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WATER TREATMENT

Here is another topic guaranteed to stir up some heated conversations and debate.    Like most of this website the information on this page is based on my experiences and research.   I have also included some videos, links to sites and downloadable pdf’s that contain MSDS - Material Safety Data Sheets on the chemicals that I’m discussing.   So lets fire up this debate and see what you think.

Check out our comparison of Water Table vs Downdraft Table Page.

The use of a water table in plasma serves a few purposes.   The idea is to use the water to keep the material being cut cool during the cut process which helps to reduce warping and distortion in thin or highly detailed pieces.   The water also is used to capture the smoke and dust created from the cutting process.   With using water comes some challenges.   Water can go stagnant and cause rusting problems with the metal your cutting.  Thus comes water treatment.  The goal of water treatment is to prevent rusting both in the table and on the metal we are cutting,  and to prevent the water from turning into a science project and growing things like algae since its a stagnant body of water.

My second table was a 4x8 Precision Plasma water table.   When I started out I began researching and trying various products. The products I tried were:

Plain water

Plasma Quench 44

Plasma Quench Home Brew

Rust Block

GreenCut Plasma Fluid


Plain water -  For me this was a complete disaster,  Rusting started on the slats immediately and and spread to the sheets rapidly during cutting.  The table also grew algae and after a week of heavy cutting was just a mess.  Draining and cleaning the table were also the most difficult with plain water.  The metal dust formed hard plates of slag that were difficult to remove and adhered to the slats and bottom of the water pan.  

Plasma Quench 44 - This was ordered from Knight enterprises and is a commercial product for plasma cutting tables.  I ordered a 15 gallon tote.  The chemical is a registered Hazmat and ships as such which should have been my first clue that it was not a good choice.   The product relies on being a very strong oxidizer / alkaline to inhibit the rusting process.  That comes with a price in that it is not good for skin contact.  The reality of having a water table is that you are going to be getting splashed, reaching into it and retrieving parts on a regular basis.  Wearing gloves and a rubber apron are recommended for this but in reality it does not happen.  The Plasma Quench burned my hands and skin, damaged clothing and added a not so nice smell to the shop.   While it did do a decent job of stopping rust it was not human friendly and I got rid of it.    You have to remember that what ever you put into the water will be exposed to high heat, extreme UV and atomized into the air.  So your going to breathe it.  Here is the MSDS for Plasma Quench 44.

Plasma Quench Home Brew -  This is very similar to Plasma Quench but you purchase and mix a few chemicals.  If your really interested you can look up various recipes but the chemicals involved are;  Sodium Nitrite, Physan 20 and sometimes a color dye.  The experience with the home brew was about the same as with the commercial brand and after research the use of Sodium Nitrite and Physan 20 after high heat and uv exposure with atomization is not good for humans. Sodium Nitrite MSDS,  Physan 20 MSDS.  

Rust Block -  Rust Block is a product from the people that make Evapo -Rust.   They asked me to give there product a try as a plasma cutting fluid additive.  It was not intended for this purpose but they wanted to see how it performed.  The product was designed as a environmentally safe product that was water soluble, biodegradable, non-corrosive and skin safe.  So it sounded pretty good.  The product was intended to be sprayed on metal or used as a dip to  prevent rust. I mixed it in my water table to achieve the same results but I found that it was not effective. I doubled the concentration and still did not achieve desirable results.  I was unable to determine if the heat and UV were causing problems or if it needed to be a full strength solution which would be cost prohibitive.   It sounded good but did not work for me.   MSDS for Rust Block.

GreenCut Plasma Fluid - In my quest and research I had not found the perfect product yet and stumbled on GreenCut. GreenCut is made by Lube Corp a Canadian company.    GreenCut was advertised as a product specifically designed for plasma cutting and it was People Safe and Environmentally safe.  The CEO is even on video drinking the product to prove his point.  I would never drink it but I know that doing that with any of the other products would be fatal.  GreenCut is designed to prevent Corrosion, Prevent Bacteria, it has an anti-foam component and does not degrade due to thermal or UV.  GreenCut is designed so that if the concentration is properly maintained you never need to change it out and can use circulation pumps and filters to keep the fluid going indefinitely.  Sounds Great right?  Well does it work?  Yep it sure does.  I was hooked and used it for 5 years in my second table with great results and will be using it in my new Westcott Pro Series table.  Check out the GreenCut MSDS and compare it to the others above.

GreenCut is designed to be mixed at a 20:1 Ratio ( 20 parts Water to 1 part Green cut)   You can use the GreenCut Calculator to determine how much you need for your table.   From 5 years of using the product I would recommend starting off at a 15 to 1 ratio. I found better performance with this ratio.   Prep is important to get the best results with GreenCut your table needs to be perfectly clean no rust or debris and new clean slats, not rusty old slats to start.   Your initial mix needs to be accurate and you need to get your mix ratio correct.   After your first mix withy a clean table.  Use some simple PH strips or electronic ph meter to test the concentration.  Make note of the ph level so you can refer back to it. As the water evaporates and you use the table you will need to add more water and then monitor the PH level to keep it at the same level as you first clean start.   For best results your table should have circulation pumps which can be simple swamp cooler or pond pumps to keep the mixture even and consistent across the table.   For best results and to get the longest life out of the product use filters to keep the water clean and filtered.   I have never done this step and instead opted to clean out my table once and year and start fresh.   This yearly clean out involved draining the table, cleaning out the table and putting in new slats.  Then putting in a fresh batch of GreenCut.   I used this time to do a full overhaul and check of the table and any preventive maintenance and upkeep.    I did do small monthly clean outs where I scooped out debris and drops.   One neat thing I noticed with GreenCut is that instead of there being a dust which welded itself to everything like other products the dust formed balls like little bb’s with GreenCut.  It was much easier to clean out the table. And GreenCut has never burned my skin or caused any irritation.

I have never had any problems with GreenCut affecting any metals, copper, aluminum, steel, or stainless. I also have not had any problems with secondary processes like paint and powder coat.   After a part is cut on the table I use a pump garden sprayer to rinse the piece over the table so there was no waste or runoff then I dry the piece.   I did not scrub it or need to use any additional prep.   The pieces also did not have any problems with flash rust after this and would last a few weeks in moderate humidity without any problems.  

I’m located in AZ where I have extreme summer temps 120+ and my evaporation rate is high.  I added water daily and checked my PH weekly.   I ran a slightly higher concentration of GreenCut just because I was adding water on such a regular basis to my table.   

Cost is a major factor for most people and I get it.  GreenCut is likely the most expensive option out there and the best option in my opinion.   When doing business I look at my costs and the risk, benefit, gain, gain loss on the investment.  I look at GreenCut as a once a year cost and a cost of doing business.  It brakes down to a few pennies per piece or less depending on volume of your table.   The less you use your table the longer it lasts, the more you use your table the less it costs per piece. The biggest reason for using GreenCut for me is health and safety.   It does not matter if this a hobby or a full time business your health should be a primary concern.   Many of the products out there are so bad for you just read the MSDS on these things and most were never intended to be used for Plasma.   For example  I hear people all the time telling people to use Borax in there table or washing soda.  They say its in soap and laundry detergent so it cant be bad for you. That's fine and likely true when used as intended but when you expose chemicals to high UV and heat and then atomize them into the air and now are breathing these things in it changes things.   Borax when ingested will sterilize you!  You don't eat soap or laundry detergent with Borax so its not a problem but working around a working table with Borax in the water that is exactly what your doing. Check out the MSDS for Borax and read for yourself.

Just think of it this way, is it really worth it so save a couple hundred bucks a year so that in a few years you can drag an oxygen tank behind you so you can breath or you can’t have a family because your sterile or you develop cancer and suffer a painful death.  If you answer honestly its not worth it.  Use a product that is intended for plasma cutting and safe for you. Use GreenCut.

GreenCut®

Our Video Review of GreenCut.  This was from about 5 years ago on our second table.

RESOURCES

Do you want more info on GreenCut?

Check out this  GreenCut Guide PDF,  It should answer all of your questions and where to find it, how to use it and more!

Makers of GreenCut = Lube Corp Website

Where to buy:  Praxair, Airgas and many others refer to the GreenCut Guide PDF for more info