Aluminum alloys continue to gain popularity in metal fabrication worldwide due in part to the ease with which these alloys can be fabricated—bent, welded, and most importantly, cut. The ease at which aluminum can be cut to shape and size can have a big influence on the cost and quality of subsequent operations and the final component itself. As with steel, the use of plasma arc cutting (PAC) on aluminum alloys is a popular choice for quickly producing high-quality cuts.
Speed is one of the greatest justifications for plasma arc cutting aluminum over mechanical cutting methods. Laser cutting can certainly exceed the speed of plasma but is not without its own process disadvantages. Waterjet cutting certainly has advantages over plasma from a metallurgical and edge quality perspective. Instead, cutting aluminum with plasma provides an excellent balance of speed, quality, and cost. Compared to these other processes, it has a notably lower capital investment and is also simpler to implement as a handheld process for in-service repairs in both the field and shop.