A new cutting process, a hybrid system, uses induction heating to heat the metal ahead of the plasma cutting torch. The process has demonstrated the ability to plasma cut steel parts at speeds of up to 4X the speed of the plasma torch without the induction heating. Although the total heat input per unit time is greater, because of the increase in speed, the heat which is conducted into the cut pieces is less. This causes less potential metallurgical damage, less potential distortion, and reduced coating damage and reduced emissions during cutting, in comparison to the plasma cutting process without the induction heating. The initial development was primarily for use in cutting nuclear submarine and aircraft carrier hulls, for scrapping after decommissioning. The process has been demonstrated cutting steel plates and can be used in ship production as well. The primary motivation of the SBIR project was to reduce the heating of the cut pieces, in order to reduce the particulate matter (PM) emissions which occur when coated ship hull material is cut. An induction coil is positioned in front of the plasma cutting torch, to bring the material to an elevated temperature of at least 1600° F, before the plasma is applied to the metal surface. Induction heating testing has shown that the 35 kW induction system can maintain the 1600° F surface temperature at travel speeds of above 220 inches per minute on steel as thick as 3 inches. Once the steel is at that temperature an air plasma torch can cut the metal much faster than cutting cold steel.

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