Best Plasma Cutters: We Reviewed the Best 3 Models for Any Budget
If you work with metals (melting, welding, shaping, and so on), you probably need to use a specialized cutting tool. Now, this tool may vary depending on the type of cuts you want to make, but the for quick and effortless results, you are going to need one of the best plasma cutters.
These tools use electricity to ionize gas or compressed air to create high-intensity energy, which translates into heat. This heat is focused into a stream that cuts through most metals like it was butter, without leaving any scrapings behind.
The good news is that, due to modern technologies, plasma cutters are smaller in size (than they used to be) and the prices make them available to hobbyists. So, if you’re looking for such a tool to add to your garage or auto shop, you won’t have any troubles finding options.
Since we know it can be a bit difficult to understand and absorb all the knowledge required to choose a plasma cutter for your specific needs, we did some digging and found the best products for a DIY aficionado.
If you’re looking for a plasma cutter that’s easy to use and move around, the Lotos LTP5000D is a fantastic choice. The unit is compact and portable (only weighs 23 pounds), it doesn’t require special expertise to use properly and does wonders on light-duty cutting jobs.
The device uses pilot arc technology that allows users to cut through all sorts of surfaces (even painted or rusty ones) without touching the tip of the tool to the metal. As a result, the cutter is extra-safe to use, produces better quality, and has a longer life.
Lotos LTP5000D is rated for a max clean cut thickness of 0.5” and a maximum severance thickness of ¾.” It can cut through different metals such as aluminum, copper, stainless steel, alloy steel, and more. The dual voltage capability and state-of-the-art MOSFET/IGBT transistors make this machine a must-have in any home garage or small businesses that work with metal.
Furthermore, due to the solid handle, which allows you to use the device wherever you need it. The instructions are clear, and even a complete beginner can understand how it works. Also, it is recommended for inexperienced cutters because it uses non-hazardous compressed air.
Equipped with an LCD display, solid handle, and automatic dual-frequency, the SUNGOLDPOWER plasma cutter uses IGBT technology to provide the best possible results. As such, the unit is durable, handles heat dissipation well and is highly effective at higher voltages.
The device uses air pressure to cut through a wide array of metals (carbon steel, stainless steel, alloy steel, iron, copper, aluminum, and more) of different thicknesses. It also works on surfaces that are not in ideal conditions (rough, painted, and/or rusty) and produces minimal slag.
The SUNGOLDPOWER cutter is rated for an ideal clean cut thickness of 0.5” and a maximum severance thickness of ¾,” but it supports adjustable current, so it adapts to the demands of the metal being cut. It features high cutting speed, and the cut is so smooth that it doesn’t need any polishing.
Finally, the LCD screen provides useful information such as air pressure and current and keep you up to date regarding the state of the unit. It’s also durable as it was designed to be waterproof, it has built-in overheat and over/under-voltage protection, and lack of air pressure protection.
For those of you who are looking for a plasma cutter that comes close to a professional device, the GoPlus machine can be an amazing choice.
Featuring advanced inverter technology, this is a multi-functional machine that comes equipped with a high-quality plasma torch that delivers impressive cutting performance (12mm max cutting thickness). The current is continuously regulated to deliver high cutting speed and a smooth surface around the edges.
Furthermore, it can be used as a DIY tool or a professional one since it has applications in a wide range of industries (automotive, repair and maintenance, ducting work, and more). It’s extremely durable due to its heavy-duty iron build, and it has proven its reliability in the field time and time again.
Just like the previous models we reviewed, the GoPlus cutter is compact and portable (it comes with a solid carry handle), but it also comes with wire and mask that ensure your safety. Finally, the unit is designed to be used in both indoor and outdoor settings (it is weatherproof), which only makes it versatile and easy to use.
Best Plasma Cutters Buying Guide
In the reviews above, we mentioned several features that may look a bit weird, which is why we thought it’s best to explain the most important ones. This way, you’ll know exactly what they mean and how to use this knowledge when buying your own product.
This allows you to work on two different voltages (usually 120V and 220V), depending on your needs. There should also be a physical switch that makes the change to the setting you need without worrying too much about this process.
The feature is quite useful for portable models since you don’t know if you will be working in your garage or if you need to take it to a different site. Overall, it’s not mandatory, but it gives you more flexibility.
Input & Output Current
These two settings let users know about the amount of energy consumed by the machine and the amount of power delivered. However, it’s important to know that a high output cutter doesn’t necessarily mean better performance.
To understand this, you’ll need to take a look at the thickness rating and speed of cutting.
As you can see in the reviews above, each plasma cutter features a specific thickness rating (max clean cut thickness and a maximum severance thickness).
The clean cut thickness talks about the ideal maximum thickness of the metal you can cut without damaging the edges (the cut piece will still have smooth lines). For instance, a 40 Amp model should be able to support a maximum cut thickness of about 0.5 inches.
The maximum severance thickness, on the other hand, refers to the absolute maximum thickness of the metal before the machine won’t be able to cut through it. The result of this cut won’t be smooth, and there may be excess slag.
Quick note: to know which cutter is best for your needs, you must first understand the type of metals you want to cut.
This feature is expressed as a percent, and it represents the number of minutes the device can be working without pause in a 10-minute interval.
For instance, a 60% duty cycle means that you can continuously use the cutter for 6 out of 10 minutes (it needs 4 minutes of break time).
Now, it depends on your preferences and needs, but if you want speedy results, you may want to choose a higher duty cycle for your plasma cutter.
Inches per Minute
This feature is self-explanatory as it describes the number of inches it can cut in a one-minute interval.
For instance, if a cutter features a rhythm of 10 inches per minute at a 40% cycle while working on a 0.5-inch thick metal. This means that, for four continuous minutes, you can cut a 40-inches slice of metal. Of course, the result also depends on your work speed and other work conditions, but this is the rhythm you should expect.
While the price is going to be a huge factor in your decision, we also recommend thinking about the quality of the materials used to build the cutter. These devices feature a wide range of prices, but the ones that will last for a long time without too many maintenance needs are a bit more expensive.
Look for a unit that is solid and implements all the necessary safety technologies to keep a newbie safe. Also, don’t forget about accessories and consumables.
How to Safely Use a Plasma Cutter?
Before we can answer this question, we must first give you a basic definition of plasma. Plasma is a state of matter (the fourth, to be more exact) during which, gases that don’t usually conduct electricity change their behavior.
Plasma cutters work with a type of compressed gas (air or nitrogen in most cases), which is blown through a nozzle where it is ionized (with the help of an electrode), thus becoming conductive of electricity. The result is a super-heated stream of gas that melts through most metals known to man. As an added functionality, the compressed air blows the molten metal from the cut, creating a clean and smooth edge.
Now, there are two types of cutters: regular and Pilot Arc. Regular designs need to strike an ark between the electrode and the metal using a high-frequency discharge. This initiates the cut but can also be hazardous if the surface is not smooth.
Pilot Arc cutters use a technology that creates a stream of plasma between the electrode and nozzle, which means you don’t have to actually touch the tip to the surface to initiate the cut. This way, you’re not running the risk of the tip slipping from the surface or being misdirected.
A quick tip: if you have a cutter without Pilot Arc technology, you need to treat the surface before using it. This may mean using a rust converter or sandblasting any paint or bumps.
Finally, for safe use, make sure to use all the accessories delivered with the machine (some come with a tip holder so that you won’t touch the tip to the metal by accident) and check that the wire and the tool are in good shape. Furthermore, always use protection goggles, appropriate gloves, and wear clothes that will keep any molten metal from reaching your skin.
Regardless of the fact that you want to cut through a car door or you’re looking to get rid of that engine stand that’s been taking up space without any use, a plasma cutter may come in handy. However, it is important to know how to choose the best one for your needs and how to appreciate its true value.