Folks, if you love DIY projects at your garage or backyard, you know how stressing it can be to reshape metal or cut it into pieces. You might be lucky before you have a powered drill. Decades ago, people used metal saws to try and cut this material. This was painfully slow, but again they had no option — that’s all they had.
Now, enter the 21st century, and you will love how metal-cutting technology has evolved. We have simple, portable tools called plasma cutters that cut sheets of metal in a blink of an eye. They are fast, easy to use, and don’t wear out quickly. Wondering what these super tools are?
Simply put, plasma cutters are small tools that use inert gas blown out from a nozzle at high speed to create an extremely hot torch. This allows you to target specific areas on a metal or alloy and cut through with ease. Unlike the traditional cutting methods/tools, these offer a clean cutting experience for DIY lovers.
Read on and discover the best plasma cutters that will help you get the job done easy and clean.
Top 8 Plasma Cutters of 2020 Reviewed
1. Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP Building American Edition Hand Plasma System
- Automatically switches between 110V and 220V
- An effective dust cover
- Package includes consumables
- Might break down when faulty
- Prolonged use may cause air leaks
- Lacks built-in compressor
Best Plasma Cutter for Large Projects
Looking for a machine capable of delivering easy, faster, reliable, and less costly gouging and cutting? The Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 might look small but it delivers the job for which it was designed. It features a two-in-one design to ensure it can cut both thick and thin metals. That’s the reason you cannot write it off. With such a powerful machine, cutting thick metal has never been easier. Similarly, the machine comes with a number of FineCut consumables required for the more targeted thin metal cutting.
Talking about the consumables, just what is included in the package? In short, the kit has everything required for a Powermax30 Air plasma system to work efficiently. Besides, the consumables come in a handy storage case to ensure you always have what you need when you need it. Among the consumables in the kit includes nozzles, electrodes, swirl ring, retaining cap, and shield.
This is one of the very few plasma cutters which can adapt to both 110V and 220V power systems. It comes with a protective carrying case so that you can avoid unnecessary damage to the machine. As such, you can use it effectively in all sorts of conditions. Given the attractive features, this is the best overall among the machines featured in this review.
2. Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
- Safe to handle and use
- Comes with compatible consumables
- Can cut a variety of metals
- May not cut metals of all kinds of thickness
- Not meant for industrial use
- Fast consumables use
Best Dual Voltage Plasma Cutter
The discussion about the best plasma cutters is not complete until you talk about the type of metal you are supposed to work on. Some of the metal types include the rusty, painted and the rough. The Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter is able to cut through all those metals without much of a slag. You can use it on aluminum, copper, mild steel, alloy steel, and stainless steel. “Non-Touch” means you can cut through the metal without touching its tip. If what you want is better quality metal cutting, this is the machine for you.
In addition to providing high-quality cutting services, this machine is safe, given its safety-enhancing handle. No poisonous gases from this cutter since the compressed air is largely non-hazardous. Additionally, it will cost less to cut all the metals you need.
You don’t need to have used this plasma cutter in the past to quickly set it up. It comes with a pre-installed NPT ¼ -inch industry type-D plug which together with the air filter provides for quick setup times on up to 1 minute. As such, you are able to start cutting metals within no time. You will love the fact that it has a dual voltage output.
3. Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter
- Designed to re-fire automatically
- The fan works to reduce the accumulation of debris in the machine
- Great for heavy and light industrial users
- No option for the 110-volt plugin
- Not clear if it includes consumables
- Lacks a built-in air compressor
Best for Cutting Mild Steel
The Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter is a 240-volt machine that’s great for cutting mild steel. It is designed to provide fast cutting times in both the home and industrial settings. You can use it to cut perforated or expanded metals including those with coated or painted surfaces. So that it doesn’t run out of steam, it is designed to automatically re-fire. You will be impressed with how smoothly this machine cuts metals.
This machine has a fan which turns on when there is a need. Thus, you do not have to worry about unnecessary power consumption. The purpose of the fan is to reduce the debris and dust that gets into the machine once you start using it. That way, dust from rust, paint, and other non-metal things will not be able to damage the machine.
Ergonomically designed, the machine provides greater trigger safety, improved air consumption, and more efficient consumption of consumables. It is great for both heavy and light industrial users. The machine comes with a lightweight package, making it convenient to use in different settings.
4. HeroCut 120/240V CNC Plasma Cutter
- Operates on both the 120-volt and 240-volt power outputs
- Great for use on CNC table
- Efficient power use
- The package seems not to hold things together
- Spares of the torch look fake
- Not suitable for thicker metals
Best Inverter Plasma Cutter
When buying a plasma cutter, one of the things you must consider is whether it allows for dual power sourcing. With the HeroCut CNC Plasma Cutter, that aspect is well taken care of, given that it can take both 120-volt and 240-volt power inputs. The built-in regulator automatically changes from one voltage setting to another. Essentially, you do not need an external adapter when moving this machine from one power source to another.
If you need a machine to use on your CNC table, this is it. The plasma cutter has the ability to operate both in the light and heavy industrial settings. You can also use it on a variety of metals including steel, copper, and aluminum. It is designed to provide ¾ -inch thick clean cut. Unlike other machines which are controlled manually, this has digital controls and non-touch starting. That removes the need to touch the edges of the metal while cutting it.
The power supply is an inverter with a 50-Amp capacity. It can supply a 60 percent duty cycle when running at 45 Amps. That improves to 100 percent duty cycle at 40 Amps. That may sound technical but it simply means the machine is more efficient than others in the same category.
5. Forney Easy Weld 251 P Plasma Cutter
- Easy to use
- Drag torch technology for a smooth, consistent cut
- Includes most of the necessary attachments
- Supplies not included in the package
- Incapable of cutting thick metals
- Lacks digital display
Best Lightweight Plasma Cutter
Plasma cutters aren’t meant to be hard to figure out. Once you plug into a power source, you should be good to go. The Forney Easy Weld 251 P Plasma Cutter is extremely easy to use. It incorporates a built-in air dryer and regulator to make your operation extremely easy. Additionally, the proprietary drag torch technology makes it easy for you to drag the cutting tip directly on the metal you are cutting. The result is a smooth, clean, consistent cut.
It is designed for use on stainless steel, mild steel, and aluminum if not more than ¼ -inch in thickness. So don’t use it on extremely thick metal. Light and portable plasma cutter, this machine is suitable for use in off-grid situations where only a generator is available. If ever you will need to use it in different locations, the machine is light enough to carry with you.
The machine comes in a package that includes an 8-inch ground clamp, 13-inch cutting torch, 20-Amp to 15-amp adapter, an additional electrode, and nozzle. Thus, you do not need to buy any of these items separately.
6. PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter
- Cuts ½ -inch metals to precision
- Designed for a wide variety of metals
- Company has a responsive customer service
- Incapable of cutting thicker metals
- Inconvenient scratch-start machine
- Difficult to operate for newbies
Best High-End Plasma Cutter
There comes a time when you want nothing but precision. Whether in a light or heavy industrial setting, the PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter can comfortably work on metal of maximum thickness ½ inches. It precisely cuts into copper, aluminum, mild steel, alloy steel, and stainless steel. In short, there is no metal is too tough for this plasma cutter.
Worried about the electrical outlet? The machine operates on both the 110-volt and 220-volt outlet, which means you do not need an extra adapter to use it. For welders who keep moving from one job to another, this highly portable machine is a perfect choice. At a weight of only 24 pounds, you can easily and cost-effectively carry the cutter from one work site to another. Perfect for a freelance welder.
It utilizes MOSFET transistors for a highly optimized and functional design. The company has one of the best customer service staff, given the responsive way in which they handle clients’ complaints. Additionally, the plasma cutter is backed by a 3-year warranty for all non-deliberate damage or malfunctioning.
7. SUNCOO Plasma Cutter Cut50 Electric DC Inverter Portable Metal Plasma Cutting Machine
- Has heat dissipation capabilities
- Control panel with pressure gauge and LED digital display
- Simple to operate
- Does not come with an air compressor
- Cuts up to ½ -inch metal thickness
- May not work well at 110 volts
Best Portable Plasma Cutter with LED Display
It is not enough to have a plasma cutter if it cannot cut a variety of metals. The SUNCOO Plasma Cutter is designed for aluminum, iron, copper, stainless steel and so on. The maximum thickness it can cut is ½ inches or 12mm. If you want to know how unique this machine is, you only need to consider the fact that it has a cutting speed of 1.8 times that of a flame cutter.
A simple-to-operate machine, the SUMCOO Plasma Cutter has energy-saving capabilities. You can use it in maintenance, installation, manufacture of metal structures, and all types of industrial applications. You can use it for thin metal cutting, Wabu, drilling, CNC applications, and groove cutting. In short, it doesn’t matter how small or big your shop is. This machine will serve all your expectations.
The control panel features an LED digital display and pressure. That makes it easier to control the parameters while using the machine. Its current adjustments range between 20 and 32 amps as well as 20 and 50 amps. The good thing with this machine is that it has heat dissipation capabilities which greatly reduces and controls its temperature.
8. PrimeWeld Ct520d 50 Amps Plasma Cutter
- A multi-functional machine
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- A gauge that displays pressure units in PSI
- Requires an L6-30 to 240-volt converter
- May not cut as efficiently as you hope
- Instruction manual not very clear
Best Plasma Cutter for Big Welding Projects
Every welder deserves a multi-purpose machine, one that can combines welding, TIG/stick, and plasma cutting. The PrimeWeld Ct520d 50 Amps Plasma Cutter is an all-in-one machine that combines all of these functions. With that, a welder has a full workshop in just one machine. Simply switch from the DC TIG welder to the DC STICK welder when you want to start welding. You can use it to cut all kinds of metals up to ½ inches using the 50-amp plasma cutting feature.
If all you want is a portable plasma cutter, this machine weighs only 32 pounds, which you can easily carry by hand. At 50 amps, the machine has a 60 percent duty cycle on all of the processes. It measures 23.6 by 16.8 by 12.8 inches, making it a very compact machine.
The plasma cutter has a gauge which measures pressure in terms of PSI. It is not like some other imported machines which require the conversion of units to PSI. If you have a 240-volt outlet, you may require an adapter to convert from L6-30. However, with excellent customer service and affordable price, there isn’t much to complain about.
How to Choose the Best Plasma Cutter – The Ultimate Buying Guide
Whenever you need to cut metal with ease, a plasma cutter will always do the trick. It is capable of cutting aluminum, steel, mild steel, and other alloys. Plasma cutters work by transforming gases like oxygen, argon, nitrogen, into plasma, which is the fourth state of matter. The plasma is then channeled to metal to cut it.
Why Do You Need A Plasma Cutter?
Conventional tools may not be able to cut metals that are too thick. That’s where a plasma cutter comes in to be used to precisely cut metals of a thickness of up to ¾ inches. It works by channeling an electric current at an extremely high speed. Gas is blown through a nozzle at a high velocity. It passes over the electric arc which makes it hot triggering a transformation of the once inert gases into plasma. In the end, it is capable of cutting tough and thick metal without much of a hassle.
Plasma cutters are the tools of work for builders, plumbers, demolishers, recyclers, contractors, and metal artists. Depending a project, you can also use these tools for your DIY tasks at your garage or home. Just learn how to use one and you are good to go!
How to Choose the Best Plasma Cutters
To choose the best plasma cutter, there are certain things you need to look at. If you don’t, then it will be impossible for you to find exactly what you want.
Maximum Metal Thickness
To understand if the machine is going to perform the task you have, you need to know the maximum metal thickness it can handle. This has to do with the upper limit of the metal thickness the machine can comfortably handle while maintaining smooth lines.
An important consideration is the ampere rating of your machine. For example, a machine with a 40-amp rating can comfortably cut through a ½ -inch thick metal. With a 25-amp rating, it may only cut a ¼-inch thick metal. However, at a higher 80-amp rating, the machine will cut anything ¾-inch to 1 inch.
If you aren’t worried about the price, it is important to go for a machine with the highest rating in terms of amperes. With that, you will be able to cut metal of all sorts of thickness. Also, you will avoid low-quality cuts which are hard to use.
How Much Power Do You Need
In line with the point we have just considered, it is important to look at the power output of a plasma cutter. The power output is measured in amperes and it determines the ability of the machine to handle metals of different kinds. It also plays a role in the length of time and to what extent you can use a cutter. While a majority of the plasma cutters on the market fall within the 30 to 50 amperes range, others may have higher power ratings. Those with higher ratings are suitable for heavier industrial applications.
But the power rating isn’t everything. You should look at it together with those factors relating to other aspects of metal cutting. Generally, you need to understand that cutters with more power output will cost more. If all you need is a home cutter for thin metals, anything between 30 to 40 amps isn’t that bad. If heavy-duty industrial applications, then go for a machine with a higher rating.
Duty Cycle: the Higher, the Better for Large Projects
This refers to the ability of the plasma cutter to keep operating without running into serious issues or requiring to let go of the trigger. The duty cycle of a machine is usually given as a percentage and it usually correlates with the number of minutes the cutter can operate in a 10-minute period. For instance, a machine with a duty cycle of 40 percent simply means it can operate for 4 minutes continuously out of ten. This is key to determining the speed at which you can work since some settings usually require higher duty cycles for a job to be done within a specific time or make certain output quotas.
Size – Easy to Store?
Compared to other electric tools, plasma cutters are usually in the mid-range as far as the size matters. Hence, they aren’t too big to be moved nor too small to remain stationary. The weight for this machine varies from one model or brand to another. Buy a machine that can easily fit in your workshop or which you can carry with you if you have a job elsewhere. You can easily carry the machine to whichever location you intend to work from.
Portability Can You Use it on the Go?
To reiterate, the portability of a plasma cutter is important whether you intend to use it at home or an industrial setting. A portable machine is usually easy to use and can provide a wide variety of cutting applications without the need for shifting its location.
With a portable machine, it is possible to work from different sites since it is easy to carry. It also comes with a lot of conveniences, given that it is portable and lightweight, all at the same time. Some even feature an undercarriage or shoulder strap for easy portability.
Never overlook the portability of a plasma cutter. It is the best way to find a machine that takes up little floor space while improving your ability to work from anywhere. Also, ensure that the machine has great storage options for the work cable, consumables, and torch.
Quality of the Cut
Every manufacturer is likely to beat his own drum when it comes to the kind of cut you get from a particular model. That’s why you should be vigilant when assessing a plasma cutter in terms of how clean the cut is. Look for features such as an endless pilot arc which produces a plasma stream without any disruption. With a pilot arc, it is also possible to cut through metals with holes or rusted ones without the need for special actions. Look for cutters fitted with MOSFET transistors, which are associated with a steady arc, which produces a cleaner cut with little or no slag.
Length of Time to Start-Up
When working in a workshop, you may not have a lot of time on your hands. That’s why you need to know how long it will take to start the cutter. This has everything to do with ease of use and convenience you will enjoy from the plasma cutter. The good thing is that many of the available plasma cutters are easy to start given the high-frequency rating of the pilot arc. However, the high frequency may interfere with office electronics and machines such as computers. In that case, you have to consider an alternative method of starting the cutter.
Additional Modes and Features
What type of projects do you wish to undertake? That’s a key question when it comes to deciding on the features you want in a plasma cutter. If you have a small welding workshop at home, a model with TIG welder capabilities is a must. That way, you can easily assemble the metal once you cut it. Other key features may include performance and pressure displays. Things to look out for include an LCD screen and units of pressure such as PSI. You may also want to look for cutters that use non-hazardous air or which has a small torch head to cut even in hidden places.
How Easy is it to Maintain the Tool?
Plasma cutters are created differently and would, therefore, different types of maintenance. The main reason why it needs maintenance is the inevitable wear and tear that comes with everyday use of the machine. To avoid incurring huge maintenance costs, go for plasma cutters with fewer parts. Such machines are also very easy to maintain.
Accessories The Product Comes with
For a plasma cutter to work properly, it should be accompanied by a number of accessories. So, checking whether the package has the right accessories is one of the things you should do before settling on a particular model. They include the following.
- Plasma Torch: It is the torch which acts to regulate the plasma. It is usually affixed at the end of the plasma cutter. The torch is expensive and should be accessed carefully to ensure it is well-functioning. It also requires careful maintenance and regular changing.
- Wedging horse: The wedging is used to attach the plasma torch to the cutter. It usually comes with the cutter and doesn’t require you to buy it separately. Where you have a sorter default port, it will be necessary to buy a longer horse.
- Welding nozzle: If you are an artist or metal sculptor, the nozzle will come in handy. Using a nozzle, it is possible to do some fine cutting and is regulated by the floor of gas. Since they are in constant contact with heat, nozzles are likely to be fast-wearing.
- Welding electrodes: The work of electrodes is to create an electric spark. Its work is to carry an electric current to the torch. Most electrodes are made of silver and copper. They may also contain hafnium and tungsten. Since they get heated up all the time, electrodes require to be replaced regularly.
- Head protectors: To prevent the plasma torch and nozzles from getting damaged, you need to use head protectors. Their work is to cover the torch to prevent damage due to molten metal. It also prevents sparks from reaching the consumable parts of the torch. With head protectors in place, you won’t have to spend money replacing the torch.
- A measuring kit for plasma flow: To prevent damage to the consumables inside the cutter, a measuring kit for the plasma flow is provided. Its work is to ensure the correct levels of plasma flow thus helping adjust the heat according to the requirements of the task at hand.
- Swirl ring: The work of the ring is to control plasma flow in a certain direction. As soon as the gas starts to flow, the swirl ring will control the direction and temperatures in which it flows. Without swirl rings, the gas will not mix adequately and the nozzle may end up getting burned.
With the items reviewed here, together with the buying guide, you should point you in the right direction when it comes to choosing a plasma cutter. Even as you consider the other factors, a good tool should serve the best of your needs. Don’t be fooled by the price.