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  1. #1
    Fire Captain, LVRS
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    Default Plasma Torch Cutter Vs. ArcAir Slice Pack

    Plasma Torch versus ArcAir Slice Pack


    Ok, Here's a topic for debate. My department currently uses 2 ArcAir Slice Packs on our Heavy Rescue Squad and Rescue Engine. We have found them to be pretty undependable when getting them fired up, keeping them charged, and being user friendly.

    I have never had an expierence with a cutting plasma torch and wonder if it's worth the switch...Any info on either is very well appreciated!


  2. #2
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    I would go with the petrogen torch

  3. #3
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    A little more explination is in order. As you identified the Arc Air (we have one) burns through rods fast and eats a ton of oxygen. As a band aid get longer rods and use a bigger O2 tank. We take the ambulance main tank for use in an operation.
    The petrogen torch is a great tool and I would use it way before any other torch. http://www.petrogen.com
    The arc air has a place, but for most rescue situations the petrogen is far superior

  4. #4
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    The petrogen would definitely be a better choice than a plasma cutter. A plasma is great for cutting thinner sheets of metal that require a finer touch. The petrogen operates more like an Oxy Acetelyne, but operates on O2 and gasoline.

    The Arc Air has a place, but the problems with them seem to come from: people forgetting to charge the battery, or the tips of the rods clogging up from riding around in the firetruck and not allowing O2 flow out when you try to start it up.

  5. #5
    Forum Member MetalMedic's Avatar
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    Default

    And I see no comments about a plasma cutter... were they a fad that has passed in favor of the Petrogen cutter? A tool like this is about all that we are lacking to make our heavy rescue fully equipped... but I have to admit that I am not very knowlegeable about them.
    Richard Nester
    Orrville (OH) Fire Dept.

    "People don't care what you know... until they know that you care." - Scott Bolleter

  6. #6
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    I think that they probably were a fad. They are nice for detailed work on thinner sheets of metal.

    Looking at one like this, you can see a few problems:

    http://www.millerwelds.com/products/...spectrum_1000/

    Lots of power to run (15000 watts)

    Still requires a compressed air source

    Not very portable

    Heavy (92 lbs)

    Will only cut through 1" steel

  7. #7
    Fire Captain, LVRS
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    Default Slicepak vs. Plasma Torch

    Thanks alot for the input, anything anyone else has feel free to advise.

  8. #8
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    Default torches, exothermic or otherwise

    we are very lucky here to have access to all 3, ArcAir, Miller Cutmate Plasma cutter, and 2 different sizes of Petrogen Torch. In my humble opinion you can throw the ArcAir in the trash. It is difficult to become skilled in it's use, and therefore no one is anygood with the thing, it's hard to get it lit, it eats thru oxygen like a beast as well as the rods.

    The Plasma Cutter has it's place, it is very easy to use, anyone can become proficient with it in no time at all. It make a very clean cut, and there is very little heat put off by it (other than right where it is cutting). It will also cut aluminium and stainless steel just as easily as common carbon steel. Downside---you better have a really, really good power supply. The 110v model sucks up about 28 amps when cutting at it's thickest setting (about 5/8 of an inch), and the 220 model sucks up the juice too (something close to 25-30 amp). Most of our Rescue Trucks can support this load, but it better be the ONLY thing running on that circuit!!! Also, the cord reels can't take the load. most apparatus has wire gauge that is too light, and the contacts in the reels themselves are too coroded and old to handle that kind of amp load. So you trip the breakers constantly. Basically you have to dedicate a long heavy gauge (ie 4-6) cord just for it.

    Petrogen-probably the best of them all...although don't think that' it's perfect either. First and foremost it's a TORCH....it creates tons of heat that you must deal with somehow. Be prepared for your operators to start fires in stuff that you were not expecting. Also, the latent heat that remains in the pieces being cut will burn, start fires etc. Just be prepared is all I'm saying. People will say that it can produce enough heat to cut aluminium and SS...and yes I've seen it done....but you have to put a ton of pre-heat into the material, and then suddenly the whole thing slags and gives way.

    Pros--it's easy to use. Gas and OXY are readily available and cheap. AS long as you make sure that your store it correctly ( ie, bleed out the hoses and use fresh gasoline or stabilize the gas...contact petrogen for what they suggest) it's very maintenance free. People that aren't good "burners" will slag up tips on it in a heartbeat, that's a training issue.


    Anyhow---hope that helped, let me know if you need anything else.

  9. #9
    Forum Member TimatRescue42's Avatar
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    Default

    When I'm doing a rescue and I need to cut something I want to cut it... now... no matter what material I'm trying to cut. Only an exothermic torch can do that.

    Here are the pro’s and cons of the systems as I see them.

    Exothermic Pro’s:

    Cuts anything on this planet, fast. 10,500 degrees. Cuts 3/8” plate steel at 1”/second. Can cut steel several inches thick such as railroad ties, axles, bridge sections. Cuts aluminum, concrete, brick, etc.

    Torch goes out when you drop it.

    Works anywhere—even under water.

    Sets up in seconds

    No preheating.

    Cut occurs at the end of the rod, so you can reach through or around objects and cut. Can bend rods to cut around obstacles. Can cut up to 3" away from the handle.

    Easy to use. 10 minutes training and you’re good to go.

    Just needs O2 and rods to work. Use punks if no battery.

    Very small except O2. Doesn’t take up much space.


    Cons:

    Sparks.

    Run out of rods or O2 and you’re done.


    Oxy-Acetylene or Petrogen Pro’s:

    Can get more gas locally from many sources.

    Lasts a long time.


    Cons:

    Very slow (5,600 degrees)

    Won’t cut most materials (must be ferrous).

    Torch stays lit when dropped.

    Needs different tips and barrels, which clog.

    Can’t use underwater (unless special diver’s torch and special training).

    Must get torch head to object to be cut.

    Gasoline can go bad unless stabilized

    Sparks.

    Need a fair amount of training to operate.


    Plasma cutters are rarely used in Rescue because of their limitations. They are primarily made for cutting plate or sheet steel. As mentioned, you need lots of electricity AND a clean/dry regulated and filtered air source. Tip must be almost in contact with the part. In order to cut thicker steel (like a building collapse or railroad incident) you will have to have a huge plasma cutter and a huge generator. Let's say you needed to cut 1" thick steel. This would not be unusual in heavy rescue. Your Miller plasma cutter would have to be a Spectrum 2050, which will require a 40 amp, 3 phase power supply (8 KW generator) and the cutter itself will pretty much fill a compartment.

    It will probably be a pretty rare occurrence where you will need to thermally cut something. When that time comes you want to be guaranteed that what you are trying to cut is going to end up in pieces. The only way to do that is with an exothermic torch.

    Hope this helps.

    -Tim
    www.rescue42.com

  10. #10
    Fire Captain, LVRS
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    Default

    Well this is good, it looks like we have a good running discussion on what people's opinions and expierences have been with each set-up.

    I do believe I'm going to recommend replacement of our Arc-air Slice Paks to the Petrogen Cutters (one for rescue squad and one for rescue engine) and get into a more user friendly product. I figure i'd rather have my people familiar with an easy to use product that a product that's consistantly out of service and very hard to use.

    BTW if anyone has any other types of cutters to throw in the mix, by all means, throw it out there. I want this to be informative for all people looking into cutting systems like this.

    Fortunately, my volunteer department has been pretty good at acquiring the latest/greatest equipment for use on the streets to the 7500 calls annually we respond to and it makes a great deal of difference in the outcome and efficiency of the department as a whole.

    Thanks again!

    Mike-

  11. #11
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    Default

    The Arc Air has a place, but the problems with them seem to come from: people forgetting to charge the battery, or the tips of the rods clogging up from riding around in the firetruck and not allowing O2 flow out when you try to start it up.
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