People in many different occupations would no doubt benefit from having a plasma cutter nearby. Whether you maintain property, weld commercially or just fix things around your house, you will always find a situation that a plasma cutter could handle with ease. No more fumbling around your tool box trying to find the right manual tool for every job. If you get a plasma cutter, you can simply grab that and do a number of jobs—all with one tool. The guide will let you find the best plasma cutter for your needs. We have also provided (short )plasma cutter reviews as well towards the end.
- 1 Handheld Plasma Cutting—how it Works
- 2 The Positive Things about Working with a Plasma Cutter
- 3 5 Best Plasma Cutter Reviewed
- 4 Closing Remarks
In my personal experience, having a plasma cutter at my place of business has been a life saver more times than once. Considering that they have become much less expensive as of recently, I splurged on one to help out with work—and boy am I glad that I did. There are numerous tasks that I perform on a weekly basis that used to be a pain to do with hand tools. Now, with the plasma cutter, these jobs are a piece of cake. I’m amazed at how much time is shaved off of each task—it really adds up. My work place is much more productive now that some of our tedious tasks have become simple.
To begin your journey exploring plasma cutters—or enhancing it—I hope this article provides you with some solid, interesting and important information about plasma cutting and the machines that do it.
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Handheld Plasma Cutting—how it Works
In many classic handheld plasma systems, the rod and nozzle’s consumable parts are touching each other inside the torch when the machine is off. When you squeeze the trigger, the power supply creates a DC current that courses through the connection inside the torch. When the current begins to stream it starts the plasma gas flow which is nothing but compressed air. The compressed air builds up enough pressure to force the electrode and the nozzle away from each other. This action creates an electric spark that transforms the air into a plasma jet. The DC current then changes from electrode to nozzle in a path goes between the electrode and the piece of metal you happen to be working on. The current and airflow will endure until you let go of the trigger.
The Positive Things about Working with a Plasma Cutter
Cuts Like a Warm Knife Through Butter – Your plasma cutter will be able to cuteasilythrough virtually all types of metal including aluminum, cast iron, carbon steel, nickel alloys, cobalt, stainless steel, titanium and copper. Contrasting from other machines designed for cutting, if your plasma cutter can get some power, it can cut. Those simple facts make cutting a variety of metals on the job no hassle whatsoever compared to the old school ways of getting those jobs done.
It used to be that if you had a plasma cutter set up in your garage, you weren’t moving it any time soon. Those things used to be massive, a real pain to move around. As technology has advanced, plasma cutter makers have been able to get the machines lighter without sacrificing on performance. Now instead of a massive beast of a machine that is basically stuck in one place, you can get a completely portable plasma cutter that you can take with you wherever the job demands. Some of these models can even be transported by just one person. Now that is what I call portable!
A plasma cutter will give you fast cuts through relatively thick metals. This can be done because an industrial cutter produces plasma that rapidly attains temperatures upwards of 40,000 degrees Fahrenheit. That kind of heat can blast through nearly any metal rapidly, while the jet blows away any molten material. I’m not sure if the at home handheld version gets to temperatures that high, but they certainly do get very hot. The speed of a plasma cutter when compared to basically any cutting tool is unmatched. You can perform cuts in one-fourth the time of any other method. I can tell you that having one at my place of work has been a huge time saver and a lot easier to use than our old equipment.
Plasma cutting utilizes an innovative process in which high temperature ionized stream of gas is used to form an arc of plasma This high temp stream creates a cone shape that is the smallest at the cutting end which is great for the accuracy of your cuts. When working with sheet metal you can create cuts that make many different angles or shapes with no problems whatsoever. Many artists as well as tradesmen find this accuracy of the cut vital to their work. It is most refreshing to have tools that will provide me with the most efficient way of completing a task—no more wasted pieces of time or metal for me.
One of the perceived drawbacks to plasma cutters can be their cost. However, it seems that these machines are getting cheaper by the year. There are many models available at a decent price and when you see what kind of work they can do for you, you’ll begin to realize that they are worth every penny.
Another thing I think is worth noting is the competition that plasma cutters are experiencing from laser cutters. Apparently, laser cutters can cut metal just a bit more precisely than plasma cutters do, so they are being used more in industrial settings where large companies want to get the most out of every square inch. Still, plasma cutters are a great option for exact cuts.
Now it is time for the good stuff to start. In the following sections I have compiled a bit of a guide to plasma cutters that should help you out on your search for the perfect model for you. Included after that is a list of five plasma cutters that I think are tops. After you read my guide I invite you to take a look and see how you think those listed compare to what you think you should be looking for.
Selecting the Correct Plasma Cutter for You
There are so many companies that come out with handheld plasma cutters, its hard to keep track of them all. Now if you take into consideration all of the various models that are on the market, it’s positively mind blowing. How can you navigate through all of the options and pick the one that is right for you? Well, the short answer to that is: you need to know what you personally are looking for in your plasma cutter. The machine that features what you believe to be the most important thing for your plasma cutter to have is the one that you will end up buying.
In order to give some perspective on how I like to look at buying plasma cutters, I’ve decided to include the things that I find most relevant when scoping out a new machine. Whether you are more concerned with the price point, the sturdiness of the construction, or the power that the cutter will deliver there is information about all of that included. I’m sure you’ll find some useful tips that will help you determine what plasma cutter will be the newest addition to your work or home.
Setting a Price
When you set out to buy a plasma cutter—or any tool for that matter—you really should be looking for a quality machine instead of a cheap one. If you do end up buying a cheap plasma cutter because the price is right, you will most likely just end up regretting that decision when the thing breaks down. Now, I’m not saying go out and buy the most expensive machine on the market. You may want to look into the relatively reasonably priced ones and see if they can fit what you need them to do.
For instance, if you are a hobbyist or do some minor repairs around the house, a relatively low priced model like the LONGEVITY Forcecut 40D that is reasonably priced at around $450 would probably work well for you. However, someone who uses their plasma cutter a lot for their work will probably need a more expensive model that performs better like the Miller Spectrum 375 X-TREME. You have to know if the muscle and resilience of the machine you end up purchasing is worth the money you are paying for it.
If you are planning on only using your plasma cutter to cut sheet metal you probably don’t have to buy the most expensive model on the market. Especially since that one costs more because of the extra premium features that you will never end up using. You really need to apply the situations that you will use the machine to the cost that you will incur for it.
Different jobs require different output powers. So thing is yet another thing when taking into consideration what you may be using your plasma cutter for. Example: 25 amps of output will sufficiently cut ¼ inch of metal but with 50 to 60 amps of output power you can cut about ½ inch and with 80 amps of output it is possible to cut approximately 1 inch of metal. So if you are regularly only working with thin metals, you will only have to purchase a low output power machine. Conversely, if you are cutting thicker metals, you will want to have a machine that is rated for that metal thickness and power output. There are many charts that you can look at to determine what power you will need for the kind of metal you work with. If you determine how much muscle you need before you purchase your plasma cutter, you will certainly save a lot of money. Instead of buying an expensive machine that you don’t necessarily need, you can know what you want and buy exactly that.
Another aspect of your plasma cutter that is vital to take into consideration is the quality of the materials and craftsmanship that went into the making of it. If you will be using your machine on a daily basis and putting it through its paces on a regular basis, you will probably want to invest in a top of the line model that will be able to withstand regular, heavy use. The more expansive machine will seem like it costs a lot at the time, but you will end up saving money in the long run when you don’t have to buy a second cheap plasma cutter after the first one stops working.
On the other hand, if you will not use the cutter that often or for that long at one time you may not need a top of the line model. You could probably get away with purchasing a relatively low priced one and still have it last you for the long haul.
Equipment that is needed to operate a Plasma Cutter
If you have never bought or worked with a plasma cutter, you may not need that you need more than just the machine to do work. In addition to the machine you will also have to buy an air compressor, gloves and eye protection just to cut your first piece of metal. Having a good air compressor is vital if you want your torch to remain in tip top shape for the long haul. You would be surprised at how much having one will extend the life of your torch. You would probably already have gloves and eye protection if you have ever worked with a plasma cutter or a welder, but if you haven’t it’s good to know that you need to buy those before you can use your new machine.
As you most likely have already ascertained, a plasma cutter is pretty useful to have around your work space. They can cut through any kind of metal with an electrical charge, making it quite a versatile piece of machinery. The amount of time and energy I have saved while using my plasma cutter has made me a true believer.
Since I’m nearly certain that you will want to pick one up after learning about all the great things about plasma cutter, here is a list of the top 5 machines that I think are worth their weight in gold. Hopefully you will find some value in the reviews so they can help you on your journey to find the perfect model for you.
5 Best Plasma Cutter Reviewed
Here is the list of the top 5 plasma cutters. I have included reviews on each that are short but sweet. If you are looking for the complete plasma cutter reviews click on the title.
Miller is one of those companies that everyone has heard of and had good experiences with their products. This is a great model for work out in the field because at just twenty-one pounds, it is light enough for you to transport by yourself with no problems whatsoever. Another nice thing is that the consumables for this plasma cutter are easy to find and are extremely affordable.
- Weight—21 pounds
- Dimensions—13.25 x 9 x 5.5 inches
- Voltage Power Input—dual 120 V / 240 V
- Amperage Output—20 – 40 V
- Duty Cycle Percentage—20 A at 35 percent; 27 A at 20 percent; 40 A at 50%
- Metal Thickness—5/8-inch mild steel; ½ inch stainless steel; 3/8-inch aluminum
- Features: XT40 hand-held torch includes a 12-foot cable; durable work clamp with a flexible cable that features quick connect; MVP adapters that twist on to fit different size plugs; 12-foot power cord; Auto-Line and Auto-Refire.
The Airforce is a quality machine from a company that has been in the business for years. It delivers all of the power and cutting precision that you could ever want. Quality materials and craftsmanship is what you will get if you decide to go with this one.
- Weight—31.4 pounds
- Dimensions—14.2 x 8.2 x 11.2 inches
- Voltage Power Input—230 V
- Duty Cycle Percentage—35 percent at 104° F
- Metal Thickness—up to 7/8-inch steel
- Features: Innovative inverter design, much lighter than the last model; can be used with engine-driven welders; newly designed ergonomic torch; Fan-On-Demand; post-flow air chilling; power factor correction expands work space with extension cords; cable management strap to secure work cable, power cord and torch; wind tunnel technology saves inside workings from harmful dust and particles; line voltage compensation allows for the best performance under inconstant input voltage; thermal overload protection for safety.
This is a great machine for a reasonable price because this company is relatively new to the scene and still making a name for itself. Performs precision cuts in no time at all. The instruction manual can be a bit confusing, but there is plenty of information on the internet if you need some clear direction.
- Weight—26 pounds
- Dimensions—12 x 6 x 15 inches
- Voltage Power Input—dual 110 V / 220 V
- Amperage Output—10 – 50 A
- Duty Cycle Percentage—50 A at 60 percent
- Metal Thickness—up to ¾ inch
- Features:Creates plasma from compressed air; compact and portable machine; cuts through aluminum, copper, stainless steel, mild steel and alloy steel; nine-and-a-half-foot long torch hose; includes air regulator; MOSFET transistor.
This LONGEVITY model is really good for people who are just beginning their journey with plasma cutting. It’s lightweight, easy to use as well as set up and performs large cuts without slowing down or stopping altogether. The last quality is what makes this a great machine for large jobs. Whether you are just starting out, or are a seasoned pro, this unit would make a great addition to your tool collection.
- Weight—25 pounds
- Dimensions— 15 x 6 x 9 inches
- Voltage Power Input—dual 110 V / 220 V
- Amperage Output—40 A
- Duty Cycle Percentage—40 A at 35 percent
- Metal Thickness—1/4 to ½ inch when cutting steel
- Features: Power plug is able to be changed out for either 110 V outlets or 220 V outlets; easily readable digital display; air adjustment on front of cutter for easy adjusting; creates plasma with compressed air; inexpensive consumables; cuts all types of metals including aluminum.
This one is an okay model. It is relatively inexpensive and can cut half inch metal with ease. The consumables are somewhat difficult to get ahold of and I’m not the hugest fan of Everlast as a company but if you need performance at a good price point, this model may be for you. An extra perk is that it is fairly easy to use and has a simple start up, so you can begin cutting metal soon after you take it out of the box.
- Weight—25 pounds
- Dimensions— 19.5 x 14.1 x 13.2 inches
- Voltage Power Input—dual 120 V / 220 V
- Amperage Output—35 A
- Duty Cycle Percentage—35 A at 60 percent
- Metal Thickness—3/8 to 1 inch
- Features: Power plasma with adaptable post flow to increase consumable and torch life time; front air pressure and gauge for easy fine-tuning and simple pressure reading; reasonably priced parts and consumables make operation affordable in the long run.
With a bit of luck you have found a machine that will possibly be great for you. If you haven’t at least you have learned a bit about what you should be taking into consideration and looking for in a plasma cutter.