Plasma cutting is a technique extensively used to cut different types of metals using the properties of plasma. Cutters have been developed since the industrial revolution. As a power tool, there has been a series of upgrades that have brought precision in modern cutters when compared to the old metal-to-metal cutting techniques.
High-end HD plasma cutters are able to give precise cuts because they are especially designed for that purpose. In many projects that I supervised, I noticed different types of plasma cutters always gave cleaner cuts than oxy-fuel cutters. So, your preferred model should be a pro-grade tool to work seamlessly.
To help you with that, the Drillly team has reviewed some of the best plasma cutters in today's market. Read on to find your best match today!
The credibility of a reviewer depends on three main points -- knowledge, experience with the product, and the passion for sharing knowledge. The Drillly team fulfills all these three and here’ll discuss how.
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 have first-hand experience of working with them for decades.
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.
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 plasma cutter reviews is sharing what we know through our experience. The Drillly team hopes that our expert opinions on plasma cutters will help you make an informed buying decision.
How We Reviewed These Products
We went through several stages before we were finally able to discover our top 10 gems. It was 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 widen the scope of our research and improve our ability to make the true top 10 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 Best Plasma Cutter List
Now that you know how to find your most suitable choice, let us now go through our comprehensive list of the top-rated 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.
The Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter is a compact power tool. It delivers 1/2 inch clean cuts with high power output for cutting thick metals. It's an all-round cutter with the non-touch pilot ARC technology that makes continuous cutting easy.
Built-in 50 Amp Digital Inverter: The 50 Amp Lotos LTP5000D Air Plasma Cutter has a built-in digital inverter and is more powerful than a 40 amp model. It has a high-frequency transistor unit that receives direct current (DC) from the inverter unit. This machine's amperage is adjustable, and you have a choice of setting it at 20 A or 50 A. By tuning the selector knob to 50 A, it changes the machine's duty cycle to 60%.
Dual-voltage: This machine has both automatic dual voltage and dual frequency (110/220V 50/60Hz) options. Using a 110-volt pigtail adapter (sold separately), operators can run the cutting machine on a 110V 50/60 Hz, or 220V 50/60 Hz power.
MOSFET Transistor Technology: With the inclusion of the MOSFET transistor, the machine will deliver a steady supply of power. A high power output ensures continuous cutting on rough surfaces of thin metals and thick metals.
Pilot ARC Technology: This plasma cutter comes with the non-touch pilot arc technology that cuts any type of metal in a smooth and uniform motion. It's the most outstanding feature because it increases the lifespan of this machine manifold.
Weight: 26 lbs
Input Voltage: 110 V/220 V
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50 A
The Lotos LTP5000D has a handle for portability
Unlike oxy-fuel cutters, the Lotos LTP5000D model uses clean compressed air to cut steel, copper, and aluminum metals
This plasma cutter is a lightweight machine that can serve DIY and light-duty projects
It gives 1/2 inch clean cuts, 3/4 severance cuts, but this product can't handle metals that are thicker than 19mm
This plasma cutter comes with high-end features like Pilot ARC and a MOSFET transistor technology. Also, this is ideal for metals with a thickness between 1/2 inches (12.7mm) and 3/4 inches (19mm). The Lotos LTP5000D is for those that need cutters with uniform, high power output for stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, and copper materials. If you're looking for a high-end cutter for years of regular use, you can surely give it a try.
The LT5000D 50-Amps Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter by Lotos is a compact metal cutter. It can run on 50/60 Hz with a 110-volt (alternating current) pigtail adapter. As a dual voltage cutting machine, it also runs directly on 220 V 50/60 Hz power. It's safer, swifter, and easy to use for light-duty projects.
PAPST Advanced German Cooling System: This built-in cooling system is automated that turns itself 'ON' when the unit is very hot. Its PAPST Advanced German cooling system reduces the temperature of the machine and increases its duty cycle.
Air Plasma Cutter: Unlike oxy-fuel cutting machines, plasma is a non-hazardous compressed air. It burns metallic surfaces with high speed and makes accurate cuts. Also, this type of fuel makes precision cuts on steel, copper, and aluminum materials with ease.
Suitable for 1/2 and 3/4-inch Thickness: The LT5000D 50-Amps is intended for 1/2-inch clean cuts, and could cut metals having 3/4 inches of thickness with ease.
Dual Voltage Machine: Its automatic dual voltage and dual frequency (110 V/220 V 50/60Hz) options are simply top-notch. They allow the Lotos LT5000D plasma cutter to run on 110 Volts 50/60 Hz or 220 Volts 50/60 Hz power. But you'll need to get a pigtail adapter to enjoy this feature.
Input Voltage: Dual – 110 V/220 V
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50 A
This plasma cutter has a lightweight of 22.5lbs, and it's portable
Its maximum rated clean cut thickness is 1/2 inches
The maximum severance thickness is 3/4 inches
It doesn't feature the Pilot ARC technology.
Can't be used to make clean cuts on rusty or painted metals
It's cleaner and cost-effective to use the Lotos LT5000D plasma cutting machine. Its built-in inverter system produces powerful DC welding currents using the Pulse-Width-Modulation (PWM) technology. This is the right product for you if you need lightweight plasma cutters without a Pilot ARC. However, it's safe to say this unit is the best plasma cutter under 1000 USD.
The Airforce 40i 500566 from Hobart is a plasma cutter that cuts metal like a hot knife through cheese. This product offers good value for money and comes with high-end features like low-pressure indicator lights. Let's discuss other factors that make it a must-buy.
Portability: This Hobart plasma cutting machine weighs 31 lbs, and it’s easy to transport from your factory to the location of your project. The setup of this plasma cutter is easy because it uses a single knob design for amperage adjustments.
Suitable for 7/8-inch Thickness: This Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i plasma cutter is intended for 7/8-inch mild steel severe cut, and 5/8 inch clean cuts. The lightweight cutter also offers powerful performance with ease.
Auto-Refire Technology: This powerful tool allows you to flush cut expanded and perforated metals. While cutting rusty and coated metal surfaces, the auto-refire technology offers a zero learning curve.
At 50% duty cycle, the Airforce 40i 500566 cuts faster than any oxy-fueled machine. Its air consumption is efficient because while cutting, the wind tunnel technology prevents abrasive dust from damaging the unit's internal components.
Weight: 31 lbs
Input Voltage: 240V
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 50% @ 40 A
This Airforce 40i 500566 model Hobart can clean cut 5/8-inch, and sever cut 7/8-inch mild steel
It weighs 31 lbs; you can easily transport this tool by using your hand
It cuts expanded and perforated metals faster than oxy-fueled cutters
Unlike cheaper cutters, the buyer needs big budgets to get this product
This Hobart Airforce 40i 500566 model operates with a 240 V input power. It's ergonomically enhanced with an anti-slip handle and trigger safety design. You can get a more exact cut with the no-gas pressure mode that allows operators to tune the flame on the Pilot ARC. It's the perfect choice as a heavy-duty industrial cutting machine.
Sometimes you don't need an expensive plasma cutter when a low-cost yet reliable plasma cutter can meet your needs. The SUNCOO Cut-50 plasma cutter has an impressive performance with a wide range of applications. It's designed for light industrial use and sheet metal fabrication.
Dual Voltage: This SUNCOO plasma cutter comes with a dual voltage feature that automatically switches to 110-220V input power. It also has dual frequency options of 50/60 Hz power.
Heavy-duty Applications: Apart from meeting the demands of professional operators, the SUNCOO plasma cutter offers multi-functional use. The setup process is easy and it's a reliable cutting tool for ducting work, automotive, and maintenance services.
Digital Display: There's no need to strain your eyes at the front panel's indicator while working in dark areas. Instead, SUNCOO has improved this model with a digital LCD. The screen is easy to read; it displays DC output value and air-pressure gauge.
High Cutting Speed: With a maximum rating of 50 Amp, the digital inverter plasma cutter offers smooth cutting. There’s no need to polish after cutting metals with 1/2 inch thickness. Instead, the operation is simple while cutting carbon, copper, and stainless steel surfaces.
Weight: 25.2 lbs
Rated input capacity 4.8KVA
Duty cycle: 60%, Efficiency: 85%
This model has a lightweight design and an anti-slip handle
It's cutting speed is 1.8 times higher than flame cutters
It can serve for industrial and personal use
Unlike other expensive cutters with high-end features, this model is affordable
This SUNCOO plasma cutter does not come with an air hose that connects the regulator to the unit
The SUNCOO 50-Amp Digital Inverter is durable and made from heavy-duty iron. It offers adjustability with the dual voltage knob that allows operators to switch from 110 to 220 Volts. If you're seeking an inexpensive cutting machine with a wide range of applications, get this today!
The Lotos CT520D plasma cutter brings best value at an affordable price. It's a three-in-one combo welding machine; a 50-Amp air plasma cutter, a 200-Amp stick welder, and a 200-Amp DC TIG welder. As a high-end cutting machine, it has a dual voltage feature that allows operators to use the 110 Volt pigtail adapter.
Dual-voltage: This plasma cutter comes with an automatic dual voltage and frequency design. It allows operators to run the machine directly on 220 Volt 50/60 Hz, or 110V with a pigtail.
200 Amp DC TIG Welder: As a component of the machine, the TIG welding unit offers precise welding joints on thinner gauge materials. It's part of the three-in-one feature that comes with this machine.
200 Amp Stick Welder: As a component of the Lotos CT520D machine, the Amp stick welder's DC electric current output is adjustable. This unit supports precise foot pedal welding.
Sturdy Construction: The Lotos CT520D's housing is built with steel. The cutter unit provides clean cuts on metals with 1/2 inch thickness, and severance cuts on metals with 3/4 inch thickness.
Voltage: 110 V/220V
Dual Frequency: 50/60Hz
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50 A
It's a multipurpose cutting machine that has built-in a 200-Amp stick welder, and 200 Amp DC TIG welder
This machine uses automatic dual voltage and frequency (110 Volts /220 Volts 50/60Hz)
The body of this machine is made of lightweight steel and its portable
This cutting machine doesn't have the non-touch Pilot ARC technology
The LOTOS CT520D model is a multipurpose 3-in-1 machine that offers a range of welding and cutting applications. It features a duty cycle of 60% at 50 Amps on all processes. This model of LOTOS will make a good option for buyers who need an all-inclusive power tool that has a welding machine, plasma cutter, and the TIG/ Stick Welder. Above all, it's safe to say it's one of the best plasma cutters under 500 USD.
Mophorn is a reliable manufacturer of plasma cutting systems. Like Lotos Technology, they produce cutting and welding machines with solid materials. The 50Amp Plasma Cutter from Mophorn is portable and durable.
Wide Application: The Mophorn 50-Amp Dual Voltage cutting machine can serve a range of applications, like automotive repair, construction, metal fabrication, and ducting work. It's also suitable when your cutting needs involve stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and mild steel.
High Efficiency: The unit prevents fluctuation of power with a maximum input current of 50A and its voltage compensation feature. With a 35% duty cycle, this highly efficient machine offers faster cutting on 1/2 inch thick metals.
Safe for Use: The Mophorn 50Amp dual voltage plasma cutter is safe for use and prevents overheating. When excess gas pressure builds up, it is displayed on the air pressure gauge. With the IP21 level protection, it will reduce the temperature automatically.
Cut Surface Advantage: Its maximum cutting capacity of metals is those with the 12mm thickness, and the Mophorn 50-Amp machine leaves a smooth cut surface after every operation. It also has a built-in advanced inverter technology that works just fine.
Input Current: Max 50A
Weight: 22 lbs
Air Pressure: 30 to 50psi(110V); 30 to 70psi(220V)
Input Voltage: 110V or 220V
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 35% @ 50 A
Apart from the Plasma Cutter, the package content includes one unit each of cutting torch, earth clamp, and pressure reducing valve
It has a built-in wind-cooling and heat dissipation system
The unit is compact, lightweight, portable, and easy to carry
This Mophorn 50Amp dual voltage plasma cutter doesn't have the pilot ARC technology
Mophorn 50-Amp has high-end features like the front panel digital display screen and an air pressure gauge. Its voltage compensation function helps prevent power surges. It's a rugged cutting machine with an advanced inverter technology that will suit your needs if you need an all-purpose cutter.
For the money you are going to invest, the Cut-50 model from ZENY is a great bargain. Our team of experts was impressed after testing the unit by cutting alloy steel, stainless steel, copper, and mild steel. Also, this DC inverter-based plasma cutter requires very low maintenance.
Dual Voltage: The ZENY inverter Plasma cutter comes with the dual voltage option. It means that operators can run this cutting machine on 220V or 110V with a power of 60HZ.
Very Portable: With a lightweight of 22.05lbs, the ZENY 50AMP CUT-50's compact design supports a wide range of applications. The top of its steel housing has a non-slip grip handle which is fantastic for its mobility and easy transportation.
Energy Saving: The ZENY cutting machine saves energy by 50% and offers faster cutting on metals with high efficiency. Its cooling system for the cutting torch helps prolong the lifespan of consumables.
High Efficiency: The efficiency of this ZENY cutting machine is 85%, and its duty cycle is 60% at a maximum electrical current value of 50A. It's a high-efficient cutter that offers severance to 12mm-thick metals.
Input Current: Max 50A
Weight: 22.05 lbs
Input Voltage: Dual- 110V or 220V
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50 A
This cutter's capacity is a maximum cutting thickness of 12mm
It can serve a range of cutting applications like DIY, automotive repairs, metal fabrications, and artistry
This lightweight cutter is portable and has an anti-slip handle
It comes with a cutting torch instead of the pilot ARC technology
ZENY is a powerhouse in welding and cutting technology. This product offers severance cuts at ½-inch for most metals and is perfect for low-budget buyers considering plasma cutters with 50-amp dual voltage for home or professional use. For the budget-conscious buyer, there probably isn’t a better option.
It has taken Hypertherm many decades to build a solid reputation in power tools production. Our team of experts was quite satisfied with the overall performance of the 088079 Powermax30 XP model. This single phase cutting machine has many high-end features, the most notable one being its 15-foot torch lead. This nice small unit is both portable and versatile.
Consumable Kit: The 088079 Powermax 30 XP comes with a tool kit for consumables. The bag is convenient to carry and has storage compartments for different types of consumables like nozzles, electrodes, and retaining caps. The cutter's housing also has a strap that makes it highly portable.
Faster Cuts: This versatile and portable machine does all types of cutting and gouging jobs faster than regular products. It maxes at 45 amps of cutting power and uses the Hypertherm torch technology for clean cuts on 12mm-thick (1/2 inches) metals at 10 inches per minute.
The 15-foot Duramax LT torch: Like Powermax 65, 85 and 45XP models its torch lead provides a level of safety at both ends. Operators will enjoy a comfortable grip because the handle is heat-and impact-resistant. The torch relieves operators of strain and offers much ease of use.
Auto-voltage: The voltage regulation of this cutter is automatic and it's compatible with 110 Volts and 240 Volts input power. Moreover, you'll find a pair of plug adapters in this package.
Current: 15 A to 30 A
Weight: 21.56 lbs
Input Voltage: 120V or 240V
This cutting machine package comes with a convenient storage case for sorting your consumables
The Duramax LT torch's performance is consistent, and operators can make clean cuts through 5/8-inch metals easily
This mini, lightweight machine is portable and versatile
It's quite pricey because of the high-end features on the cutting machine
With the Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP, there's the ease of cutting and gouging your metals. It has a two-in-one design - detail cutting for thin metals and clean cuts for thick metals. This product is for professionals that need ergonomically designed AIR plasma cutters with high performance.
However, for more power, you may consider Powermax 105 or Powermax 600, and in extreme cases, Powermax 800, 900, Powermax 1000 g3 and 1250 models. There're also Powermax 1100 and 1650 models that you can check out for more powerful cuts.
The CUT50D Plasma cutter from PRIMEWELD is ideal for cutting metals of all shapes and sizes. The Cut-50 is a dual voltage power tool and you'll be impressed with its performance while it's cutting thin metals. With its optimized design and high-end features, our team of experts made no mistake in including this product in this list.
Built-in Rugged 50 Amp Digital Inverter: Unlike the Ct520d model, this digital inverter sends direct current (DC) to a built-in high-frequency MOSFET transistor unit. It optimizes the speed of clean cuts on metals with 1/2 thickness and maximizes severance cuts on metals with 3/4 inch thickness.
Precision Cuts: The versatility of switching between 110 volts and 220 volts allows operators to make precision cuts on metals. While using the PRIMEWELD Plasma Cutter, you can effortlessly cut metals like aluminum, copper, and steel.
Portability: The 50 Amp Digital Air Plasma Cutter has a sturdy steel housing with a non-slip handle. Its 26lbs weight makes it easy to lift and transport this device to multiple work locations.
Impressive Duty Cycle: You can fine-tune this cutting machine's duty cycle by turning the selector knob to 50 Amps. At 40°C (104°F) and 50A, its 60% duty cycle allows faster cuts than oxy-fueled machines.
Input Current: Max 50A
Weight: 26 lbs
Input Voltage: Dual- 110V or 220V (50/60 Hz)
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50A
This plasma cutter is built for both demanding industrial and fabrication work
It uses a dual voltage and frequency of 220 V/110 V and 50/60 Hz respectively
With an output current ranging from 10-50 A, the plasma cutter has a duty cycle of 60%
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It's recommended for you if you need a rugged 50A air inverter plasma cutter for industrial use. This machine can handle metalwork jobs of all shapes and it comes with many high-end features that make it worth a try.
The SUNGOLDPOWER DC Inverter Air Plasma Cutter may be a low-budget option, but it comes with the latest technology that you need for optimum production. Its front panel has an LED digital display and a voltage switch. When using this for light-duty applications, it allows you the option of running the unit on either 110V or 220V.
Safety systems: Its built-in cooling fan is an over-heat protection system that's automated. The steel housing of this machine is highly-improved with vents that helps maintain a suitable working temperature and increases its duty cycle. Other safety features include overvoltage and under-voltage protection systems.
The Range of Cutting Applications: The SUNGOLDPOWER Air Plasma Cutter handles cutting on copper, steel, and aluminium materials. However, while offering faster cutting speeds, this machine saves energy and generates low noise.
IGBT Inverter: The IGBT inverter technology is a great addition to this product. It's an adjustable feature operated with a soft-switch to eliminate power fluctuations and stabilize performance. Apart from efficiency, it's more economical to run this plasma cutter at a high duty cycle because there will be a reduction in power consumption.
Portability: Usually, workmen have to move from one location to another with their tools. But this plasma cutter is ergonomically enhanced with an anti-slip grip to ease its portability.
Output current range: 10-50A
Output voltage: 100V
Weight: 23.9 lbs
Input Voltage: Dual- 110V or 220V (50/60 Hz)
Duty cycle @ 104°F (40°C): 60% @ 50A
It offers high cutting speed and cuts smoothly without needing polish demands
As an efficient air plasma cutter, the device saves energy and produces low noise
It comes with high-end safety features like the over-heat, under-voltage, and over-voltage protection systems
This cutting machine lacks a pilot ARC technology
The IGBT soft-switch technology is an impressive feature of this SUNGOLDPOWER model. With its IGBT inverter soft switch, you can eliminate power surge and get a stable performance. While enjoying the machine's 60% duty cycle, you'll also experience power consumption and save money. We'll recommend the SUNGOLDPOWER CUT-50 plasma cutter for buyers low on budget.
In the selection process we had to drop a few products from our final top 10 list, they would definitely be there if we made a top 20 or 30 list. We worked with some other renowned brands with their most popular models, including the following -
Miller (Spectrum 625 Extreme, Miller 2050, Spectrum 1000, Spectrum 2050, Spectrum 300, 125c, Spectrum Thunder), Lincoln Electric (Tomahawk 375, 625, 1000, 1538, Pro Cut 55, 25), Victor Technologies, formerly known as Thermal Dynamics (Cutmaster 38, 39, 50, 51, 52, 42, Cutter 42, TD Cutmaster 60I, Cutmaster 82), ESAB (PCM 875, Powercut 1500, Crossbow), Everlast Power Equipment (Plasma 50), Eastwood (Versa Cut 60, Cutter 60s), Forney Industries, JEGS, Riland (Riland Cut 40), Klutch, HTP, R Tech, AHP (AlphaCut 60), RazorWeld (ViperCut 30, Razorcut 45), Jasic, ZENY, Blue Point, Thermal Arc (Thermal ARC - PAK 5XR, PAK Master 50, Pak Master 38xl), Chinese company Jinan Link (Hobby), BOC, Rossi, Yahong (Dragon), Simadre (TITAN 4000i), Firepower, Century, Trafimet, Telwin, Koike, BOC and Vulcan.
After our rigorous research, we found out that the following list of products was worth mentioning:
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.
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.
Unlike the traditional bulky oxy-fuel cutters, these machines are handy, smaller, and lightweight. But their portability doesn't reduce their power and performance level. When you buy a plasma cutter without a trolley, its housing comes with studs underneath and a handle on top.
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.
Plasma cutters are accurate and highly efficient, especially when you’ve 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.
What 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.
Plasma Cutter - Buying Guide
You'll find welders, hobbyists, DIYers, machinists, and technicians in construction sites using plasma cutters on sheets of metal with different thickness levels. Here are the important features you must consider to leverage their benefits like pros.
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.
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 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. Handheld 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 cheap plasma cutters often make the operators purchase 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.
Electrical shocks and plasma burns are common with power tools even when working with a robotic cutter and ignorance can't be an excuse. Don't forget these safety tips when you get your plasma cutting machine and start using it.
The use of personal protective gear while working is of paramount importance. Usually, the golden rule is to always wear protective equipment like a welding helmet, coveralls, safety boots, a pair of gloves, and a welding mask or goggles.
Read the instructional manual and understand the set-up process before using your plasma cutter with electrical sources
While wearing a welding mask with auto darkening devices or goggles, keep a safe distance from the intensely bright light of plasma cutters
Allow proper ventilation in the work area to avoid suffocation from the cutter’s gases. You can also use an air-supplied respirator
Unless it’s an underwater CNC plasma cutter design, avoid wet surroundings while working with plasma cutters or even you’re trying out a homemade model because water is a good conductor of electricity. You can place the machine and stand on a rubber carpet while working in moist areas.
A Word from Drillly
Before reading this guide, there might have been a myriad of questions on your mind. But now you surely have some idea on what product to choose for the desired output from your cutting device. Our team of experts would be happy to read your review on any of our top picks after you've used them.
However, I'd like to summarize everything we’ve discussed. The most important factors regarding choosing a cutting machine are the tier selection, duty cycle, pilot ARC technology, build quality and portability. Other vital features are cutting speed, automated functions, output current, and price.
There's no perfect product out there, but some are definitely better than others. The goal is to help you optimize performance and save money. I'll recommend you the Lotos LT5000D Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter if you simply want the best plasma cutter because it comes with a PAPST Advanced German Cooling System that helps improve the duty cycle.
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