If you do metal works, what tool do you use to cut metals? Do you find it difficult and tedious to cut through metals?
If yes, you probably need a plasma cutting system. Precisely, the best plasma cutter!
It is easy to use the device for cutting steel and other electrically conductive metals. These cutters operate using a high voltage electrical curve and a compressed gas to make plasma.
Plasma cutter is used to safely and effortlessly cut any metal. It can be used very well to cut different assortments of metals and can be used in large cutting activities.
Since these cutters only need a preheat cycle from time to time, it is used in a wide range of applications. It does not damage or twist the metal.
The tailor sends an inert gas through the plasma torch, which starts an electrical arc. It is then used to cut the metal effortlessly and comfortably.
Editor’s Choice : 3 Best Plasma Cutter
Our Top Picks of The Best Plasma Cutter Reviews
The time comes when you have to buy a plasma system as an individual or as an organization! You strap on your money and want to spend it admirably.
Several manufacturers are offering a selection of plasma-based cutters from which to choose. Among them, discover the top ten in the below plasma cutter reviews.
The reigning champ of plasma cutters is the mighty Hypertherm Powermax 30xp. Extreme portability, easy-to-use controls, an ultra-stable plasma arc are just a few things that make this the best plasma cutter on the market today.
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Powermax 30xp is the size. Weighing in around 21 lbs and measuring less than a foot and a half long this plasma cutter is the epitome of portability. The convenient handle and long 15-foot lead are just icing on the cake.
Another thing that puts the Powermax 30xp in a league of its own is the simple control panel. There are two basic controls to consider: an amperage knob and mode switch. The knob, as you might have guessed, adjusts the output amperage making it easy to change on the fly. The second control is the mode switch which gives you the option to change modes – continuous, non-continuous or gouge – depending on the task.
The final feature to note is the dedication to quality that Hypertherm provides. For 45 years they have been, hands down, the top choice for anything plasma cutting related. Their quality far exceeds anything else available today, which is great but they also have the price tag to match.
Whether you’re just a beginner or a highly-skilled veteran of the trade, if you want to slice through steel like butter, the Hypertherm Powermax 30xp is by far the best plasma cutter for the money.
Weight: 27 lbs
Size: L13″ x W7.5″ x H10″
Power Input: 120 V
Power Output: 12 A
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 12A
Cut Thickness: 1/8″
Severance Thickness: 1/4″
Warranty: 5/3/1 year
Another top contender for best plasma cutter is the Hobart Airforce 12ci. Hobart is a staple in the fabrication industry so it’s only natural they’d be one of the go-to brands for plasma cutters.
Boasting a built-in air compressor the Hobart Airforce 12ci plasma cutter is legendary when it comes to portability. Complete with a folding handle, weighing a mere 27 lbs and measuring just over a foot in length, portability is the Airforces claim to fame.
Precision and non-linear cutting is what a plasma cutter is designed to do and the Airforce 12ci embodies those tasks perfectly. With its ultra-narrow kerf and tip-adaptable torch there’s nothing too complex for this unit.
While the Airforce 12ci might not be the most powerful machine out there, it can still easily sever 1/4 mild steel. Coupled with its unprecedented portability and affordable price, the Hobart Airforce is the ideal plasma cutter for hobbyists and even light-duty professionals who need to lug it to and from each job site.
When investing so much money into equipment its, important that you don’t cheap out with a low-cost unknown brand. With the Hobart Airforce 12ci you know you are getting a the best quality plasma cutter that will last you for years to come.
Weight: 22.5 lbs
Size: L15″ x W6″ x H12″
Power Input: 110/220 V
Power Output: 50 A
Duty Cycle: 60% @ 50 A
Cut Thickness: 1/2″
Severance Thickness: 3/4″
Warranty: 1 year
Need to cut metal but can’t justify paying thousands of dollars for a top-range plasma cutter? Don’t fret, your search is over! Introducing the LOTOS LTP5000D, the best plasma cutter if you’re on a budget.
Featuring a non-touch pilot arc the LOTOS can cut through metal using a high-frequency starting method. This allows you to start the arc without touching the metal, keeping your rig free of contaminants and extending the life of your consumables. This also contributes to the quality of the cut.
While on the topic of cutting the LOTOS LTP5000D, with its 50 amps of output power, can easily and cleanly cut up to 1/2 inch thick metal and has a max severance of 3/4 inch, making it ideal for heavy-duty cutting.
The LOTOS LTP5000D is a champ when it comes to versatility. Featuring dual voltage input (110/220V) you’ll be able to tackle any job anywhere regardless of the power source. The convenient handle and super light weight make this plasma cutter a worthy competitor to the big brands.
In the world of Millers, Lincolns and Hobarts, slowly but surly LOTOS has carved out a name for itself in the world of metal fabrication. If you need to occasionally cut metal but don’t want to remortgage your home to afford it the you should seriously consider the best plasma cutter under $500 – the LOTOS LTP500D.
Weight: 19 lbs
Size: L13″ x W5.5″ x H9″
Power Input: 120/240 V
Power Output: 30 A
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 30 A
Cut Thickness: 3/8″
Severance Thickness: 5/8″
Warranty: 3/1 year
There’s no argument that Miller makes some of the best plasma cutters on the market today and the Spectrum 375 X-TREME is no exception.
Featuring an inverter design the Spectrum is one of the lightest and most portable plasma cutters around – weighing a mere 19 lbs. It’s complete with a shoulder strap that can be shortened to double as a handle.
In addition to its unparalleled portability, it’s also incredibly versatile. It can be used on both 120V and 240V power outlets using Millers patented Multi-Voltage Plug (MVP). To top it off, with Millers Auto-Line technology all you have to do is swap the plug and the machine automatically detects the change, which makes switching effortless.
Furthermore, this unit comes with a ton of extras including a heavy-duty case to protect it during transport or storage and a box of extra consumables so you wont have to worry about buying more right away.
All in all the Miller Spectrum 375 X-TREME is a solid plasma cutter that would make a great addition to any fabrication shop.
Weight: 31 lbs
Size: L14″ x W8″ x H11″
Power Input: 240 V
Power Output: 40 A
Duty Cycle: 50% @ 40A
Cut Thickness: 5/8″
Severance Thickness: 7/8″
Warranty: 5/3/1 year
If you’re looking for a plasma cutter that’s both powerful and portable, look no further than the Hobart Airforce 40i.
Its inverter based design puts out a whopping 40 amps of power, allowing you to cut through 5/8 inch thick steel and sever up to 7/8 inch thick steal like it’s paper – all from a case that weighs about 30 pounds.
The Airforce 40i also features Auto-Refire technology which allows you to cut perforated or expanded metal without having to manually start the arc, saving you time and prevents hand cramps.
Furthermore, it features Fan-on-Demand technology which means the fan only turns on when it absolutely needs to. This not only reduces the amount of dust and grit that get’s inside but also lowers the noise volume and saves on energy costs.
Whether you’re just starting out or are looking to upgrade the Hobart Airforce 40i is a must have for any fabricators tool bench.
PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter
If you need a compact machine that makes it easy to cut through metals whether for business or domestic motive with a value that does not burn all available resources, then this ought to be your next buy.
You will have accurate cuts achieved with ease. Below are some of its key features;
- Made from CUT50 technology, it is ideal to be used in harsh, mechanical and developmental situations. It is also suitable for any home task.
- With this machine by PRIMEWELD, you can easily cut with high precision through all metals including, mild steel, alloy steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and other metal materials.
- You will not be limited to only one power input. This machine from PRIMEWELD supports both 110v and 220v.
- Try not to worry about this machine. This plasma cutter is exceptionally reliable, and this is evident from its strong customer reviews. Furthermore, it is backed up with a warranty.
Add this to your workshop now and have full genuine feelings of guarantee.
- Does it include a power cord and connector for 220V versus 115V?
It accompanies a 220 plug, another one can be purchased if you want to use it with 110 or it can be custom-wired for 110.
- Does it have a resistance shield?
Yes, it uses drag tip cutting.
- Can it be used to cut the detailed designs in food/tin can?
Yes, it can but with a proper setting. For instance, you must lower the amperage, lower the air pressure and you will have your detailed cuts.
Note That Worth
If you are yearning to improve your metalwork business, PRIMEWELD is a brand you can trust when maneuvered by its superior customer value. These fantastic cutters are ideal for all kinds of metalwork.
Its improved structure depends on the best MOSFET transistors, a rare feature even for most machines in this plasma cutter reviews.
Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
The Lotos machines use the most creative and useful technology in the field of electrical converters and are among the most famous brands in the industry.
It is appreciated for its execution, adaptability, unshakable quality and value.
The Lotos is equipped with high technology highlights and extreme comfort, which makes them ideal for commercial and family applications.
With many features and benefits, Lotos machines are designed and expertly engineered to cut alloy steel, stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, copper, and other metal materials in the most helpful manner.
Non-contact Pilot ARC
Pilot arc torch effectively cuts through rough, painted and rusty surfaces, and provides negligible slag. Pilot arc technology makes it possible to cut without necessarily bringing the tip into contact with the metal which leads to better cut quality and longer consumable life.
The dual voltage capability allows operation of the machine either with 220V 50/60 Hz or with 110V 50/60 Hz.
MOSFET transistor provides a uniform yield to enable the cutting of thin metal and can achieve a high power yield when cutting thick metals.
- How long are the included clamp wire and the cable to the included torch?
The plasma cutting torch cable is 13 feet long, and the ground clamp wire is 6 feet long.
- Can I use this machine for welding?
No. It is only designed for plasma cutting, not welding.
- Does this unit have any air separator or filter?
Yes, and it comes as a small canister filter.
Note That Worth
The LOTOS LTP5000D offers a solid cutting performance in a minimal package. Its pilot arc is particularly useful for even cutting rough surfaces or rusty metal. Indeed, it is among the best plasma cutter under 500 that you can get.
Goplus Plasma Cutter Cut-50 50A 220V Electric DC Inverter Air IGBT Cutting Machine
This is among the new plasma cutting machines that incorporate the most advanced inverter technology. It is ideal for the processing of metal materials. It is equipped with an excellent plasma torch, specially made to improve and boost cutting quality.
The Goplus is widely applicable in some jobs such as sheet metal forming, modern light use, construction site work, auto, wiring, repair, and maintenance services.
With a comfortable grip and smaller size, it is straightforward and easy to carry or operate this machine. Also, it accompanies cables and masks that can keep you safe from any harm while doing your work.
This machine is suitable for a wide variety of applications including sheet metal fabrication, light mechanical use, construction site work, automotive, pipeline construction, repair and maintenance works. Not only suitable for organizations and DIY customers but also fully meets the needs of professional operators.
This machine consists of a hardcore press. Its strong material development makes it reliable and gives it a quality that can be used for a long time. It is a useful tool for dealing with metal hardware.
- Will, it cut aluminum?
Yes. Though this depends on the level of thickness.
- Does it come with a warranty?
Yes. It comes with a warranty of 2 years.
- Does it need air?
It should be used with compressed air.
Note That Worth
This cutting machine is viable for any organization or home improvement customers and also satisfies the wishes of experts. With this cutter, you would now be able to meet many needs of the cutting process.
ZENY DC Inverter Plasma Cutter
Zeny’s DC inverter machine includes the latest technology that is ideal for handling metal hardware. It comes equipped with a fantastic plasma torch, which has been specially developed to improve and boost the quality of the cut.
It applies to different tasks such as sheet metal fabrication, light mechanical, construction site, auto, and sewer repair, and maintenance operations. The Zeny will be suitable for commercial, domestic or expert use.
It is an electric dual socket machine that can work in two different ways? This justifies why the device comes with no plugs or air hose. In any case, if you need a plug or air hose, you can buy it on your own.
It comes in a simple and lightweight design. This means that you will not have a problem moving it from one point to another or when moving it to the storage, one job site to another.
Low Sticker Price
It accompanies meager prices when compared to other cutters that come in the same line. Some of the previous buyers of this cutter have said that they were initially confiscated by its low cost. That way, if you plan on saving, you should think about buying it.
- Q. Does this unit need an air compressor to do the job?
Yes, in fact, it also requires a wire that fits.
- Q. How long is the torch connector cable?
12 feet long.
- What is the 2.5S / 5S switch on its front used for?
It is used to measure the time the air continues to blast after the trigger has been released.
Note That Worth
Lightweight and compact designs are what make this machine worth buying. It weighs only 22 lbs, and this implies that will be easy to transport or store.
SUNCOO Cut-50 Plasma Cutter Electric DC Inverter Machine
This 50-amp machine uses the electron circuit in its functioning to deliver a steady current output that can also be balanced in a state of harmony with the idea of the material to bring high performance.
With such attributes, the Suncoo can cut through copper, alloy steel, press, stainless steel, and aluminum. It offers 1.8 times higher cutting speed compared to the flame cutters.
Smooth Cutting Surface
The smooth cutting surface of this easy to use gadget makes it stress-free to work by inverting the frequency and reducing the voltage to drive power. This produces a great direct welding current through its PWM technology.
Dual Voltage Capability
With the dual voltage capability of 110 and 220V, this multi-utilitarian device is suitable for various applications, such as light mechanical use, sheet metal working, sewer work, auto, site work, repair, and maintenance employment.
Digital LED Display
Setting the required pressure will be simple for this machine; it has a digital LED display that makes it easy to gauge the pressure.
When you turn on the power switch, the pressure and the current volume are also displayed. The gas pressure can be balanced to the needed level, with the goal that the device can release ultra-strong power.
- Q. What type of gas does this machine use?
No gas, just an air compressor which is so easy to use.
- Q. Can this machine be applied as a tig?
No, it is only intended for plasma cutting.
- Q. How long is the cord?
It’s 5 feet long.
Note That Worth
To get the most out of this plasma cutter, make sure the work area is well ventilated. To have the best performance, it is appropriate to use the gadget temperature range of -10 to 40 degrees Celsius and the moisture content that should not exceed 80%.
Electric DC Inverter Air Plasma Cutting Machine by HITBOX
This 40A machine can cut up to 8mm thick carbon and stainless steel. It can cut a maximum of 12mm to some point, but the speed will be relatively slow, as well as the quality will not be perfect.
You can also use it to cut aluminum and iron, though not recommended.
The 40A plasma cutter facilitates high-quality cutting through metals such as stainless steel and carbon steel with a thickness of 8 mm.
It applies on metal width up to 12mm, although the speed is low and the quality will also be not good. It can also be used to cut through copper and aluminum, although the results are unlikely to be comparable to those of carbon and steel.
Air Pressure Controller
You can use the air pressure controller to set the required pressure to cut through metals of different thickness.
The Electro-circuit protector is a watchman against over-voltage and under-voltage, which increases the life of the machine.
- Q. Does this unit need an air compressor?
Of course, and as well as a connector that fits.
- Q. What type of materials can this machine cut through?
To be specific, this machine is applicable for cutting carbon steel, and stainless steel. It can cut up to 12mm max.
- Q. Does it come with a plug?
This plasma cutter accompanies a 3-pin US plug.
Note That Worth
You’ll have a hard time believing how great the machine is, just as good if not better than colossal blue and red machine. The power grip is decent and smooth. However, it comes with no air compressor connector, so you should buy it by it yourself.
PrimeWeld Ct520d 50 Amps Plasma Cutter
Here is another excellent machine from Primeweld that can weld and cut through metal like a hot knife through butter. If you are an architect, metalworker or welder, you need the Primeweld CT520D.
It is the most economical apparatus out there designed for metal business. Love this? Below read about its features that can drive you to buy it.
3 of 1 Combo Machine
The Primeweld CT520D has three functions in one machine. It can work as a TIG or welder and also as a plasma cutter. It can operate up to 50 amps as a cutter and up to 200 amps as a stick or TIG welder.
High-quality Accessory And Consumables
What makes this machine from Primeweld stand out among many other models that are available on the market is the quality of its consumables and accessories.
You can find its high-quality accessories ranging from TIG torch to the anode holder for stick welding.
A Dual Voltage Capability
The device can automatically switch between 110V and 220V. This is beneficial if you are operating where no 220V power source is available.
- Q. Do this equipment have the pilot arc in cutting mode?
No, it doesn’t support pilot arc cutting mode.
- Q. Can this machine arc gouge?
Yes. Though it is not meant for that.
- Q. Does it have a foot controller?
Note That Worth
Many customers who have purchased this unit agree that their functionality and effectiveness are overwhelmingly positive. Since the machine has a lower sticker price; it is perfect for those who appreciate working with small metal companies.
Hobart 500565 Airforce 27i Plasma Cutter
Since 1917, for more than nine decades, Hobart has been trying to make welding and cutting tasks easy and comfortable by making the best plasma cutter with a built-in compressor. They are dedicated to the planning, testing, and assembly of welding and cutting equipment.
If you need an easy to use machine, then this machine is for you. Count Hobart in, as all Hobart units undergo thorough quality measurement and are backed by an industry-leading warranty.
The inverter technology makes Hobart 27i one of the most preferred and advantageous cutting machines. If by any point, you compare the output it generates with the input it requires, you will find that this machine is extremely economical. It offers the highest cut limit at half the weight of other models.
Hobart 27i accompanies a fan on demand that helps the plasma cutter maneuver the debris, flotsam, and airborne molecule into the unit. In this way, the inner life of the unit remains admirable for a long time.
You can switch off the fan when not needed. Consequently, it saves energy usage and prolongs the life of the interior parts.
Wind Tunnel Technology
The wind tunnel technology is a fantastic feature on this unit that prevents the erosive particles and debris from damaging the inner segments.
- Q. Apart from air compressor what else do I need to run this machine?
- Q. Is it suitable to cut aluminum?
Absolutely! This machine will cut any material that has the capability of conducting electricity. The Max Cut and Assessment sections differ regarding equipment, but this is outlined in the user manual.
- Q. Does this machine have a self-regulator for air from the compressor?
Yes, it has a preset controller and the dryer worked in the unit.
Note That Worth
Many customers who have applied this product before referring to it as a great little box. But all in all, the feature that most users adore is the fact that it does not require preheating of metal or flame tuning or gas pressure adjustments before cutting.
The onslaught of happy customers has discovered it as an amazingly compact unit, easy to convey, straightforward to set up and effortless to use. By and large, many customers are satisfied with Hobart 27i.
2016 AHP AlphaCut 60 60 Amp Plasma Cutter
If you have been looking for the best plasma cutter under 1000, then rest your case. AHP makes less expensive and sturdy appliances that have no unwanted technology or extra flair, and this AHP Alphacut 60 is no different.
Easy-To-Use Post Flow Control System
There’s an Easy-to-use post flow control system that plays an important role to extend the life of your torch, and the consumables themselves are accessible online for a low price.
This is a pleasant feature, especially considering that some of the small brands are trying to provide you with consumables as an approach to pumping the benefits.
Well Laid Front Console
The front console is well laid for easy to see through, with a significant air pressure marker, well-deployed warning lights and huge buttons that are extremely easy to press and use, even in gloves. There are no LED indicators or tech controls, but when you’re in the middle of a busy workday, feasibility is never a terrible thing.
Dual Power Voltage
Regarding cutting, this is a two-piece machine. If you have connected it to a 110V power supply, the result is somehow doubtful. Running on 110V is quite critical in reality, and trying to cut through the material of say 1/8 thickness can be a challenge.
But when connected to a 220V supply, and set the required power it will cut through the metal effortlessly. At 220V and 60A, this can undoubtedly cut anything up to 3/8 thickness.
- Q. How many years will it be covered under warranty?
- Q. Is it possible to plasma-crash with this unit?
Yes, it is very possible.
- Q. Can this machine support the CNC application?
Yes, it can support it.
Note That Worth
For its value, this is an extraordinary machine. You get great performance with fast, clean cutting with a big duty cycle and easy use and setup.
If you buy this, you will get a top-notch, economical machine that you will love to use. Moreover, you’ll get a system large enough for commercial use, with several decent features you’d expect on high-end machines.
VIVOHOME DC Inverter Plasma Cutter Cutting Machine
If you looking for the best plasma cutter for the money, here comes one and final on our list. VIVOHOME CUT 50 comes with the most advanced inverter technology called MOSFET. It converts 50Hz frequency to higher frequency (more than 100 KHz).
The step-down voltage and rectification current when it goes through the inverter will produce a groundbreaking DC welding current using PWM technology. Since an inverter switch control is used, the measurements and pressure of the primary transformer will be considerably reduced, and the efficiency will increase by 30%.
The piloting arc system can effortlessly strike the arc with the use of the high oscillating frequency.
The step-down voltage and rectification current, through the inverter control supply, creates a large DC welding current by use of PWM technology.
Increased cutting performance, contrasted and autogenously cutting, the cutting speed increased by 1.8 times.
Cutting of steel plates of between 1 a 12mm. will be exceptionally effortless, fast and efficient.
- Q. Is this a pilot arc?
Yes, it is.
- Q. When striking the arc, is it required to place the tip close to the material?
It’s a pilot arc cutter, so you’ll need to bring the tip near the job material to strike an arc.
- Q. When cutting, can you drag the tip along the material?
No, that would lead to premature failure of the tips.
Note That Worth
This unit is an incredible entry-level cutter suitable for any learner of plasma cutting, the CUT-50 replacement torch is widely available and thus accessible to get, and it works great on sheet metal up to 1/8.
Moreover, this is an extraordinary machine, and I prescribe it. Consumables are also readily available from various dealers.
What is plasma cutting?
Plasma cutting is a process that cuts through metal by using a combination of plasma and forced air. It works by electrically charging the air to an extremely high temperature. This ionizes the air to create a channel of plasma that, with the help of compressed oxygen, blasts the plasma through a focused nozzle at high speeds to cut the material.
To put it simply: the metal is heated to molten temperatures and then blown away with air.
Plasma cutting is becoming the preferred method of cutting because of its ease of use, low consumable costs and ability to produce clean cuts. If you’re serious about metalworking then you’ll need the best plasma cutter available.
How to Choose the Best Plasma Cutter?
Wide Range of Materials and Thickness
When it comes to cutting metal nothing compares to the power and convenience of a plasma cutter. From stainless steel to aluminum the best plasma cutter can cut through almost anything less than an inch thick. It’s one of the only methods where you can make non-linear cuts with ease. Because of the wide range of materials that it can cut it is the preferred method if you want clean cuts done quickly.
High Cutting Speeds
Plasma cutting is by far the fastest way to cut metal which is why it is the go-to method for fast-paced production. Typically the higher the amperage the quicker and cleaner the cut, the more work you can get done. While speed isn’t so important to a hobbyist it’s still a factor that needs to be considered. Speed is measured in inches per minute (IPM) and is noted on the plasma cutter itself. A general rule of thumb to maximize productivity is to choose a unit that that can handle close to twice your normal cutting thickness. That way you’ll be able to slide through like a butter.
Compared to oxy-fuel or mechanical cutting, plasma cutting is like a Ferrari to a used Prius. If speed is a priority, plasma is the way to go.
Easy to Learn
Despite its seemingly complex process, plasma cutting is just as easy to learn as MIG welding. You just aim the torch, press the button and move it. Of course it’s a bit more complicated then that, but not by much:
Step 1 – Hold the torch above the metal by about 1/8 inch.
Step 2 – Press the trigger.
Step 3 – Once the arc starts cutting, slowly move the torch in the direction of the cut.
Step 4 – Adjust your speed so you see sparks going through the bottom.
Step 5 – At the end, angle the torch slightly towards the edge before finally severing it.
With plasma cutting the only gas you’ll ever need is air so the cost after the initial purchase is minimal.
You will however have to replace parts on the torch on a semi-regular basis. The shield, retaining cap, nozzle, electrode and swirl ring all need to be replaced eventually. Fortunately the shield protects almost everything so out of all that the shield is the only real cost for consumables, and even that doesn’t have to be replaced too often. Compared to other processes like MIG or TIG, plasma cutting is practically free. If you want to know more about consumable cost check out this article from The Fabricator.
Plenty of Accessories
Cuts often have to be done to exact specification which can be difficult if you’re just eyeing it up and trying to hold steady. Luckily there are a ton of accessories and tips to make the process a little bit easier.
Beveled Cut – Cutting to a specific angle is impossible without the use of a guide. Don’t even try, you’ll just mess it up.
Straight Cut – While possible without accessories, you’ll get a much nice cut if you use a roller to keep you on a straight path. If you but the roller up against something, you’ll get a perfectly straight cut each and every time.
Circle Cut – Forget trying to cut a circle without help. This tip is similar to the other two but it has only 1 wheel to guide it. The other part is firmly planted in the center of the circle to give you a nice clean cut.
Preheating is a process that is used to prevent the metal from cracking when welding or cutting. Fortunately unlike oxy-fuel you don’t have to waste time preheating the metal, making it a much quicker process. All you have to do is point and shoot and watch as the torch pierces through the metal. Furthermore, plasma cutting has a smaller heat-affected zone which prevents the metal from warping and damaging the surrounding area. This makes it the ideal method for cleanly cutting thin gauge metals with precision.
Minimal Clean Up
Besides some burrs and slag on the edges of the metal plasma cutting is a surprising clean process. Unlike oxy-fuel or mechanical cutting which gives off fumes and dust and forces metal chips everywhere, plasma cutting is much nicer. The metal is liquefied then blasted to the ground making clean up later a breeze. Just grab a broom and you’re done.
If done correctly plasma cutting is the most efficient cutting method available today. If you wear the required safety gear and are properly trained, plasma cutting can be done safely and effectively.
That’s not to say their aren’t hazards but I’ll cover those below.
If you need to do some non-linear cutting then the best plasma cutter is what you need. Because of the narrow kerf you are able to make cuts in whatever shape necessary. If you need any type of precision cutting done, plasma is the way to go.
Expensive Start-up Costs
While owning and maintaining the best plasma cutter itself isn’t expensive, the initial cost of the machine is. A basic low-end plasma cutter from an unknown brand will cost you at least $250. Then you have to deal with all the issues that come from such a low-quality complicated machine: dealing with customer service, having to send parts half way around the world, constant breakdowns.
On the other side of things you have the high-end plasma cutters. These will run you anywhere from $800 to $3000 and beyond but will last you for years and years without issue.
If you invest just a little more money upfront you’ll save yourself a ton of headaches and money down the road.
Limited Cutting Thickness
Plasma cutting is by far the most efficient way to cut metal and for most hobbyists it will suffice. But what if you need to cut a thick piece of metal?
Unfortunately for anything more than 1 inch thick a plasma cutter just wont cut it.
For that you need either an oxy-fuel torch or a mechanical blade.
As with anything that deals with fire and electricity there are plenty of inherent safety risks.
A few things to consider when determining the risk factor:
- Toxic fumes
- Arc burns
- Eye and skin protection
- Electrical shock
- Proper grounding
If you take the proper precautions and observe the correct practices and wear all the required PPE (welding helmet, gloves, jacket, etc.) you’ll be fine.
What Will you be Cutting?
To avoid buying an unnecessarily overpowered or a machine that isn’t up to the task it’s critical that you know what you will be cutting beforehand. The last thing you want is to drop $1000 on the best plasma cutter only to find out it wont cut what you need.
Therefore one of the first things you need to consider is the thickness and type of metal you most often cut. Plasma cutting power sources are rated on their cutting ability and amperage so if you only need to cut 1/4″ thick metal then a machine with 25 amps is plenty. If you need to cut 1/2″ thick material then aim for a machine with higher amperage – around 50 – 60. For metal around 1/2″ – 1″ thick you need a rig with at least 80 amps.
While a smaller machine has the ability to cut through thicker materials, the cut will often be severed and low-quality. Generally you want a machine that falls within your budget with the maximum power output. See the chart below:
What you Need to Consider
The most important factor you need to consider when buying the best plasma cutter is power output. Too low amperage and you wont make the cut, too powerful and you’ve just spent a bunch of money you didn’t need. Know your needs beforehand and it will save you time and money down the road.
Output – The single most important factor for selecting a plasma cutter is power output. Consumer cutters range from 10 – 80 amps and even higher if you count CNC machines. Higher amperage means you can cut thicker materials quickly. So if you have the money, by all means, go all out and get the most powerful one available. But if you’re like me, on a limited budget, then see the chart above for amperage to thickness ratio to avoid paying for something you don’t need.
Input – Now that you’ve figure out how much power you’ll need for cutting, you’ll need to figure out how much power it takes to run the machine. If you’re a hobbyists you’ll likely have 115 V running throughout your home and for most people that will be enough. You can run a 25 amp plasma cutter without having to upgrade. If you plan on getting something bigger than 25 amps you’ll need to upgrade your power supply to 230 V. That’s not to say a more powerful machine wont run on 115 V, but you wont get the maximum power output.
Another important factor is the length of duty cycle. The duty cycle refers to the amount of time you can operate the machine in a 10-minute window before having to take a break. For example: a plasma cutter with a duty cycle of 30% @ 45 A means you can work for 3 minutes at 45 amps before having to rest the machine for 7 minutes. This prevents overheating so you don’t accidentally turn your expensive tool into an expensive door stop.
The best plasma cutter will have a long duty cycle so you can keep working without having to take a break to twiddle your thumbs for 5 minutes.
Plasma cutting is known for its speed and precision which is why it’s quickly overtaking other methods when it comes to production work where speed is key. While speed isn’t so important for hobbyists it’s still something to consider. You don’t want to spend all day with a cutting torch. Cutting speed is directly related to amperage and material thickness. High amperage on thin material will be sliced through like paper while low amperage on thick material will barely engrave the metal.
If speed is important to you, refer to the cutting speed chart above to help make your decision.
You’ve already determined how thick of materials you’ll be cutting so I wont spend much time here. Just keep this in mind when making the decision:
< 1/4″ = < 25 amps
1/4″ – 1/2″ = 50 – 60 amps
1/2″ – 1″ = ~ 80 amps
Every plasma cutter will come with a standard torch but there are times when you need a specialty torch or tip. Torches are also the first consumable to break down so having an extra on hand is never a bad idea.
Look for a torch that includes a drag shield. This helps to keep a steady distance between the metal and the torch to give you a nicely uniform cut. It also helps protect the rest of the torch. I mentioned tips above but it’s important to note that not all torches are tip adaptable. If you think you might need tips eventually, make sure the torch is compatible.
Plasma cutting consists of two basic elements, fire and air. Fire to heat up the metal and air to blow it away.
Usually you have to supply your own air by means of an external air compressor. If you don’t already have one this can be an extra expense that’s not really necessary. The best plasma cutter will have a built-in air compressor so it’s one less expense to worry about. Today there are many options available if you don’t already have a compressor including the top rated Hobart Airforce 12ci.
A built-in air compressor is a necessity if you need to lug the machine around from job site to job site.
There are two main methods for starting the arc with a plasma cutter: high frequency and contact. Both have their advantages and disadvantages but the best plasma cutter will have the option for both.
High-frequency – This method works by creating such high voltage between the electrode and the metal that the arc jumps from the torch to the work piece without physical contact. This is the most common starting method but also the most dangerous in terms of electrical hazards. Furthermore high frequency can interfere with nearby computers or other electrical equipment causing irreparable damage. As a result, this method is not preferred.
Contact – Contact starting is exactly what it sounds like. The torch features a DC+ nozzle with a DC- electrode inside which are physically touching. To start the pilot arc you need to pull the trigger which forces the nozzle and electrode apart. You then lower the pilot arc close to the work piece where it establishes the cutting arc. It sounds complicated but all you need to know is this: pull the trigger to start the arc. Because there is no electrical ‘noise’ contact starting is the preferred starting method and is found mainly on high-end machines.
These days most plasma cutters are extremely light with convenient handles to make carrying it around a breeze. Look for a unit that’s less than 50 pounds, ideally less than 30, and you’ll have cutting power wherever you go.
The best plasma cutter, while more expensive, will have a built-in inverter to help generate power thus drastically reducing its size and weight.
Internal Cooling System
If there is no proper cooling system your plasma cutter will overheat quickly, costing you time and money and rendering your new cutter useless. That’s why it’s critical to get a machine with a robust cooling system with fail-safes to shut down if it’s not cooling properly.
Most consumer plasma cutters use forced air to cool down the torch. This is fine for machines up to 100 amps but when you get into the high-end commercial CNC plasma cutters special coolant is required.
Without a quality cooling system you’ll have to replace consumables at a much higher rate.
Try to look for a machine with as many extras as will fit your budget. Extras make your life easier and your work better. Many brands have their own patented systems with fancy names but it’s important to remember they all do pretty much the same thing.
Safety start sensor – With this feature the plasma cutter will not start unless the nozzle is in place.
Long pre-flow sequence – This allows for advanced warning before the arc starts so you can safely get out of the way.
Continuous output control – Automatically adjust the power output when cutting uneven surfaces so you don’t have apply constant precision pressure to the trigger. This helps to reduce hand fatigue.
Multi-voltage plug – Higher amperage plasma cutters use both 115v and 230v input so having an easily adaptable plug is ideal for switching back and forth.
Quick release torch – Different jobs require different torches. A quick release torch will save you time and money if you need to constantly change torches.
Finally the best plasma cutter will have an outstanding warranty. The last thing you want is to have your machine break after a year only to find out the warranty is only good for 6 months and wont cover your issue anyway. It’s critical to read the warranty beforehand, especially if you’re buying a Chinese import brand.
Fortunately the big 3, Miller, Lincoln and Hobart, all stand by their products by first producing high-quality equipment and second by offering amazing warranties.
It’s reassuring to know that after you’ve spent a small fortune on a plasma cutter the company will stand behind it if anything goes wrong.
Plasma VS Oxy-Fuel Cutting
Cutting is an important process for many welding related jobs. The two main methods for cutting metal are plasma arc and oxy-fuel. Both have their pros and cons depending on the situation so it’s critical you know which tool is right for each job.
How does plasma cutting work?
Plasma is created by ionization, adding energy (electricity) to an electrically neutral gas (air). These elements are combined in the torch between an electrode and nozzle. This causes the gas to become unstable and thus creating plasma. Air is then forced through the tip of the nozzle at incredible speeds of up to 20,000 feet per second. For reference, a bullet shot from a handgun travels at about 2500 feet per second. As the metal heats up to molten levels by means of the electrically charged air, the air simultaneously blasts through the work piece creating a clean, smooth cut.
- Cuts non-ferrous metals
- Speed and precision
- Smooth cuts
- No preheat
- Cuts thin metal without warp
- Make non-linear cuts
- Can only cut up to 1 inch thick
- Limited portability
- High start-up cost
How does oxy-fuel cutting work?
Oxy-fuel cutting begins by preheating the steel with a fuel gas flame to its ignition temperature. An extremely high-powered jet of oxygen is then directed at the steel. This creates a chemical reaction between the oxygen and the metal to form iron oxide or slag. The jet of oxygen blasts the slag away from the kerf allowing you to cut much thicker metals.
There are four main fuel gases: acetylene, propane, propylene and natural gas. Each one has different properties so it’s important to know which gas to use for each job. To select the right gas you should consider what you are cutting, cost, heat output and oxygen consumption.
- Cut up to 20 inch thick metal
- Greater portability
- Versatility – able to cut, weld, braze, bend etc.
- Longer torches to keep a distance
- Low cost
- Can only cut ferrous metals
- Warps thin metal
- Grinding required after
When determining which tool to use you need to ask yourself two questions:
- What am I cutting on a regular basis?
- How thick is the metal?
If you are cutting metals thicker than 1 inch on a regular basis oxy-fuel cutting is the go-to method. It saves you time and money in the long run by being able to quickly slice through the material. If, on the other hand, you are precision cutting stainless steel or aluminum, plasma cutting is preferred because of its narrow kerf and the fact that it wont warp the metal.
Tips for Choosing the Best Plasma Cutter
Do your Research
Ranging from $500 – $3500 a best plasma cutter will likely be one of the most expensive tools in your arsenal so you need to do proper research before committing.
Besides this guide there are plenty of other resources to read up on before making a purchasing decision:
Consider Buying Used
Scour Craigslist to find some amazing deals on plasma cutters. Often times people will buy a plasma cutter only to realize they don’t use it as often as they thought they would. This is a great opportunity to pick up a lightly used machine for a much lower cost.
Warning: If you are new and don’t really know what to look for, I’d advise you to either buy new or bring a friend along who can tell you if you’re getting ripped off or not.
Because buying a plasma cutter is such an expensive purchase, if possible, you should try to test the one you want beforehand.
If you’re buying used ask whoever you’re buying it from to see first, if it works and second, if it will work for your needs. If you plan to buy new, most cities will have a place where you can rent tools by the day. Call them up and rent one for an afternoon to see if you like it.
The last thing you need is to buy a plasma cutter that isn’t suitable for the jobs you need it to perform.
Choose Quality over Cost
This one might be hard to justify if you’re on a strict budget but buying a cheap plasma cutter will only cost you in the long run. From repairs to low quality consumables to low duty cycles a cheap machine will not only cost you money but valuable time as well.
That’s why it’s critical that you spend as much as you can within your budget to get the best plasma cutter for the money. A good quality plasma cutter will run you at least $800 but if you are saving money in the long run, it’s worth it.
What Features to Look Before Buying
There are several types of cutting machines that are separately available both online and in the store. You will find small compact units that can be used for household purposes. They can be moved from point to point easily, as they are light.
Heavy-duty units are designed primarily for garages and commercial applications. These large units require a table with wheels or trucks so that it can be easily transported from one location to another. It is essential to buy the size of the machine that is going to meet your demands.
When deciding which brand of plasma cutting machines you should buy, you should consider the parts that should be replaced for the life of the device.
Some manufacturers have more difficult to get parts than others. You have to discover a machine that has fewer parts to replace; this will cost you less money when it comes to maintenance costs for the device. Consumable parts contain things, such as a cathode or the tip of the burner.
Warranty is an integral part of any quality hardware brand. You need to make sure that the warranty of the machine you are buying is not less than two years. Why? This is fundamental because these cutting devices can be highly expensive to repair.
Likewise, make sure to run with a brand that has been on the market for a while. A widely known brand implies easy access to its consumables.
The plasma cutter output power determines the thickness of metal it can cut. If the output power is high, thicker metals can be cut easily and quickly. It is essential to select the units indicated by the type of metals to be cut.
It is also important to consider the duty cycle of the unit before settling on a given brand. The duty cycle of the plasma cutter shows the highest performance of the unit.
Small devices take less time and power to work, while large jobs require high-end metal cutters.
It is also essential to determine the total power required by the unit to cut metals. The thickness of the metal determines the amount of power needed for the machine. Leaner metals take less time and energy than the thicker metals.
The cutting speed of the unit is also another critical factor that must be considered before you obtain these cutting machines. The speed of the cutter is usually recorded as IPM or inches per minute. It’s imperative to choose machines with the right cutting speed for it to be profitable and comfortable to work with.
Types of Torch
There are for the most part two types of cutting torches used in the plasma cutter. The two assortments contain the burner with high recursion and the contact starter burner.
High-frequency cutting torch is reliable and safe. The Contact Start Torch is very useful as it instantly turns on.
All metal cutters do not accompany inverters, but those who by chance come with one accompanies a hefty sticker price. The inverter takes the direct current and passes it through a high-frequency transistor inverter ranging from 10 kHz to 200 kHz.
Machines operating on 110/220 V power outlets are similarly less expensive and have limited applications. But those Plasma cutters at 220 / 240V are expensive and cut through thicker materials.
Voltage input determines the thickness of the metal, which can be cut easily with that given cutter.
Plasma cutters make use of electric currents to create the cutting arc that is estimated up to the current level. Customers need to match the amps next to the thickness of the metal they want to cut and the source of the power they will use.
It is important to note that the current has a positive connection with the cutting speed. A plasma cutter that has more amperage offers a higher duty cycle that can meet your requirements if you want to work for longer periods of time.
25 amps will make the trickle metal 1/4 inch thick, while 50 amps will be needed to cut through ½ inch metals, and 80 amps can cut through 3/4 to 1 inch thick metals without lifting a finger barely.
Controls and Indicators
All plasma systems require a circuit breaker and another method of changing the current setting, depending on the type of metal being cut.
The current controller even has LED indicators on the front of the board, making it easy to read the inputs, even though they may cost more.
If you need to use your cutter indoor, then it must be well cased for safety. The safer housing units may cost more than the less safe units. But for the people working outside, the extra cost is worth it as still there are other elements not required to get in contact with the cutter.
Check out this article on How a Plasma Cutter Work
Frequently Asked Questions
As it seems typical for any wide-minded person after reading such material to have a series of questions, below we cover some of the most asked questions by our users and readers.
Q. What are the differences between industrial and non-industrial plasma machines?
- Q. Whys are industrial plasmas costly when compared to their counterpart; the non-industrial plasma?
As in most cases, we associate the value with the price, it is not different in this situation. Low prices imply that low productivity, reliability, and performance. Also, you can avoid common plasma cutting problems by avoiding lower budget machines.
- Q. Is plasma cutting safer than welding?
The plasma cutting process can be very safe. By observing safety standards and correctly setting up and operating the system, plasma cutting is no more of a hazard than most welding processes.
- Q. Why should I choose a plasma cutting machine and not OXY cutting machine?
Plasma cutting machines offer more possibilities than oxy-fuel cutting technology. With one of these machines, you experience high-quality cuts and higher speeds.
- Q. In which cases should I consider a laser cutter over a plasma cutter?
When high precision is required. They are used in areas where you need high accuracy. For example, in case you want to cut a finely detailed saw blade.
These machines not only provide precision, but you can rely on them to do repeated cuts with the same high precision.
- Q. How is the plasma cutting process?
Plasma cutting is a method of cutting metals that uses a sharp velocity beam of ionized gas usually produced from a narrow, restricting orifice to strike the metal.
The high-velocity ionizing gas or plasma, as is known, while it strikes the metal conducts electricity from the plasma cutter’s torch to the piece that is to be cut. The plasma heats the material, in this case, the metal to melt.
Then the molten metal is blown away mechanically by the high velocity ionized gas.
- Q. What is the difference between plasma cutting and oxyfuel?
The simple fact is that plasma can be used for any conductive metal – be it mild steel, aluminum or stainless steel. As for oxyfuel, it will burn through oxidation, or in plain language, burn the metal that cuts it.
- Q. I am getting problem cutting thick material, how can I go about?
A well-known secret for thicker materials is to turn the torch slightly to increase the orientation of the torch rather than pulling the angle as you cut through the last part of the material.
A critical instruction is never to finish a cut by flicking the last edge of the work with the torch.
For those considering purchasing a plasma system, it is essential to be aware of the performance of the system and whether this unit can meet all the requirements, and not just a single part of it.
It is also vital to ensure the efficiency of the machine before buying these cutters. The above ten machines are what most customers have reviewed, according to their performance and value. Buy one from the above best plasma cutters and come back with positive feedback. Cheers!