"When I bid a job, I bid the hours. So if a tool can save us time, I certainly want to use it," says Jeff Beyersdorf, Project Manager at U.S. Plumbing and Heating, Combined Locks, Wisconsin. So when Beyersdorf was given an opportunity to test a new plasma cutter from Miller Electric Mfg. Co. that promised him time savings, he readily agreed.
Seven months and dozens of sites later, Beyersdorf went ahead and purchased the Spectrum® Thunder plasma cutter and plans to add yet another unit. "I can't keep this in the shop," he says. "I have a sign-up sheet in my office, and there's a waiting list from my field crews to get this machine on their sites."
The Spectrum Thunder's ease-of-use and cutting speed are the top reasons for its popularity, says Layton Dilley, a fabricator for US Plumbing who uses the machine both in the shop and in the field.
<>"Before this unit arrived, I was cutting 1 1/2 to 4 in. pipe fittings with offset snips," says Dilley. "Because I had to grip the snips so hard to cut the metal, I'd have to take regular breaks to relieve fatigue. With this plasma cutter, I can zip right through the cutting without stopping and I get the job done five times faster."
Shop Foreman Eric Syring uses the Spectrum Thunder to produce a clean cut with no sharp edges. That way, customers dont cut themselves when changing duct filters.
US Plumbing and Heating, a mechanical contracting firm, designs and installs HVAC/R and plumbing throughout Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. It specializes in commercial design/build contracting, commercial service, replacement programs and new home construction.
"We use the Spectrum Thunder for everything we need to cut, including 16-gauge black iron and 22-gauge galvanized sheet metal and stainless steel. We're cutting different shapes and sizes, depending on the job and we also use it to cut holes in roof decks, stud cutting inside dry wall and demolition work when we're retrofitting," says Beyersdorf.
Cut Anywhere Capabilities
At 43 lb., the Spectrum Thunder provides the portability HVAC workers need for on-site work on ladders, roofs or in confined spaces.
"I can haul this plasma cutter anywhere," says Dilley. "It's lightweight, it's got the built-in air compressor and I can use it in hard-to-reach areas like roof drains or vent stacks. I don't need to worry about finding air on- site or carrying an air compressor."
<>Even though the Spectrum is light, it still has the power to cut 1/8 in. corrugated roof and steel studs for plumbing. "It's smooth and steady and cuts at 10 in. per minute. It definitely saves us time on the job compared to a gas saw," says Dilley.
Plasma cutting lets operators cut shapes simply by tracing a pattern or cut a perfectly straight line just by following a ruler.
The Spectrum Thunder provides 12 amps at 110 volts of constant cutting output power, and is available in 115 and 230 volt models. For additional maneuverability, the Spectrum's ICE-12C torch comes with a 20 ft. cable. "The Thunder's portability is a plus," agrees Beyersdorf. "I take it for granted that almost any equipment that goes out in the field has to be easy to move around, and the Spectrum Thunder has that advantage."
Clean, Precise Cuts
In addition to portability and faster cutting capabilities, the Spectrum Thunder provides a clean cut with no sharp edges.
"A finished edge is important when we cut openings in the ducts for filter racks," explains Jerry Crupi, a Shop Fabricator for US Plumbing and Heating. "We need to have nice, finished edges because when the customer changes his filter, you don't want him cutting himself on jagged metal. The plasma cutter provides that clean cut."
Pipe joining also benefits from plasma cutting because, unlike gas saws the fabricators previously used, the plasma cutter does not vibrate. "A saw shifts from vibration when cutting metal, leaving an uneven edge," explains Eric Syring, Shop Foreman. "And when you're coping and fitting pipe, you want a clean, even cut. The plasma cutter allows us to cut sheet metal evenly and without distortion."
<>Plasma cutting produces less heat on the part, which prevents warping. "It's very convenient for us," Syring continues. "When we got the Spectrum Thunder, there was a night and day difference in the quality of cuts. We're able to cut cleanly and precisely every time."
Cutting Performance Chart
The Spectrum Thunder also requires very little maintenance. "We just change the tips on it," says Syring. The Spectrum's patented Constant Pilot Arc Control minimizes tip burnout because it eliminates the need to restart the arc at the beginning of each new cut.
Clean Cuts in Less Time
Plasma cutting has advanced significantly since World War II when the process was used on aircraft materials. Once expensive and restricted to use in factories and mills, the cutting machines have undergone wide-ranging technical improvements to make them lightweight, portable and cost effective for HVAC, sheet metal applications, auto body repair and home hobbyists.
Plasma cutting provides numerous advantages over other cutting methods, including the ability to cut any electrically-conductive metals from thin-gauge aluminum to stainless and carbon steel. Plasma also cuts faster than oxyfuel, does not require a preheat cycle, the kerf width (the width of the cut) produces a smaller and more precise cut and a smaller heat-affected zone prevents warped or damaged paint on the surrounding area. In addition, it is cleaner, less expensive, safer and more convenient because it uses compressed air instead of combustible gases.
"With the addition of the Spectrum Thunder plasma cutter, we've improved our productivity," says Beyersdorf. "It's a good fit with our overall company goal to always seek ways to gain efficiencies, increase quality and save owner and customer costs."
To determine the maximum rated cutting thickness of mild steel, follow the line from the 10 IPM (inches per minute) point on the cutting chart. The point at which this line intersects the cutting curve determines the maximum recommended production cutting thickness of the unit.
SPECTRUM THUNDER Rated cutting capacity = 1/8 in. (3.2 mm) 10 inches per minute (minimum speed at which an operator achieves a smooth steady cut using a hand-held torch) Maximum Quality Cutting Capacity = 3/16 in. (4.2 mm) Good quality cut achieved at lower speeds Sever Cut Capacity = 1/4 in. (6.4 mm) Maximum cut achieved at slow speeds in ideal conditions. (See chart)