Best Plasma Cutters Reviews For 2019 : What You Need To Know
Do you ever find yourself with a list of things to cut (steel, aluminum, etc.), only to not know what tool is right for the job?
There’s one simple tool that can be used for a variety of cutting jobs. One cut and it hooks the user.
It’s the true, tried, and often neglected … plasma cutter.
A plasma cutter serves to a variety of tasks – from molding structures to cutting metal sheets to different sizes and shapes – with minimal distortion. Contractors, fabricators, DIYers, etc. can choose from several different types of plasma cutters. However, before we get into the fine details of different varieties of plasma cutters, let’s talk about what they are and their function.
A plasma cutter is a precision device that cuts through a range of metals and materials. The best plasma cutter offers an impressive level of accuracy and is a great addition to a homeowner’s toolbox.
We provide detailed specifications of the product along with the real life experiences of customers. We list the pros and cons of each product so that you can choose the one that suits you the best. Here is the top list of the products.
Lotos LT5000D 50Amps Dual Voltage
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What is a Plasma Cutter?
First, let’s look in a little more detail at precisely what a plasma cutter is and how it works. Essentially, plasma is the fourth form of matter (with solid, liquid and gas being the other three) and can be created by applying electricity to a gas. This is precisely what happens in a plasma cutter where an electric arc is applied to the gas in order to excite the gas particles and make them electrically conductive.
Depending on the unit you use, your plasma cutter will use oxygen, nitrogen or even environmental air as the gas and force this inside the torch. Meanwhile, electricity is generated from an external power supply and applied to the high pressure flow of gas. This creates a ‘plasma jet’ which has an incredibly high temperature up to 40,000 degrees F! This makes short work of most materials and allows for a very clean cut.
Types Of Plasma Cutter
Industrial vs Light Duty - One is for hobbyists who work on DIY projects and the other type is for professionals who need to produce precision cuts in less time and need more power and deeper cuts.
Manual and Automated - Automated plasma cutters are used with a CNC machine. If you go for automated plasma cutter, ensure that it doesn’t use a high frequency circuit as it can erase the stored configurations.
Top Best Plasma Cutter Reviews
1. Lotos LT5000D 50Amps Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter
Lotos cutters are known for their quality and reliability. This plasma cutter has an automatic dual frequency/ dual voltage option (50/60Hz 110/220V). It’s almost the same as the previous model, but doesn’t require the additional purchase of a pigtail.
Lotos LT500D plasma cutter has a ½” maximum cut thickness and a ¾” maximum severance thickness. It accommodates the standard demands of buyers.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter doesn’t include a pilot arc, but has a torch trigger that the user can move to do a custom fit. It can be used in thumb or finger positions, and is low profile for narrow spaces. It also has air hose, connections, ground clamp and cable, and air filter and regulator.
The weight of this plasma cutter is 22.5 pounds. The manufacturer has reduced the weight and dimensions of the main transformer by applying switch inverter technology, making the unit portable. PASPT Advanced German Cooling System ensures the heat doesn’t get trapped in the device’s center.
This plasma cutter’s inverter power supply creates powerful DC welding currents, courtesy of PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulation) technology. With the leverage of this technology, the efficiency of the main transformer increases by 30%
Our plasma cutter guide only showcases the suitable products possible for you. And Lotos LTPDC2000D is one of them. It can cut up to a thickness of ½” for clean cutting and ¼” for tig and stick welding.
One thing that makes it a part of our plasma cutter guide is the cord lengths. The torch cable is 12.5 ft. long, the workpiece cord is 6.7 ft. long and the power cable is 5.8 ft. long. Long cord length ensures that you can take your device to any part of your working area.
Otherwise shifting the whole unit is pain and a big time-waster. The unit operates both at 110V and 220V which is the optimum voltage for powerful cutting.
Our plasma cutter guide only features the best of the best and the IGBT Power Drive Matrix is one attribute of this plasma cutter that makes it one of them. In simple words, the matrix technology is there to make it more durable than its enemies in the market.
But there’s one thing that makes it stand out in our plasma cutter guide. And that is its multi-purpose quality. This Lotos unit can not only cut materials like butter, but it is also capable of welding with TIG and stick methods.
Stick welding makes use of an electrode or rod to produce heat while TIG welding uses a Tungsten electrode to generate the current for welding arc. And that is where it gets the name TIG (Tungsten Inert Gas).
We are in love with Lotos products which is the reason there are many of them in our plasma cutter guide. If you’re still not impressed, here is an outstanding feature of the product - the pilot arc.
The pilot arc not only gives butter smooth cuts but it also works on rusty and dirty material without having the need to clean them. If you’re a busy person who needs to get it done right away, this one is for you.
Miller is another good brand in this plasma cutter guide that is bound to astound you. There are many things that will sweep you right off your feet. First, it is very lightweight despite being a powerful machine. It only weighs 19 pounds. It has a maximum cut thickness of ⅜” which is enough for most people.
Moreover, it comes with a carrying case which gives it an edge over other plasma cutters. A case come in handy when you need to move the unit to another room or a new place altogether. The cord length is important as always. Here the cord length is 12 feet for both the cutting torch and the ground cable.
Miller also gives extra consumables which is a huge plus. Most people struggle to find consumables and they run out too fast. It also provides easy plugs which help you switch between 110V or 220V without struggling with wires.
The great thing about the miller is its smooth cuts. Numerous customers have declared the Miller as the be-all and end-all of all their cutting needs. This one is clearly top performer in our plasma cutter guide. The only drawback is that with great quality comes a hefty price tag!
Customer experiences show that you must have a quality air compressor of suitable size. Baby compressors will inevitably fail you. Also, put the compressor on a separate electrical circuit to prevent tripping the breakers.
4. Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter:
Lotos LTP550D 50Amp Non-touch Arc plasma cutter offers dual voltage capability that enables the machine to run on 110V 50/60 Hz via a pigtail, or on 220V 50/60 Hz power directly. That means the user can connect it in a variety of places.
The plasma cutter has a ½” maximum cut thickness and a ¾” maximum severance thickness. That’s the standard, but it comes with a MOSFET transistor that can create a high output power to cut thick metal.
This plasma cutter comes with a non-touch pilot arc torch that cuts through painted, rough and rusty surfaces efficiently while creating minimal slag. The pilot arc’s function is integrated into Robust Infineon IGBT Power Drive Matrix for continuous cutting on dirty metal or a rough surface. Apart from the plasma torch, there’s an air hose, connections, and ground clamp and cable. It’s ideal for professional operators.
The weight of this plasma cutter is 19.4 pounds and it comes with a handle for portability. It also uses compressed air (non-hazardous) to cut copper, aluminum, alloy steel, mild steel, and stainless steel. The device is equipped with PAPST Advanced German Cooling System to prevent the unit from heating up.
The plasma cutter also comes with high frequency inverter technology that uses IGBT to enable precise, concentrated and constant current to the surface of the material being cut. Users benefit from clean, smooth cuts of a wide range of materials and surfaces without metal distortion.
Now we’ll look into some of the best plasma cutters with built in compressors on the market and describe how to ensure you’re getting a good instrument to add to your tool box.
5. Hobart 500564 Airforce 12i Plasma Cutter
Finally, we have the Hobart 500564 Airforce, which is priced very similarly to the Forney and has similar specs on paper. This device is once again a plasma cutter with built in compressor and has some smart design features such as a smaller heat-affected zone to prevent warping. It also lets you use a no gas pressure mode for tuning the flame and ultimately allows you to achieve a more exact cut with a thinner kerf and less slag and mess to clean up after.
Weight wise, the Airforce comes in slap bang in the middle at 31 pounds – which is pretty light and portable all things considered. It also has very similar requirements and performance in terms of power. It is recommended for cutting 1/8 inch steel and goes up to ¼ inch. It also has a built in inverter power supply.
6. Forney 317 Plasma Cutter 115FI with Built-In Compressor, 120-Volt
Next up with have the Forney 317 Plasma Cutter. This device comes in several flavors but the one we’re looking at here is the most comparable unit at 120V. Again, it’s a portable but powerful device which is what has earned it its place in the top spot here alongside the Air Cut.
Looking at the specs, this device weighs in a little heavier at 38.9 pounds – something to consider if you intend on using it a lot by hand. The cord is also shorter at 7 foot – though this will be fine for most uses. This cutter once again runs on 15 amps and is similarly powerful. Portability is enhanced by the in built inverter power supply.
The product describes the recommended cut as 1/8th thickness though says it can ‘severe ¼’’’. One quarter is larger than three sixteenths (the maximum capability of the Air Cut), however it’s worth noting that the wording suggests that perhaps the performance suffers at these higher thicknesses. Suffice to say that the performance between these two is comparable and it’s not immediately obvious which comes out on top! What we also get here is the cut speeds which are 20 inches per minute.
There are also some additional perks to this device. ‘Drag torch’ technology for example means that the torch can be dragged directly across metal surfaces for precise cuts and it also has thermal overload protection and smart heat management.
Of course if you’re looking for a little more power then you can upgrade to the 230V option which has dual inputs and a removable torch and ground cable. This has a greater maximum thickness but of course this is reflected in both the price and the weight. There’s also a lower powered option for more portability.
What might clinch it for some readers though is that the Forney is somewhat cheaper at 120V than the Air Cut.
However, both have their pros and cons and both will make a great tool for cutting metals. Customer reviews are again largely positive but limited.
7. Thermal Arc 1-1110-1 Air Cut 15C Plasma System
This is a portable, light and powerful little performer. At just 29 pounds and with a convenient handle, you can easily bring this with you on a job and it won’t take up too much space in the van. What’s more is that it also offers a lot of cutting power and great cutting speed as well.
The recommended cut for this device is 3 millimeters or 1/8’’. However, the maximum capability is 5 millimeters or 3/16 inches. This runs on 120 volts with a 15 amp plug as standard. The company (Thermadyne) claims that this gives the device a 25% edge over the competition in terms of performance (these things are always rather hard to quantify but it certainly sounds good on paper).
There are a couple more thoughtful features here too, which also put the product in a good position. For starters, the cord is an impressive 20 foot long, which is very handy for a range of different applications. The trigger is easily accessible when gripping the torch and the device claims to be suitable for rust and paint as well.
With all this in mind, you have here a very capable plasma torch that should be suitable for all hobbyist uses and most commercial applications. It packs a lot of punch for its small size and is generally a well thought out product – though you do pay for it as this is the most expensive item that we’ll be looking at here.
8. Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter works with a 220 voltage outlet 50/60Hz. Therefore, it might not be suitable to use in your home or garage.
This plasma cutter has a ½” severance cut thickness and a 5/16” metal cut thickness. It’s an ideal investment for conscious DIYers.
The plasma cutter includes a non-pilot arc as well as a cutting torch. It also has consumables, air filter and regulator, ground clamp, connections. The whole starter package gives a lot of flexibility to the user.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter weighs only 17.6 pounds, and therefore offers ultimate portability to the buyer. It’s also equipped with an efficient cooling fan system to prevent heat up.
This plasma cutter also houses a digital inverter for creating DC currents, which helps in high frequency cutting without any distortion. The inverter, however, is not as powerful as the ones in the previous two models.
9. Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP
Hypertherm plasma cutters are known for their quality and reliability. If you’re willing to spend the extra money to get the very good product in the market, this is it.
Hypertherm is not only good for DIY projects or hobbyists, but it is very well suitable for professionals. It gives the cleanest and smoothest of cuts even at ½”.
The Powermax 30 sports a dual angle design.Because of this design, one can use the tip on the torch for a long period of time, hence making the tip more durable.
The 20 feet long cutter cord is a huge plus for portability.
The powerful machine comes with a solid handle to help you move it from one place to the other. As it weighs 37 lbs, the handle is made rigid to provide firm grip on the machine. It cuts ½” like butter unlike its competitors and has a severance thickness of 1”.
One of the common limitations of most plasma cutters is that one has to spend a lot of time on grinding and preparing edge. But the Powermax 45 eliminates the need for any such preparation. Just pull the trigger, zoom through the material and you’re done! Forget endless finishing sessions which further make you run out of consumables.
Read our plasma cutter guide carefully to compare it with other products. Though if you are willing to spend more, chuck the rest of the plasma cutter guide and buy this one!
Another plus point is that it is amazingly suitable for beginners despite its hefty specifications. The patented drag-cutting technology makes you easily adapt to the powerful cutting mechanism. No wonder Hypertherm is the global leader in plasma cutting. They invent the technology, have it patented and lead the way!
Choosing the ideal plasma cutter can be a daunting task. So we present our plasma cutter guide to assist you with the same.
How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?
A plasma cutter sends an electric arc through a high-speed inert gas stream (nitrogen, oxygen, compressed air, etc.) that passes through a narrow opening. During the process, the temperature of the gas is elevated to an extent that it goes into a 4th state of matter, known as “plasma”. The plasma’s hot state enables the user to cut metal. The plasma’s electrical activity makes the arc transfer the work while the metal is being cut.
The nozzle causes the gas to pass by at high speed to facilitate the cut. The gas also occupies the cutting area’s perimeter, enabling the plasma cutter to shield the cut. A pilot arc between the nozzle and the electrode is integrated in top quality plasma cutter models for gas ionization and plasma generation before the arc transfer.
Compared to saws, which tend to leave fragments and bits of metals after the cut, the ideal plasma cutter goes through the cutting process cleanly with few debris. What’s left can be removed easily. Also, plasma cutters allow for great detail because they enable users to cut through fine lines along thin metal without releasing excess heat.
What to Look for Before Going to Buy a Plasma Cutter
When choosing your plasma cutters to use at home or in shop, there are a few important things to consider that will help you choose the perfect model. The task of selecting the right plasma cutter for your needs can be bewildering, particularly for first-time buyers.
For starters, you should narrow your search to plasma cutters with built in compressor. What this means is that the air/gas compressor will be built into the unit itself, making it a self-contained and fully functional tool rather than something that requires an additional, external gas supply. If you’re not running a manufacturing factory yourself, then this is the type of plasma cutter you should look for.
The unfamiliar device has several makers to choose from. As a result, you should approach the purchase in a logical manner. The selection of an ideal plasma cutter requires these considerations.
Input Voltage & Duty Cycle
Depending on which plasma cutter you select, the wiring needs to be configured. Most plasma cutters can be wired at 110, 120 or 220 volts. However, your garage or home might not have a 220 voltage outlet, so keep this in mind. If you have a high voltage outlet, then choose a plasma cutter that can handle high voltages.
Most plasma cutters will offer 30 amp, 110 volts or 50 amp, 220 volts. Also, the user may have to screw the wires into the cutter’s body. For convenience, the manufacturer might screw in the machine. Some plasma cutters also have a dual meter at the front that enables users to adjust the amps depending on their needs.
Then duty cycle is another important consideration. A plasma cutter with more amperage output will have a longer duty cycle than a plasma cutter with less amperage output. A longer duty cycle is preferred for longer shifts.
Never neglect this aspect when you’re reading reviews of the plasma cutter. The majority of plasma cutters perform a 1” or 5/8 severance cut and a clean cut of ½”. The former requires a steady hand, along with patience. The latter can be done quickly without any issues. A good plasma cutter performs better than oxyfuel when it comes to less than 2” metal thickness. They produce faster, cleaner cuts.
The greater the thickness a plasma cutter is capable of going through, the higher will be its price. Therefore, it’s viable to know what you’ll cut before you start your plasma cutter buying hunt. In addition to its capability of going through a certain thickness, a plasma cutter may also have additional features to support the cut.
Arc & Torch
Modern plasma cutters have a pilot arc which prevents direct contact between the material that the device will cut and the torch. This prolongs the life of the nozzle. Some plasma cutting devices also come with starter sets, which allow users to position the torch and see the arc accurately.
An ideal plasma cutter is also equipped with a new torch. The torches are customized in some branded models, and their trigger can be moved according to the user’s liking. The head of the torch may be low profile to go through tight spaces. The user can use the trigger in both finger and thumb positions in most offerings.
Portability & Cooling
Plasma cutter is used for a variety of cutting purposes and users often have to move the device around a location, from site to site or even around a plant. Acknowledging this, owning a portable brand and having additional features for transportation – such as a handle – would work in your favor. Some models also come with built-in storage for consumables and other essentials.
In addition to portability, the plasma cutter will also have some technology or feature that gives cool air flow to prevent the unit from heating up. The machine’s center is the area where heat can get trapped, so having a top-notch cooling mechanism will prolong the duty cycle of your plasma cutter. The cooling system also prevents any dust or dirt from damaging the components of the device.
A good plasma cutter has a built-in inverter to facilitate users at remote sites, where there’s no power outlet. They rely on DC power to feed the power via a transistor-inverter of high frequency from 10 KHz to 200 KHz approximately. The inverter adds to the cost, but offers additional functionality and portability.
Digital inverter technology saves space, meaning manufacturers house modern units in compact designs with semiconductor units. Also, the inverter technology facilities high cutting frequency. In simple words, the built-in inverter enables the plasma cutter to be efficient and fast.
Of course all these things also affect the price. If you have plasma cutter with built in compressor and inverter and it has an impressive duty cycle, then you can bet it will cost more than something will less impressive specs. Here you need to make the choice between a device that does only what you need it to as cheaply as possible, versus a device that will last a long time and offer the highest performance – possibly being the better investment if you do a lot of cutting.
Remember as well to pick up some extras along with your purchase. Good accessories and supplies include:
These extras will help your device to last longer and will ensure that it doesn’t give out just when you need to use it!
Frequently Asked Question
Q: How much does a plasma cutter cost?
Ans: Price depends on the use, performance, type, size, duty cycle, and features etc. Usually price is started from couple of hundred and it ends with few thousands. A CNC plasma cutting machine could range anywhere from $15,000 to $300,000.
Q: What can you cut with a plasma cutter?
Ans: Plasma Cutter cuts through electrically conductive materials by means of an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Usually steel, stainless steel, aluminum, brass and copper are cut by plasma cutter.
Q: What is a plasma burner?
Ans: Plasma torch is known as plasma burner which generates direct flow of plasma.
Q: What kind of gas do you use with a plasma cutter?
Ans: Multiple gases such as Oxygen, high purity air, nitrogen, hydrogen/argon/nitro mixture are used on multiple conductive materials.
Q: How hot is a plasma arc?
Ans: A plasma arc can raise a temperature approaching 28,000 °C (50,000 °F) or higher !
Q: What is profile cutting?
Ans: Steel profile cutting is an in-depth process that takes a piece of steel and transforms it into a particular shape.
It’s not easy to decide as to which one is the best plasma cutter for your needs. The plethora of options leave buyers overwhelmed, but don’t use this as an excuse to buy a plasma cutter in haste. A smart buyer will look at the above mentioned features and review the feedback given by existing customers before making a decision.