22 www.OhioFarmer.com ■ August 2009 Crops Plasma cutter offers versatility and portability T HIS spring we had a chance to test Miller’s new Spectrum 625 X-treme portable plasma cutter on several projects around my shop and on location, where we used it to clean up some tornado damage. If you have access to 208 to 230 VAC and 6 or more cubic feet of compressed air per minute, the Spectrum 625 X-treme provides you with 40 amps of ready-tocut, out-of-the-box performance in a package that’s not much bigger than the lunch box my dad used to carry to work every day. The little fireball comes with a tough carrying case, a box of consumables (tips, drag shields and replacement orifices), and a ¹⁄₄-inch NPT air connector. Plug in the power, snap on the air hose and turn it on. The only other control you will be concerned with is the dial rheostat on the front of the machine to control amperage — up to 40 amps. LED pilot lights tell you when the power is on, if you have enough air pressure and if the cutting head (cup) on the gun is adjusted properly. That’s all there is to it! Test Drive By DAN CRUMMETT As with all plasma cutters, the Spectrum 625 needs sufficient air to perform its best on materials up to ⁵⁄₈inch thick at speeds up to 12 inches per minute, but even with my slightly smaller shop compressor, it cuts lighter stock about as fast as you can draw the gun across the metal. Beware of humidity Miller product specialists also recommend using an air source with a dryer since humidity can play havoc with the physics of the plasma arc. Inside, the Spectrum has a filter for compressed air, but additional drying from the air source would be ideal. We ran the machine on a portable generator and on shop 220 VAC with equal results. Because I was limited on Create the perfect climate for your bin. Grain Guard manufactures the most trusted Natural Air Grain Drying Equipment, Aeration Fans and Low Temperature Heaters for grain storage management, aeration and conditioning. Grain Guard fans are designed to aerate your crop efficiently with maximum air flow at lower to medium static pressures. Call your local Grain Guard dealer today for more info! 1-800-565-2840 www.edwardsgroup.ca SMALL SPECTRUM: A very portable Spectrum 625 X-treme plasma cutter from Miller provides 40 amps of cutting power anywhere you can find 220 VAC and compressed air. The new Miller Digital Elite auto-darkening helmet (at left) was subjected to testing by “Test Drive” columnist Dan Crummett and also performed well. air capacity, when I took the machine to a friend’s home to help demolish what was left of his steel rod-framed greenhouses after a very selective tornado thrashed his place this spring, I found it difficult to keep the arc lit on the machine as I tried cutting half-inch solid steel bar, but that was my fault. We did use the machine with my 5.7SCFM compressor at 100 psi on regular 2.5-inch pipe structures, and it made short work of them. Compact charm The beauty of the Spectrum is its compact size. With an attached shoulder strap, you can take the cutter anywhere you can drag the power cord and air hose. During the Spectrum’s stay at my place, I built a wheeled boat rack to store and move a pair of race boats I play with during the summer. Its plasma arc worked well on square steel tubing I was cutting to fit, although turning the tubing to make individual cuts per side took more time than my abrasive chop saw. However, the fine cut the welder made was appreciated during construction fit up. We also played with the machine on some sheet metal, and we figured it wouldn’t take long to be cutting out patterns and those cheesy “leaning cowboys” you see everywhere! In short, this plasma cutter could be used as an artist’s tool as well as a fabrication tool. It’s very versatile. We tried out the cutter in another project that involved gouging and cutting a hole in the floor of a retired school bus to install an RV toilet. The Spectrum did its job flawlessly, and infinitely faster and cleaner than a Sawzall or repeated drill holes. If you haven’t used a plasma cutter, two of the machine’s biggest assets are that it will cut any metal, not just ferrous material like an oxyacetylene torch, and it cuts finely, with very little heat transfer to the surrounding sev- ONE-KNOB ADJUSTMENT: A simple, one-knob control on the front of the Spectrum 625 X-treme adjusts cutting power, while internal circuitry keeps the plasma arc active and well-adjusted — even on challenges like expanded metal or ragged stock. ered metal. The fact that it’s fast isn’t a bad thing either! The Spectrum 625 Xtreme is rated to cut ¹⁄₄-inch material at 60 inches per minute. The Spectrum weighs 21 pounds with a 12-foot torch and 23 pounds if it’s equipped with a 20-foot torch. A 12-foot power cord and 12-foot grounding work clamp also are standard equipment. Miller lists the base model Spectrum 625 X-treme at $1,879. Crummett is an executive editor for Farm Progress. ■ For more information, visit www. millerwelds.com.