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A plasma cutter can be fantastically useful for your DIY projects as well as for auto repairs, working in a ranch, or simply for metal art. In the past, using a plasma cutter meant needing to get a separate air compressor. The advantages of plasma cutters with built-in air compressors are clear – they are much easier to use and a lot more portable.
Finding the best plasma cutter with the built-in compressor can be difficult with so many great models out there. We’ve scanned the market and found 25 different models. For this article, we’ve picked 5 great options, but found the Thermal Dynamics AirCut 15C Plasma Cutter to be a cut above the others. It’s powerful, portable, and very easy to use while representing great value for money. The other 4 products are slightly different, and it could be that they are more suitable for your needs.
To make sure you’re only getting the best info, we have spent countless hours researching and have contacted several expert sources. Below, you can find a product table for a quick overview as well as detailed reviews of each model. We’ve also created a comprehensive buying guide to give you all the information you need. In this section, we are going to look at the power of the unit, input voltage, cutting capability, dimensions, weight, and warranty, which will all form a part of your buying decision. Along with our buying guide and reviews, we’ve answered FAQ’s to make you a plasma cutter expert!
If you’re searching for the best plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor out there, then it’s hard to look past this model by Thermal Dynamics. It has excellent features to go along with the impressive build quality.
In the package, you can find a 20ft leads, which will give you plenty of flexibility, and you’ll have a quality PCH-10 torch with a 70-degree head. There are also an 8.5ft input cable and a 19.5ft work cable to go along with the operating manual.
It’s hard to find fault with this plasma cutter, but the power limit of 15 amps means that it’s not the most powerful cutter on this list. For anything other than heavy-duty industrial work, this cutter will be perfect for your needs.
An impressive aspect of this cutter is just how quickly it’s able to get through the work. It cuts very quickly, which will reduce any frustration that you have with inferior models where you have to work too hard over one spot. It’s highly efficient, and it will allow you to complete your jobs in no time at all.
The plasma cutter is also easy to use and enables you to get to work straight away on making those cuts with a minimal amount of fuss. That’s helped by the portability with the low weight and comfortable handle. Experts would find this a brilliant machine to use, but it’s also one of the best plasma cutters with built-in compressors for beginners, too, with just how simple it is to operate it.
Here, we have our Best Value pick by Hobart. This is a little cheaper than the previous model, but still has excellent qualities with a sufficient level of power that will get through many types of jobs.
As well as the high-quality torch with a tip, the unit also comes with a user’s guide and electrode. This 110v plasma cutter with the built-in compressor can also work of 115 and 120 input voltages, giving it a good level of versatility.
It perhaps doesn’t have a premium level of power, but it can make light work and clear cut anything that is 1/8″ thick. It can provide power up to 12 amps, and at that level, it has a 35% duty cycle, which is around average for these types of cutters.
At 27lbs, this is the lightest model on the list and is also quite compact. That will be appealing to anyone who requires to move their plasma cutter around constantly. That portability helps to give it the edge on many of its much heavier rivals.
In terms of usability, you’re not going to be disappointed. It will work quickly and efficiently to give you precise cuts with very little slag. That’s helped by a comfortable trigger that will allow you to use the cutter for long periods without getting the arm ache.
If you want the best plasma cutter with a built-in compressor and have a large budget, this is the model you want. It has a brilliant level of power while not having the typical downfalls that can be associated with other powerful tools.
Often, the power can mean that the tool is more difficult to use and is a lot heavier. You don’t get that here, as it is a portable model with a comfortable handle. Its weight also manages to come in at just under 30lbs.
What makes it our Premium Pick is that it’s able to go up to 30amps with an input voltage of 120 or 240 volts. It comes with plug adapters that make it extremely flexible and versatile.
The max severance with this cutter is 5/8”, which is comfortably higher than its rivals. A great addition to the package here is that it comes with a carrying strap for added portability. You get that along with the torch, manuals, nozzle, and electrode.
There is no doubt that this is a significant investment, but it still represents good value for money. The reason for that is not only the high amount of power but also the epic build quality that will make it last for many years to come. It gives you precise and quick cuts and is a truly outstanding plasma cutter.
Are you looking for something inexpensive? If so, this HeroCut model has a good level of power and comes at an attractive price.
You also get a lot of features here too. There is an air regulator installed on the back of the machine, and a long earth cable is included. Apart from that, you also get 5 electrodes and 5 tips along with the manual. It’s a great package and gives you everything that you need.
It’s easy to get set up, and it will be able to cut through a wide range of different metals. Part of the reason for that is the large power range it has. The maximum amperage and input voltage are both high, which helps to achieve excellent performance. It’s worth noting that with that voltage you’d be exceeding the standard outlet voltage in most homes of 115. So make sure you can power it.
At 44lbs, it is on the heavier side, and some users may find this a little difficult to carry. It does have a comfortable handle, but if you’re looking for the maximum in portability, then you may need to look at some other options we’ve reviewed.
It doesn’t quite have the same level of quality as other options we’ve already seen, but still holds up very well. The operation is quite simple, and you won’t have much trouble with it. It makes it another great option for beginners who are looking for their first plasma cutter.
Forney has been able to make this plasma cutter that has a decent level of power, which will be able to get through a lot of work. It can be a little slow, but with a little patience, you’ll be able to achieve these high-quality cuts.
It comes with a great range of accessories, such as long 15” ground cable that is pretty convenient to use and a clamp. You will also receive a plasma torch with lead and a box of consumables that will be needed for your projects.
In that box, you will find a compressor shield cup, 10 .65 tips, five electrodes, and one diffuser ring. It allows you to get everything you need to get started and enjoy being able to cut anything that you need straight away.
The safety features on this plasma cutter are good, and that’ll give you a lot of confidence when you’re using it. There are also diagnostic lights to give you all the information that you need to be able to achieve safe and stable cutting.
It doesn’t quite have the level of performance that we’ve seen from other models, but it’s still a great option. Despite being quite heavy, it does have a large carry handle that will make your life easier when taking it from one place to the next.
What do we love it for?
Good safety features
Allows precise cuts
Comes with a box of consumables
Long power cable
What were we disappointed with?
Can be a little slow
Things to Consider
It’s important to get the right plasma cutter with a built-in compressor for your projects, but the choice can be quite difficult. In this buying guide, we’ll try to simplify the process and give you all the vital information you need to make the final decision. We’ll go through all of the key features and look at how important they are to you. We follow this with some FAQs to get rid of any doubts.
How to pick a plasma cutter with built-in compressor
The first thing that you need to do is to assess your needs and know what you want to cut. If you are planning to cut thin metal infrequently, this will be a lot different from needing to cut through thick pieces of metal often. The power will play a crucial role in choosing the best plasma cutter, but there are other key considerations, such as the portability, duty cycle, and input voltage. As we go through each section, it’s a good idea to note how important those features are to you. By the end, you’ll have a clear idea on which model fits your needs.
The power of a plasma cutter is going to mostly come from the amperage that it has. This will determine the materials you’re going to be able to cut. It is worth noting that different machines utilize that power in different ways, and, therefore, a low-powered cutter can often be better to use to achieve more accurate cuts of thin materials.
To get that high level of power out of the plasma cutter, you will need to make sure that it has proper voltage. The majority of residential power outlets in North America are 120v, which is perfect for a model, such as the Thermal Dynamics AirCut 15C Plasma Cutter, which is limited to that number.
If you tried the HeroCut HC3500 at full amperage in one of those sockets, you’d blow a fuse, as it would need 220v. A lot of newer American homes have a 240v supply, but this is usually for heavy-duty appliances such as ranges and wall ovens.
To power a high-voltage cutter, you’d need to either find a way to use your 240v supply or purchase a separate generator that will be able to give you the power that you need.
The duty cycle relates to how long you can use the plasma cutter in a 10 minute period. As these are machines which use a lot of power and get incredibly hot, you can’t use them for too long without them having a break.
The Hobart Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter, for example, has a 35% duty cycle at full power. This means you can use it for 3.5 minutes continuously before needing a break. As you won’t always be using it at full power and continuously for minutes on end, this is simply a good guide to ensure the unit doesn’t overheat.
With cutting capability, you’ll often see two figures, which will be the quality cut capability and also the severance cut. The Thermal Dynamics AirCut 15C Plasma Cutter, for instance, is able to make a perfect cut in metal, which is 1/8” thick. It also has a severance cut of 3/16″. This severance figure is the limit of the cutter, and any cut that is close to it or even exceeds it would have a large amount of slag. The importance of this depends on the tasks you’re doing. If you just want severance, then it doesn’t matter about the quality of the cut, but most people will want nice clean cuts.
Weight, size, and portability
Plasma cutters with built-in compressors are often heavy, but there are be quite a difference between one model and the next. While some models are not that easy to carry around, the Hobart Airforce is pretty light at just 27lbs.
You need to assess how much you’ll be moving your cutter around and if portability is important to you. As well as the weight, you also want to look at how comfortable the handle is and the overall dimensions. If you’re always going to keep your cutter in one spot, then the weight won’t be a big issue.
These plasma cutters are expensive machines, and the last thing that you want to do is to waste money on a defective one. You want to ensure that you have the guarantees in place should something go wrong or if your plasma cutter doesn’t have proper build quality.
The HeroCut HC3500 has a solid one-year warranty, but you can also get an independent warranty if you’re worried about it. It’s always a good idea to look at exactly what is being covered by your warranty as you don’t want any nasty surprises.
When you get your plasma cutter, it’s always a good idea to check that everything is there straight away and give it a test run.
You are going to have several consumables on your plasma cutters as parts will be replaced over time. This includes tips, electrodes, and shields along with other parts such as deflectors, retaining caps, and nozzles. It’s always great to get a plasma cutter that comes with these accessories.
The Forney 250 P+ Plasma Cutter is a great example of a unit that comes with plenty of great accessories, including 10 tips and 5 electrodes.
Even if your plasma cutter doesn’t come with these accessories, they are fairly easy to acquire and don’t cost too much.
There is a big difference in terms of price with plasma cutters ranging from the budget end to premium models. The Hypertherm Powermax 30 AIR Plasma Cutter comes in at a little under $2,000 but has the supreme quality and shows excellent performance.
At the lower end of the scale, you have the Forney 250 P+ Plasma Cutter, which is just above $500. This model is great for beginners, and even without the highest build quality, it is still brilliant to use.
If you look at most air compressors, they are big, bulky, and hard to carry. If you were using this alongside a regular plasma cutter, then you probably weren’t able to move it around much or take it with you. Therefore, these plasma cutters are a lot more versatile.
Having a built-in compressor makes a lot of sense. It helps to make them extremely portable and much easier to use. It can often mean that you don’t have the same level of power as if you used a compressor, but some models with build-in air compressors can still show excellent performance.
Due to how they work, plasma cutters can only work with materials that can conduct electricity. Therefore, you can’t cut wood or plastic with them. Instead, you’ll be able to use them with a wide range of metals.
Aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, and brass are the most common materials that you can cut. The thickness of the material will depend on its density and the power that your particular model has. You can always check these parameters in the product description.
Your eyes will need a very high level of protection. This is not just from the sparks and molten metal from cutting but also from the intense light coming from the arc. You’ll need safety glasses to protect your eyes from these UV rays, or you can wear a helmet or face shield with special lenses.
For the rest of your body, you shouldn’t have any bare skin exposed. Durable, non-flammable clothing, such as jeans, is fine, but it’s a great idea to get an apron for your upper body. High-quality rubber-soled shoes should be used, and a great pair of gloves is going to be vital for your work.
We have looked at a great collection of plasma cutters here, which range from great beginner models to much more powerful and robust machines.
The other two models we looked at here may well be more suitable for your project. All you need to do is work out what you plan on cutting and what features are going to be the most important to you. After that, you will be able to pick the best plasma cutter with a built-in compressor for you!