Plasma cutter machines are designed to efficiently handle our cutting tasks with incredible accuracy and precision; however, certain materials require more clearance height than others to make proper cuts. For example, tall steel tubing will require much more clearance height than one layer of sheet metal to fit underneath the cutting area of a plasma cutter machine. In this article, we will learn how one of our customers used lifting columns for a DIY lift system that can adjust the clearance height of his CNC PlasmaCAM cutter!
CNC PlasmaCAM Cutters
Computerized Numerical Control (CNC for short) is a process of computerized manufacturing that uses coding and pre-programmed software to control the movement of manufacturing equipment. When paired with plasma cutter machines, CNC PlasmaCAM Cutters are used for cutting out patterns and designs from various kinds of materials. The versatility of CNC setups can also be helpful in other tasks such as drawing, engraving, and carving. This is made possible by swapping between the necessary tools for the different tasks such as a blow torch, sharpie, or power router tool.
Our customer, Joe Jones, needed a lift system so that he can give his PlasmaCam DHC2 table a much greater gantry to grate clearance for working on materials such as tall steel tubing. By building his very own DIY lift system, Joe can achieve the clearance height he needs without requiring costly plasma cutter machine attachments or any software upgrades!
Installing The Lifting Columns
Since the PlasmaCam DHC2 tables come with a four-legged design, Joe was looking for a system that comes with four actuators or four lifting columns. Our FLT-04 was the perfect set of lifting columns for Joe as it had a force rating of 700 lbs (175 lbs force per leg) which was more than sufficient to handle his plasma cutter machine. Aside from that, it was also able to raise the gantry 25.4" above stock height so that Joe could cut larger items using his PlasmaCAM Cutter. Powerful motors and high-quality steel construction that’s backed by our 7-year warranty ensured Joe the performance and product longevity he needs to work on his custom metal art business.
Spacer were added between the stock legs and lifting column legs to keep them in line with each other and improve stability. Joe had the bottom mounting plates of each lifting column attached to brackets that were then bolted on to the sides of each leg from the stock plasma cutter machine. For this setup, Joe does not worry about making the table perfectly level since it will be mainly for cutting steel sheets and because the plasma-cutting process is far more forgiving than laser cutting. The four wheels underneath the PlamaCAM cutter’s legs also allow for more portability to move the setup around. Joe has not encountered any problems with this setup when using it on a relatively level slab of concrete.
For securing the top of his lifting columns, Joe bolted the top of each leg to custom brackets. He then has the brackets welded to the 2 x 3" steel tubing that he mounted beneath the stock rails of his PlasmaCAM Cutter.
Maintaining Synchronized Motion
When multiple actuators are required to travel the same speed synchronously, we recommend actuators with hall effect sensors. This is because they have hall effect feedback that goes to a control box which would then be able to make the needed corrections if one side travels at a different speed from the other. Differing speeds can sometimes happen from slightly unequal weight distribution or the speed tolerance from the DC motors (+/- 10%) in the actuators.
During this project, Joe uses our FLTCON series of control boxes that had two channels per control box and required pairing with a second control box to allow for four-channel operation as seen in the video below:
While this setup works, our newer batches of FLT-04 come with the FLTCON-4 control boxes for the added convenience of being able to have four channels using just one control box unit.
A major challenge with lifting heavy loads is ensuring that all the motorized lifting columns are moving at the same speed to prevent bending or flexing of the platform being lifted. The FLT-04 has a control box responsible for reading the positions each column has traveled to and would then output the necessary amount of power to ensure the columns will move to the desired position synchronously. By adjusting how much power is coming from the output, the control box can detect and correct for most disturbances such as uneven weight distribution, aging motors, and physical obstructions.
For the control box to determine what positions the lifting columns have travelled to, there is positional feedback coming from their internal Hall Effect Sensors. As the motor inside the lifting column rotates, square pulses of 5 Volts are being generated from the Hall Effect Sensors. These pulses are then being counted by the control box to determine the positions which each column has travelled to.
Paired with our RT-11 remote, the FLTCON control boxes allowed Joe to change travel directions of the lifting columns, store preset positions and read the current position through an LED display. With this DIY lift system, Joe now has a synchronous system that can raise and lower the rails and gantry tube of the table for his plasma cutter machine!
Joe’s CNC PlasmaCAM Cutter using our FLT-04 lifting column set can be seen in full operation in the below video!
By choosing the suitable lifting columns and control systems, Joe now has his very own plasma cutter machine DIY lift system for making custom metal art! For more cool projects by Joe, feel free to visit his website and Youtube channel!
Thank you to Joe for sharing your project - We are delighted to see you enjoying your PlasmaCAM cutter setup!
If you have any custom projects, applications, or technical questions about our products, feel free to reach out to us anytime. We are experts in what we do and will be happy to assist you with your future custom projects!
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