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How To Make a Metal Pantograph for Plasma Cutting?

If you're wondering how you can make a metal pantograph for your plasma cutter, then you're probably on the wrong page because we've been googling on the same subject without much success.

The closest we got to was from this forum and we don't even think these people know what they're really doing.

The main reason behind this is because building one of this unit is just too technical and instead of spending time and money on parts, bit and pieces to create a pantograph device which probably doesn't work, why not focus your effort on learning more about CNC plasma cutting systems?

That's right!

If you don't already know what CNC is, it basically stands for "Computer Numerically Controlled". As the name suggests, it is a system designed to work with computers and via a software such as CAD, it sends a message to the cutting table and the signal will control the plasma torch, so that it will automatically cut the desired shape according to the pre-programmed design.

Sound a bit too technical....well, it probably is!

Traditionally, a pantograph is a piece of device developed in the 1890s and was mainly used to magnify drawings or figures. The technique was so accurate that many companies started to employed and used for their own production, making copies while able to control the size without destroying the design altogether. It was a great way to maky copy of certain industrial work (wood work, metal work, steel fabrication etc), re-producing it to it's exact shape, while being able to replicate, but control the actual size of the outcome.

Throughout the next decades, the idea and technique were used and incorporated into mass production machineries including the manufacturing of automotive parts (like screws, engine cylinders etc), as well as milling machines. Up until today, we still see this technique being used often, but the truth is...we no longer use the term pantograph, as much as we used to.

However, this didn't stop the plasma cutting industry from getting involved, as large corporations are looking for a different ways to automate and perfect their metal cutting process. Since many plasma cutters were built for manual handling, it was almost impossible for human hands to duplicate copies of their workpieces up to consumer standards.

There had to be another way to do this and hence we have the introduction of CNC plasma cutting system.

One of this system usually involves the following components:

1) Computer with minimum hardward requirement and compatibility.
2) Compatible software (like CAD).
3) Plasma cutting table
4) Mechanized plasma cutter (available in Miller, Esab, Hyperthem, Thermal Dynamics)

As you probably notice yourself, when you shop for a plasma cutter...you will tend to face upon 2 different versions. One is manual and the other version is mechanized usually at a higher price. The reason behing this is because a mechanized unit is used for CNC plasma cutting.

So, this is definitely something to consider when you're shopping for your machine.

Now the computer works as the brain of the whole operation, connecting all the pieces together and making the automated process possible. The software is installed into the PC and the user is then able to upload their designs, make adjustments, change size...etc all within the very same program. The PC is then connected to the plasma cutting table which indeed tells the table hands how to move according to the design given to the software.

The mechanized plasma cutter is connected to the table and it's torch tips is controlled by table hand allowing it to control how a metal workpiece is to be cutted. As you can see, with the technology we have today...it has allowed us to achieve ways which were impossible back in the old days.

So, do you still want to build your own metal cutting pantograph when you can just use a CNC plasma system?

Here's a few links where you can have a look and compare:

Torchmate

PlasmaCam

FastCutCNC

Of course, one of these system is not cheap and can cost up to thousands of dollars. But for you to build one of these yourself, you must be either an expert in electrical engineering or a big home use hobbyist who's got nothing else better to do. Just think about it, these companies have their own research team to do the dirty work for them and for individuals to achieve this, it's simply not worth it and definitely dangerous.

Afterall, you are playing with fire and electricity here...remember?

So, our conclusion is to get one from a reliable supplier. This way, at least you know you're getting your hands on a product that not only works, but also comes with warranty and customer support who knows what they're doing. Honestly, you can keep searching on this pantograph topic for all you like, but whether it's really worth the investment of time and money....well, we will leave that for yourself to decide.



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