For projects that require cutting through very thick metal, oxyfuel cutting is a process that can be extremely effective.
The process dates back to the early 20th century, when French engineers created a process using pure oxygen rather than air to create flames hot enough to melt steel. The process created flames that could exceed 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which made it highly effective at joining a wide range of metals.
While arc welding has replaced oxyfuel cutting in many regards, this form of flame cutting is still used by welders and taught in welding courses.
Here are a few frequently asked questions we receive about oxyfuel flame cutting to provide you with some more insight into the process.
What types of materials are best cut with oxyfuel cutting?
Any material to be cut with oxyfuel must be a ferrous material, which rules out common materials like stainless steel and aluminum. Nonferrous metals have oxides with higher melting points than the base metal, meaning they quickly oxidize when oxyfuel torches are used. Rather than removing the material, this instead forms a protective crust.
Ferrous metals have oxides with lower melting points than the base metal, which makes the cutting process significantly easier.
How does the cutting process work?
Oxyfuel cutting isn’t cutting, per se—technically, it’s actually rapid oxidation. The cut edges produced by the process are the result of chemical reactions. The reaction between the steel and pure oxygen develops iron oxide. Preheated flames then raise the surface or edge of the steel to extremely high temperatures, and pure oxygen shoots toward that heated section. When the steel is oxidized and the stream of oxygen removes the slag that forms, this is how the “cut” is made.
How thick of material can I cut with this process?
The benefits of oxyfuel aren’t very well exhibited with thinner metals, which is why laser and plasma cutting are often used for those purposes. It’s the very thick materials of four inches and more that are best suited for oxyfuel flame cutting technology.
What gas source is used for mechanized oxyfuel cutting?
Most shops will opt for natural gas, as it’s affordable and easy to set up. If this is not an option for a shop, the next choice will usually be propane, as large propane containment systems can be set up to deliver the gas in bulk.
What type of cut quality will I get from this process?
The edge formed by oxyfuel flame cutting is perfectly perpendicular to the flat surface the metal rests on, which creates a zero-degree bevel. This is different from the bevel that gets left behind by plasma cutting heads. The cut is of very good quality, with little to no slag, a square-cut face, a clean and smooth surface and a square top corner.
Want to know more about oxyfuel flame cutting and how the process works? We encourage you to contact us at Metal Pro Inc. We’d be glad to answer any questions you have for our team.