Best Plasma Cutters for Flawless Cuts

Review & Comparison, Last Update October 24, 2017
When it comes to tough-to-perform metal cutting projects, a plasma cutter is probably the most efficient solution. We suggest you consider 5 best plasma cutters reviewed for making the right choice. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2017
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Type
Input voltage / Output current
Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage
Rated output / Duty cycle
Gas flow rate / Pressure
Conveniences
Torch hose length
Size (H x W x D)
Weight
Warranty
 
PROS

The manufacturer 5-year warranty serves as a proof of the tool quality, efficiency, and reliable operation.

CONS

The unit is powered from 240V power sources only.

OUR VERDICT

This plasma cutting machine allows cutting stainless steel, nonferrous metals and iron up to the 7/8" depth, providing a duty cycle up to 5 min. Yet, this is a homeowner-grade model, hence it suits for performing household tasks.

detailed parameters
Type

Inverter

Input voltage / Output current

240V / 50A

Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage

From: 1/8 in - 130 IPM at 40A

To: 3/4 in - 6 IPM at 40A

Rated output / Duty cycle

40А / 50%

Gas flow rate / Pressure

4.8 scfm / 90-120 psi

Conveniences

Inverter Design, Auto-Refire™ Technology, Capable with Engine-Driven Welders, New High-Performance Ergonomic Torch, Post-flow Air Cooling, Fan-On-Demand, Wind Tunnel Technology, Thermal Overload Protection, Line Voltage Compensation (LVC), Power Factor

Torch hose length

12'

Size (H x W x D)

11.25 x 8.25 x 14.25 in

Weight

31.4 lbs (w/torch)

Warranty

5 years

PROS

A high cutting speed at a low amperage operation allows faster processing of fine metalware.

CONS

The duty cycle is short.

OUR VERDICT

The Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP allows cutting both thick pieces and thin metal sheets of up to 20 GA thanks to the FineCut® attachment and the use of 120V power.

detailed parameters
Type

Inverter

Input voltage / Output current

120V, 240V / 15-30A

Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage

From: 20 GA - 400 IPM at 120V/30A

To: 5/8 in - 7 IPM at 240V/30A

Rated output / Duty cycle

30А / 20% at 120V

30А / 35% at 240V

Gas flow rate / Pressure

4.0 scfm / 80 psi

Conveniences

Auto-Voltage™ technology, Small size and light weight, Fast cutting speeds and excellent cut quality, Built to withstand heavy-duty use, “Two-in-one” design for maximum versatility

Torch hose length

15'

Size (H x W x D)

11.5 x 5.5 x 14.0 in

Weight

21.4 lbs (w/torch)

Warranty

3 years (power supplies)

1 year (torch)

PROS

A wide output range allows you to set the optimum power and get smooth and precise cuts.

CONS

The torch cable is quite short.

OUR VERDICT

From our experience, this model demonstrates quite good performance and is pretty gas-saving. Thus, you'll be able to cut 0.5" of metal at 20 IPM, which is a great efficiency for the price.

detailed parameters
Type

Inverter

Input voltage / Output current

110, 220V / 10-50A

Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage

From: 26 GA - 360 IPM at 35A

To: 1/2 in - 20 IPM at 50A

Rated output / Duty cycle

50A / 60% at 110V

50A / 60% at 220V

Gas flow rate / Pressure

3.6 scfm / 65 psi

Conveniences

50-amp pilot arc plasma cutters, Automatic dual voltage / dual frequency, Compact and portable, Suitable for Stainless Steel, Alloy Steel, Mild Steel, Copper, Aluminum, etc.

Torch hose length

9.4'

Size (H x W x D)

12.0 x 6.0 x 15.0 in

Weight

22.5 lbs

Warranty

1 year

PROS

A high power and a long duty cycle make the machine usable in a household and on construction sites.

CONS

The tool is comparatively heavy.

OUR VERDICT

The model is able to cut through up to 1"-thick metal and is a worthy choice for skilled users, offering a moderate price.

detailed parameters
Type

Inverter

Input voltage / Output current

110, 220V / 30-60A

Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage

N/A

Rated output / Duty cycle

60A / 60% at 110V, 220V

Gas flow rate / Pressure

5.5 cfm / 70 psi

Conveniences

60 Amps of professional cutting power, Blow-back start technology, Continuous Pilot Arc enables you to cut expanded, rusted, painted metals

Torch hose length

~ 20'

Size (H x W x D)

22.0 x 9.5 x 20.0 in

Weight

44 lbs

Warranty

3 years

PROS

A sturdy and convenient case will let you comfortably carry the tool together with the accessories.

CONS

Has a high gas consumption.

OUR VERDICT

The Miller Electric cutter will meet the needs of those consumers who seek ergonomics and convenience of use. The intuitive controls and comfortable handle make the tool suitable for beginners. 

detailed parameters
Type

Inverter

Input voltage / Output current

120, 240V / 15-30A

Material thickness - Cutting speed at output amperage

From: 16 GA - 158 IPM at 20A

To: 5/8 in - 6 IPM at 30A

Rated output / Duty cycle

20A / 35% at 120V

30A / 35% at 240V

Gas flow rate / Pressure

5.0 scfm / 90-120 psi

Conveniences

Rated Cutting Capacity, XT30 Torch & Quick Connect Work Lead and Clamp, Auto-Line™ and MVP™, Auto-Refire™, Automatic Air Regulation, Protective X-CASE™, Wind Tunnel Technology™ and Fan-On-Demand™ cooling system

Torch hose length

12'

Size (H x W x D)

9.0 x 5.5 x 13.2 in

Weight

18 lbs

Warranty

3 years

What is a Plasma Cutter

There are various metal cutting tools that exist today and each of them has its benefits. For example, a hacksaw can cut a thin wall pipe, while an angle grinder allows cutting through thick metal pieces quickly and easily. So, what is a plasma cutter for then? The answer is simple, for a finer, precision cutting. Angle grinders leave burrs, which require grounding afterwards and it is time-consuming. After all, with an angle grinder, you are able to do the only straight cutting, while a plasma cutter can cut following every movement of your hand.

Below, we will consider the main aspects that are worth your attention while choosing a plasma cutter.

The metalworking commonly includes the cutting and welding. Hence, we recommend using a chop saw for a fast cutting, and get one of the MIG welders to quickly join metal parts and weld quality and uniform seams.

Best Plasma Cutters

What Features to Compare

Type

Plasma cutters come equipped with transformers and inverters. As for the former cutters, they consist of mechanical parts and offer only the stepped adjustment of the output power and only in the off mode. This type of devices does not allow a constant voltage regulation, so the output voltage can drop under a high load. Yet, the main advantages of transformer models are their simple design that largely facilitates the maintenance, as well as their affordable price. As for the invertor cutters, they feature CNC controls for a steady output power adjustment regardless of input voltage jumps and the load. In addition, plasma cutters employ contact and contactless cutting types. A contact cutting is usually used for the materials with 0.4 - 0.6" thickness, while contactless cutting is applied to 0.7 to 3" thick metalware. Of course, the utilized power is the main aspect of any power tool. As to plasma cutters, this power entirely depends on the output amperage. However, for these devices, the type of a power supply unit is crucial as transformer-powered cutters can cut metal with the thickness of up to 1.5", while inverter-powered are able to provide only the 1.18" max cutting depth. Despite the smaller cutting depth, the performance of inverter plasma cutters is enough for most tasks, so they are often preferred by beginners and even experienced users.

Specifications

Speaking of the operating principle of plasma cutters, they use the compressed air from a reservoir. The compressed air is pumped through a torch nozzle at 0.6-0.9 miles per second speed, where it gets ionized with an electric arc with its temperature reaching 50,000 °F for the metal melting. Thus, the higher is the amperage in the ionizer, the higher is the plasma temperature and the thicker metal pieces the plasma can cut. So, mind the type and thickness of the material you're going to cut when choosing the cutter. There are cutting standards that establish the ratio of metal thickness to the applied amperage. With that, nonferrous metals of up to 19 GA should be cut with 6А power, while stainless steel and ferrous metals are to be cut with 4А. According to this pattern, you need a welder with 50A amperage for cutting the parts of up to 1/2" thickness. The cutting speed is another important aspect, given that the thicker the piece, the slower the cutting. Also, pay attention to the cutter duty cycle. A full duty cycle is considered a 10-minute period. Thus, for example, "50А / 60%" means that the machine can work for 6 min at 50А, i.e. for 60% of the 10-minute interval. When the specified duty cycle is over, the cutter needs to be turned off to cool down, after that you can resume the operation.

Convenience Features

Some plasma cutters are convenient for having built-in compressors that supply the air to the torch. Such machines are compact and are usually used by household owners. The models with external standalone compressors have a longer life cycle and are typically used on construction sites and at production facilities. The availability of an overheating protection is another benefit as it shuts the cutter down if it exceeds the specified temperature. If you're going to use a cutter outdoors, consider the length of its air supply hose, which, if it is long enough, allows not taking the whole device outside. Nevertheless, some machines weigh 20-25 lbs, so they aren't so hard to carry outside. Finally, pay attention to the cutter accessories. Some models may come with a protective helmet or goggles, hoses for air tanks and tips for a contact welding. So, if you have a hard time choosing between two models, the accessories set may be the deciding factor.

Hobart Airforce 40i

Clear and Plain

Let's start our review with the plasma cutting machine by Hobart, AirForce 40i. Looking at the control panel, we can see the toggle switch, voltage control and four LED lights that indicate the cutter power on, low air pressure, torch tip faults, and overheating. These lights allow you to quickly find the cause of the malfunction, even when it is not visually detectable. In general, the machine control is clear and intuitive. The cutter is fitted with a convenient XT40R handheld torch. Pay attention to the safety trigger, as you need to lift the protective cap for the trigger pressing. With the cap on, the trigger simply can't be pulled. The cutter comes with the torch connected with a 12' hose, and the ground cable of the same length. As for the power cord, it is 10-feet long. These components allow easy moving the cutter around the worksite. The cutter's top features a convenient handle for a comfortable carrying. By the way, the machine weighs about 31.4 lbs with the torch and hose, which is a considerable weight. Yet, its is justified by the machine capabilities that we will consider below.

Review of Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter

For A Wide Spectrum of Jobs

This Hobart cutter features the inverter that delivers the 50А output current. The unit requires a 240V power source, so you'll probably need a power converter. The duty cycle maintained by the inverter is 5 min at 40А. This performance level allows cutting 1/8" to 3/4" thick mild steel at the cutting speed of 130 to 6 IPM. These estimations are approximate and make about 80% of the maximum specified values. Still, it's not recommended to use the cutter at full blast. The machine is capable of maintaining a high-quality cutting of metal with the thickness of up to 5/8" at 9 IPM. However, you can cut 7/8" thick metal pieces but the cutting speed and quality will be inferior. Finally, we need to mention the plasma flow rate that makes 4.8 scfm at 90-120 psi. There again, these are rough estimations, which may vary depending on particular working conditions.

Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter in the use

Purifies and Cools Down Simultaneously

When taking a closer look at the device features, we'd like to highlight a few technologies that improve the cutting quality and facilitate the machine's use. The first one is the Auto-Refire™ feature that allows cutting painted surfaces or perforated metalware without the need to release and push again the trigger switch. Speaking of the cooling, we should note the Wind Tunnel Technology™ that prevents abrasive dust and fine particles from getting inside the machine and damaging it and works only when necessary. In addition, if the power supply voltage is unstable, the Line Voltage Compensation ensures a maximum performance for a smooth cutting within the +/-15% range of the input voltage fluctuations. These technologies are complemented with the overheating protection that limits the duty cycle to 35% if it detects the ambient temperature reaching 104°F. The duty cycle is automatically increased as the ambient temperature drops.

Generally, the Hobart Airforce demonstrates a decent performance, being an entry-level model suitable for both novices and skillful users.

Detailed review of Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Hobart Airforce 40i
Hobart Airforce 40i
 

Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP

Building America!

Having examined the Powermax30® XP cutter by Hypertherm, we instantly noticed the "Building America" label that is highly motivating and makes you set big goals. The cutter features a carrying handle, current control and 4 LED indicators that signal the power on and warn you about the built-in compressor malfunction, torch cap fault, and unit overheating. The rear panel of the device accommodates the power switch and air inlet. It is worth noting that the machine uses compressed air only as distinct from the models using explosive gases. The torch hose and ground cable are 15-feet long and allow you to work comfortably without dragging the cutter around. As for the power cord, it is 10-feet long and features 2 plug adapters for connecting to the mains.

Review of Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP Plasma Cutter

Cuts Swimmingly

Considering the capabilities of this machine, we'd like to emphasize the Auto-Voltage™ feature that enables the unit to operate from 110V and 240V power sources, for which two plug adapters are included. The output current can be adjusted from 15 to 30A with the aforementioned control. This feature is aimed at improving the cutting performance when handling thick material. For example, setting the machine to 240V/30A mode allows you to cut 5/8" thick mild steel sheets, while the 120V/30А operation mode allows cutting metal sheets of up to 1/2" thickness. The cutting speed also varies, depending on the mode, and makes 7 and 5 IPM accordingly. Still, if you need to cut fine sheets of metal or stainless steel, the lower voltage mode is superior as it enables you to cut 18 GA minimum metal, and the 240V/30A mode sets the 22 GA minimum thickness. In this case, the cutting speed reaches 400 IPM in both modes providing a quick and smooth cutting. At that, you'll be able to make use of long working intervals as the unit offers duty cycles of 35% and 20% for 240V and 120V modes correspondingly. The air consumption is 4.0 scfm at the 80 psi pressure.

Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP Plasma Cutter in the use

Tired to Carry?

Now let us take a look at the cutter peculiarities. Undoubtedly, the unique 2-in-1 design is the main distinguishing feature of the model. It makes possible to cut thick materials using the high-power mode and do a precision cutting of thinner pieces with the special FineCut® accessory. Moreover, the fact that the unit is capable of not only cutting metal but also gouging it using special attachments adds to its versatility. Thus, you can make smooth and clean grooves with this cutter. The convenience features of the machine include simple controls and a large handgrip. That's not all, though. If you tired of carrying the instrument in your hands, you can hang it over the shoulder thanks to the included strap. Thus, you'll be able to carry the unit over a long distance with your hands free for holding the accessories.

So, this Hypertherm Powermax is useful for people who need changing their work sites or traveling through large territories.

Detailed review of Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP Plasma Cutter

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP
Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP
 

Lotos Technology LTP5000D

Seen From Afar

The LTP5000D is the plasma cutter made by the US-based Lotos company. As it does not differ from other models in regards to its design, we will proceed to the examination of its control panel right away. The unit top features the ON/OFF switch, an amperage control knob and the overheating light indicator. Below, we can see the port for a torch hose, a power cord socket, a pilot arc and ground cable sockets. The first thing to notice about the torch cable is its 9.4 feet length, which is not big. In turn, the ground cable is 6 feet, which is the drawback of this machine. As for the look, the machine is painted bright red, so it is clearly distinguishable even in a poorly lit environment.

Review of Lotos Technology LTP5000D Plasma Cutter

Great Output at a Low Price

In this paragraph, we will cover the capabilities of this cutting machine. The equipment features the inverter that delivers the amperage ranging from 10А to 50А. The LTP5000D can be powered from both 110V and 220V electric sources. Depending on the power, the cutter is able to cut materials of different thicknesses. For example, being fed 35А, the cutter is able to cut metalware from 16 to 26 GA at 360 and 225 IPM accordingly. When operating at the maximum capacity, the cutter can handle 20 GA to 1/2" metal pieces at 380 and 20 IPM respectively. We'd like to dwell on the latter value as it is an indicator of great performance considering the price for the cutter. On the whole, such ratings make the tool suitable for various home tasks, for example, maintenance of an old car or repair of farmstead machinery. Yet, some metal parts are too small for the cutter, thus an angle grinder will be of better use. Please note that the machine can compete with pricier models, in terms of a duty cycle that makes great 60% at 50А. As for the finishing touch, we'd like to say that the air flow of this model is just 3.6 scfm at 65 psi.

Lotos Technology LTP5000D Plasma Cutter in the use

Low Amps

Speaking of the cutter capabilities, we'd like to note the pilot arc that will let you cut perforated metal parts and even grid without the need to release the trigger. The unit is capable of delivering the minimal 10A current, which is very effective for cutting thin metal pieces. Setting the amperage to that value enables you to perform a continuous metal cutting without cooling the machine down. Even if the cutter gets too hot, the overheating LED light will flash and the unit will cut out automatically. With that, the built-in fan continues working and cooling the machine components.

This cutter can be recommended to those seeking an affordable machine for their home needs. The model is great for getting the knack of plasma cutting and proceeding with a more advanced machine after that.

Detailed review of Lotos Technology LTP5000D Plasma Cutter

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Lotos Technology LTP5000D
Lotos Technology LTP5000D
 

AHP AlphaCut 60

Fine Feathers Make Fine Birds

The next tool in our review list is the plasma cutter by APH. Its stylish and strict design is so convincing that it leaves no doubt about the AlphaCut 60 high performance. Is it so? Let's clarify that together. As usual, we considered the control panel first and found a protective circuit breaker, amperage control, a post flow adjusting knob, a pressure control, and a pressure meter. In addition, the front panel has two LED lights that indicate when the power is on and when the tool gets overheated. Frankly speaking, these numerous controls and the gauge improve the model functionality in terms of control. The bottom part of the main panel features the output port for a torch hose, a pilot arc port, torch power out, and a ground cable.

Review of AHP AlphaCut 60 Plasma Cutter

For Serious Jobs

Eventually, we reached the most interesting part about this cutter. It is capable of delivering a 60А current when powered from 220V source. Powered from 110V, the machine ensures a 30А output current. The current is adjusted with the control knob fitted with separate scales for 110V and 220V input power. As for the cutting capacity, the machine is able to cut 18 GA metal at 20А and to easily cut through 1" thick parts at 60А. Of course, the machine performs a slower cutting with rougher edges in the latter operation mode. Nevertheless, this option is available on the unit for the users. Demonstrating great performance, the cutter expectedly consumes more air than other less powerful models, maintaining the flowrate of 5.5 scfm at 70 psi. To deepen a positive impression of this cutter, we'd like to note that its duty cycle is up to 6 minutes, after which the machine needs a break.

AHP AlphaCut 60 Plasma Cutter in the use

Set For Your Needs

Our examination of specific features of the unit will start from its controls. For starters, let's take a look at the power switch or an automatic circuit breaker if to be more precise. This control element not just turns the unit on and off but also protects it from voltage surges and power outage by breaking the power circuit. Near the automatic switch, we can see the air supply control that allows cooling the torch and extending the service life of the tips. Next, we noticed the "adjust air" knob which allows setting the right air pressure, which you can check with the gauge in bar or psi. Reviewing the convenience features, we found that the trigger is covered with a safety cap that prevents you from starting the cutter accidentally. The cap needs to be opened for pressing the trigger and start the cutting.

Taking the specs and adjustments into account, we can suggest this plasma cutter to skilled users who know how to configure it to cut a specific material.

Detailed review of AHP AlphaCut 60 Plasma Cutter

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


AHP AlphaCut 60
AHP AlphaCut 60
 

Miller Electric Spectrum 375

No Handle!

It's time for the Spectrum® 375 X-TREME™ cutter by Miller Electric to show its potential. Looking at this machine only makes us think it's one of the smallest inverter cutters. Which appeared to be true as the machine is 9" high and 5.5" wide. Moreover, the weight is just 18 lbs, which adds to its superb compactness as for a plasma cutting device. The portability of the model is further emphasized by the design with a strap instead of the handle. With the strap, you'll be able to carry the unit on your shoulder, which is handier than carrying it in your hands. Proceeding to the rear panel, we can see a single control, which adjusts the amperage. Close to the amperage control we notice 4 LED lights that warn us about the power on, low air pressure, torch tip faults, and overheating. The start switch is located on the rear panel along with the air inlet and power cord connector. By the way, the cord is made according to the MVP™ (Multi−Voltage Plug) technology and allows connecting the cutter to power networks with different voltage without additional tools. The power cord length is 10", and the torch hose and ground cable are 12" long.

Review of Miller Electric Spectrum 375 Plasma Cutter

When Portability Meets Performance

Now, let's see what this cutter can really do… The Auto-Line™ and MVP™ technologies provide connectivity to 120V or 240V electric power networks without additional converters. Using the inverter, the machine generates 15А to 30А current with the maximum amperage achievable only using the 240V power source. Consequently, having switched the machine to the maximum performance mode, you'll be able to cut 5/8" thick soft metalware at 6 IPM. The 20А power will let you cut through up to 3/8" thick pieces at the same cutting speed. As for the minimum cutting width, the machine cuts 16GA sheets at 20А and 12GA pieces at 30А. The cutting speeds are 158 and 105 IPM respectively. As you can see, a compact size doesn't affect the cutter's performance, so you can freely handle materials of different thicknesses. The duty cycle is 35% for 20А/120V and 30А/240V. When setting the machine to 22А/240V, you can cut without interruptions for cooling the tool down. We were quite surprised by the plasma flow rate, which is as high as 5.0 scfm at 90-120 psi for such a small unit.

Miller Electric Spectrum 375 Plasma Cutter in the use

Everything for Comfort

At this point we would like to sum up the major points the Spectrum® 375 X-TREME has to offer. The automatic air supply pressure adjustment feature serves for providing a stable cut under any electric load. Also, we'd like to praise the XT30 torch with a nonslip coating and a flexible hose for maneuverability. Even more to that, the trigger has a thumb groove for a comfortable continuous work. We noticed that the Wind Tunnel Technology™ and Fan-On-Demand™ are featured in best plasma cutters, as well as in this model. These technologies effectively protect the internal unit components from dust and dirt and the cooling system works only when it is necessary. In addition, the Auto-Refire™ feature allows boosting the performance and minimizing the strain in your hands. This technology also enables you to cut perforated metal and grates by switching the tie point of the pilot arc from inside to outside part as fast as required, so you don't have to trigger the machine again and again. Lastly, we couldn't leave out the sturdy plastic case that lets you carry the cutter and all its accessories.

We conclude that this model is a wonderful choice for people handling thin materials and looking for a compact and easy to carry around plasma cutter.

Detailed review of Miller Electric Spectrum 375 Plasma Cutter

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Miller Electric Spectrum 375
Miller Electric Spectrum 375
 

Sources:

1. A Guide to Buying Plasma Cutters on eBayeBay. May 22, 2015.

2. Choosing Between Oxy-fuel and Plasma Cutting SystemsGrainger. February 18, 2016.

3. Choosing a Plasma Cutter for Your Home WorkshopDoItYourself

4. James Anderton How to Select a Plasma Cutting Machine for your Shop, ENGINEERINGcom. March 2, 2015.

5. Plasma Cutting - Tips & TechniquesEastwood.

6. Plasma cutting, Wikipedia. March 29, 2017.

7. How a Plasma Cutter Works, Lincoln Electric.

8. What is a Plasma Cutter? eBay. March 7, 2016.

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