Magnetic Motorized Plasma Cutter Track

Affordable plasma cutters are becoming a popular step up from an angle grinder for cutting sheet metal in the home workshop, but cutting long straight lines can be laborious and less than accurate. [Workshop From Scratch] was faced with this problem, so he built a motorized magnetic track for his plasma cutter.

Thanks to a pair of repurposed electromagnetic door looks and adjustable base width, the track can be mounted on any piece of magnetic steel. The track itself consists of a pair of linear rods, with the torch mounts sliding along on linear bearings. A lead screw sits between the two linear rods, and is powered by an old cordless drill with the handle cut off. Its trigger switch was replaced by a speed controller and two-way switch for direction control, and a power supply took the place of the battery. The mounting bracket for the plasma torch is adjustable, allowing the edge of the steel to be cut at an angle if required.

While limit switches on the end of the track might be a preferable option to prevent sliding base to hit the ends of the tracks, the clutch in the electric drill should be good enough to prevent damage if the operator is distracted.

[Workshop From Scratch] is really living up to the name of his YouTube channel, having built many of the other tools used in the video himself. Just a few examples are the XY-table, hydraulic adjustable workbench and  hydraulic shop crane.


10 thoughts on “Magnetic Motorized Plasma Cutter Track

  1. I’m getting a bit tired of these ridiculously overbuilt “simple” solutions. An angle iron, some bearings, a threaded rod and a drill would’ve given you just as good cut results. All the extra stash (and effort spent) is just for show off.

    Nice build exercise, but practical? No.

    1. I’d love to have a plasma cutter for sheet metal work but like a wood router, it looks like for any accuracy you have to have jigs and guides which take an age to set up. This build is quite a beast for what is basically a one trick pony. Just storing it would be an issue for me.
      Thinking about it though, it’s half way there to a CNC. I think by adding a Y axis, you would end up with a sort of super sized Rotring NC-Scriber: That’s the sort of thing I might be able to justify to my local hackspace.

    2. I think the whole point of building your own tools is that you get to decide how practical it is. If you’re breaking down steel plate like a carpenter is ripping sheetgoods, this is very practical.

      the price difference between a good lead screw and a bad threaded rod is pretty negligible but it makes a world of difference in the usability of the tool. Clamping can take considerable time over magnetic bases– which are the industry standard for portable metalworking tools. Adding the the feed controls is pretty trivial in terms of cost and effort but allows for a repeatable and fine tunable result. The pillow blocks might be a little bit over-engineered but they are off the shelf parts that you can put together pretty much like Lego.

    3. Fortunately, nobody cares if you think it’s overbuilt. The builder built it the way he wanted and was kind enough to share the details in case it helped inspire anyone else. I’m getting tired of people bitching about their free content.

      Go make your own more streamlined design and post that so you can show off your not “showing off” version.

    4. It’s not overbuilt at all if you need to cut straight lines allot, and need it to work every time you need it without being fiddly or otherwise a pain. I overbuild everything myself though. I’m no engineer, but I know overkill when I see it! Overkill means my projects work reliably with minimal maintenance.

  2. Pretty build. Seriously overkill in the force department. A Bicycle chain may be an adequate solution. One thing the system desperately needs (especially considering the force) is endstops. A nice add on could be a laser pointer on the cutter head.

  3. Just purchased a compressor big enough to run my plasma cutter. Time to remove flammable things from the garage.

    Have had a go with a wee little compressor which seriously limited duty cycle. Couple that with it being the least expensive cutter that could be found and my utter lack of skill – mess but fun.

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