acetylene is a cutting process made possible by combining oxygen and acetylene. It is a combination of hot and then cold oxygen, which means that the material is heated and then cooled, making the process more effective.

The process does have a few advantages. It is a more controllable method, allowing you to get more intricate cuts, especially on small diameter workpieces. This method is also a good choice for thick materials and can be used on stainless steel.

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This method can be used when space isn’t as big of an issue, so you aren’t limited to using it in a garage or shop. You can instead use it at a job site.

What is the Difference?

Plasma and oxy-acetylene are two very different processes, so it isn’t surprising that there are several differences between the two.

1. Cleanliness

When it comes to cleanliness, plasma wins again. Plasma is a clean process, while oxy-acetylene is a dirty process. Ozone can be created during the process of acetylene and oxygen, which can be harmful to those working and in the surrounding area. Unlike plasma, this method leaves a lot of spatter and burrs behind, which can be a lot of work to clean.

2. Edge Finishing

When it comes to edge finishing, plasma is a better option for edge finishing, as there isn’t any spatter, and it is a cleaner process.

3. Cost

Oxy-acetylene is a cheaper option than plasma, but cheaper plasma systems are available now.

4. Consumables

One of the biggest differences is the consumables. Plasma uses reusable consumables, while oxy-acetylene uses consumables that cannot be reused. This can be a big issue, as you may have to buy new consumables often.

5. Heat Treatable

The heat-treatable part of the metal is different from the two processes. You can heat treat the metal with plasma, which is a big advantage. This is because the top layer of the metal will not be affected, making for a quality piece every time.

6. Applications

The applications for both plasma and oxy-acetylene are quite different. 

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When it comes to applications, plasma can be used for a lot of different things, including metal chilling. Instead of melting the material like with welding, this is where you are actually solidifying the metal. On the other hand, Oxy-acetylene is only used for cutting, mainly with thicker materials.

The Bottomline

Plasma cutting is a great alternative for those who are looking for a clean, precise cut. It is a great choice for those concerned about the environment and those who use stainless steel. 

Oxy-acetylene is a good choice when you need a more precise cut, and you are working with thicker materials. 

KGS Steel is a reputable Nashville steel distributor. We provide full-line structural steel and carbon steel in the southeastern United States. Get in touch with us!

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