Buie builds daunting plasma table

While using a plasma cutter, any wrong move could send a shard of scorching hot metal firing into the air— potentially burning someone’s skin, getting into their eyes, or even worse.

Junior Josh Buie and welding teacher Derek Coffee have been working on a year-long secret project in the welding room. It’s a torchmate 4400 series plasma cutting C&C table, or in other words, a computer-controlled machine that cuts metal using “lightning bolt” science.

“I was tired of looking at the thing,” Buie said. “So, I asked the welding teacher, Mr. Coffee, if I could set it up. I asked him what it was, and he suggested that I set it up for him.”

The plasma table uses electricity to simulate something similar to lightning bolts so that the metal can be cut cleanly and efficiently.

“Aside from the time it tried to kill me twice, in which both times I was trying to pull out the power plug and it short-socketed me, it’s not really dangerous,” Buie said. “It has the potential to be very dangerous if you were to misuse it.”

Buie had help from the school construction crew in putting the table together and making it do its job, as well as much-needed help every time it would break down.

“It breaks every single day,” Buie said. “It’s very discouraging. I wait on a customer support line every day and wait for a response. In the end, it always gets fixed.”

Due to how unpredictable and potentially dangerous this device could be, only a select few people are allowed to use it and work with it.

“One time, we were trying to cut metal with an 80 amp nozzle,” Buie said. “At 60 amps, I was cutting out two squares. One was just fine. On the second one, the plasma torch came out of the socket, realigned itself at a higher position and started arcing electricity all over the metal. There was a lightning bolt dancing across metal, which can be very dangerous.”

Coffee’s other classes hope to be able to use the plasma cutter for future projects and potential lessons. At the moment, the table is nowhere near being finished.

“I love welding,” Buie said. “Bending lightning to melt metal is pretty cool. [The plasma table] will be done eventually. I’m not a certified technician. Our whole team has been spending every chance we get to work on it, and I’m trying my best.”