Why the need for a CNC Plasma Table in the Agricultural Industry

Farmers across the world are always looking for newer, more efficient and cost-effective ways to maintain their equipment, vehicles, buildings and infrastructure on their property. Many in agriculture and similar equipment reliant businesses know the value of having fully equipped shops with metal fabricating equipment at their disposal in order to expedite repairs and minimize downtime. Welding, grinding, oxy-acetylene torches, drill presses, hydraulic presses as well as a wide range of power and hand tools have always been in stock in the farmers shop. As well there always have been areas where the farmer was at the mercy of (hopefully local) metal fabricating shops that could custom cut metals to the correct dimensions and deliver them when needed.

Think of Cultivators, Harvesters, Seeders, Tillage Blades, mowing equipment and a variety of hardened steel wear parts with cutting edges that have a definitive life. These cutting edges can typically be repaired, however having the right parts in stock for replacement cannot always be expected, and the wait for outside fabrication and delivery of these parts (along with high costs associated with rushed work) can certainly diminish the efficiency of any operation that relies on machinery to handle the heavy work.

  Fortunately, there have been some great new developments over the last 10 or 15 years in the metal fabricating industry that brings some new capability to the agricultural business maintenance and repair capabilities. For well over 50 years heavy farm equipment manufacturers have used high end industrial Plasma Cutting Systems and flame cutting machines that were basically large automated, robotic machines that would cut all of the metal components of a tractor, a crawler, a skidder, a dozer, and every type of heavy duty equipment as used in logging, agriculture, construction and the like. These large machines were built to cut steel, stainless and aluminum sheet and plates (from thin gauge through over 6” thickness) in places with names like Case, Deere, Caterpillar, Massey Ferguson (well you get the idea!) as well as with commercial and military shipyard operations. These machines can cut steel to 40’ wide and over 100’ in length and can cost anywhere between $100k and well over a million dollars. Perhaps a bit too big and expensive for the average farm maintenance and repair operation!

Thanks to the latest personal computer technology, software developments as well as with lower cost and higher reliability electronics and motor drive developments, machines with similar characteristics to the large industrial units listed above, CNC Plasma Tables and Oxy-Fuel Cutting Machines are now available in sizes that fit in a small farm shop, and at costs that are affordable, often justifying their purchase price in a very short period of time.  Even better, these machines are controlled by standard laptop computers with extremely user friendly software (if you know how to check email…..you will quickly become proficient with CNC cutting of precise metal parts), so virtually anyone in the shop can walk up to the machine, draw a gusset, a Hardox wear plate for a tractor bucket, or even cut a decorative artistic sign for the entrance to the farm. Think of repairs and modifications your crew may have made over the years on equipment.

These CNC Plasma Tables connect to normal single-phase power, are equipped with a major brand (Hypertherm) air plasma cutter and can pierce through ¾” steel in less than a second and cut that same material at over 30 inches per minute. No flammable gasses are required; just plumb the plasma cutter to your shop compressor, as it uses just compressed air and electricity to develop the high temperature cutting arc.

Keep in mind that there are a few different brands and models of these CNC plasma cutting machines, and like everything else there are entry level / hobbyist grades of these CNC machines and plasma cutters, and there are heavier duty “Light Industrial” machine models. One has become the machine of choice where there is a need for the “industrial” use in a small shop setting is with the Maverick CNC Plasma Table. This machine has roots from the high-end industrial machines listed at the beginning of this article, however with newer technology is lower in price, and more important, is one of the easiest machines of this type to learn and use daily.

The MaverickCNC Plasma Table is heavily built with oversized precision digital drives and uses low maintenance V rail guideways that that are self-cleaning (necessary in a metal fab shop).  Heavy duty construction on the frame, yet aluminum extrusions that are lightweight yet rigid to maximize smooth motion on the moving parts, providing very precise motion. The software is from Flashcut, which combines the CAD (computer assisted drawing) and CAM (computer assisted manufacturing) as well as the machine control software into one package! Your maintenance workers will be at expert levels in a short period of time with this easy to learn and use package. Further, MaverickCNC has a built-in height control system that is almost transparent to the operator, controlling the critical plasma torch to metal distance (in order to control cut quality and eliminate costly collisions with the material) to a very tight tolerance level.  Top that off with a Hypertherm Powermax plasma system from 45 amps to 85 amps (single phase power) or larger units that operate on 3 phase power.

In addition to the versatility of this shop CNC Plasma Table, there is a portability option within the design of the Powermax plasma cutter. Simply unplug the plasma cutter from the MaverickCNC, plug in a hand torch, and you have portable hand plasma cutting for in the shop use, or from auxiliary power any place on the farm!

MaverickCNC Plasma Tables and Hypertherm; a great combination that will save money and time on the farm.

Jim Colt

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