When people think of welders, they tend to conjure up an image of a man with something that looks like a sci-fi mask being showered by sparks as he joins two pieces of metal together. And while this is not an inaccurate picture of what a welder does, there is much more to it.
Over the years, welding technology has advanced – big time. Today, there are traditional MG welders and plasma welders, but many people still don’t know the difference.
And that’s understandable because the differences will only be apparent to tradespeople and those with first-hand knowledge of the industry. But to help clear things up, Contractor’s Society of America presents a guide on the difference between a plasma cutter and a welder.
The Basics of A Welder
One of the significant differences between plasma cutters and welders is their use. While welding apparatus can cut certain metals, in general, the traditional use for welders is to bind two pieces of metal together.
Also, there are different kinds of welders. For instance, there are arc welders, MIG welders (metal inert gas), and TIG welders (tungsten inert gas).
The debate as to which type of welder works best in different applications rages on. Still, the basics are simple: all these different types of welders are used to either join two pieces of metal or cut metal.
Welders generally work by joining two metals together using an electrode. In the case of Tungsten Inert Gas welders, the electrode is protected and stabilized by an inert shielding gas that creates a barrier against the surrounding atmosphere.
Welding is an efficient way to join two metals and cut softer metals. However, welding is the older of the two technologies. In fact, plasma cutting may be more efficient and effective for some applications. Let’s take a look at the basics of plasma cutting.
The Basics of Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutters use heated plasma to make cuts in electrically conductive metals instead of using inert gas and an electrode. The cutter blasts out plasma, creating a jet that effectively cuts and etches metal.
Plasma cutting is used in various industries because it can create clean, precise cuts in metals that welding may not be able to handle.
Plasma cutting is only viable if you work with electrically conductive metals like steel, copper, brass, stainless steel, and aluminum.
Plasma cutting is used in various industries for its versatility and ability to produce precise cuts. Here are just some of the sectors where plasma cutting and plasma cutters are common:
- Metal fabrication shots
- Metal salvaging
- The automotive industry
- Industrial construction
- The aerospace industry
- Military construction
- Electrical equipment manufacturing
- Industrial machinery manufacturing
- Medical device manufacturing
- The art industry
The Difference Between Plasma Cutter and Welder
Now that you have a general idea of each type of welder (and cutter), it’s time to go over what separates them. The differences between a plasma cutter and a welder include:
Plasma cutting is a more recent and advanced technology. It blows a highly-propelled jet of plasma through a nozzle. The nozzle then processes the plasma and uses it to create an arc capable of making cuts in electrically conductive metal. On the other hand, a MIG or TIG welder uses inert gasses to produce the angle that makes the cuts.
The plasma cutter will generally be easier to set up, accounting for its higher on-site usage than traditional welders. In addition, there are fewer variable components in a plasma cutter than in a MIG or TIG welder. For example, achieving clean cuts and pristine finishes with a welder requires precise tuning.
Again, speaking in general terms, it is easier to cut through thick metals with a plasma cutter than a TIG or MIG welder. Plasma cutters are also more commonly used to make precise cuts, accounting for their frequent usage in aerospace and robotics manufacturing.
The concentrated plasma jet allows for more precision cuts. Traditional welding is less precise. With a conventional welder, getting good cuts and clean welds takes much more skill and experience.
The Final Verdict on Plasma Cutters vs. Welders
Some consider welding to be more of a craftsman’s trade. In contrast, others believe plasma cutting is the inevitable future wave. No matter what side of the debate you land on, we want you to know that we are on the contractor’s side.
Here at Contractors Society of America, we help contractors of all kinds connect with more customers in their area. We also provide a wealth of resources that allow them to administer their services.