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CNC Flame Cutting Systems - I

written by: Ricky • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 2/25/2009

It is much easier to cut metals when hot rather than when they are in their solid state. This principle has long been utilized in the process of flame cutting and you will learn about CNC flame cutting in this article

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    Introduction

    CNC has got several applications and one of those useful applications is the use of CNC in flame cutting. Flame cutting has been around for quite some time and basically it refers to the process of cutting a metal sheet into the required shape by using the process of heating it with a flame and using pressure to blow away the molten metal which results in a cut, something similar you would do to a piece of cloth using a scissor (of course there is not heat or melting in scissor cutting). So what is great in that you might ask? Well the unique thing is the use of CNC for the process and this is how it works.

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    Optical Flame Cutting - Drawbacks

    The first point to be considered while adopting any new technology is the drawbacks present in the previously used method. Obviously the new technique has to be better when compared to the old one, based upon these parameters. So let us first find out about the drawbacks of traditional flame cutting method

    Speed – modern day technology is mostly about speeding up various processes and that leads to increase of production and hence rise in profits. One of the first obvious drawbacks of the traditional flame cutting is the time factor which is quite slow. Even in the later versions of flame cutting known as optical flame cutting, it is not possible to speed up beyond a certain limit since it results in distortion of the shape being cut.

    Let me explain about optical flame cutting since I have raised that topic now. Basically optical flame cutting is an advanced method of flame cutting vis-à-vis manual flame cutting in that it uses an optical tracer to follow a full scale paper template upon which the shape of the object to be cut has been traced out. The optical line tracer gives signal to the cutting torch which exactly copies that profile onto the metal sheet. This obviously has its disadvantages not only in terms of speed, as described above, since the maximum speed is about a meter per minute

    Accuracy – not only optical flame cutting results in less speed, but also paper being a sensitive material, gets affected by humidity and temperature variations and this could result in a different contour being cut on the part. Hence this invariably means that the accuracy of the shape being cut might be affected and hence this could mean more defective pieces which may not perform their function as desired.

    Life Span – since paper template has a limited life, especially given the type of circumstances it is exposed to, it would be required to replace the paper quite often with a new template. This would result in lowered production as well as lesser accuracy as the parts would be made out of different templates which might vary slightly in their dimensional accuracy.

    What Then?

    Given all the above reasons the optical flame cutting was replaced by the CNC flame cutting which helps to overcome most of these shortcomings in terms of speed, reliability and accuracy. We will learn more about this in our next article.