The plasma arc cutting process is widely used for the cutting of metals. The process, however, is not fully understood and further understanding will lead to further improvements. This work aims to elucidate the fundamental physical phenomena in the region where the plasma interacts with the work piece through the use of numerical modeling techniques. This model follows standard computational fluid dynamic methods that have been suitably modified to include plasma effects, assuming either local thermodynamic equilibrium or a slight non-equilibrium captured by the two-temperature assumption. This is implemented in the general purpose, open source CFD package, OpenFOAM. The model is applied to a plasma flow through a geometry that extends from inside the plasma torch to the bottom of the slot cut in the work piece. The shape of the kerf is taken from experimental measurements. The results of this model include the temperature, velocity, and electrical current distribution throughout the plasma. From this, the heat flux to and drag force on the work piece are calculated. The location of the arc attachment in the cut slot is also noted because it is a matter of interest in the published literature as well as significantly effecting the dynamics of the heat flux and drag force. The results of this model show that the LTE formulation is not sufficient to capture the physics present due to unphysical fluid dynamic instabilities and numerical problems with the arc attachment. The two-temperature formulation, however, captures a large part of the physics present. Of particular note, it is found that an additional inelastic collision factor is necessary to describe the increased energy transfer between electrons and diatomic molecules, which is widely neglected in published literature. It is also found that inclusion of the oxygen molecular ion is necessary to accurately describe the plasma flow, which has been neglected in all published two-temperature oxygen calculations. The heat flux is found to be greatest at the top of the cut slot where the thermal boundary layer is thinnest and the arc attachment increases heat transfer.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major: Mechanical Engineering. Advisor: Terrence W. Simon. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 116 pages.
Osterhouse, David Jonathan.
Numerical modeling of the work piece region in the plasma arc cutting process.
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