Part 1 2×2 CNC Plasma Cutter


So it begins. A new chapter in the shop saga. I have wanted a CNC plasma FOREVER and recently found one on Marketplace and drug it home! Check out the full post for more details on the process and what it took to get it working.

I finally got lucky and found a full complete used CNC plasma cutter online for sale for a really good deal. I have wanted one of these forever but never wanted to drop $10k to get one or mess around with building one myself. I am pretty good at mechanical things but it really didn’t interest me to build one of these from scratch or a kit.

What is a CNC Plasma Table?

A CNC plasma table consists of two main parts.

1. CNC Table

First up is the CNC table. It is simply a table with rails on either side and servos that move a tool on an X, Y, and sometimes Z axis (think 2D then if you have a Z axis then it is 3D). This tool could be anything such as a marker, laser, router, or in this case a plasma cutter. You encode computer drafted drawings into machine code, load it into the CNC tables memory, then it will move the tool around to cut/engrave/draw whatever you told it to.

2. Plasma Cutter

Next up is the plasma cutter. There is no ‘plasma’ that you need to fill it with for this. You are basically melting/cutting metal with just electricity and compressed air. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that the tip of the plasma cutter is kind of like a spark plug that has an arc then high pressure air from an air compressor is fed through the gap blowing the spark out of the gap and melting the metal you point it at.

Dragging it home

CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
This is a 2ft x 2ft cutting area table on a 5ftx8ft trailer.
Can you imagine how big a full size 4x8ft cutting area table would be? It would be like having this trailer parked inside the shop at all times.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Came with a Hypertherm Powermax 45. This is a brand with a very good reputation. Again, something I would never have bought for myself new.

Making some space

CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
But before I can move it into place, I’ve gotta move a bunch of stuff. It needs to be located near where my welding table is because that is where the power and eventually compressed air will be.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Finally parked in its final resting place after some significant cleaning and rearranging.

So far though, I really like the footprint. It fits right in and is about the size of my current welding bench. A 4×8 would have taken A LOT more room up inside the shop (that is filling up very quickly). I think there might be some cases where a cut will have to be made on multiple pieces then welded together later but those will probably be few and far between.

Also, it is pretty self contained without a bunch of stuff hanging over the sides. I have seen some people put the control box and plasma under the water pan inside the cabinet, but just the thought of having 10 gallons of water hanging over a $2k plasma and control box freaks me out. I will be putting them somewhere else.

Lots of cleaning

CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Before pic prior to cleaning anything.

This machine was actually used in a production environment for a couple of years. The prior owners had a booth downtown that they sold various signs that they cut out on this machine. I can imagine it had quite a bit of volume run though it. Hopefully it will again here soon.

CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Close up of the rail before cleaning. It looked like they were using lithium grease on these.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Some WD-40 and a rag had them looking pretty good! Luckily they are not gouged or roughed up.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Got out the chipping hammer and started gently cleaning the slats. Most of the slag chipped off pretty easy.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Slag mostly chipped, ready to pull the slats.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Eww
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Putty knife, bench brush, and dustpan did a good job. I was glad to see that the bottom of the pan was relatively rust free and appeared solid.

I put the slats back in as is after cleaning them. They will need replaced here soon though. They are a sacrificial part since each time the table cuts, the slats underneath the metal get cut a little as the torch goes past. The risk you run with letting them get too worn is that your work piece could get unlevel and cause issues with torch height, ‘tip ups’ where cut pieces tip up and catch on the torch, and other inconsistencies in the cut.

CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
WD-40 and a rag. Before and after.
CNC Plasma Cutter Baileigh PT-22
Cleaned up, hooked up to the control box, and in its new home!

Notice I put the control box on the welding bench. I haven’t figured out a final destination yet but this should work for now. The cords are long enough to roll the CNC out from the wall ~4ft. Might build a little shelf and hang it from the wall or off the back of the CNC itself some day.

ITS ALIVE!!! First video of it running

And I’m already repairing it…

So after the above video, I came out the next day to run the machine only to have it blow past the electric limit switches and bottom out the servos at the end of the track. This was perplexing because it had run fine the night before. Watch the video for the process of how I diagnosed and fixed it.

Conclusion

That’s all for now! I have a lot of work into this thing already but it is totally going to be worth it. I am still working on the shop itself so right now I don’t have my big air compressor hooked up yet which is my next goal.

Thanks for coming by! Next update we will hopefully be cutting metal!!

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