LinuxCNC Based Plasma Cutter Router

If a wood CNC router just isn’t enough for you, you’re going to need something a little bit more powerful. Relatively speaking, the next most affordable step up is a CNC plasma cutter. Mhmm… Plasma…


[Maker Works] of Ann Arbor decided it was time to add some serious metal working capabilities to their already impressive mech shop. The design is based on of  [JoesCNC], however they’ve opted for some seriously beefy servo motors, instead of steppers.

The frame is made out of 8020 aluminum extrusions, which certainly adds to the cost, but results in a very professionally built machine. X and Y axis’ make use of NEMA 34 Servo motors, driven by Granite Devices VSD-E servo drivers. The Z-axis uses a NEMA 23 with a Gecko 320X driver. To further increase the power of these guys, 10:1 reduction gearboxes are used on both the X and Y.

All in all the project cost approximately $8,000, though after lessons learned, they think they could redo it for around $6,000.

When they first started testing it, they were dismayed with how dirty the room got from the fine dust created by the plasma cutter — so they’ve upgraded to a water tray bed (2″ deep), which helps immensely. In fact, the part doesn’t even need to be fully submerged in water for it to cut down pretty much all of the dust. The water also helps prevent damage to the aluminum bed underneath.

The actual plasma cutting head is just a Hypertherm PowerMax 45 amp handheld plasma cutter. A friend graciously donated a custom holder complete with adjustments and built in limit switches for it to mount onto the machine.

Just take a look at some of the results — nice work guys!

[Thanks Steven!]

11 thoughts on “LinuxCNC Based Plasma Cutter Router

  1. Serious question: why does a plasma cutter need to be so beefy? Seems like it would need to be built more like a laser cutter than a heavy duty gantry router. What am I missing? (I’ve never even witnessed a plasma cutter in person, so I am curious)

    1. You are correct, it is a nice build with decent results and they probably learned a lot, but it is a very sub-optimal design. The same result would be possible with a much lighter ( cheaper ) machine.

    2. It looks like it was designed to take interchangeable cutting/lazing/printing heads. Right now there is a plasma cutter attached, but they could design a spindle mount and use it as a cnc router for wood/thin metal, or attach an extruder for 3d printing…

    3. Correct–it’s overbuilt for just a plasma since we wanted to be able to put a cutting head on it if we wanted. This photo is from a couple of years ago–we just upgraded from an aluminum water table to stainless steel, which should last a long time. (Two other guys did all the work–I only contributed the plasma machine.) It is very nicely done machine. And yes, took a lot of time to build :)

      1. Green Cut Cutting Fluid from Lube Corp

        Rust protection for table and ferrous materials.
        Mildew, Mold resistance allows you to keep the same fluid in the table for months at a time.
        (No, I don’t work for them.)

        1. MSDS reports 15 – 40% Propylene Glycol and the rest as … well.. not listed?

          At least it isn’t Ethylene Glycol based. It’s also $2000 per drum although I strongly suspect you dilute it quite a bit :)

  2. Y’all have some nice stuff and a more hacker-friendly location than AHA so I may have to drop in. I could never imagine myself having to deal with downtown traffic and jaywalking students to get a broken keyboard into a hackerspace lol so I gave AHA a pass. Glad this showed up on HaD :) See y’all soon!

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