Best Plasma Cutter
Best Plasma Cutter 2019 – Buying Guide and Plasma Cutter Reviews
Metal cutting is an extremely delicate work that requires the utmost precision and smoothness. If you have any type of experience with this line of work, then you are probably no stranger to the underwhelming results that you can get with cheap and outdated tools. That is why investing in an effective cutting-edge tool is an absolute must of any professional or serious hobbyist. In this article, we will go over every little detail of one such tool and we will help you pick the best plasma cutter on the market today.
Main factors you should know
While experienced users will surely know their way around these machines, a beginner would likely feel confused and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of features and specs that he does not grasp. Fortunately for you, we are here to help you sift through this highly competitive market. Here are the main factors that you have to keep in mind when picking the best plasma cutter for the money:
Power of the tool
The optimal power of a tool depends on numerous variables. Needless to say, different applications and projects require different levels of power. Having a clear idea of the power requirements of your project is extremely important since it allows you to get the model that is best suited for your needs. Neglecting to do this can result in buying an underperforming unit that is incapable of handling the specificities of the metal that you are trying to cut.
One essential thing that you need to understand about the power output of a plasma cutter is the fact that it is directly linked to input power. For example, some units work on 120V which makes them ideal for most homes and small workshops. On the other hand, some more powerful plasma cutters require a higher voltage and can only work in a 220V setting. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, you should check the kind of power input that you have at home before investing in a plasma cutter.
As far as the power output is concerned, the main factor that is at play here is the thickness of the materials. Generally speaking, a 25 amp model should be able to handle anything around 1/4 inches in diameter. However, more power will be needed if you want to take on materials that are around the 1 inch mark.
Quality of the consumables
The consumables are one of the most critical components of the plasma cutter and their quality plays a significant role in determining the overall durability of the machine. They are part of the cutting mechanism and are by far the components that are most susceptible to damage and wear. This is mostly due to the constant exposure to the high temperature of the torch that gradually melts the copper composition of the nozzle. To avoid buying a unit that has subpar consumables, it is advisable to check the frequency of consumable replacement that the manufacturer recommends. If it is too high, then you should probably avoid buying that particular model since the quality of the consumables is questionable, to say the least.
The duty cycle is an essential factor that you should keep in mind when you are checking the specs of a plasma cutter. Simply put, the duty cycle refers to the amount of time that a cutter can run during the span of one hour. More specifically, it is a percentage that is determined by the amount of amperage that the machine can draw. This factor is extremely important for professionals who need to work for hours on end, but for home use, you can get away with getting a unit that has a duty cycle under 50%.
This is not a priority for everybody, but a plasma cutter that can be carried and moved around with ease offers a lot of practicality and convenience in the workshop. It is also worth mentioning that a number of projects require you to move quite a bit, and having a unit that is light and compact enough to allow for maximum portability can be greatly helpful. However, don’t make the mistake of opting for a poorly-constructed model that is made from cheap materials. At the end of the day, you don’t want to compromise on quality and performance just for the sake of mobility.
This feature is mostly geared toward people who want to use their cutter in a remote area with no access to electricity. An inverter is a mechanism that enables the power tool to take DC power and convert it into a high frequency electrical current. While the machines that have a built-in inverter system are generally more expensive than the regular ones, they are undoubtedly a worthy investment if you intend to make use of this feature.
Ease of use
Ease of use is a valuable quality when it comes to any type of power tool. In the case of plasma cutters, the control panel is very important since it enables you to run the device itself. To ensure a smooth and effortless operation, the control panel should be simple enough that a complete beginner can navigate it with ease. We would recommend getting a plasma cutter that comes equipped with a built-in consumable compartment that is mounted on the panel of the machine.
Warranties have become an integral part of commercial transactions and most manufacturers these days are offering generous and lengthy warranties on parts and service. Given the number of options that are available to you, there are no reasons why you should settle for a product that is not backed by a good warranty.
The extra equipment that you might need
If you go with high-end plasma cutters, it is unlikely that you are going to need any external components. These models come equipped with everything that you will need for comprehensive functionality. On the other hand, most entry-level and mid-range units don’t include one essential component that is integral to how these cutters operate; an air compressor. This device pumps high pressure air into the nozzle of the torch which in turn allows the plasma cutter to operate in a much more accurate manner. Additionally, the compressed air contributes to enhancing the durability of the cutter by extending the life of the consumables.
The air compressor is not the only device that complements plasma cutters. In fact, there is a wide assortment of add-ons and external components that can increase the efficiency of the machine and help maintain it in a good state. One of the most popular ones is the desiccant air dryer. This innovative device removes the majority of corroding elements and moisture from the air before it gets to the nozzle. This helps extend the life of the consumables which will end up saving you a lot of money down the line.
What are the main benefits of using a plasma cutter?
Plasma cutting offers a substantial number of benefits compared to less efficient cutting techniques like Oxyfuel. The main quality that makes this approach such an effective cutting technique is the unparalleled versatility that it affords the user. While the quality varies from model to model, plasma cutters are designed to cut through most types of metal and are therefore suited for virtually any kind of project. Furthermore, the level of accuracy that you can expect from a plasma cutter is simply peerless. Another major benefit that comes with using a plasma cutter is the surprisingly low maintenance and operation cost. Other than the initial investment, the amount of money that you will have to spend in order to maintain the machine is relatively small.
Plasma cutting provides a selection of other benefits that are especially appreciated by workshop owners and serious hobbyists, namely the piercing speed that enables the machine to pierce through thick metal without the need to heat it first and the fast cuts that contribute to improving the overall level of productivity in the workshop.
Best plasma cutter reviews
1 – Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter
We are starting things off with this affordable plasma cutter from Lotos Technology. It has a light build and comes equipped with an impressive number of features relative to its low price. More importantly, it is extremely versatile and is designed to accommodate the needs of DIY enthusiasts and even professionals who are looking for a cheap machine that can handle some light tasks in the workshop. One of the most notable things about this unit is the fact that it can operate on two different voltages; 110v and 220v. The first setting is ideal for light work while the second one is more suited for heavy applications. Lt5000D is one of the best cheap plasma cutter.
Another tremendous quality that adds to this machine’s effectiveness is its cooling system. Overheating is an issue that plagues the vast majority of power tools on the market, especially at the entry-level range. Lotos Technology has managed to prevent this problem by employing the innovative PAPST cooling mechanism, a German-engineered system that is considered the best by industry experts.
Overall, this option offers you a great bargain. The durability of the machine, the impressive cutting capacity, the compact size, and the innovative cooling system are just a few of the reasons why you should consider getting the Lotos LT5000D. Needless to say, finding a plasma cutter that can match it in this price range is a very difficult task.
- This unit offers great value for the price point
- The PAPST cooling system is effective when it comes to preventing overheating
- The machine has the capacity to run on two different voltages
- The cutting capacity of the plasma cutter is impressive
- It is backed by a 1-year warranty
- It does not come with any instructions or manual
- The company’s customer support is not that responsive
2 – AHP AlphaCut 60
The next option in our list is another competitively priced plasma cutter that is worthy of your consideration. The AHP has ample power for a wide range of projects and is primarily designed to handle the delicate surfaces that most of its direct competitors are incapable of tackling. Power wise, it can cut up to one inch at 220 volts and 3/8 inches at 110 volts. Moreover, the cuts that are delivered by this unit are very clean and precise. The accuracy of this machine is further enhanced by the consistent power feed that prevents any dip in the cutting output.
The most noteworthy attribute of the AHP AlphaCut 60 is probably its ability to work smoothly on any type of surface. This quality is especially valuable for people who need a plasma cutter for restoration and salvage work. Getting an all-encompassing model like the AHP saves you the cost and hassle of getting a dedicated plasma cutter for each type of application. Despite its power and versatility, this plasma cutter is still relatively compact compared to some other models and it does not occupy a lot of space, making it easy to carry and store.
Like all AHP tools, the AlphaCut 60 is easy to use and comes with clear and detailed instructions. Additionally, the company’s customer support is responsive and ready to answer any questions at any time.
- It can handle most surfaces
- It can cut up to 1 inch at 220 volt
- The cutter is sturdy and durable
- It is easy to use
- Relatively inexpensive considering the features that it includes
- It does not work very well at 110-volt setting
- The consumables are placed in a relatively odd and unpractical location
3 – Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30
This is by far our favorite mid-range plasma cutter on the market. The comprehensive kit includes a hard carry case, ehe shields, gloves, shoulder strap, standard consumables and FineCut consumables. The cutting prowess of this American-made unit is quite remarkable and it is powerful enough to handle hard cuts such as stainless steel and aluminum with relative ease. With the Heypertherm 088079, you can expect to get clean cuts whether you are running it at 110 volt or 240 volt.
This plasma cutter is easy to operate and you simply need to use the included consumables and compressed air in order to run it. Not only is this more efficient and less expensive than using gases, but it is also environmentally-friendly and helps keep your work area cleaner and safer. Moreover, the machine requires less than 4 CFM of compressed air to function properly, so a small compact compressor that is easy to carry will do the job just fine.
As far as durability is concerned, this plasma cutter boasts the industrial grade sturdiness that we have come to expect from the manufacturer. It is also fairly low maintenance and as long as you make sure to store your consumables in the included case, it is unlikely that will encounter any issues with the Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30.
- The package includes everything that you need
- It runs on compressed air instead of expensive gases
- It boasts a powerful motor
- It is backed by a 2-year warranty
- The machine is pretty low maintenance
- A small and inexpensive external compressor can power the cutter
- This model does not come with an internal compressor
- The price might be too high for hobbyists and professionals on a tight budget
4 – Miller Spectrum 625 Extreme
This option is the ideal choice for you if you happen to prefer portable plasma cutters. Weighing less than 10 KG, the Miller Spectrum 625 Extreme is one of the lightest cutters on the market. This makes it perfectly suited for professionals when they are taking jobs outside of the workshop. The fact that is compatible with all household sockets adds to the portability of this plasma cutter. Despite this remarkable light construction, it has one of the most powerful motors among all the units that we reviewed and it has the capacity to pierce through thick 10 mm metal. Besides its tremendous portability and power, this unit offers a great range of maneuverability thanks to the sturdy ergonomic handle. It is designed to minimize slipping and has the capacity to provide a secure and tight grip when you are working for an extended period of time.
Unlike many compact units out there, durability wasn’t sacrificed for the sake of lightness. The frame of the cutter has a robust feel to it and most of the important components of the machine are made from reinforced materials. After putting it through a series of rigorous tests, we can safely state that the Miller Spectrum 625 is prepared to handle anything that you throw at it.
- Its light and compact build makes it ideal for portable use
- It is easy to maneuver
- It can cut through thick metal with complete ease
- The torch features an ergonomic handle that provides a comfortable grip
- The frame of the machine is highly durable
- The motor produces a lot of torque
- It is one of the most expensive plasma cutters on the market
- The included cables are too short
5 – Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter
The final spot in our list is held by this plasma cutter from Hobart. This company has been an established entity in the industry for the better part of a century and opting for any of their products comes with the assurance that you are getting top quality craftsmanship and cutting-edge engineering. This particular model delivers a professional grade performance and comes with several features that you won’t be able to find in entry-level and mid-range products. The Hobart 500566 is designed to cut through all conductive metals and it employs the effective inverter technology that contributes to enhancing the overall efficiency and consistency of the machine’s output. This plasma cutter can tackle any type of heavy work and would constitute a valuable addition to any workshop.
Operating the Hobart 500566 is surprisingly easy and convenient. The power adjustments are well-placed and the auto-refire technology enables you to work on perforated materials without having to stop multiple times to reignite the torch. It is also easy to set up and the instructions that it comes detail every single step of the process.
- It delivers a professional grade performance that is ideal for any workshop
- The Hobart features the efficient inverter technology that ensures a smooth operation
- It is easy to set up and use
- It has the ability to operate on any type of conductive metals
- The build quality of this unit is simply immaculate
- It is backed by a 3-year warranty
- It is one of the heaviest models on the market
- It is only capable of running on 240 volt
Buying a plasma cutter doesn’t have to be as complicated as some people make it out to be. As long as you prioritize durability and performance over other superfluous factors, you are guaranteed to get an effective tool that can surely boost productivity in your workshop. More importantly, we have narrowed your options down to five great units that satisfy all the requirements for the best plasma cutter. It is up to you to pick the one that you like the most.