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My grandson is always asking questions about the tools I use. He recently brought up our plasma cutter, and I showed him how it makes better and faster cuts than other metal cutting tools. But I stressed the importance of safety and the need to use the plasma cutter for the job.
To find the best plasma cutter you’ll need to consider what type of metal and thicknesses you most commonly work with. You should also look at how much voltage as well as its amperage, duty cycle, and whether or not it comes with a built-in air compressor.
Plasma cutting is a process that passes an electric arc through gas and creates super-hot plasma used to cut through metal. It’s an efficient and safe way to cut metal when done correctly.
Today, there is a wide range of plasma cutters available on the market, which makes it a challenge to find the best model to fit your needs. To help you make the right choice we tested many of the popular plasma cutters and chose five we think offer the best value and performance on the market right now.
So let us get started!
Best Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutters are nifty tools used in metalwork and related occupations. The technology behind these tools has gradually improved over the years. From bulky, heavy, and cumbersome giants in the 1960’s, to powerful, lightweight tools. The best plasma cutters weigh a fraction of the earlier models.
1. Lotos LTP5000D Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter – Most Portable Plasma Cutter
The Lotos LTP5000D is highly recommended for hobbyists and DIY enthusiasts. This plasma cutter is a dual-voltage unit that can run on 110V or 220V power.
It is undoubtedly one of the best budget plasma cutters you can buy right now. The Lotos LTP5000D comes in a compact and portable design. It weighs 23 pounds, which makes it easy to carry around.
The 15″ x 6 x 12″ dimensions make it very portable. Furthermore, the plasma cutter has a curved handle that aids portability. It is smaller than most similar high-quality plasma cutters.
Performance is where the Lotos LTP5000D shines. It delivers reliable and clean cutting performance. The MOSFET transistor design incorporated in the design makes it a truly remarkable plasma cutter.
It cuts different metal surfaces easily. There are no issues with thin and thick metal cutting. The design allows it to cut through different types of metals like stainless steel, copper, and alloy steel.
Reviews and our testing revealed that it is a durable tool. Many users who acquired it years ago testify to the consistent performance it still delivers.
It is the best plasma cutter for beginners and hobbyists.
The Lotos LTP5000D is excellent for beginners. You do not need specialized training or tools before you can use this tool. Included in the package are a plasma torch, an air regulator, air hose connections, an air hose, and a cable. Click here to see the best price.
- 60% at 50A duty cycle
- Dual-voltage unit (110-220V)
- Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
2. Forney Easy Weld 251 20 P Plasma Cutter – DIY Plasma Cutter
The next plasma cutter on our list is the powerful Forney Easy Weld 20 P. For the relatively low price, performance is surprisingly impressive. It cuts through different metal surfaces very quickly.
It has a compact and durable casing. The heavy-duty metal casing on the plasma cutter makes it durable. The first factor the designers put in mind when creating this product is portability and compactness.
It weighs 21.1 pounds, which is lightweight enough to allow you to carry it from one point to the other. Just like the Lotos above, it is very easy to set up and use.
There is no specialized knowledge or skill required to operate this plasma cutter. You do not have to preheat the metal or even adjust gas pressure before using it.
The Forney isn’t a dual-voltage unit. Instead, it has just the 120V power input. It also doesn’t have a Pilot Arc design. Instead, it features Drag Torch technology. This implies that the tip of the plasma cutter has to touch the metal surface.
Nevertheless, it cuts through metals easily. Metal surfaces ¼” and lower are easily cut by this tool. However, if the thickness of the metal surface exceeds ¼”, you might be better off using the more powerful plasma cutters on this list. Click here to see the best price.
- 15″ x 8.1″ x 12″ dimensions
- 20 Amp size
- 120V Plasma cutter
3. Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter 240V – Top Pick
The Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i is one of the most powerful plasma cutters from Hobart. The duty cycle is incredibly solid, and the plasma cutter is superbly reliable.
The Hobart brand is recognized for the high quality of its products, and it is great to see this tradition continued with the Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter 240V.
If you are looking for a plasma cutter for light industrial use, or you are a DIY enthusiast, this plasma cutter will be ideal for your needs. It is a compact plasma cutter.
Weighing 31.4 pounds, it is slightly heavier than the plasma cutters above. Nevertheless, this weight isn’t too much to affect portability.
It comes with technical features that make it a great choice and one of the best plasma cutters you can buy right now. For example, it has a maximum cutting ability of 7/8 inches at a fifty percent duty cycle. Auto-Refire Technology from Hobart is another exciting feature.
This allows the plasma cutter to cut through different metal surfaces. Whether the metal is perforated, or it is painted or even coated, the Auto-Retire Technology allows the plasma cutter to cut through easily. It features Pilot Arc technology. This means that you do not have to touch the metal before cutting it.
The safety features on the plasma trigger also make it highly rated. It has an ergonomic trigger safety. It also has a fan that runs whenever it is needed. It reduces the amount of dust that enters the cutter. It is a single-voltage unit as it operates on 240V of input power.
For your light industrial projects or hobbies, this is an ideal plasma cutter. Click here to see the best price.
- Auto-Refire Technology
- 240 V input power
- 40 amps of power
- 50% AT 40A duty cycle
- 3-year warranty
4. PRIMEWELD 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter – Best Value for Money
The Primeweld 50A Plasma cutter is one of the lowest-priced plasma cutters on the market. However, do not like this put you off.
It is easily one of the best deals available right now. After using it, you will wonder why it doesn’t command a higher price.
The PrimeWeld 50A is an inverter-based plasma cutter. This factor is probably why it is lightweight and super-portable. You can carry this plasma cutter from site to site with enormous ease.
Despite the small size, it still delivers excellent and powerful performance. It can easily cut metal surfaces up to ½” thickness. The cuts are clean and precise.
There are different types of metal surfaces it can cut. These include stainless steel, alloys, copper, Aluminum, and several other metallic surfaces.
As a dual-voltage unit, it can work with different power outlets. Specifically, it runs off 110V and 220V outputs. The MOSFET transistors produce high energy yield to help it cut thick metal easily. Considering the price it comes at, it is an impressive piece of technology.
It is safe to use and easy to set up. The PrimeWeld comes with different components. These include an air filter, air hose connections, ground clamp and cable, couplers, and a plasma cutting torch. Click here to see the best price.
- 60% AT 50a DUTY CYCLE
- Dual-voltage unit ( 110-220V)
- 1-year warranty
5. ZENY DC Inverter Plasma Cutter – Cheapest Plasma Cutter
If you are interested in light industrial projects or DIY projects, this plasma cutter will be ideal for your needs. It is a compact and durable plasma cutter.
Weighing 24.4 pounds, it is portable enough to be carried about. If your project requires you to move from one place to another, it serves as a mobile companion.
Dimensions are 19″ x 16″ x 11″. To make it even easier to carry around, it has a firm handle on the top.
The durability of this cutter is a feather in its cap. It is made of heavy-duty metal parts. Thus, it lasts for a long time.
The Zeny DC plasma cutter comes as a surprise. When you feel the weight, you might think it cannot be a powerful plasma cutter. However, it delivers excellent cutting performance. The cutter cuts thicknesses of up to 3/8″ with ease.
It is a dual-voltage unit. Hence, it can operate on either 110 volts or 220 volts. This feature makes it safe and convenient to use since it can fit into almost every type of power outlet.
Another feature that makes this one of the best plasma cutters on the market is the switching power. As an inverter Plasma cutter, it can reduce the energy consumed by the cutter by 50% while improving efficiency by 30%.
The Zeny DC Inverter Plasma Cutter comes with an LCD screen that displays vital information. It displays the air pressure and other information. One intriguing feature is the ability to time the gas supply. It can be delayed or hastened. Click here to see the best price.
- Dual-voltage Unit (110 – 220V)
- Duty cycle of 60%
- Switch Power technology
How to Choose The Right Plasma Cutter
Since there are so many plasma cutters on the market, it is essential to know how you can choose the right one. In this section, we will consider the critical factors that should affect your choice of a plasma cutter.
How Much Power Do You Need?
Power is a vital factor that ultimately affects the plasma cutter that you choose. For a plasma cutter to cut efficiently and cleanly, it requires power. Almost all plasma cutters use high amounts of power to function.
As can be seen on the market, most plasma cutters are either rated 110 volts or 220 volts input power. This refers to the type of outlet that the plasma cutter will safely work with. A single-voltage plasma cutter works with either a 110 volts or 220 volts power outlet. A dual-voltage unit can use both types of outlets.
Aside from the voltage of the power outlet, another thing that determines the amount of power you need to use a plasma cutter is the amperage rating. For most plasma cutters, the amperage is listed among the specifications.
Therefore, after checking the amperage rating, you must choose a plasma cutter whose minimum amperage rating can be safely and efficiently matched by the electrical outlet to be used.
Another factor that affects power involves the other electrical appliances that will be connected to the same circuit — the more powerful these electrical appliances, the lower the amount of power that enters the plasma cutter. And with lower power comes lower efficiency and functionality.
Types of Plasma Cutters
When we consider the plasma cutters to buy, we need to take into consideration the different types of cutters on the market. They are semi-portable cutters, heavy-duty plasma cutters, and inverter-type cutters.
Let us consider them individually.
Semi-Portable Plasma cutters
As the name implies, these cutters are heavy but not too heavy. They usually weigh around 100 pounds. They have the ability to cut through about 1″ thickness. They are ideal for simple industrial jobs and DIY projects around the home. They aren’t easy to lug around, but they are still reasonably portable.
Heavy-Duty Plasma Cutters
These are, as the name implies, plasma cutters meant for professional, heavy-duty applications. They are often heavy and cannot be carried around conveniently like semi-portable plasma cutters. They are found in industrial settings.
If you are a DIYer, or you are working on a simple project, getting the heavy-duty plasma cutter might be overkill and unnecessary. These tools can cut from between 1″ to 1.5″ thick metal surfaces.
Inverter-Type Plasma Cutter
These are increasingly popular types of plasma cutters. They are more economical as they do not go through consumables as quickly as the other types of plasma cutters. They offer incredible cutting performance, and the plasma flow is easier to regulate. They are easy to clean and maintain.
What is Duty Cycle?
In your quest to find the right plasma cutter, you might see plasma cutters with a “duty cycle” specification. Duty cycle refers to the length of time you can safely weld non-stop at maximum amperage. It is the fraction of an hour in which you can safely use the plasma cutter.
On any plasma cutters, this value is represented in a percentage. The main factors that affect the duty cycle are the amount of amperage drawn by the unit. If the plasma cutter has a 50A rating with a 50% duty cycle, this means that it can run non-stop for 30 minutes in an hour without overheating.
The larger the amount of power the plasma cutter requires, the higher the duty cycle that it has.
What Are Consumables?
In welding, choosing the right consumables is vital to the success of your project. Consumables, as the name implies, are the parts of the plasma cutter that are “consumed” during use. In most cases, the electrode and the nozzle are the most “consumed” parts of every plasma cutting system.
Therefore, depending on your method of welding or your usage patterns, you will need to replace these parts quite often. In an ideal world, you shouldn’t replace them, but alas, we can’t always get what we want.
Consumables can make your “bargain” plasma cutter expensive. As you use the cutter, you will need to replace them and over time, the total cost of consumables bought will dwarf the price you bought the plasma cutter itself.
Aside from the electrode and the nozzle, other consumables include the swirl ring, the inner retaining cap, the outer retaining cap, and the shield.
If you desire to maintain consistent and high performance, you need to keep an eye on these consumables.
What Other Equipment Will You Need?
Most high-quality plasma cutters come with all the equipment you need. The only thing they often lack is pressurized air. One of the most important things to ensure your plasma cutters work efficiently is air.
Airflow is essential to plasma cutters. The industry standard is supplied oxygen because it provides the best, cut quality, and fastest speed. However, don’t use oxygen plasma gas to cut aluminum or stainless plate.
With clean pressurized air, the accuracy and overall performance of the plasma cutter are improved. Aside from the better performance, using air eases the stress on your consumables, making them last longer and saving you money.
If you find a plasma cutter that comes with pressurized air, that is fine. A growing majority of quality plasma cutters come with their air compressor. However, most of them still rely on shop air.
Desiccant Air Dryer & Filtration Systems
A desiccant filter system ensures that clean air feeds through the nozzles. Why is this important? Well, some of the significant agents that damage your plasma cutter or reduce its efficiency are oil, dust, debris, and moisture. By using a filtration system, you can significantly reduce the chances of these agents entering your plasma cutter.
The desiccant filter system removes moisture and dirt from the air entering the nozzles even before it enters the torch. A filtration system might be expensive, but in the end, it saves you a lot of money. Since the air is pure, the rate at which you go through consumables is highly reduced.
It also makes your cuts cleaner and ensures an overall better performance.
What is the best plasma cutter under $500?
My top-rated plasma cutter under $500 is the Lotos LTP5000D. It ticks so many boxes that make it is a great budget option. It is easy to set up and start using, is durable after many years of use, can be carried around with ease, and importantly, delivers excellent cutting performance.
What Other Equipment Will You Need with a Plasma Cutter?
Most of the plasma cutters come with almost all the essential parts you need. However, you need a high-quality air compressor, sufficient ventilation, and a top-of-the-line filtration system.
How do I choose a plasma cutter?
Choosing the right plasma cutter is no simple task. However, the main things to keep in mind when shopping for one include your budget, the power required, the specific purpose of the cutter, your skill and expertise, and your performance requirements.
How much does a plasma cutter cost?
Plasma cutters are expensive tools. The higher the amps, typically the higher the cost. However, not all of them are priced that way. Entry-level cutters cost as little as $220 and still offer decent performance. However, if you are looking for a plasma cutter that can cut through 1″ or more, you might have to shell out over $1500.
What kind of gas do plasma cutters use?
Different types of gases are used in plasma cutters. Some cutters use Argon gas. Others use a mix of Argon and Hydrogen, while other mix hydrogen and nitrogen gas.
What are the most economical plasma and shielding gas?
The most economical gas for plasma cutting is widely regarded to be clean, dry shop air
What air pressure is required for plasma cutting?
The air pressure for plasma cutting is usually set around 60 psi.
Can you use nitrogen with a plasma cutter?
Nitrogen gas is often used for plasma cutters and systems that can cut up to 3″ thick metal surfaces.
What is f5 plasma gas?
F5 plasma gas is the code name for a mixture of nitrogen and hydrogen gas. It is in the ratio of 95% nitrogen to 5% hydrogen.
How do you cut aluminum with plasma?
Some believe that Aluminum can’t be cut with plasma because the material can’t withstand the heat. However, using the right combination of gases, you can efficiently cut Aluminum with plasma. When cutting Aluminum, use a high-amperage plasma system and a mixture of argon and helium gas.