8 Best Plasma Cutters That Can Cut Metals Quickly and Easily 2019

Best Plasma Cutter ReviewsA plasma cutter is a kind of cutter that cuts through conductive materials (steel, brass, copper, aluminum) with an accelerated jet of plasma. This jet of plasma can be as hot as 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit, so materials are basically melted by it. The best plasma cutters out there deliver excellent cutting speed and smoothness and thus are highly valued in industrial applications.

8 Best Plasma Cutters to Buy in 2019

GalleryBrand & ModelDuty Cycle @ 40°CSeverance Cut

Availability

Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, Dual Voltage 110V/220V, 1/2 Inch Clean Cut, BrownLotos LTP5000D - Editor's Pick60% @ 50A, 110V/220V3/4” Check Price
Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP Building America Edition Hand Plasma System with Case and 15-Feet LeadHypertherm Powermax30 XP - Editor's Pick35%, 240 V/20%, 120 V5/8" Check Price
SUNCOO Cut-50 Plasma Cutter Electric DC Inverter Cutting Machine with Digital Display Dual Voltage 110/220V, 1/2SUNCOO Cut-5060% @ 50A, 110V/220V1/2” Check Price
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter 110/220V AC 1/2Lotos LT5000D60% @ 50A, 110V/220V3/4” Check Price
Lotos Technology 04-ZVGR-0O8D Lotos LTPDC2000D Plasma Cutter Tig Stick Welder 3 in 1 Combo Welding Machine, 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, 200A TIG/Stick Welder Dual Voltage 220V/110VLotos LTPDC2000D60% @50A/100% @35A1/2” Check Price
PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter Automatic Dual Voltage 110/220VAC 1/2PrimeWeldPremium & Rugged CUT5060% @ 50A, 110V/220V3/4” Check Price
Mophorn 100 Amp Plasma Cutter Pilot ARC 380V Plasma Cutting Machine 35mm Cutting Thickness Portable Plasma Welder IGBT Inverter Digital Plasma Welding MachineMophorn CUT-10060%1-1/3” Check Price
VIVOHOME DC Inverter Plasma Cutter Cutting Machine Dual Voltage 110V/220V CUT-50VIVOHOME CUT5060% @50A, 110V / 60% @50A, 220V3/5” Check Price

Uses of a plasma cutter

Plasma Cutter UsesA plasma cutter could basically be used in any task where a conductive material needs to be cut. To give you some perspective on what plasma cutters can be helpful for, let’s have a look at some of their popular uses.

Metal art

Plasma cutters are often used by artists to cut shapes and details in metal. This tool is quite a popular choice for art due to the accuracy that it is capable to deliver. It is very easy to finely cut along drawn lines with a plasma cutter.

Aside from that, plasma cutters don’t produce excess heat that could warp the artwork, which helps preserve the aesthetics of the workpiece.

Contractor work

Contractors – both general and specialized contractors like plumbers – use plasma cutters in their job quite frequently. This is mainly due to the efficiency of this tool: a plasma cutter is able to cut rather quick and smooth, allowing contractors to save time and material.

Industrial applications

The benefits of plasma cutters make them quite popular in large-volume industrial applications as well. When it is necessary to cut the same exact shape hundreds or thousands of times, plasma cutters have proven themselves to be quite efficient and very accurate tools.

Demolition/recycling

Plasma cutters leave much less debris behind than other types of torches, which is a reason why they are popular in demolition and recycling. Not only they leave very little waste, but they can also, as we’ve said a couple of times, greatly save time.

Reviews of the Best Plasma Cutters in 2019

Lotos LTP5000D – Editor’s Pick

Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, Dual Voltage 110V/220V, 1/2 Inch Clean Cut, Brown

Up first on our plasma cutter reviews is Lotos LTP5000D, which is a pretty good of an investment plasma cutter with pretty good cutting capacity.

First of all, this thing features automatic voltage adjustment from 110V@50A to 220V@40A and vice versa. Thanks to this, contractors should be able to use this plasma cutter pretty much anywhere.

Secondly, LTP5000D delivers output from 10 to 50 amps, which allows for a rather good cutting capacity. According to Lotos, this plasma cutter has a max clean cut depth of 1/2 inches and severance cut of 3/4 inches. In addition, it is capable of cutting through up to 5/8 inches of mild steel, as well as 1/2 inches of stainless steel and aluminum.

The duty cycle of this plasma cutter is also good, sitting at 60% at 50A. If you won’t be cutting close to this plasma cutter’s max cutting depth frequently, the duty cycle should allow you to continuously work with thinner materials.

LTP5000D also features a non-touch pilot arc, which allows cutting with no contact between the torch’s tip and the workpiece. This, on one hand, allows you to work with workpieces that are rusted or painted and on the other allows to extend the life of the cutter’s consumables.

Portability is important in plasma cutters as well, and in LTP5000D, it is good enough. Weighing 26 pounds, this model is neither too light or too heavy for a plasma cutter, so it should be good if you don’t have any special requirements. It also measures 15 x 6 x 12 (L x W x H) inches, which is pretty standard as well.

The one thing that we don’t quite like about this plasma cutter is its 6 feet power cord. It’s quite short, so if you need a lot of mobility on the site, its length may be insufficient for you.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60Hz
Input Current50A@110V, 1-PH/ 40A@220V, 1-PH
Output Current10~50A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @ 50A, 110V/220V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness3/4”
Weight26 lbs.
Warranty1 Year
Parts and ManualParts, Manual

Advantages

  • Good price tag.
  • Automatic dual 110/220V input voltage.
  • Good 60% duty cycle.
  • No-contact pilot arc.

Drawback

  • Short-ish 6 feet cord.

Bottom Line

For not so much money, Lotos LTP5000D has a pretty good cutting capacity to offer. It isn’t the most powerful cutter on the list, but it still has the capacity to cut a wide range of materials.


Hypertherm Powermax30 XP – Editor’s Pick

Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP Building America Edition Hand Plasma System with Case and 15-Feet Lead

If you are willing to spend the money on reliability, then Hypertherm Powermax30 XP (CSA Certified) may be the best plasma cutter for you out there. While this model can’t boast the highest cutting capacity on our list, it excels when it comes to durability and quality.

It may sound a bit weird at first, but this plasma cutter delivers 15 – 30A output, which is enough to make 5/8-inch severance cuts and 3/8-inch clean cuts. And this is lower than all the other cutters on the list.

Not everyone needs to cut through 1/2-inch pieces though, and this cutter is exactly for those who are mostly cutting thinner materials

Powermax30 XP also has automatic 110-240V@25.5-18.8A voltage adjustment, so it could be used with a slightly wider variety of power inputs.

The 10 feet power cord in this model is also remarkable. We can’t say that it is insanely long, but it should be long enough to provide you with plenty of freedom on the job site.

With all that being said, there is one thing that we don’t really like in this plasma cutter. It’s the fact that is has a pretty low duty cycle of 35% at 240V and 20% at 120V. This means that this machine most likely won’t be too good for projects that require continuous cutting.

Specifications

Input Voltages120-240 V, 1-PH, 50/60 Hz
Input Current120-240 V, 1-PH, 25-18.8 A
Output Current15-30 A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)35%, 240 V/20%, 120 V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure113.3 l/min (4 scfm) at 5.5 bar (80 psi)
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness5/8″ @ 125 mm/min (5 ipm)
Weight21.4 lbs.
Warranty3 Years
Parts and ManualParts, Manual

Advantages

  • Excellent build quality and reliability.
  • Auto 110-240V input.
  • Long 10 feet power cable.

Drawbacks

  • Comes with a hefty price.
  • Low duty cycle.

Bottom Line

You certainly get what you pay money for. And if you are ready to invest in a high-quality plasma cutter even though your projects aren’t that high-volume, Powermax30 XP may be a great choice.


SUNCOO Cut-50 – Value for Money

 SUNCOO Cut-50 Plasma Cutter Electric DC Inverter Cutting Machine with Digital Display Dual Voltage 110/220V, 1/2

SUNCOO Cut-50 (CE Certified) is quite an inexpensive plasma cutter. It is rather similar to Lotos LTP5000D, but, due to the price difference, there are some things that are lacking in it.

But let’s first begin with the good in this plasma cutter.

Like LTP5000D, this plasma cutter has an automatic 110/220V input adjustment, so you should be able to use it in most environments and job sites.

The duty cycle in this plasma cutter is likewise as good as in LTP5000D – 60%. The power output in this thing can be adjusted from 20 to 50 amps as well, so it could cut up to 1/2-inch materials.

The IP21 protection rating should be noted as well in this model. This rating basically means that this plasma cutter has protection against small objects sized around 12.5mm and dripping water. And added safety is certainly great in a plasma cutter.

In terms of portability, this plasma cutter is similar to LTP5000D, but it is a bit better. It weighs slightly lighter – 25.2 pounds – and is a bit shorter than Lotos’ cutter, so it has some added convenience to offer.

It appears that SUNCOO plasma cutter has a non-pilot arc. On one hand, this may increase the wear of the cutter’s consumables. And on the other hand, it won’t be able to cut rusted or painted materials.

But again, this cutter is cheaper, so the non-pilot arc is one of its price’s tradeoffs.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60 Hz
Input Current50A@110V, 1-PH/ 40A@220V, 1-PH
Output Current 20-32/20-50A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @ 50A, 110V/220V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure4.0scfm @ 60psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness1/2”
Weight25.2 lbs.
Warranty1 Year

Advantages

  • Value for money.
  • Good 60% duty cycle.
  • Auto voltage adjustment.
  • IP21 protection.

Drawback

  • Requires contact between the torch tip and the workpiece.

Bottom Line

SUNCOO Cut-50 is a good option if you are on a budget. Aside from that, it may be great for you if you will be doing lighter projects involving no rusted or painted materials.


Lotos LT5000D

Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter 110/220V AC 1/2

The Lotos LT5000D is a cheaper alternative to the Lotos LTP5000D we reviewed in the beginning. The two cutters are very similar at the basics, but there are some crucial differences that set them far apart.

The main difference is that this cutter is a non-pilot arc cutter, meaning that the torch’s tip needs to directly contact the workpiece to do a cut. This results in increased consumable wear, as well as makes cutting rusted and painted materials very difficult or even impossible.

Like LTP5000D, LT5000D has auto dual-voltage adjustment, but the input requirements are a bit different: 20A at 220V and 40A at 110V. When it comes to cutting capacity though, the two Lotos cutters are identical since they have identical 50 power output.

Interestingly, this model is also lighter than its bigger brother, weighing 22.5 pounds. It is sized the same, but the lighter weight should make carrying it noticeably easier.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60Hz
Input Current40A@110V, 1-PH/20A@220V, 1-PH
Output Current10~50A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @ 50A, 110V/220V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness3/4”
Weight22.5 lbs.
Warranty1 Year
Parts and ManualParts, Manual

Advantages

  • Cheaper alternative to LTP5000D.
  • Automatic dual 110/220V input voltage.
  • 60% duty cycle.
  • Weighs 22.5 pounds.

Drawbacks

  • Short 6 feet power cord.
  • Non-pilot arc: requires direct contact with the material.

Bottom Line

Lotos LT5000D offers a reasonable combination of performance, quality, and price. If you aren’t ready to pay in excess of $100 for the pilot arc capacity of LTP5000D, then LT5000D may be the better pick for you.


Lotos LTPDC2000D – Best Professional Grade Plasma Cutter

Lotos Technology 04-ZVGR-0O8D Lotos LTPDC2000D Plasma Cutter Tig Stick Welder 3 in 1 Combo Welding Machine, 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, 200A TIG/Stick Welder Dual Voltage 220V/110V

Lotos LTPDC2000D possibly is the most remarkable plasma cutter on our plasma cutter reviews. Sure, we can’t say that it is the most high-quality and most powerful model on the list. But it has another thing to surprise you with.

This plasma cutter actually also works as a 200A tig welder and a 200A stick welder! For a great price, you basically are getting three tools in one.

Of course, this three-in-one combo probably won’t be as good as three separate tools, but the value included in this system is excellent nonetheless.

What interest us more today though is the plasma cutting side of this model.

There isn’t much new to say in this regard. LTPDC2000D has the same cutting capacity as Lotos LTP5000D we reviewed in the beginning. That is, it has 3/4-inch severance capacity and 1/2-inch clean cut capacity. And it also has a non-touch pilot arc torch that can cut through materials with no direct contact.

Lastly, as you’d expect, this plasma system is a rather hefty one. It weighs 43 pounds, so it isn’t the best out there in terms of portability.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60Hz
Input Current50A@110V, 1-PH/ 40A@220V, 1-PH
Output Current10-50A @110/220V
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @50A/100% @35A
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness1/2”
Weight43 lbs.
Warranty1 Year
Parts and ManualParts, Manual

Advantages

  • Great value for the money.
  • Auto voltage adjustment.
  • Non-touch pilot arc.
  • 60% duty cycle.
  • Works as a 50A cutter, 200A tig welder, and 200A stick welder.

Drawbacks

  • Short 6 feet power cord.
  • Weighs 43 pounds.

Bottom Line

Being a three-in-one plasma system, LTPDC2000D offers great value for the money. If you have a the budget, this model can make for a very good plasma torch, tig welder, and stick welder combo.


PrimeWeld Premium & Rugged 50A CUT50

PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter Automatic Dual Voltage 110/220VAC 1/2

This particular PrimeWeld Premium & Rugged 50A CUT50 is one of the best inexpensive plasma cutter on our list. But will it deliver great results?

PrimeWeld is known for manufacturing welding and plasma machines. This model is the cheapest priced cutter they have.

The PrimeWeld Premium & Rugged 50A CUT50 supports 110/220V input voltage. The duty cycle is comparable to most top cutters on our list: 60% at 50A on both 110/220V.

When compared to Lotos LTP5000D, they have almost the same specs, except that this is lighter and this model is not a non-touch pilot arc. However, when it comes to cutting capacity, they both can cut at maximum severance of 3/4″.

The overall design and build material are not flimsy at all. The 15″ D-handle does not feel cheap. Along with the power supply, are plasma cutting torch, ground clamp & cable, air filter, air hose, clamps and coupler air hose. The same with Lotos LTP5000D, the power cord is 6″ that could be improved.

Warranty is very extensive (3-years) and customer service is absolutely good with email and phone call support.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60Hz
Input Current110-220V, 1-PH, 20 A
Output Current10~50A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @ 50A, 110V/220V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness3/4”
Weight22.5 lbs.
Warranty3 Years
Parts and ManualParts, Manual

Advantages

  • Value for money.
  • Auto-adjusting voltage.
  • 60% duty cycle.
  • Fantastic support.
  • Best alternative to non-touch pilot arc cutters.

Drawbacks

  • Requires direct tip contact for operation.
  • Manual is a bit complex.
  • 6″ power cord could be improved.

Bottom Line

When it comes to reliability and performance, the PrimeWeld Premium & Rugged 50A CUT50 will not let you down. It has fantastic after sales support, extensive warranty and it could be the best alternative to pilot arc cutters such as the Lotos LTP5000D which costs more.


Mophorn CUT-100 – Best for Industrial Work

Mophorn 100 Amp Plasma Cutter Pilot ARC 380V Plasma Cutting Machine 35mm Cutting Thickness Portable Plasma Welder IGBT Inverter Digital Plasma Welding Machine

Mophorn CUT-100 plasma cutter is an absolute beast when it comes to cutting capacity. Being the most powerful system on our list, it has cutting capacity superior to that of all the other cutters we reviewed.

With its 30-100A power output, this plasma cutter can cut materials from roughly 3/8 to 1-1/3 inches. What’s also remarkable is that this cutter’s duty cycle is 60%. At lower powers, you should be able to cut materials basically with no cooling intermissions.

The torch of this plasma cutter is a non-touch pilot arc unit, so it can cut through workpieces without direct contact. Furthermore, as you’d guess, it can also cut through painted or rusted materials.

The safety measures implemented in this plasma cutter should also be noted. CUT-100 has overheating, overpressure, overcurrent, and IP21 protection, so it definitely is great in terms of safety and reliability.

But, as great as this plasma cutter is, there are a couple downsides in it that should be noted.

First of all, weighing 29 pounds and measuring 24 x 10 x 18.9 inches, it is a rather heavy and bulky unit, so you’d need to have some room for it.

What should be also noted is that this cutter requires 380V to operate. This means that you won’t be able to use it at home if you don’t have 380V already set up.

Specifications

Input Voltages380V
Input Current100A
Output Current100A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60%
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness1-1/3”
Weight10 lbs.
Warranty1 Year

Advantages

  • 30-100A power output.
  • Good 60% duty cycle.
  • Non-touch pilot arc torch.
  • Performs up to 1-1/3-inch cuts.
  • Has a variety of safety measures.

Drawbacks

  • A bit heavy and bulky.
  • Requires 380V for operation: not the best for home use.

Bottom Line

Tough materials require proper measures. Mophorn CUT-100 has the oomph in it to deal with thickest sheets of metal. And besides, thanks to its great duty cycle, this model could be great for high-volume workshop projects.


VIVOHOME CUT50 VH078

VIVOHOME DC Inverter Plasma Cutter Cutting Machine Dual Voltage 110V/220V CUT-50

The last best plasma cutter on our list is the VIVOHOME CUT50.

VIVOHOME CUT50 plasma cutter is yet another inexpensive model on our list. If you are looking for a cutter to do some lighter tasks with, then we think that this model should suffice.

If we were to compare this model with something, we’d say that it is pretty close to Lotos LT5000D and SUNCOO Cut-50. It is going to deliver comparable levels of cutting capacity, but at a slightly cheaper price.

This plasma cutter delivers 20-50A power output, which allows it to perform cuts up to 3/5 inches deep. The duty cycle of this cutter is 60% @ 50A which is good for continuous cutting. This is great number for plasma cutting standards and with a reasonable price tag.

VIVOHOME CUT50 can run on either 110V or 220V, so it could be used in a broad range of job sites. The voltage is adjusted automatically, and you only need to have the fittings to get this thing working with both voltages.

The last thing that should be noted in this plasma cutter is that it has a non-pilot arc torch. As you already know, this means that the torch’s tip will require constant contact with the workpiece to perform the cut. This will obviously put certain limits on the versatility and convenience of this unit.

But that’s not all VIVOHOME CUT50 has to offer. When it comes to portability, this cutter comes in handy. Thanks to its shoulder straps, you can carry it without numbing your hands for D-handles.

Specifications

Input Voltages110~220V, 1-PH, 50/60Hz
Input Current110-220V, 1-PH, 20A
Output Current20~50A
Duty cycle @ 40°C (104°F)60% @50A, 110V / 60% @50A, 220V
Recommended Gas Inlet Flow Rate / Pressure3.6scfm @ 65psi
Maximum Severance Cut Thickness3/5”
Weight23 lbs.
Warranty1 Year

Advantages

  • Pretty inexpensive.
  • 60% duty cycle.
  • Auto-adjusting voltage.
  • Convenient shoulder straps.

Drawbacks

  • Short 3 feet power cord.

Bottom Line

A great alternative to Lotos LTP5000D, VIVOHOME CUT50 is a nice choice if you need to cut through moderately thick materials. The only thing that could prevent from buying this cutter is its very short power cord.


Main system components of a plasma cutter

System components of a plasma cutterPlasma cutting systems typically consist of 3 components – the Arc Starting Console (ASC), a plasma torch, and a power source.

Arc Starting Console

The ASC circuit’s purpose is to produce a spark, which creates a plasma arc. This plasma arc is the thing a plasma cutter cuts materials with.,

Plasma torch

The plasma torch, first of all, performs the cutting itself through the plasma arc. The main components of the torch, in its turn, are the swirl ring, the electrode, and the nozzle, which are parts that are required for the plasma arc generation. Aside from cutting, the plasma torch also helps align and cool the material.

Power supply

The power supply of a plasma cutter system converts AC voltage to a constant 200-400V DC voltage. This voltage maintains the plasma arc during the entire cutting process. It also allows for regulation of the voltage output in accordance with the material’s thickness and type.

What to look for when buying a plasma cutter

Plasma cutter buying guideWith all those models reviewed, now comes time for you to understand how to pick the absolute best plasma cutter! There are plenty of things to consider, but we’ve compiled a buying guide to help you with that.

Input current

The first thing to look for in a plasma cutter – the input voltage – is pretty easy. You just need to make sure that the plasma cutter is going to work with the current you can provide it with, be it 110V or 220V. Some models can run on either current, so look for that if that’s a thing that you need.

In addition, there are certain amperage requirements that you’ll need to consider. Usually, 110V runs at 30 amps, while 220V runs at 50. Regardless of what the amperage of the desired plasma cutter is, make sure that you can supply it with the power.

Output power

The output power of the plasma cutter is going to play a huge role in what kind of workpieces it will be able to cut. Namely, it is the output amperage that will be important.

If you will be cutting up to 1/4-inch thick materials, a 25A plasma cutter should be enough. For materials up to half an inch thick, go for around a 40A cutter. And for materials up to 1 inch thick, you should choose a cutter that delivers 80 amps at the minimum.

Cutting capacity

The cutting capacity will determine how thick materials you will be able to cut. Needless to say, you’d need to make a choice based on your needs.

In plasma cutters, the cutting capacity is usually measured with three ratings:

  • Rated cut. This rating determines the maximum thickness of a clean and smooth
  • Quality cut. This rating shows the maximum thickness of a good-quality (not perfectly smooth) cut.
  • Sever cut. This rating determines the maximum thickness that the cutter can cut through.

The names of the ratings may be different from manufacturer to manufacturer.

To make the ratings a bit clearer, let’s have a look at an example.

Let’s suppose we have a plasma cutter with a rated clean cut of 0.5 inches, quality cut of 0.6 inches, and sever cut of 0.75 inches. This plasma cutter would be able to cut smooth and clean through at an 0.5-inch depth and with reasonable quality at an 0.6-inch depth. In addition, its max cutting depth would be 0.75 inches, at which the quality and smoothness of the cut are the worst.

Duty cycle

The duty cycle of a plasma cutter is one of its most important characteristics. It basically denotes the amount of time in an hour during which the tool can be operated safely. The duty cycle is expressed in percentages and depends on what amperage the tool is running.

To make the idea of the duty cycle clearer, let’s have a look at this chart:

AmperageDuty cycle
45A50%
41A60%
32A100%

At 45A, the duty cycle of the tool is 50%, meaning that it will run safely for five minutes. At 41A, it will run for 6 minutes, while at 32A, it will require virtually no cooling time.

The duty cycle is going to be crucial for you if you will be cutting materials continuously. In this case, the higher the duty cycle percentage, the better it is for you since you will have to interrupt the cutting less often.

Of course, you would need to consider your power requirements as well. For example, if you will be mostly cutting no more than 1/2-inch workpieces, you’d need to go for an around 40-50A cutter that has the highest duty cycle.

For shorter and intermittent cutting sessions, the duty cycle plays a not so big role, so you may even disregard it. It’s a thing that will only play an important role if every minute is crucial for you.

Starting method

The starter of a plasma cutter initiates its arc. Plasma cutters come with two types of starters – pilot arc and non-pilot arc.

A plasma cutter equipped with a pilot arc torch doesn’t require direct contact between the torch’s tip and the material for the cutting. This, on one hand, can increase the lifetime of the cutter’s consumables (namely, the tip) and allows to cut rusted or painted materials.

Non-pilot arc plasma cutters do require contact between the workpiece and the torch’s tip. Needless to say, non-pilot arc cutters can’t cut through coated, rusted, or painted materials. Besides, the constant contact between the material and the tip increases the latter’s wear.

When choosing between one or the other, you will need to keep in mind your needs and budget. Most of the time, you would want to go for a pilot arc cutter. Go for a non-pilot arc system only if your budget doesn’t allow otherwise.

Air supply

Plasma cutters typically use some kind of compressed gas to operate. Usually, it is either compressed nitrogen or air.

A few plasma cutters are equipped with inbuilt compressors that compress the air on the go without you needing to do any refills. However, it is commonly believed that compressed air encourages oxidation during cutting tasks. Due to this, some people opt for other, drier gases like bottle nitrogen.

In other words, if you do not wish to deal with any oxidation, you may want to choose a plasma cutter that can run on nitrogen.

But, as you’d probably guess, running a plasma cutter on nitrogen has its inconveniences. You’ll have to buy bottled nitrogen, first of all. Besides, you’ll need to make sure that you have a supply of nitrogen for your tasks.

None of these issues are present in plasma cutters with built-in compressors. However, most of the cutters out there will be needing standalone compressors to run.

Air filtration system

This one is going to concern plasma cutters that have inbuilt compressors. When you supply the cutter with a compressed gas on your own, it is up to you to choose what kind of gas you’ll be using and how you will filter it.

But plasma cutters with inbuilt compressors will have to use whatever air there is in the environment. And the air can be nasty sometimes, which implies that the cutter needs an air filtration system.

An air filtration system will be capable of filtering out dust, oil, moisture, and other contaminants from the air supplied to the torch. This, on one hand, will deliver a higher-quality cut and on the other will help protect the cutter from contaminants.

Consumable availability

Plasma Cutter Consumables

This one is a pretty big factor in plasma cutters. You will need to replace your cutter’s consumables like the tip or the electrodes from time to time. And the more frequently you use the cutter, the more frequently you’ll have to replace the consumables.

The consumables need to be available on the market in the first place. In fact, the more choices and alternatives there are, the better for you.

In addition, the consumables cost money, so you will also need to make sure that you will be able to afford them. Thereby, go for the plasma cutter that has consumables that are reasonably priced for your needs.

CNC table support

CNC (Computer Numerical Control) interfaces allow the plasma cutter to be connected to CNC cutting tables. These tables allow a computer to control the torch head in several axes, allowing complex welding seams that aren’t possible with manual cutting. Basically, CNC table support allows you to automate the cutting process.

If you will need to automate the cutting in the future, go for a cutter that supports CNC tables.

Handheld vs robot operation

Speaking of automating. In the end, which is better – handheld or robot/computer operation?

Well, the truth is that either of these plasma cutter types have some advantages and disadvantages.

A handheld plasma cutter is a very efficient and a not so expensive tool. Most of the models out there are going to cost under $5,000, though there are even cheaper models, as you’ve seen from our list. Handheld plasma cutters are more reasonable when it comes to cutting medium-sized components and also when accuracy and consistency play secondary roles.

But when it comes to speed, plasma cutters operated by robots can’t be matched in terms of speed, accuracy, and consistency. Robots programmed with a certain pattern can perform a cut thousands of times with repeatability impossible for the most skillful worker’s hands.

In addition, robot-operated plasma cutters are much better in industrial applications since their speed allows them to significantly increase production volumes.

On the other hand, robotic plasma cutters definitely are worse when it comes to costs. Robots can cost thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. Thus, needless to say, acquiring robots is often unfeasible for smaller workshops or contractors with a smaller budget.

Safety and Precautions When Using a Plasma Cutter

Safety and Precautions When Using Plasma Cutter

Avoid electrocution

The power output levels of plasma cutters can be fatal. To avoid electrocution, you should:

  • Ensure that the plasma cutter is properly wired and grounded.
  • Wear rubber gloves.
  • Stand on a rubber mat while cutting.
  • Work in a completely dry environment.
  • Before starting your job, make sure that the wiring of the cutter is intact and connected. If you use a cutter with damaged cables, you run a high risk of electrocution.

Wear protective clothing

Whilst cutting, you will be exposed to molten metal and fumes, so you must wear protective clothing. Here are the items you need to wear:

  • Protective shield/hat with full head coverage.
  • Safety shoes. Leather-top steel-toe boots or shoes ideally.
  • Eye protection.
  • Non-flammable clothing and welding aprons.
  • Welding gloves.

Make sure that the workpiece poses no hazard

There are some workpieces that you should avoid working with. For example, you should not cut containers that have held combustive substances in them.

In addition, make sure that the workpiece isn’t coated with a material that can emit toxic fumes. You would need to remove the coating before working with such a material.

Clear the worksite from hazardous materials

Before beginning your job, make sure that there is no grease, oil, fuel, paper, and any other flammable materials in your vicinity. Make sure to keep at least 25 feet of distance between the workpiece and your surroundings.

Work in a well-ventilated environment

The plasma cutting process produces fumes and gasses, so you should definitely work in a well-ventilated environment. You may also wear an air-supplied respirator to protect yourself from the fumes.

Conclusion

Plasma cutters are very effective tools. At the same time, they require you to take plenty of safety measures, so a plasma cutter probably isn’t the best tool for lighter home cutting. It isn’t a tool of whim but a tool of necessity.

Nonetheless, if you are sure that you need this instrument, then you’d want to get the very best plasma cutter. And we believe that we provided you with all the info you need to make the right decision.

In the end, if you’ve found that best plasma cutter, then you should probably go and get it! But make sure to follow our guide to get the right tool. You don’t want to waste money, do you?

GIF source: Rick Rabjohn


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