Cutting thick metal can be extremely difficult without the right set of tools. If you are facing the challenging tasks of cutting metal quickly with precision and consistency, then a Plasma Cutter is the right tool for your needs. I believe that Plasma Cutters are a miraculous modern invention that has the ability to cut through various materials such as metal, mild steel, aluminum, steel, and alloys with ease.
Plasma cutters use gases such as nitrogen, oxygen, and Argon to create plasma, which is the fourth state of matter that can cut through various materials. The compressed gas is blown into the cutter’s mechanism and out through a small nozzle, which increases its velocity. The high-velocity gas goes through the electric that transforms the inert gases into plasma by increasing the temperature of the gas. As a result, you can cut through sturdy and thick metals without difficulty.
Plasma cutters are now widely used for metal cutting for different applications. Best plasma cutters, such as the ones used for industrial purposes, can cut high gauge plates. Similarly, smaller and less powerful plasma cutters are now available that professional welders like me use for in homes and for work.
Buyer’s Guide For Buying The Best Plasma Cutter
There has been tremendous improvement in the technology of plasma cutters in recent years. I have personally witnessed the innovation developed by the leading companies, which includes various performance and user experience-enhancing features.
In the age of the internet, it is possible to have multiple options to choose from through a quick search. However, I would advise against having too many options, because it makes it harder to distinguish between the differentiating and make it tough to make a fair price comparison.
I have developed my ultimate buyer’s guide to help simplify and elaborate on the various factors that are significant and should be kept in mind when looking for the best plasma cutter for your specific needs.
Power source – Plasma cutters run on electrical and pneumatic (air pressure) power. Nowadays, you can find plasma cutters run on various types of gases, but the pneumatic power source is the most common and widely used.
Pneumatic – Generally, plasma cutters require an air compressor to feed the air out of the nozzle. Ideally, your plasma cutter should have a separate air compressor, because many affordable machines don’t come with an air compressor. Alternatively, you can get plasma cutters with built-in air compressors, but they cost more.
Electrical – Another vital power supply consideration is the electrical input. Usually, heavy-duty industrial plasma cutters have 240-volt three-phases. Whereas more affordable and smaller cutters run on single-phase 110/120 volts and or 220/240 volts power points.
- 110/120 volts – 110/120 volts is the standard power that you will find the most residential houses, which makes a 110/120 input plasma cutter suitable for most users. Unfortunately, these cutters don’t pack enough power to cut through metal thicker than 1/4”.
- 220/240 volts – If you want more power, then you will require a special 220/240 volts power point put in. For an additional cost, you will have enough ability to cut through 1/2” metal plate or thicker. The quality of cuts will also be better in the best plasma cutters with higher-power.
The best plasma cutter will cut through most types of metal, but you have to keep in mind the thickness of the metal plate when purchasing a machine. You will need a device with high amperage to cut through thicker metal.
Depending on the type of metal, Plasma cutters can cut different gauge plates with the same amperage, for instance, a plasma cutter that can cut 3/8” aluminum plate will also work with 5/8” steel and 1/2″ stainless steel.
I would advise that you don’t cut to the machine’s limit and leave some room between the maximum capability of the device and the plate gauge you are cutting.
Finish Of The Cut
Not all plasma cutters produce the same cut. Each machine produces different finishes. In this respect, you shouldn’t always rely on the price because low-priced cutter that claims cut the same gauge plate as a more expensive variant doesn’t mean the quality of the cut will be the same.
The finish of the cut is especially important if your work is decorative. Furthermore, excellent clean cuts take less time and effort to clean up.
However, it is essential to remember that you don’t always need high-quality cuts. If your work doesn’t require clean finish cuts, then it would be wise not to purchase anything of too high quality, which can save you money.
Types of Torches
There are different ranges of Plasma cutter touches available in the market currently. Although they do the same job, each kind of torch works in their way. Following are the various thing to consider when looking at plasma cutter touches:
- Lead – The lead is one of the essential parts of your cutter and has a direct impact on the user experience, depending on the durability and its length.
If your project requires you to move to different parts for cutting while keeping the machine in one place, then I suggest that you consider buying a cutter with a longer lead to make your job easier. However, if maneuverability of the lead isn’t essential and you will bring the projects to the plasma cutter, then you don’t need a machine with a long lead.
It is also essential to consider the quality of the lead because anything too made with thin material will become damaged more easily and can put you at risk. I suggest you get a high-quality hose.
- Non-touch torch – A high-frequency non-touch torch allows you to keep the nozzle a small distance away from the metal you are working with by creating plasma in a particular manner, so the nozzle never touches your project while cutting. This feature is called “standoff,” which maintains a constant distance between the metal and the nozzle. In some machines, the standoff can be adjusted for different heights, which produces different cuts.
What is excellent about non-touch torches is that they have the capability to produce clean cuts, increase precision and keep the nozzle clean from metal and dust
- Drag technology – This technology makes it easier for the torch to cut more smoothly as the top of the torch touches the mental. It eliminates the issue of the nozzle sticking to the project due to a fault known as the double arc. If the nozzle gets attached to the metal, it can hinder momentum or create inconsistent cuts that are imprecise and inaccurate, and it can also damage the nozzle tip.
Drag technology in the best plasma cutter will make it easy to trace lines.
- Touch start – I personally find the touch start technology to be extremely undesirable because of its various issues that compromise the quality of the cut and reduce the user experience.
Create the cutting arc you will have to touch the nozzle on the metal, then lift if off and slid it across free-hand, keeping it above the metal to cut.
This technology is for professional welders with a steady hand and tons of experience working with the technology. Touch start plasma cutters are inexpensive, but they lack the accuracy, consistency, and precision of drag and standoff technology torches.
Other important considerations that you should keep in mind are the portability, maintenance, and the additional features of the plasma cutter.
Top 3 Plasma Cutters Reviewed
If you are in search of the best plasma cutter for the money, then trust me! You will not be disappointed by my all-time favorite Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter. I have previously tried several plasma cutters, but when it comes to the usability and the range of features, Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter always tops my chart.
Although this is a high power consumption plasma cutter, however, its high power yield allows it to cut thicker materials with efficiency and precision, unlike most budget-friendly plasma cutters. You can conveniently cut aluminum, compound steel, stainless steel, and copper with Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter.
- Voltage: 110V/220V
- Output Current: 10-35 A
- Ideal Cut Thickness: 2/5″ (10mm)
- Severance Cut Thickness: 3/5″ (15mm)
- Excellent for both thick and thin materials
- Minimal to zero labour required for cutting
- Fully automated plasma cutter
- Uses non-hazardous compressed air
- Lightweight and easy to carry
- Dual voltage capacity
- Cutting edges can be quite challenging
- Requires additional consumables
When it first got ZENY DC Inverter Plasma Cutter, I was quite skeptical about its performance, but reading a ton of plasma cutter reviews revived my confidence in my purchase. After trying the ZENY plasma cutter, I must admit that the built-in compressor performs excellently.
The best thing about ZENY DC Inverter Plasma Cutter is that it is powerful enough to cut hard materials. The overall performance of this plasma cutter is genuinely impressed as you can clean-cut quality every time.
According to my experience, the ZENY plasma cutter is perfect for commercial, domestic, and expert use.
- Voltage: 110/220V
- Current range: 20-50A
- Max cutting thickness: 1-12mm
- Excellent for beginners
- Affordable price
- Lightweight and easily portable design
- Well-constructed and durability machine
- Dual voltage option for easy usage
- Short power and ground cable
If you are looking for the best portable plasma cutter, then stop your search right now because the VIVOHOME Portable DC Inverter Plasma Cutter is my favorite lightweight and easy to carry plasma cutter.
The reason why I highly recommend this best plasma cutter over others is that even though this plasma cutter has a lightweight design, but you can’t beat its efficient, durable, and fast cutting performance.
The addition of advanced inverter technology is not usually found in a cheap plasma cutter. So, if you want the latest technology on a budget, VIVOHOME Plasma Cutter is an excellent option.
- Voltage: 110V/220V
- Output Cutter: 10-50A
- Ideal Cut Thickness: 1/2″ (12mm)
- Severance Cut Thickness: 3/4″ (19mm)
- Lightweight, portable design
- Best entry-level cutter
- Efficient air regulator
- Fast cutting speed
- Dual voltage operation system
- Equipped with several safety measures
- Not recommended for thick materials
- Doesn’t come with a user manual
Without a doubt, purchasing a plasma cutter is easier now than ever before! Why? Because there are several reliable and durable plasma cutters in the market. However, I highly recommend you do your research and list down your requirements before making the final purchase decision.
When it comes to choosing the best plasma cutter, quality matters the most! If you want your plasma cutter to last you years, please ensure that you invest your hard-earned money on a quality unit that would not have to be replaced every single year.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- What are the two main differences between industrial and non-industrial plasma cutters?
Most people confuse the industrial plasma cutters with the non-industrial ones. Plasma cutters that are on the pricier side are usually the industrial ones. They are designed for heavy work as compared to the on-industrial ones that are cheaper and are designed for soft work.
- Do industrial plasma cutters perform similarly to the non-industrial ones?
In most cases, no! Industrial plasma machines are designed for heavy-duty tasks. Hence, they are more reliable and long-lasting as compared to the non-industrial ones. The industrial plasma cutters also have higher productivity.
If you want a plasma cutter for heavy work and you are ready to pay a hefty price, then you should opt for the industrial plasma machines.
- Is plasma cutting recommended over welding?
If you compare plasma cutting and welding, plasma cutting is a safer procedure than welding. However, you have to make sure that you are following all of the suggested safety guidelines and setting it up correctly.
- What materials can and cannot a plasma machine cut?
Please remember that both industrial and non-industrial plasma cutters can only be used to cut electrically conductive materials, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, copper, brass, and other metals. Plasma cutters are not designed to cut non-electrically conductive materials, including glass, wood, plastic, and so on.
- Top tip for cutting thick materials easily?
My top tip for cutting thick materials easily and quickly is to turn the torch slightly, which will increase the orientation of the torch instead of pulling the angle as you cut through the thick material. Cutting a thick material may take a bit of practice. So, be patient! You will master it!
Please ensure that you are using the correct plasma cutter for the task. Materials with more than 40mm thickness require a 400V+ plasma cutter model.
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