What You Will Get Here
- Why You Should Trust Us
- What is a Plasma Cutter and Why Should You Use It?
- Which Type of Cutter is Right for You?
- Things to Consider When Looking for a Plasma Cutter
- How Did We Pick These Products?
- Our Top 10 Product List
- Best Overall: Lotos LTP5000D Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
- Most Versatile Choice: Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter
- Great for Industrial Use: Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i 240V
- Great for Home Use: SUNCOO Cut-50 Plasma Cutter
- Top Combo Choice: Lotos CT520D Plasma Cutter 3 in 1 Combo
- Good Value for Money: Mophorn 50Amp Plasma Cutter
- Our Portable Choice: ZENY DC Inverter Plasma Cutter
- A List of 3 Other Products We Reviewed
- Other Tested Products
- Honorable Mention
- Safety Tips
Why You Should Trust Us
The credibility of a reviewer depends on three main points -- knowledge, experience with the reviewing product, and the passion for sharing knowledge. The Drillly team fulfills all three and hence claims to be one of the most trusted reviewers of our products.
Firstly, we have been in the industry for over a decade. We pride ourselves on holding the latest and most authentic knowledge regarding plasma machines mainly because we own first-hand knowledge working with them. Besides, we've done rigorous research on these machines to make the most of what they can do to the extent of modern scientific advancement. We've worked on the building materials of each part of a plasma cutter to estimate and compare efficiency from product to product. This has led us to cover most areas relating to our reviewing units.
Secondly, we have been in the field of welding and plasma cutting for over a longer period of time than the range of our presence online solely for sharing our knowledge with the enthusiasts. While practically working with these machines we naturally came across the ins and outs of the products and understood them more clearly.
Finally, we are passionate about what we do and the reason we are making the review is basically sharing what we know through our experience. Needless to say, we do not receive any payment from any manufacturer, neither do we make this shortlist for monetary purposes; although we do get a small commission from Amazon when one buys a product through our site. Our report manifests extensive research works in a precise tone to avoid verbosity. Hence, we do request you to put faith in us for the sake of honesty and sincerity towards our passion.
The Drillly team hopes that our expert opinions on plasma cutters will help you buy the best products within the best price.
What is a Plasma Cutter and Why Should You Use It?
Plasma is a super-heated ionized gas; it's the fourth phase of matter alongside solid, liquid, and gas. On the other hand, cutters are power tools that make cuts through various types of metals. So, a plasma cutter is a tool that uses an electric arc to ignite compressed gas and make the particles electrically conductive. Unlike the traditional metal-to-metal and thick steel cutters that use oxy-fuel (oxidation process), most plasma cutters run with compressed air.
Plasma is a type of particle formed when electricity is applied to gaseous fuel. Usually, such plasma gases as oxygen, nitrogen, and those in the air are compressed under high-pressure. Electricity from an external power source has the ability to combine with the gaseous fuel to form ‘plasma jets,’ and make cuts on metals quickly and easily following the rules of thermodynamics.
Here are some of the benefits of applying the plasma cutting technology into conductive metals.
Speedy cuts: The plasma cutting technology ensures rapid and precise cuts through thick metals and tubes. Unlike oxy-fueled cutters, plasma jets cut with ease and speed. It's the speed of cutting through thick metals that increase the performance of plasma cutting machines.
Portability: Unlike the traditional bulky oxy-fuel cutters, these machines are handy, smaller, and lightweight. But their portability doesn't reduce their power and performance. When you buy a plasma cutter without a trolley, its housing comes with studs underneath and a handle on top.
Versatility: You can efficiently use plasma cutting machines on a range of thick materials. The versatility of a plasma cutter is enhanced by its electric arc process. It enables precise cuts on thin rusty metals and conductive metals with about 80 mm thickness. Generally, plasma cutting machines can make easy holes on multiple sheets of stacked plates.
Cost-Effective and Efficient: Instead of budgeting for highly flammable gases, if you own a plasma cutter you can save money by using electricity or compressed air. You'll need precision to make accurate micro cuts through metal very quickly indeed. You will find plasma cutters accurate and highly efficient, especially when you will have to make measurements to cut along the lines, circles and rough tracks. However, skillful welders use plasma cutting guides to make the most of their machines.
All of these features are impossible to get when using oxy-fueled cutters. So, you should always try such a metalworking tool no matter whether you need it for personal or industrial use.
Which Type of Cutter is Right for You?
The tier of any plasma cutter model corresponds to specific types and thickness of metals. It's the tier system that categorizes plasma cutters according to the range of metals they can cut. So, how would you know the tier of a good plasma cutter that suits your purpose?
- Low Tier : This tier of cutter suits metals with a thickness of less than 1/8-inch. It will produce low-quality cuts on metals with 1/2-inch, and 1/4-inch thickness.
- Mid Tier : You can’t use the mid-tier cutter for metals that are thicker than 1/2-inch and expect good performance. Instead, this category can cut less than 1/2-inch thick metals at 3 or 4 inches per minute.
- Top Tier : Cutters in this category can handle 5/8-inch and 1/2-inch thick metals with ease. However, the limit of cutters in this category is a 1-inch thick metal using laser pointer. Their severance capacity is at 20 inches per minute.
- Heavy-Duty Plasma Cutters : Usually, it’s an overkill to use this category of cutters for thinner metals. Instead, they can cut 1 to 1.5-inch thick materials easily.
Instead of thinking of what fits your purpose today, there might be a need for project expansion someday. So, it's cost-effective for you to pick a plasma cutting machine that’s a tier above your current need.
Things to Consider When Looking for a Plasma Cutter
You'll find welders, hobbyists, DIYers, machinists, and technicians in construction sites using plasma cutters on sheets of metal with different thickness levels. There's a big range of brands and types of these machines in online and offline stores for sale. Without considering the necessary factors before buying a good cutting machine, your tool could end up in a repair shop or salvage yard. Here are some important features that you must consider.
- Voltage : Generally, the built-in compressor in a plasma cutter is designed for either 110-volt or 220 volt outlet. There are also plasma cutters with dual voltage ratings and some manufacturers place built-in switches that help you use either the 110 V or 220 V.
- Amperage : Current is measured in Amperes (A); it’s the value of electrical current that’s measured as the voltage-to-resistance ratio. The plasma cutting machine can’t generate the cutting arc without an electrical current. This is the reason cutters are rated in Amps (Ampere) before they are connected to any power source. However, powerful battery packs can also run a plasma cutter for a short time due to heavy energy consumption.
2. Metal Thickness
You don't need a higher amperage plasma cutter if you often cut thin metals that are less than 1/4 inches. Instead, a low-cost cutting machine fits your purpose perfectly. Also, machines that are rated at 80 Amps are ideal for cutting between 3/4 to 1 inch thick metals.
3. Cutting Speed & Quality
Generally, the cutting speed of a plasma cutter depends on the metal's thickness, and the high-end models definitely offer very high performance of cutting quality. They are more precise and accurate while cutting, but are pricey as well. Unlike oxy-fueled cutters, modern cutting machines can pierce thick metals in seconds. As a result, operators experience more speed when cutting thinner metals. A plasma cutter with 20% duty cycle can cut metals at 20 inches per minute before cooling.
4. Output Current
When you consider the output current, your decision should be based on the thickness value of the metal you want to cut. Usually, machines with 75 Amps rating are ideal for 3/4-inch cuts, while 50-Amp machines fit 1/2-inch cuts. Also, cutters with ratings of 25 Amps will cut 1/4-inch thick metals. Low-amp plasma cutters are ideal for metals with a minimum thickness of 1/4 inches. You can also choose an 80-amp cutter for heavy-duty cuts on metals like mild steel that are above 1 inch.
5. Duty Cycle
The value of amperage a cutting unit draws is the duty cycle, and it's expressed as a percentage. A 20% duty cycle at 30-Amp of power and 120-Volts means that the cutting machine needs 8 minutes of downtime after working for 2 minutes of active use. It's a feature that prevents cases of over-heating. Also, a cutting machine with a 50% duty cycle at 45 Amps has a runtime of 30 minutes in every hour. Additionally, a 100% duty cycle means that the machine doesn't require any cooling time. So, when you need a machine to cut for shorter periods, machines with a higher duty cycle value might not be what you need.
The consumables in welding are items (accessories) that will wear out due to regular use. In the plasma cutting system consumables are electrodes and nozzles. The manufacturers of consumables usually estimate their lifespan. Copper nozzles are good conductors of heat, but copper consumables do melt at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. But luckily, the modern cutters have the ability to circulate compressed air to protect the copper nozzle from the plasma's heat. Hand held torches that use electrodes emit electrons with the aid of hafnium. Sometimes the excessive heat within the torch may evaporate hafnium. Inaccurate cuts occur because of a misfiring torch and the cheap models often make the operators buy consumables periodically.
7. Pilot Arc
Usually, today's top-notch models often feature the pilot arc technology for precise cuts. This feature allows the operator to use the plasma cutter torch without its tip touching metal. It's the space between the torch's tip and the metal's surface that forms a plasma arc (field) of heated gas, though there are different types of plasma cutter gas. The pilot arc technology makes it very easy to cut through thick metals. Also, it's a cost-effective way of saving the torch's consumables and providing cleaner cuts.
8. Indicators & Controls
The basic control features of cutting machines are power, voltage, and LED indicators. The power switch is adjustable to give an efficient cut on different materials. Usually, the calibrations (digital or manual) are easy to read and designed on the front panel of the machine. Also, the LED indicators on modern plasma cutters have red or green colors. Some advanced units are even programmable so, the custom settings can be tweaked.
The housing of a plasma cutting machine is the exterior cover that protects its built-in components. Some housings allow operators to use these cutters indoors and outdoors. Many housing units are aesthetically improved and rugged so they can withstand a variety of conditions.
10. Automated Functions
Many modern plasma cutters have automated functions that improve the efficiencies of these power tools. Like cooling, fans with built-in thermostats switch on when the unit is super hot. So, automation helps shut down and switch on machines without the intervention of operators. These automated functions are self-regulating, and such high-end features increase the prices of plasma cutting machines.
People often ask: how much does a plasma cutter cost? Usually, a plasma cutter's price depends on the technology and the power output it comes with. Based on that the price ranges from 150-500 USD, in case of high-end units, the price may go over 1000 USD.
The warranty policy document makes a refund or claiming process easy. It specifies terms and condition that protects the money that has been paid by a buyer for that product. Make sure you understand and agree with the clauses in a warranty document before buying a plasma cutter.
How Did We Pick These Products?
We went through several stages before we were finally able to discover our top ten gems. It was a hard work consisting of online and offline research.
Our journey started by listing down all the popular plasma cutter units at the time of our research. After around 20 hours of research, we sorted out the 20 most popular units with a variety of features. Our research team located the users of the machines and tried them for a certain length of time until they collected enough data from each unit to compare them with one other.
We had a number of volunteers from different factories to join us and give inputs from the usage of selected models. This helped widene the scope of our research and improve our ability to make the true top ten list. While working on these units we found that none of them were perfect in general, but each had its own special field of excellence and ingenuity. So, it was a bit difficult to finally come up with the best one from all perspectives. But we tried our best to come up with different terms to describe their super-powers. There were some units that performed better under heavy loads than the others while some came with a wide range of torches with a more precise cutting ability. Some units were heavy-duty that required extra cautions to work with while some were less power-consuming and safer.
Finally, before we shortlisted the final 10 units, we focused on their technical efficiency, features, precision, building materials, durability, modular prospects, noise and vibration, power consumption, mobility, weight, warranty policy, and of course, the track record of their manufacturers. Based on these criteria we were eventually able to craft our list given below which will definitely help you make an informed buying decision.
Our Top 10 Product List
Now that you know how to find your most suitable choice, let us now go through our comprehensive list of the top 10 plasma cutters so you can easily decide which one to buy without having to spend hours on doing the research work that we have already done for you.