MILLER SPECTRUM 625 EXTREME PLASMA CUTTER
625 XTREME PLASMA CUTTER
Fire, inevitably, has to be one of man's greatest discoveries, and the power contained within has been a stakeholder in the ability of the human race to advance through the ages. We’ll admit that there have been a few setbacks with the perceived “control” we have over the flame, as many a burnt home and forest will agree, but we continue to advance, right? Heat, cooking, sterilization, light, communication, are but a few of its uses, but we’re here to talk about fires more creative properties, specifically cutting metal.
The ability to cut steel has been the driving factor behind dragging an oxy-
acetylene torch setup into your shop or garage. It all seems like the perfect next step in the fabrication progression after using up cutting wheels by the dozen. But there are drawbacks to the bright blue flame when used to cut metal for your off-road projects. The need to store highly flammable gasses at high pressures close to where you sleep at night is only one of many reasons to question the need for a torch setup. Having to refill the gas cylinders (which seems to only happen to us on Sunday afternoons), let alone having to buy or lease the bottles gets expensive and deters us from making the purchase. A great alternative was stumbled upon in the 1950’s when a new method of welding was being developed… it backfired and plasma cutting was born.
Plasma cutting removed the beloved flame from the equation and instead uses a compressed gas source that is super heated with an electric charge making “plasma”. Another blast of gas forces the plasma out of a precise nozzle to accurately slice though any conductive material… such as steel or aluminum. Compressed air is the typical medium used for plasma cutting these days, as it’s easy to get (you should be breathing it now) and relatively safe as opposed to acetylene or other compressed gases. An outlet with 120 volts and a source of clean compressed air is all you need.
Advancement had been slow and lethargic for the first half century of the plasma’s life. The main problem with yesteryear's plasma cutters was the equipment used to create the plasma itself. Most commonly, the large transformer based equipment, with multiple heavyduty contactors, were cumbersome and often had the reliability of Carly Rae Jepson producing hits. Until recently, prices for such a setup was also a huge deterrent and left the plasma cutter out of reach for the home or small shop despite the benefits.
“Inverter Technology” has been a tag line for the last decade when it comes to electronic gizmos, one of them being the lowly plasma cutter. Inverters and smaller more powerful microprocessors, have resulted in the massive reduction in
the equipment’s footprint. Take the new Miller Xtreme 625 shown here compared to the gargantuan Hypertherm Max40 we used to wield.
Smaller, more compact power systems also mean more room for other features to be incorporated into the new cutter. The 625 has a built-in self diagnostic system to tell you that the consumables are coming to their end of lives before more damage occurs to other pieces. Self-adjusting air supplies also lend to consumable longevity by allowing just enough airflow as is needed to get the job done. All you have to do is adjust the current with the single knob on the front of the machine and pull the trigger.
Prices have also come into the
realm of the average home fabricator, and as usual, we advise that you take the proper steps to gain approval from your significant other before pulling the trigger… We have been informed that “affordable” and “cheap” are NOT the same and we bear the emotional scars to prove it. The latest plasma machine technologies will also save a few bucks when dealing with the consumable components of the plasma torch. Tips and cups privy to the latest in flow dynamics are lasting longer than ever before. The starter kit we got with our 625 Xtreme included a bunch of different tips for performing different processes such as gouging, precision cutting and extended tip cutting for hard to reach places.
The hand torch and tips from Miller are all “drag cup” style meaning you can drag them across the surface of the metal being cut without shorting out. When using older machines, you had to “hover” over the work piece like when using an oxy-acetylene setup to cut. With a simple straight edge and steady hand, you too can slice perfect lines that would make a cokehead giggle in delight.
It used to take us ages wielding an angle grinder to turn out CAD drawings (Cardboard Aided Design) into steel realities, all while launching sparks and flying debris across the shop. Back in the day it was a dream-come-true to score a plasma cutter and get our hands on an old worn out Hypertherm Max40. The dinosaur worked well, when it worked, but reliability was questionable and replacement parts on a 30-year-old machine that was rare to begin with, made us question dragging the old beast out from the corner. The Miller 625 Xtreme brought long lasting consumables and extremely easy-touse operations with it into our shop. Portability is excellent as all you require is a source of compressed air and a 120V or 240V outlet. Now you too can start breaking down your next project or building the rig of your dreams.