Plasma cutters represent the latest technology in the fabrication and automotive industries, used in cutting metals with speed and precision. These metals, with an ability to conduct electricity, include steel, aluminum, brass, and copper among others.
The best plasma cutter comes designed with a plasma torch which is used to direct hot plasma to electrically conductive materials to yield fine cuts at a high speed and remarkably low cost.
This has seen the rise in the use of plasma cutters especially in large industries making use of robots to operate these cutters. However, small scale salvage and scrapping businesses have also adapted the use of plasma cutters in their activities.
To start you off or help you on, we have compiled a great review of the best plasma cutters you can find in the market, a quick scan comparison table, as well as a resourceful buyer’s guide to equip you with all that you need to know about plasma cutting and the tools that go into this application.
|Plasma Cutter||Power Output||Voltage||Duty Cycle||Pilot Arc||Ideal Cut Thickness||Severance Thickness||Weight|
|Lotos LT5000D||50 AMP||110/220V||60%||No||½ inches||¾ inches||22.5lbs|
|Zeny DC Inverter||20-50A||110/220V||60%||Yes||½ Inches||¾ inches||24.4lbs|
|Hypertherm 088016||20-45A||200-240V||50% - 100%||Yes||½ inches||1 Inch||42.3lbs|
|Lotos CT520D||50 -200 AMP||110/220V||60%||Yes||½ inches||¾ inches||32lbs|
|AHP Alpha Cut 60||60 AMP||220V||60%||Yes||¾ inches||1 inch||47.4lbs|
|Everlast SuperCut 50||50 AMP||110/220V||60%||Yes||3/8 inches||1 inch||33.9lbs|
|Lotos LTP 5000D||50 AMP||110/220V||60%||Yes||½ inches||¾ inches||26 lbs|
Best Plasma Cutter in 2017 – 6 Reviews
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50 Amps Dual Voltage
This plasma cutter is defined by a great cutting performance in a compact package. If you are new to plasma cutting, you will definitely appreciate the ease that comes with setting up and operating this cutter. The LT5000D Plasma Cutter by Lotto is arguably the best for home and light duty use.
- 50 AMP digital inverter air plasma cutter
- Dual voltage automatic frequency 110/220V and 50/60H
- German PAPST advanced cooling system
- Suitable for stainless steel, alloy steel, mild steel, copper and aluminum
- Maximum cut thickness of 16mm for mild steel, 12mm for stainless steel and aluminum
- 60% duty cycle
- Weighs 10.2kgs
- Comes with a 1year warranty
- Quite compact and portable
- Delivers clean cuts through a variety of thin and thick metals up to ½-inches of thickness
- The ground clamp is a bit short and not robustly built
- Its package does not include a dual voltage plug
- While it is a great performer, it may not be ideal for heavy or frequent use as it lacks an arc system
For newbies or small scale plasma cutters, the Lotos LT5000D makes a good, non-expensive addition to their toolset. It presents a better learning path for beginners as it is relatively easy to use and as well quite a performer.
The Dual voltage with an automatic switch of frequency to different applications is obviously a plus for any user. Apart from its short clamp, there is everything to admire in this compact and portable unit.
Lotos LTP5000D 50 Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter **EDITOR’S CHOICE**
This seems like an upgrade of the LT5000D model also by Lotos, as it comes with a pilot arc, a feature that is not found in the LT5000D plasma cutter as well as other remarkable improvements.
This gives it the extra ability to cut clean through thick and thin rusty or painted metals. Otherwise, most features between the two units are more or less similar.
- 50 Amp Digital inverter air plasma cutter designed with a handle for portability
- Comes with MOSFET transistor which enables it to produce a consistent power output for thin metals with an ability to scale up output to cut through thick metals.
- Has a Pilot Arc Torch ideal for most metals including aluminium, stainless and alloy steel, mild steel, and copper as well as painted, rusted, dirt loaded, and melted metals with minimal slag
- Operates on an automatic dual voltage at 110v 50/60 Hz and 220v 50/60Hz with the use of a pigtail (not included in the package)
- Designed with PAPST Advanced German Cooling System
- Package includes air hose clamps, couplers and connectors; cable and ground clamp; and an air regulator
- ½-inch max thickness and ¾-inch severance thickness
- Weighs 19.4 lbs
- Delivers a clean cut through thick and thin, rusted and painted metals
- Light weight and strongly built so it can stand years of use
- Robust unit construction but not robust clamp
- The airline included in the package will not stand the heat produced during operation; you may need a tougher one
- Short stand off
The LTP5000D by Lotos comes as a solidly constructed performer that comes at a great price. However, be prepared to dig into your pockets to get better accessories than the ones that come in the package unless you are planning to put it only into light use.
Zeny DC Inverter Plasma Cutter Cutting Machine
Zeny DC Inverter Plasma Cutteris not only the perfect tool for business and DIY users but also professional users out for a fine finish on their metal cuts thanks to its 60% duty cycle and an 85$ efficiency.
- Insulation class F
- IP21S protection class
- Maximum cutting thickness of 1-12mm
- Voltage of 110/220V, 60H, 3.5/4.8KVA; min fuse 16/22A
- Current rage 20-50A; No load voltage of230V
- 60% duty cycle, 85% efficiency
- Weighs 10kgs
- Easy to set up and move around because of its non-complicated lightweight design
- Cuts a variety of metals with maximum thickness of ½ inch
- The user manual is not easy to understand, you may need to acquaint yourself better with YouTube
- An air hose is not included in the package, this could be a drawback if you are on a budget
Zeny DC Inverter is the best Plasma Cutter for the professional on a budget seeking to make long cuts on metals of medium thickness.
Lotos CT520D Plasma Cutter Tig Stick Welder 3 in 1 Combo Welding Machine
Rather obviously, versatility and price take precedence over other features when it comes to power tools. Lotos CT520D Plasma Cutter comes as one of the most versatile plasma cutters with 3 capabilities in a single tool; Tig welding, stick welding, and cutting.
- Automatic dual voltage frequency
- Compact and has a handle for portability
- Uses nonhazardous compressed air
- Max ideal cut thickness of ½ inch; severance thickness ¾
- 15-200AMP DC TIG electric current output
- HF torch and foot pedal control
- Weighs 32lbs and is very portable
- 3 in 1 functions; plasma cutting, tig welding and stick welding
- An optional foot pedal is available and can be purchased separately
- Makes a good pick if you are on a budget considering a low price and high versatility
- An automatic adjustment of voltage and frequency lets you concentrate more on the cutting
- That it operates using compressed air means a clean working environment as well as minimal emission of harmful gases compared to the oil powered ones.
- A foot pedal is not included in this package meaning you will use your hands mostly or you will have to purchase a foot pedal separately to enhance its efficiency
- Given its capabilities, a ½-inch cutting depth is seen by some as a limitation
In terms of versatility, this is among the best performing and best selling tools despite the fact that it is a bit pricey compared to others in the same league. This means that users were keener on its performance which as it seems, outweighed its price.
Additionally, it comes with the essentials you would look for in a plasma cutter including a ground clamp and cable, air and argon regulator, stick electrode holder, air hose along with its connections.
Perhaps the only accessory missing is a foot pedal. Finally, this is one of the few versatile tools built for both light and heavy duty cutting which makes it fit for the DIY cutter with varying tasks or the busy professional.
5.2016 AHP AlphaCut 60 60-Amp plasma cutter 110v / 220v DUAL VOLTAGE
This is a professional cutter designed to produce an output of 60AMPS with 220V power which is what any average frequent user will need for their applications.
- 60 AMP cutting power
- Blow back start technology
- 60% duty cycle at 60 AMP
- 110/220V voltage
- Designed for commercial work with a pilot arc that enables cutting through expanded, rusted or painted metal
- In-built air separator which enables clean cuts
- Comes with a pilot arc allowing you to cut effortlessly through expanded, rusted, or painted metals. Other units are limited to cutting plain metals and not rusted or painted ones
- Designed to use blowback technology which makes use of air pressure and requires less voltage. It also produces a continuous pilot arc making it quite reliable for cutting rusted and painted metals alongside the normal metals.
- Operates best at 220volts for most applications. The 110 voltage works well on really thin widths
The AHP AlphaCut 60 is a commercial grade commercial cutter that works best on 220v. Two of its outstanding features are that it cuts variety of metals with precision, painted and rusted metals included.
Secondly, it features blowback technology that allows for a continuous pilot arc reason why it is a great performer. This plasma cutter makes the best option for the DIY individual who is considering an upgrade for some serious venture.
Hypertherm 088016 Powermax45 Hand System with 20 Foot Lead
Powermax45 hand system boasts of high portability, easy to master and control features as well as a stable plasma ready for use even by beginners.
- 3 operation modes; continuous pilot arc, non-continuous pilot arc, and gouging
- Amperage controls allows for adjustment of power depending on the thickness of the metal being cut
- Ergonomically designed torch for better grip
- Single phase input voltage of 200-240V
- Light in weight and small sized for portability
- Patented drag cutting technology
- Severance capacity of 1 inch (25mm)
- Maximum thickness cut of 12mm
- The best duty cycle ranging with outputs – 50% @ 45 A, 200–240 V, 1-PH; 60% @ 41 A, 200–240 V, 1-PH; 100% @ 32 A, 200–240 V, 1-PH
- Package includes additional accessories such as face shield, dust cover, and air filtration kit
- Versatile unit can be operated either as a handheld or CNC unit
- The drag cutting technology integrated in its design makes it easy to use and achieve clean precise cuts
- Sturdily built to stand long periods of heavy use
- Some have found it to be a bit expensive, however based on its deliverables, price is more of a personal opinion
One of the few plasma cutters with nothing much to report in terms of cons. It comes with everything one would look for in a plasma cutter.
Versatile functionality, compact and lightweight, user control, drag cutting technology to achieve precise cuts, as well as durability. It is ideal for light and heavy use, for both beginners and professionals in the industry. It is actually just worth its price.
Everlast SuperCut 50 110v/220v Inverter Plasma Cutter 50amp
This cutter has a super pilot arc that allows easy cutting on rusted and painted metal with up to 1 inch thickness yet still delivers a clean cut. It is one of the few plasma cutters that allow you to control pressure and power during your cut.
- Front air pressure adjustments
- Front air pressure gauge for quick verification of air pressure
- Max cut of 3/8-1 inch
- Pressure light indicators to monitor your units operating condition
- Adjustable post flow control up to 60seconds
- Pilot arc for easy cutting
- Weight 25 lbs
- Dimensions: 19.5 in by 14.1 in by 13.2 in
- Dual voltage at 110v and 220v
- Comes with a 5-year warranty
- Tough combo cutter for thick metals including the rusted and painted ones, yet still delivering a clean cut
- Gives you control of power and pressure to enhance the durability of the nozzle
- While it is designed to cut thick metals, cutting tends to be slower with increasing thickness meaning that for optimum performance, metals should be of average thickness at ¾ inches.
- Optimum performance at 220v but not at 110v\
Everlast SuperCut 50 makes an ideal for those looking for a powerful yet compact cutter for thick metals. A 5-year warranty is the quality assurance you get on top of a great performance.
Some users have complained about its consumables not being readily available, however if you have access to these, you are onto one great cutter. Its price is quite pocket-friendly too.
When in search of the best plasma cutter for yourself, consider the nature of cut you intend to use it on. This will help you narrow down your choices to the most suited plasma cutter for your needs. You should also consider your expertise and experience with plasma cutters as well as the overall maintenance costs. However, the plasma cutters discussed above are the best in the market and guide you on which one to buy.
Based on performance, price, user rating and features, our best pick today is the Lotos LTP5000D. Obviously, it comes with some unique cutting-edge features that make it quite functional as it supports several cutting dimensions. Not only that, operation is easy and convenient thus it will offer the best value for your bucks.
Plasma Cutters 101 – Buyer’s Guide
To understand what plasma cutting is and how it works, we first need to understand plasma as the fourth state of matter. In a nutshell, we get plasma when a gas is heated or subjected to a strong electromagnetic field, to produce an electrically conductive collection of highly charged negative electrons and positive ions.
A plasma cutter uses a highly compressed jet of hot plasma to cut through electrically conductive material. The process is fast, very precise, clean, and cheap, which makes it quite efficient and popular too.
Back in Time: A history of plasma cutters
Plasma cutting, developed by engineers of Union Carbide Corp, can be traced back to the 1960s. It was initially used to cut large stainless steel aluminum to smaller precise shapes. Back then, they were bulky, slow and expensive, and did not come with much flexibility.
But as it is with technology, it kept evolving and improving until in 1968, when radial water injection was introduced. This nozzle technology worked by constricting the arc to increase energy density, leading to higher quality cuts within short spans of time.
Between 1970 and 1990, more cutting edge technologies were introduced with the aim of reducing power consumption of these plasma cutters while working at higher speeds.
It’s during this period that an oxygen based plasma cutting system was introduced. With this system, steel could be cut at lower power levels with high speeds and edge squareness was also improved.
The 90s Era to the current generation saw the discovery of high definition plasma, among other technologies which all worked at reducing the price of plasma cutting, increasing energy density, minimizing errors and automating processes.
Computer Aided Design has since taken over and operators now use CNC machining in large scale production which requires a high level of precision and speed.
Types of Plasma Cutting Machines
Plasma cutters can be broadly classified into two groups namely:
- Conventional Plasma systems
Conventional plasma cutters are used in small scale settings to cut steel or metals that do not require high amps. They are mainly hand-held plasma torches that are easily maneuverable with power ratings that range from a low of 7 amps to a high of 200 amps. They don’t need additional air and their input voltage ranges from 120 to 600.
- Precision Plasma Systems
They are specifically designed to produce high precision cuts of the highest quality. They use compressed air and operate with amperage ranging from 100 to 600. They are powered by three phase power transmissions with an input voltage ranging from 200 to 600.
Businesses Making Use of Plasma Cutters
- HVAC Businesses: in duct cutting it helps to achieve precise cuts and replicate parts remarkably fast.
- Construction: Many construction projects which involve cutting of brackets, fencing, brace plates to name but a few have benefited from plasma cutting.
- Art: artists using metal in their venture can now create innovative metal designs, signage, and templates thanks to CNC Plasma Cutting technology.
- Automotive Businesses: this is one industry that saw a great need for customizing automotive be it for vehicles or tractors, and has certainly benefited from plasma cutting technology.
- Energy Industry: the need for fabrication of components of equipments and devices used in this industry such as filter separators, electrical boxes and switches e.t.c. has seen to the rise of wide use of plasma cutting in the energy sector.
Top Brands in the Market
- Lotos dominates the space in terms of pocket friendly pricing, basic yet reliable features, and the easy access to its consumables. They are great performers with most of them featuring a pilot arc for precision cuts among other model-specific features.
- Hypertherm on the other hand presents robust units which you can depend on to give you some years of service. These units are designed for both light and heavy duty plasma cutting yet they feature diversity in their operation and the kind of simplicity that beginners looking for a quality start will appreciate. Both the LOTOS and the HYPERTHERM brands are keen on performance albeit at different levels.
What should you consider Before Selecting a Plasma Cutter?
With so many plasma cutting models available, selecting the best is no easy task. There are a lot of things you need to evaluate including:
- Max cutting thickness – The first factor you must always look at is its ability to cut through your preferred thickness. You will most likely see them labeled max severance thickness ¾ inches and max cutting thickness ½ inches. You get to choose what suits you which and this is a factor that greatly influences price.
- Cooling system – For your machine to run effortlessly and serve you longer, it requires a cooling system, to prevent the electrode and nozzle from melting. The best Plasma cutters will come with a built-in cooler to automatically cool .
- Cutting Speed and Duty Cycle – cutting speed is a critical factor particularly in commercial settings. For a plasma cutter, the cutting speed is measured in inches per minute (IPM). The higher the amperage of your cutter the faster it will cut. It is advisable to get a cutter that can tackle twice the thickness of the application you intend to put it into. Duty cycle on the other hand defines
- Bevel – Bevel results from motion of plasma gas produced from the nozzle. When buying a plasma cutting machine, look for one with a torch that provides quality cuts and in straight lines.
- Torch – Plasma torch sometimes referred to ask the arc is responsible for the direct flow of plasma. The cutters come with a torch and some are even customizable to one’s liking.
- Voltage – Most plasma machines operate with either 100v or 220v. If you are not sure which voltage you need, there are dual voltage plasma cutters.
- Warranty – To avoid getting stranded in case of any sudden or future faults, you need to check the warranty period. Never accept a plasma cutter or any other machine for that matter that does not include a warranty.
CNC cutting methods
It is almost impossible to make precise cuts on metal when doing it manually. With the help of a computerized system, metal cutting machines can cut out various shapes and sizes accurately and fast all thanks to CNC (Computerized numerical control). In metal cutting, there are 6 CNC methods you can use. They include:-
- Plasma cutting– Best for thick metals as it involves high temperature plasma and electric arc.
- Laser Cutting– Cuts through metal pieces less than one inch thickness by vaporizing them with.
- Water jet cutting– It is the slowest of the previous mentioned as it uses high pressurized water to cut metal as thick as 6 inches.
- Oxy Fuel cutting
- Surface Grinding– It involves a spinning disk to make flat surfaces in metal pieces. This is made possible by the coarseness and abrasive grit that covers it.
- Cylindrical Grinding– It combines lathe turning and surface grinding to make cuts on both internal and external diameters.
Every machine requires some level of maintenance for continued performance and longevity. Some measures to take include:-
- Clean your plasma cutter frequently as it is subject to dust and debris which can clog the hose. To do this, a blower is most suitable to get the job well done.
- Perform regular check-ups on the hose. This should be done to avoid any future malfunctions.
- Replace consumable parts frequently.
- Avoid arc stretching as this could easily wear off the consumables.
- Ensure gas and coolant flows are consistent which again promotes durability of consumables.
- Assemble torch parts as required and clean the body and leads routinely. Additionally, do not use it as a hammer.
- Eye damage (arc eye) is likely if one doesn’t wear eye protection. It is necessary to wear appropriate lenses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet and infrared light. For skin protection, wear protective clothing such as insulated gloves and industrial boots.
- Fumes from metals, if not toxic may lead to health issues such as lung damage, crippling of the nervous system or certain types of cancer with continued exposure. Invest in an appropriate respirator.
- Magnetic fields from plasma cutters affect the functioning of the Pacemaker and hearing aids. Wearers should consult a physician before going to such sites.
- Extreme caution needs to be taken to avoid plasma arc burns which can be inflicted through plasma arc rays.
- Never touch any part of the plasma system of operation as this may lead to fatal electrical shocks. This is where insulated gloves come in.
- Never use compressed gas equipment that are not designed for that specific purpose.
- Some plasma cutters produce a lot of noise. Always wear ear protection.
Accessories/ Safety Accessories
To protect you and your cutting machine, there are safety accessories that you need to purchase along with it. They include:
- Machines cover– This keeps off dust and also prevents it from rusting.
- Plasma Roller Guides – when cutting along fine lines, you need a plasma roller guide to help keep the torch steady for a straight cut.
- Welding jacket– It should be both protective and comfortable to work in.
- Gloves– They keep your hands safe from the spark, heat, and spatter. They should be well fitting and comfortable.
- Helmet– It should have the ability to purify your respirator system since you are going to work in a harsh environment.
- Safety glasses- They protect your eyes from the arc rays. These should be high-quality and well fitting.
- Pressurized air for plasma cutters that depend on shop air– This is very important as it aids in accurate cuts as well as extending the life of other replaceable parts.
- Circle cutting attachment- It is an accessory that aids in making clean and accurate cuts.
- Consumables – this is a replacement kit that includes spare parts of the cutter which wear out fast.
Frequently asked questions
How much power do I need?
The amount of power needed is determined by the thickness of the material. On average, a 120V 15 Amps will suffice but bigger jobs may need 5amps more. Some require even more power of up to 220V 50 Amps. Additionally, check the power output in your home when buying.
What are consumables?
These are parts of a plasma cutter that wear out from frequent usage. Usually, the nozzle and electrode are the ones that require frequent replacement.
How long do consumables last?
There isn’t a specific time as this is solely dependent on the thickness of the metals cut daily. However, with good ground, less rusty metal and high pressure gas, your consumables should serve longer.
What kind of metal can a plasma machine cut?
Practically all types of metal such as steel, copper, brass e.t.c. with 30 gauge and 1 cm thickness can be cut using a plasma cutter. Plastic and wood are poor conductors of electricity hence require a rotary saw router to cut.
How do I check the power source specifications?
You can either contact the manufacturer or check the plasma cutter user manual.
This forum is also a great resource for plasma cutter common questions.
Plasma cutters have certainly revolutionized how metals are fabricated in many industries, the best technology being the CNC plasma cutting technology.
While as DIYer or a professional, you need a plasma cutter for precise metal cuts, you need to select the best plasma cutter for the application you intend to put it into as this is what informs how successful you will be in operating these handy units.