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Metal is durable and strong, making it a wonderful material for building with. Unfortunately, these features also make it hard to manipulate it into a usable size and shape for various home and work projects. That’s where the best plasma cutter comes in. This tool is a modern solution for cutting metal quickly and easily, with clean cuts that make it much easier to work with.
For this article, we’ve reviewed 28 different plasma cutter models on the market. The PrimeWeld CUT500 is our favorite, with features like dual voltage compatibility, adjustable output current, DC inverter technology, 50A Digital Air Invertor, and a compact size. There are a few others, with varying prices and features to choose from, so you can go as simple or complex as you like.
To choose the right model for you, there are a few features you may want to consider. The voltage is one since most homes use 110/120V while job sites or industrial areas use 220/240V, so you need the right one for your plasma cutter to work. The amperage output and the maximum metal thickness should also be considered since higher outputs are needed for thicker metals, but each machine has a limit to the output available. To help you choose the best plasma cutter for home use or at work, we’ve created a comparison table and added in-depth reviews for our chosen products. We also added a buying guide that describes all of the features these units have to offer. This way, you have all the information needed to make the most informed decision possible.
The PrimeWeld CUT500 is one of the best-rated plasma cutter models on the market. It is well-built, with professional quality precision, but comes with a budget-friendly price that makes it even more attractive.
This unit has a compact design that is lightweight, with an ergonomic handle to make it easy to carry with you anywhere you need it around your home workshop or on the road to job sites.
The CUT500 is also versatile, cutting stainless steel, mild steel, alloy steel, copper, aluminum, and a variety of other metals. The 50 Amp Digital Air Inverter can cut pieces up to ½-inch with a maximum severance thickness of ¾-inch quickly and cleanly. A control knob on the front of the unit lets you adjust the output current to alter the intensity of the cut, which is a necessity for more detailed cuts.
Another great feature this budget plasma cutter has to offer is the dual voltage capability. This allows you to run the unit on either 220V or 110V power without the need for an adapter, so you can use it anywhere you go. This model also includes DC inverter technology, which will automatically convert DC to AC when needed.
Included with the plasma cutter are an air filter, a plasma torch, a grounding clamp and cable, two plasma cutter tips, two couplers, and four clamps. The manual is a bit confusing to follow, though there are several videos online to get you started.
The Hypertherm Powermax30 XP is not a cheap plasma cutter, but it is built to last, making it worth the higher cost in the long run. It is also easy to use and comes with everything you need to get started, plus a few extras for added convenience.
This plasma cutter is compact and lightweight, so you can use it almost anywhere. The Auto-Voltage technology and the included adapters let you plug it into any outlet with either 120V or 240V to run this handy unit.
The Powermax30 XP is versatile, with a 2-in-1 design that lets you do some high-power cutting on a variety of thicker metals as well as some fine cuts for more detailed work with cleaner edges.
Included with this unit is the Duramax LT Torch, which is designed to be heat and impact-resistant. This piece is also much more efficient than other models since consumables last twice as long as usual. The hand torch has an ergonomic design and a comfortable grip.
The output is adjusted using a simple knob on the front of the unit. It turns to the right for 110V power and to the left for 220V, so be sure to figure out which you’re using before you get started.
This unit has a large carry handle, a shoulder strap, and a carry case. It also includes a consumable kit with a standard nozzle, an electrode, a Fine Cut nozzle, and a Fine Cut deflector.
The best plasma cutter for the money needs to be built well, with great features that are easy to use, even for those who are just starting with this type of tool. The Hobart Airforce 27i does have a high price tag, though what it has to offer may make it well worth the cost.
This plasma cutter has a simple design in a compact body but is made using quality materials that will last for years. This includes heavy gauge steel, aluminum, and even fire-resistant plastic for the wiring. Despite these durable parts, this unit is still lightweight and portable, with an ergonomic, heat-resistant handle on top.
To get started with this plasma cutter, all you need to do is plug it in and connect the compressed air supply. Then ground the workpiece, pull the trigger, and start cutting. The dual voltage compatibility allows you to use either 120V or 240V, whichever is available, without adding an adapter to the plug.
The Hobart Airforce 27i has an adjustable amperage that allows you to cut different types of metal with one machine. This includes steel, aluminum, and much more. You can also cut metal that is 3/8-inch or sever 5/8-inch steel plate with ease.
There are a few safety features, including a protective trigger guard, a thermal overload protection switch, post-flow air cooling, and wind tunnel technology. A cable management strap keeps the wires out of the way when not in use.
Though the instructions that come with the SUNCOO CUT50 aren’t very helpful, this unit is still relatively easy to use, especially if you look up the proper way to do so before you get started. It is built well, using heavy-duty materials but it is still light enough to make it portable. There is not proper top handle, though a shoulder strap is included to make it easier to carry around.
On the front of the unit are the controls, including an adjustment knob with a 20-50 Amp range and an LED digital display for the current being used. Front and rear exhaust fans take care of the heat dissipation, reducing the temperature of the machine as it runs to prevent damage to all the components and increase the unit’s lifespan. Other safety features include over-voltage protection and over-current protection.
This unit is dual voltage compatible, which means that it automatically adapts to both 110V and 220V without requiring an adapter. This makes it more convenient to use on a variety of job sites as well as being a quality plasma cutter for home use.
You can use the best value plasma cutter for a variety of metals, such as stainless steel, aluminum, iron, or copper. It has a maximum cutting thickness of ½ inch, so you can quickly cut a metal plate in very little time. The advanced inverter technology adds to its versatility as well as increasing its efficiency.
If you’re looking for the best plasma cutter under $1000, the Lotos LTP8000 is a good one to check out. It’s easy to use, with a variety of great features, though it does lack the dual voltage found on several other plasma cutter models. It is a bit heavier, too, but the dual handles make it easy to carry around if you need to use it on the road.
This unit uses a MOSFET transistor that gives you a clean cut on thin metal, while also reaching higher power output levels for fast cutting through thicker metals as well. With the combination of the MOSFET and the Pulse Width Modulation, you get an even, concentrated current on whatever surface you’re using.
The LTP8000 can cut through stainless steel, mild steel, alloy steel, aluminum, and copper. The included Pilot Arc torch can even be used on painted, rough, or rusty metals without a lot of slag.
This Lotus plasma cutter uses compressed air, so you don’t need to work with any hazardous gases. A pre-installed D plug and air filter regulator connect right to your air compressor’s standard coupler.
Another handy feature is the integrated cooling system that allows it to run longer without overheating and damaging the internal components. There are also a few extras included to get you started with this plasma cutter, including a ground clamp, a few consumables, and the instruction manual.
What are its best features?
What could be improved?
A bit heavy
No dual voltage
Things to Consider
Cutting metal or other conductive materials is difficult without the right tool. That’s why so many people are using a plasma cutter for this job since these units can cut cleanly through metal in very little time. With so many plasma cutter options, it can be hard to pick the right one for you, but this handy guide will help you see what features to look for to make your decision easier.
What a plasma cutter is capable of
A plasma cutter is a modern tool that is capable of cutting through a variety of conductive materials. This includes metals like steel, aluminum, brass, copper, and many more in this category. A plasma cutter accomplishes this by creating an extremely hot electrical channel of gas, which is called plasma. You can use a variety of gases, such as nitrogen, argon, oxygen, or even simple air from an air compressor as is used by the Hobart Airforce 27i.
A plasma cutter is used for a few purposes. Hobbyists or artists use these tools to cut their designs out of metal in more intricate patterns. Plasma cutters are also used in salvage yards, auto shops, and construction sites to cut sheets of metal. These tools can be used for rough or fine cuts, depending on the skill of the user or the type of cutter tip being used.
There are a few different types of plasma cutters on the market today. A plasma cutter for CNC is attached to a robotic arm and guided by a computer. There are also plasma cutters with a built-in compressor, so you don’t need a separate one, making them a bit more convenient. The more compact handheld units are the type that we’ve focused on in this review, which have features that we’ll cover in the sections below.
Features to consider when choosing a plasma cutter
When choosing a plasma cutter for home use or on a job site, there are a few features you may want to check out. This will ensure you’re getting the right one for the type of work you’ll be using it for.
The input voltage refers to the power coming through the power source, which is the outlet you’re plugging into. Most industrial areas use 220/240V, so a unit that you’re taking around to job sites needs to be compatible with this type of voltage, like the Lotos LTP8000. Homes are usually powered using the standard 110/120V, so if you’re purchasing a unit that you’ll be using in your garage or home workshop, you’ll likely need one that is compatible with the lower voltage or you’ll have to spend some extra money converting the outlets and fuse boxes in your work area. Luckily, there are several options in our reviews that are compatible with both, many of which don’t even need an extra adapter to work properly, making them much more convenient.
The output is related to the input voltage and also determines the thickness of the materials you’ll be cutting. In terms of input, the 120V standard input is also 15 Amps, while 220V has 50 Amps or more. Cutting materials that are ¼-inch or less need about 20 Amps. Materials between ¼ and ½-inch need 40 Amps or more. If you’re going to be cutting materials that are up to one inch in thickness, the plasma cutter needs an output of at least 80 Amps or more for the proper cut.
Most plasma cutters have a range of Amps that can be adjusted to suit the thickness of the material you’re using.
Clean cut thickness and severance cut thickness
The clean cut is fast cut with a smooth finish. The sever cut takes a bit longer and leaves you with a rough cut that needs more cleanup, including grinding or chipping away those rough edges that are left behind. When looking at the cut thickness, the clean cut thickness is usually thinner than the sever cut since you’re working faster with the metal. The clean cut is usually what is used for metal that you’ll be welding or using for artwork. A sever cut is best for scrap metal and other pieces that don’t require too much detail.
The dimensions of the best plasma cutter are more important than you may think. If you’re using it in a huge workshop, you likely won’t be too concerned about its size. Those using their plasma cutter in a small area or who travel around to job sites with it will want one that doesn’t take up too much space. A smaller unit doesn’t mean it will lack in features, either, as the SUNCOO CUT50 proves. These models can still do just as good a job as a larger unit will while taking up less space at the same time.
The weight of the unit is another feature that determines the portability of a plasma cutter. Sometimes you need to carry your unit around with you to various areas, possibly even up a ladder or a few sets of stairs. The heavier it is, the harder it will be to do so. A lightweight model, like the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP, will be much easier to manage when moving it from site to site.
Some of the models in our reviews include a number of handy accessories. One thing to look for is extra consumables, which include the electrodes and the nozzles. These will wear out over time, so having a few extras saves you a bit of money, especially if you’re using your plasma cutter regularly. Some models also include a built-in air filter, which helps prevent dust and dirt from clogging up your unit, which adds to its lifespan. Some other accessories that could be included are a ground clamp and cable, some couplers, a carry strap, or even a hard case to protect your plasma cutter during travel and keep all your gear together and organized.
An overheating plasma cutter will cost you a great deal of time and money to get it up and running again. The parts can wear out quicker, and some pieces, like the torch and leads, can burn out if they aren’t cooled down as they’re running. The smaller units, like the ones in our reviews, use the same air used for the plasma gas to keep the torch from overheating as you use it. The motor, pumps, and other internal parts in the body of the unit also need to be cooled, usually with some sort of internal cooling system, which is why they include fans that create cool air and exhaust vents to get rid of the hot air that would otherwise build up in the unit and cause it to overheat.
Look into the type of cooling system the unit you’re considering has to be sure you don’t have to buy any extra materials or coolants to keep your machine running for years to come.
The duty cycle on a plasma cutter tells you how long the unit can be used within 10 minutes before it overheats. For instance, a unit with a duty cycle of 100% can run for the full 10 minutes while a system with only a 50% duty cycle can be used for 5 out of 10 minutes. There are a few factors that determine the duty cycle as well, such as the output power, the thickness of the metal, and the temperature of the work area. For instance, the Hypertherm30 XP has a duty cycle of 35% at 240V at an ambient temperature of 104 degrees F and 20% at 120V at the same temperature.
Whether you’re buying a high-end unit or you’ve chosen the best plasma cutter under $500, it still needs a good warranty. This way, you’ll be covered if there are any issues with the machine that aren’t caused by any misuse on your part. The longer the warranty is, and the more it covers, the better you’ll feel about buying the unit. For instance, the Lotos LTP8000 has a one-year limited warranty that covers defects in the parts or manufacturing of the product. This is fine if the issues show up right away.
The other models in our reviews have either a three-year limited or a five-year limited warranty, giving you a lot more time to test out the unit, which is especially important if the issues don’t show up right away.
Using a plasma cutter can be dangerous, especially if you aren’t familiar with how they work. Following these tips can prevent injury to you or damage to the materials and the machine.
Wear a fire-resistant jacket and gloves.
Use #5 safety glasses with a side shield or a full-face shield with a helmet.
Do not touch the material around the cutting area.
Point the torch tip away from your body when starting the arc.
Keep all flammables at least 35 feet away from your work area.
Do not cut closed or pressurized containers or those that contained combustibles or toxic materials.
Connect the work materials to proper earth ground.
Stand on a rubber mat or plywood sheet away from any wet or damp areas.
The basic principle of air plasma cutting is the plasma arc created between the electrode and the piece you’re cutting is constricted by a copper nozzle with a fine bore. This increases the velocity and the temperature of the plasma coming through the nozzle. The plasma gas flow used for cutting is increased in this fashion so the plasma jet can cut through the material, removing the molten material in the efflux plasma at the same time.
The clean cut thickness refers to the thickest the material you’re cutting can be for the machine to cut it all the way through with minimal dross on the bottom edge that needs to be cleaned off when the cut is finished. The severance cut thickness is the maximum thickness the material can be for a close cut at a much slower speed. A sever cut will also require more cleanup on the bottom edge as it won’t be as clean as the clean cut. Going beyond these thicknesses will alter the results and the speed of the cut, making it more difficult to get the cut you want.
A plasma cutter can be used with a wide variety of metals that can conduct electricity. This includes materials like steel, stainless steel, mild steel, copper, brass, aluminum, and many more. If you aren’t sure which ones to use with your chosen plasma cutter, be sure to read the instruction manual included with the unit to be sure it will work with the materials you plan to work with.
The best plasma cutter is an essential tool for those doing a variety of metalwork, including construction, scrap salvage, or even some metal art. With so many plasma cutters on the market, it can be hard to choose the right one. To help you get started in your search, here are our favorite models.
Our top choice is the PrimeWeld CUT500, which is compact and portable, plus has a budget-friendly price. This model also has great features, like the 50 Amp Digital Air Inverter, DC Inverter technology, adjustable output current, dual voltage, and a variety of extra accessories.
The Hypertherm Powermax30 XP is another great option. It is also light and compact, with Auto-Voltage technology and included adapters. It features a 2-in-1 design for both high-power and detailed cuts, heat, and impact-resistant Duramax LT torch, carry handle, shoulder strap, and carry case.
The Hobart Airforce 27i is another dual voltage option that is easy to use, due to its simple design. It is made using durable materials, with a variety of safety features, an ergonomic, heat-resistant handle, and a cable management strap to keep those cords out of the way.