All of us who work in, or have a hobby of, craftmanship of any kind like to be equipped with the best tools possible. Sure, skill and experience play a major part in how your work turns out and how fast you’re able to complete it, but there is always a level cap that can only be improved with the right tools.
Plasma cutters are common items for people who are serious about slicing through metal like it was butter, and you deserve the best if that’s what you’re into. But before we jump into reviewing some top of the line plasma cutters, here are a few things to take into consideration.
Before You Buy A Plasma Cutter
There’s no doubt that plasma cutters are powerful tools, however, you should be sure you are prepared to handle one. If you have prior experience with working with plasma cutters, you’re well aware of what to do. For newcomers wanting to try their hand at this, we urge you to read up on how to safely operate plasma cutters and how to handle them properly.
Plasma cutters in inexperienced and untrained hands can cause all sorts of disasters. From electrocution to damaging your eyes without proper required protection. Also, if you are going to be working in a workshop of yours, make sure you know how you’re going to be supplying the cutter with power. Lastly, be sure to read up on how to set up a safe work environment for a plasma cutter to avoid personal or property damage.
Things To Look Out For When Buying A Plasma Cutter
There are a multitude of important factors you should consider when going for a plasma cutter. Let’s go over them one by one to help you get a better understanding of plasma cutters and enable you to make the purchase that suits you best.
Obviously, like almost everything you buy, you want something that can stand the test of time. There is nothing wrong with trying to go for a budget-friendly plasma cutter. However, be sure to get one that doesn’t sacrifice quality and reliability for the decrease in price. A low-quality plasma cutter will break on you after just a few goes with it. Its nozzle might fall off, it might fail to start completely, or it may lose its cutting power.
Plasma cutters, as you will see shortly when we list a few of them, come in a variety of voltage options. For a weaker but beginner friendly cutter, a 115-120V plasma cutter will do just fine. If you’re looking for something with a lot more kick though, you will have to go for a 220-260V plasma cutter. One thing to consider when deciding which voltage option you go for is to know how you will be supplying the cutter with power. If your shed, garage, or workshop has a standard power outlet and you plan to use it, the 120V variant would be fine. Assuming of course that you live in a country with 120V power outlets.
If you don’t have a power outlet near where you work, or are just going to be using a generator to power it anyway, a 230V option might be the better choice. Of course, this whole dilemma is simplified if you go for a model that supports a dual voltage option. We will be listing some models that feature this below.
The Air Compressor And The Pilot Arc Option
Plasma cutters use compressed air to create the plasma that they use. Some models come with an air compressor built into them, and others require an external one. Which option you go for does not really impact the cutter’s ability to slice through metal, but it does change how you work with the cutter. Models with inbuilt air compressors are naturally more expensive, but give you the freedom to work on the fly. But if you’re fine with providing an external air compressor and don’t plan to carry around the plasma cutter, a cheaper option without an inbuilt air compressor is a viable purchase.
Also, plasma cutters come in two variants when it comes to how they actually cut. There is the older method of the non-pilot arc torches, and the newer ones. Though the former tends to be found in cheaper cutters, it requires actual contact with the metal being cut. This can actually wear it down and decrease its life expectancy. Plasma cutting experts would almost always recommend that you go for a pilot arc equipped plasma cutter, as these do not require physical contact and are much better at their jobs. It’s not that pilot arc torches are more expensive or anything; they’re just featured on better built models and thus appear to be more expensive.
In simple layman terms, the duty cycle of a plasma cutter refers to how long it can be used in one go. Higher duty cycles mean the plasma cutters can be used for longer without needing a break. Obviously, what duty cycle you decide is okay for you will depend on what you plan to use the plasma cutter for. If it’s for small hobby related work every now and then, a lower duty cycle should not impact your work. But, if you plan to spend the better part of a day with your plasma cutter, and are going to be relying on it a lot for work, a higher duty cycle is needed.
To help you understand how duty cycles are measured, you need to know that they are calculated for a 10-minute timespan. So if you get a plasma cutter with, say, a 5-minute duty cycle, it means that that particular plasma cutter can run for 5 continuous minutes before needing to cool down for 5 minutes. So it is all contained within 10 minutes. If you plan to use the cutter for deep cuts in thick sheets of metal, you would fare much better with a plasma cutter that has a high duty cycle.
Output Power And Cut Rating
Before you get a plasma cutter, you need to evaluate what kind of metal you will be using it on. More specifically, you need to decide what the thickness of the metal will be. The output power of a plasma cutter indicates how thick of a cut can be made with that plasma cutter. You can also see the various cut ratings of a plasma cutter to help you decide if it’s right for you.
The ‘Quality Cut’ cut rating is used to tell you the thickness that can be cut at a slower rate. The ‘Sever Cut’ is used to tell you the maximum cut you can achieve with that plasma cutter. Lastly, the ‘Rated Cut’ is a standard cut rate of what thickness can be cut at a rate of 10 inches per minute. Again, if you’re going to be working with thick metal sheets and are going to be needing deep, refined cuts, go for a higher cut rate.
The Operating Cost
Plasma cutters require regular maintenance in many forms. One of these is the consumables they require. Cheaper plasma cutters use up consumables much faster, and may end up costing you more in the long run. If you plan to use your plasma cutter for a long time, and also consistently, you might want to splurge on a more expensive model that will save you money long term by having a lower consumption rate of its consumables.
Plasma cutters can get quite heavy, and deciding how heavy is too heavy for you is something you should decide before you make the wrong purchase. This shouldn’t be too difficult to decide however. If you plan to take your plasma cutter around and about, a lighter model is what you should aim for. But heavier models can get you better cuts on thicker metal. What compromise you come to between weight and performance is, ultimately, up to you.
The LOTOS LT5000D is a great possible addition to your work station. Easy and quick to set up with industry safety regulations well cared for, this plasma cutter will have you slicing and dicing through metal like a chef on a timer. The cutter supports multiple voltage inputs and cutting options to produce the finest cuts. It also comes with a handy ground clamp and a 30-day refund guarantee in case it doesn’t meet your expectations. Its torch trigger can also be customized for the most comfortable grip that suits your hand.
Another LOTOS product, the LTP5000D is of the pilot arc variety. It allows you to start up the torch without touching the metal and thus reducing the chance of electrocution amidst other complications. Also able to work on different voltages, this plasma cutter also comes with a ground clamp and some industry-wide safety measures in play. Easy to set up with multiple choices for clean cuts, this is another excellent plasma cutter for your workshop.
SUPER DEAL brings you just what it name suggests, and presents you with a plasma cutter at a reasonable price that manages to do everything you might require of it. With a higher duty cycle while managing to run on lower power consumption, this plasma cutter ensures you can keep cutting as long as you like. It also comes with a lot of built-in protective measures to ensure it doesn’t damage itself or you. It can detect and prevent damage from all sorts of possible problems like voltage fluctuations, voltage deficiency and vice versa, and overheating as well. It also comes with the option to work on different voltages and allows for all kinds of intricate work with its precise cuts.
Also shipping with options for multiple voltage inputs, this plasma cutter is another product you might want to try and liven up your workshop with. Not impressed? The 30-day refund guarantee ensures a long time period for you to thoroughly test it out. It also comes with a few different cones for the torch, so you can decide for yourself what works best. Safe, easy to set up, and reliable, this plasma cutter is a joy to use for all kinds of metalworking projects you want to carry out.
This plasma cutter is another affordable one with impressive cutting qualities and safety measures. Though locked to only a 220V option, this cutter comes with a 1-year warranty. Its host of protective measure built into it – like overheating and voltage difference protection – allow you to cut away without a care in the world. Its build quality and smooth cuts make it an excellent option for a budget plasma cutter.
Providing you with freedom to choose different voltage options as well as a claimed staggering 50% in energy savings, the ZENY plasma cutter is another option for would-be metal cutters. Lightweight and portable, the cutter comes with a host of safety regulations in play and allows for intricate and complex but clean cuts. It also features a pilot arc torch starter so you can avoid the more dangerous way of starting it up.
The AmicoPower plasma cutter takes the dual voltage option even further, and comes with the very helpful, not to mention safe, feature of automatically adapting to whatever voltage is being fed into it. Its sleek looks aren’t just for show however; its torch is ergonomically designed to fit your hand like a glove. Powerful and reliable, this plasma cutter will have you churning out masterpieces in no time.
That about covers some of the best plasma cutters available right now. Prepare yourself properly and arm yourself with any of these quality tools and you’ll be set for life. No metal would be too thick when you have one of these by your side and their torch crackling away in your hand.