Now offering CNC laser cutting services                                                                By Fred Nelson Fabrication









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We offer small, medium, or large scale computer controlled plasma cutting services

Questions and Answers:

Question: What is the thickest material you can cut? How big of a piece of material can you handle? Answer: We can cut up to 1/2 inch thick steel plate. Maximum cut length 8 feet in the Y axis and 4 feet in the X axis. We can load up a 10 foot long sheet but can only cut up to 8 feet at a time.


Question: Can you plasma cut hardened steel plate? If so, what plasma cutter do you have? Answer: We routinely plasma cut ASTM A514 T1 hardened plate up to 1/2 thick with our Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 151 plasma cutter equipped with a TD SL100 machine torch.  We can accommodate full sheets with a cutting area of 4 feet by 8 feet.  


Question: What is a lead-in and pierce and how does that effect the cut time? Answer: The "pierce" and "lead-in" are simply the beginning of a cut. It's important to make the lead-in long enough so any slag created at the pierce is out of the path of the eventual cut to prevent a blemish where the cut path crosses the slag (molten metal left on top after the pierce, see photo). The price per unit of a particular item is based on many factors, one being, yes, the number of times the plasma cutter has to pierce and the length of the lead in cuts. Each pierce requires the machine to pause, sense the material height, calibrate to pierce height, preheat the material, then finally pierce.  On 14ga material this takes about 5 seconds per pierce. With each pierce, there is also wear on the plasma torch tip, shield, and electrode.  On 3/4 inch thick steel the 'pierce dwell time' may be as much as 10 seconds. The thicker the material is, the longer the pierce time, the longer the lead-in (adding to overall cut time) and the quicker the consumables wear.  At one time I estimated that a single pierce in 14 gage steel costs about 8 cents in consumables and 3-7 cents worth of cut time depending on the cost per minute which varies with total time. The higher the overall cut time, the lower the cost per minute. Thus, the more pierce points, the lower the cost per pierce. FYI : cut speeds will be between 120 inches per minute down to 15 inches per minutes depending on the material type and thickness.

Question: I see a lot of your plasma cut stuff is "14ga" steel.  What is that? Answer: Unless otherwise noted 'steel' is just common mild steel. "14ga"  (also seen as "gage" or "gauge")  refers to the thickness and notably is proportional to it's weight per square foot.  Generally, the higher the gage the thinner the metal. Manufacturers standard for 14 gage mild steel (in inches) is .0747 +/- .005 for hot rolled steel and +/- .007 for cold rolled.


Question: Will I have to pay for "consumables"? Answer: It depends. One-of-a-kind items and short runs are generally already priced to account for the installation of new cutting tips, electrodes, start cartridges, and shielding cups (know as consumables). For larger runs, yes, we may bill a small amount for consumables. Tips are about $6 and electrodes about $8.  When we can get away with a little rougher cut we will reduce the frequency at which consumables are replaced. The number of tips/electrodes required will vary depending on the type and thickness of material.  It DOES make a BIG difference when consumable are new.  Photo 1 here shows a one-off item cut with all new consumables. The specifications called for a 'clean' cut. Photo 2 shows a few items from a very large run where consumables were allowed to wear down a lot before replacing. The specifications on this group only called for a 'rough' cut so we could save a few dollars on consumables.    

Question: Can I send you a .dxf file so I don't have to pay for 'artwork'? Answer: Yes. Here's a sample of an item reproduced from AUTO CAD compatible .dxf file.  If you already have a .dxf file simply email it to us. We'll cut your parts and ship them to you anywhere in the world! Minimum set up fee is $20 but you can avoid $65 an hour for CAD work by providing your own .dxf files. 


Question: Can you rescale my drawings if I send you a .dxf file? Answer: Sure. Here is an example of a drawing we rescaled. The first skull logo is 8.5 by 12. The second is 11.875 by 12.25. Each have been scaled to fit certain radiators and came from the same .dxf file.See see a video of the skull and cross bones being cut by our CNC plasma cutting table click here  and give it time to load. 


Question: Can you just scan a picture and make a big part from a small picture? Answer: Yes, but we will most likely choose to re-draw the artwork. Generally, when a small image is enlarged with software it creates pixilation which needs to be cleaned up by an artist or even completely re-drawn. What may look like smooth curves in small scale can become 'stop sign shaped' in larger scales. There's lots of processing software out there that claims to be able to scan an image and create the digital dxf file needed for CNC cutting but from my experience no software has been created to scale and prepare a drawing as well as a human artist.


Question: If I have an idea, can you help figure out how to make it? Answer: Sure. Our art department can take your idea and get it on paper, then eventually create your item in steel designed for ease of assembly and mass production. If you have an idea and need help to come up with a production plan contact us!

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS? See: Pricing (click here)



 Fred Nelson Fabrication 850 W Foothill Blvd #23 Azusa, CA 91702 by Fred Nelson Fabrication 1999-Present.

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