Plasma Cam

Hello,
I was thinking of buying a plasmacam. I have never really worked with metal that much in the last 10 years and I am looking for both a hobby and a way
to make some money with creative design.
I have the money to but this straight out but I wondering if I am being complusive here (I love to draw and would love to see those drawings in metal) I know it's very costly and I don't even have a plasma cutter yet.
Is this a dumb idea? What steps should I consider before doing this? School maybe?
let me know what you think?
JM
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Try one at a welding shop. You will be hooked. On sheetmetal it cuts like butter. There is nothing to describe it other than to do it hands on for yourself. Make sure you have room in the trunk on the way there, It's most likely coming home with you. It's one of the coolest tools on the planet. If you can draw, you can cut. It's really that easy. It's money well spent, heck, it will keep you out of the bars for sure!
All the best and I hope you like it,
Rob
Fraser Competition Engines Chicago, IL.

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Thanks Rob, To sell this to my wife it would mean showing her that a profit could be made here both with online sales and direct local marketing of my finished product. Is it feasable to see this make some kind of money in a short term like maybe a year or two? Where do you get you sheetmetal? Prices and such if you can Also, what cutter do you use and how often do you have to replace and or fuss over it? Thanks again

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John, You can definitely spin a profit. No question about it. One of the better features is you can also do demolition work too, cutting down an old rusty shed is like childs-play and it's way faster and quieter than a cutoff saw or a Sawzall. mine took down a neighbors chain link fence and cut the posts and chain-link into manageable pieces that went to the scrap yard for a few bucks in the pocket. So there is that to consider as well. Anything metal that need to be scrapped, i.e. gutters, siding anything off the house already is a market. Sheet steel, aluminum sheet, any type of steel needed for say "lawn decorations" can be had at Home Depot, Menards, Ace hardware or a local steel supplier. I have a entry level Miller 125c with a built in compressor and it runs on 110vac house current and works fine on a 100' heavy gauge extension cord as well as a generator without problems. I have a lot of time on it and I'm still on the original electrode and nozzle. (They come with 5 of each from the factory) and the maint. kit is about $30.00usc I found mine on E-bay and I went with the 125 as I have a huge unit at my disposal but we never got to hooking it up as I can slice 1/4" plate without any problems. I just clean the gun and nozzle when done for the day and that in itself will keep the failure rate on the consumables down. I paid a bit under $1000.00 shipped at no charge to my shop with a three year warranty. I barely ever use my gas rig anymore, frankly I don't think I have had a cutting head on it since I switched over to the Plasma cutter. Weighing in at about 50lbs and using household current is a huge plus. You don't need to spend a fortune on a machine but do yourself a favor and stay away from Chicago Electric or Harbor Freight. Go with ESAB, Miller, Lincoln, Hobart or a recommendation from the welding shop. I'm sure a few others will append my list here in future comments and they can also name good units. I make all sorts of one-off parts with it in my race shop. I even made lawn stuff for my girlfriend who then started making them herself. The sky is really the limit on this. Free-bee steel from scrap yards is the best, then instead of buying it from a store you can usually get a lot more for a lot less at a scrap yard. One piece of advice I want you to not forget is get full face and eye protection and a respirator. The fumes can be toxic and the eye protection is self explanatory.
Respects,
Rob
Fraser Competition Engines Chicago, IL.

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One thing I would have to consider is I don't have a shop. An attached garage and small shed in back. I quess I could rig a blower fan to vent and fireproof the entire space. Fire and fumes has me concered about this.
You have been a big help. I am going crazy working for jerks who don't have a clue.I have more to offer then working for them. I am 42 and looking for an outlet to be creative and make some money at the sametime.
Could you use the same unit for laser ethching? just wondering. Big $$$$ there I know.
any chance you could send a picture of you setup?
Thanks again Your the coolest

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Keep the ventilation in mind. You may be better off with the plasma cutting outside; plasma cutters tend to spew a lot of metal particles and can be a mess.
Steve
John Marks wrote:

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John, Sure I'll E-Mail you some pictures Your E-mail bounced back as no good... Send the correct one to me and I'll mail them off
I have it on a $30 blue welding cart that matches it perfect, underneath it is a small 220/110vac buzz box I use with cutting rods and sticks when need be the back has the cord coil for the AC feed and two fire extinguishers where you would put the inert gas bottle if there was a MIG or TIG on the cart. It's in my apt. now I use it over the sink, filled with water to catch the slag and soot, (works remarkably well) I just have the vent on too. I needed it for a remote project for an artist and I have not had time to run it back to the shop. It's that portable... As far as Laser work, I'm clueless. anything with "laser" on it means I'll prob. break it on accident or cut my arm off. I'm sure some of the guys here can answer that perfectly however. Thanks for the kind words, I'm just a guy who has the same interests as you and you will find this newsgroup is a wealth of knowledge from all over the globe. I have learned more from the guys and girls on here than any book. Your at the right place if metal & fire are your hobby or profession.
Respects,
Rob
Fraser Competition Engines Chicago, IL.

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Sorry about that. snipped-for-privacy@comcast.net (..... the dot don't exist)
I have a child. She is 11yrs old. I am somewhat concerned about the possible impact of the slag and soot on her health. If I were able to put this into the shed that would be ideal. No power there as of yet. But i'll work on that. Could you cut this? I would pay for your time and materials of course.(paypal maybe) If so, how would you get the coloring close to the pic itself? I know the plasma cam is not used for coloring metals, but I was wondering how you would go about getting the color gradiants in pics like this.
http://www.charlestonrunaways.com/images/ss.jpg
Do you have ICQ or messenger?
Hope all is well

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John Marks wrote:

Plasma machines won't and can't do the subtle wavelets and color gradients... YOU don't want Millions of starts and cuts for pixel cutting.
The Black outline is obvious to be in metal or cut out of metal.
Martin
--
Martin Eastburn
@ home at Lion's Lair with our computer lionslair at consolidated dot net
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The laser etching question is a little more complicated. I have a Amada Pulsar 2000 watt laser that will cut 1/2 steel I do some laser etching with it, but its probably now what you are thinking about. This machine will etch lines on the surface of the metal and can be rub of with scotch bite or kitchen cleaning pad. The thing you have to remember about any kind of etching the that the metal you remove has to go someplace, in this case if I tried to etch deeper into the metal slag would form on the top of the sheet.
I also have what they call a laser etching machine it a 75 watt machine. It will not make any kind of mark on bare metal. It will etch and cut wood, plastic, etc.. There is chemical that you can buy that you paint onto the metal and then do the etching. It burns the chemical onto the surface and is pretty hard to remove. It bond to the metal rather than etching into the metal.
None of the above machines can do what a cnc router, mill, engraving machine, or chemical etching machine can do. These machine can remove the metal to any depth you want.
I also have 3 Chemical etching machines varying in size for different type of jobs.
Hope that helps a little
Glenn Houston, Tx

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I was looking at the gradient changes such as this pic
http://www.charlestonrunaways.com/images/ss.jpg
What would be the best approach for this with metal? Also, etching like done with the products you can see here
http://www.flightdecksolutions.com/_assets/images/products/400-large.jpg
I don't plan on making cockpit panels but what Peter does here interests me. I would like to know if the Plasma Cam could use a Laser etching instead of the plasma cutter.
Let me know your thoughts
Still considering the PlasmaCam..
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The only way you are going to get that picture on metal is if you paint it by hand like painting a picture on canvas. Or find a really good auto body painter. Etching metal does not work that way. We have etch George Bush Sr. face in 1/4 stainless before, but we had to take the picture and turn it into little dots. (I forgot what that is called) Then you etched all the dot into the metal and filled with black paint. Turned out really nice. Its mounted on a park sign here in Houston, Tx. Been out in the weather for many years now and still look good.
The control panel picture is not a problem that's the kind of stuff we do everyday. Mostly for the oil industry and some graphics sign industry. That could be etched or silk screened. If I had to take a guess I would say that the picture you show is silk screened. We normally try to stay away from etching steel because it needs to be real deep. You have etch it then paint the entire background and then hand fill the etching. Its just to much work and not just anyone can do it. It takes allot of practice. 1 person has to take it from start to finish instead of just sending it along like a assembly line.
Laser etching I don't think will ever give the results your looking for in metal. And I'm not aware of any plasma cutters that can etch. (I might be wrong, but never heard of one.) I have seen one laser etching machine that would etch pretty deep in aluminum but it was really slow and had a small work size. Also a big price tag, I think somewhere around 60,000 usd.
Glenn Houston, TX

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What I think you are describing as laser etching may really be photo etching. A process used in the printing industry. A photo sensitive material is spread over a zinc plate and a negative image is projected or contact exposed onto the plate and then developed like a photo. Depending on the image, some areas will retain the coating others will not. Then acid is apllied and the image is burned into the zinc. On pictures and gradients, the picture must be halftoned or converted to a series of dots. Something we now do in photoshop type computer programs. From Photoshop, you would have to make a real negative and use it to expose your image. Making the negative would require a film output device also still in use in the printing industry. I am pretty sure you can still buy the presensitsed plates and then expose and develope them yourself. After etching, you can fill in colors by hand. You might check out an art printmaking class in your area, as the process is rarely used commercially anymore. However, for the cost of a computer and program capable of producing your images and finding a source for the negatives and plates, you're in business. Good luck. -Mike
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Put your money where your mouth is.
Before you buy - Go and sell/find $5K worth of business. That means: 1. Find a customer 2. Get a purchase order or cash in hand for you to make their parts 3. Buy your plasma cam to make those parts with
Better than no money down. And don't feed me the line that you need the plasma cam before you get the business - that line only works on the wife.
lf you can really BS as good as you claim in your post then you'll be a millionaire pronto.

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I have met quite a few people who think they want to buy a CNC plasma cutter. I suggest to them that they should buy a CAD program, draw the parts they need and bring the file to a company that has a CNC plasma or waterjet or laser and have them cut the parts for them. You are looking at a $12,000 investment by the time you buy a system and a compressor and dust collection system. Steve
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Hi John,
Just to be clear from your post and some of the responses I'm not sure if you want just a plasma cutter or a CNC plasma table but I have both so maybe I can shine some light on the issue.
Plasma cutter... excels at custom shapes and cutouts in sheetmetal (will cut any conductive metal) A good quality unit (hypertherm) that cuts up to 3/8" will cost about $1200 one that cuts 1" will start about $2500 depending on duty cycle (if you plan on using your cutter in a cnc table pay close attention to the duty cycle rating of the plasma source). Most of the time the ability and need to cut metal parts is closely coupled with the need to join them together as well, this said I don't know anybody that offers or hires out "Plasma cutting services" exclusively. There are shops that just cut parts but they usually work on a large scale with a variety of processes.
Fume.. metal dust is bad (some is just irritating some is toxic) you need to protect yourself and those around. Short freehand cutting done outside a dust mask is good, a cnc process inside and you need to pay close attention to ventilation and possibly dust collection. A lot of this depends on what your cutting and how thick it is (thicker material makes more dust).
CNC Plasma table.. all the machines are designed for a certain max work load so you need to have some idea of your needs before you can decide what fits. Another big variable is the software that runs the table, some is easy to learn some is not so payclose attention. You will also need some supporting equipment so the cost of the table is just a starting place. Entry level tables start about $5000 add in the computer , plasma cutter, air compressor (Industrial service not Craftsman) air dryer,piping, electrical, dust control and ventilation, software and digital artwork...... and so on. It adds up quick. Can you make a few bucks..absolutely will the world beat a path to your door because you set up a plasma table probably not. It takes time If you have $15-$20000 and want to jump in go ahead, but you could also sketch out some designs on some scrapyard steel and rent a plasma cutter, see what you end up with and if you can sell it.
Don't under estimate the value of homework. Enjoy the research
Andrew
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