Plasma cutters look similar to welding machines, but instead of joining metal materials, a plasma cutter is used to cut through various metals quickly and accurately. Plasma cutters have continued to gain popularity in the metal fabrication industry due to their ability to cut any conductive metal with the desired speed and precision. It is a versatile tool and a must-have tool for any metal fabricator, and the best part is today’s machines are more powerful and lighter, and there are models for both professionals and hobbyists.
A plasma cutter uses an ionized gas torch to make a neat and accurate cut through electrically conductive materials. Ideally, your choice of the best plasma cutter will depend on the maximum thickness of the materials you’ll be cutting most and the scope of your projects, i.e., home use or industrial use. Working with a plasma cutter is a lot easier, and you don’t have to deal with a messy workplace, loud grinding, or rough and inaccurate cuts.
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1. Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter
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The Lotos LTP5000D plasma cutter is designed with rich features that allow it to deliver outstanding performance in its compact package. Its pilot arc feature is especially handy for cutting on rough or dirty surfaces, while its air filter regulator enables the user to connect to the air compressor quickly. That’s not all. The machine advanced cooling system gives you peace of mind knowing that your machine won’t overheat, so you’re well protected.
- Non-touch pilot arc technology: The Lotos LTP5000D uses a pilot arc torch, a technology that allows you to cut your metals without touching the metal being cut. The process also enhances the cutting quality, reduces cutting time, and increases consumable life, making cutting more enjoyable. Besides, the pilot arc allows you to cut through painted and rusty surfaces, and it produces very minimal slag
- PAPST advanced cooling system: This cutter uses the PAPST advanced cooling system to ensure that the machine does not overheat and that the inside of the metal remains cool for more durable and stable performance. Also, the plasma cutter has a convenient handle for portability. It is also designed with MOSFET technology, which allows for high power output when working on thin metals and a steady production when cutting light metals.
- Dual voltage capability: The machine automatic dual voltage allows you to run the machine directly on 220 V at 60 Hz or on 110 V at 50 Hz using a pigtail, which is sold separately. Additionally, the machine is easy to assemble using the air regulator and pre-existing NPT 1/4″ industry type D plug that allows you to connect and use the air compressor within a minute.
- Output and performance range: The Lotos LTP5000D uses a non-hazardous compressed air to cut metals safely and at a minimized cost. It is ideal for cutting a range of metals including aluminum, stainless steel, mild steel, alloy steel, copper, etc. This plasma cutter delivers high-speed precision cuts, and an impressive 3/4″ maximum severance cut, making it a sure bet for home metal workers and artists.
- The entire machine can be assembled within one minute.
- Efficient, clean, and high precision cuts.
- It produces minimal slug; thus, it requires less clean up.
- With the advanced cooling system, this machine is safe and comfortable.
- Improved consumables life.
- The ground clamp is a bit short.
- It is suited for small DIY jobs at home, but it can be used for medium-scale commercial tasks.
The LTP5000D continues Lotos’s tradition of bringing down the price for entry into the plasma cutting world. It provides smooth and clean cuts, effortless to set up, and it is a perfect choice for light-duty and DIY projects.
2. PrimeWeld CT-520D
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The PrimeWeld CT-520D is a multi-purpose machine that offers a whole range of cutting and welding processes. It is also among the best plasma cutters for individuals who are just starting to use a plasma cutter for its cutting and welding performance. Additionally, it is very efficient and offers the desired cuts with relative ease without pausing or requiring you to slow down occasionally.
Features of PrimeWeld CT-520D
- 3-in-1 cutting/welding machine: This unit features a 50A plasma cutter, 200A TIG torch, and 200A stick welder all in one unit. You can use the plasma cutter to cut cast iron, copper, mild steel, and more. On the other hand, the TIG torch and stick welder can be used to weld various metals and minor welding repairs, respectively. All processes have a duty cycle of 60% at maximum amperage.
- High-quality components and engineering: The PrimeWeld CT-520D is engineered with high-quality components that meet required safety standards and provide you with accurate performance. The unit is durable yet compact, and it can be used to cut metals up to1/2″ thick using the plasma cutting function. The only drawback for some is the lack of pilot arc, but the performance of this machine is impressive.
- Lightweight and portable unit: Weigh only 32 lbs. the CT-520D is relatively lightweight, and it is a great portable option when you need something to move around your workshop or jobsite. It is much easier to transport than most multi-purpose welders, and it is a decent plasma cutter for personal/home use. The unit is also easy to use since you only need to connect the accessories of the function you need to use.
- Safe and user-friendly design: The CT-520d does not use flammable consumables, reducing exposure to hazards while cutting or welding. It also has an 85% power efficiency, which means it consumes less energy, thus lowering the cost of operation. Additionally, you can switch between TIG welder and stick welder quickly while still in operation.
- It is a reliable cutter/welder.
- Easy to toggle between different functions.
- High-quality consumables and accessories.
- It offers up to 85% power efficiency.
- Its compact and lightweight construction provides a high level of portability.
- The machine does not provide pilot arc in cut mode
- Not suitable for materials more than ½ inch thick.
The PrimeWeld CT-520D is a quality triple threat machine, and it has earned this spot for both its welding and cutting performance. It works great on steel and aluminum, and it is an excellent machine for beginners.
3. Amico CUT-50 Plasma Cutter
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With the capability of handling materials up to 1-inch maximum severance thickness, the Amico CUT-50 shines in both personal and heavy-duty use, and it is undeniably great value for money. The newly designed model is exceptionally user-friendly and more convenient. And although it may share similar features with other models, it provides more consistent cuts, and it involves less cleaning.
Main Features of the Amico CUT-50 Plasma Cutter
- 50 Amp digital plasma cutter: The Amico CUT-50 is a digitally controlled (15-50 amps) plasma cutting system with advanced cutting performance. The torch is designed from heat resistant material to provide a comfortable grip. The unit handles up to 1-inch thick metal materials and is ideal for home use as well as less demanding industrial work.
- Accurate and precise cuts: This cutter delivers clean and accurate cuts with less cleaning, fewer fire hazards, and less maintenance. It also no poisonous gases and you will generally work less for a better and cleaner cut. It automatically adapts to a standard household electrical outlet, and plug adapters are included to allow you to work safely at different voltage levels.
- Remarkable power efficiency: The cutter has a remarkable 85% power efficiency meaning you’ll get more output from a small input. So, you don’t need to worry about your electricity bill, and it works without producing excessive noise, so it is safe for you and the environment. It is a reliable cutting system, and it certainly capable of getting the job done around the house or farm.
- Touch start system: The Amico CUT 50 offers a touch start system meaning you’ll need to touch the material to start the arc. The arc starts pretty fast and once started, you can get away from the metal as long as you don’t go too far from the surface. It is used to cut steel, aluminum, and just any other metal material, and it also performs well on perforated and rusty surfaces.
- Less maintenance and cleaning.
- Reduced fire hazard.
- The gun is surprisingly comfortable.
- It performs excellently even on rusty and perforated materials.
- It is a solid plasma cutting system for home use or small shop.
- It lacks a pilot arc.
If you are looking for an affordable and reliable plasma cutter for home use, you should try out the Amico cut 50 plasma cutter. The machine is ready to cut right out of the box, and it is a great unit for first-timers.
4. Lotos LTP5500D
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The LTP 5500D is an upgrade of Lotos LTP5000D, but the former is far more superior. This machine uses IGBT while the LTP 5000D uses MOSFET, which is a significant upgrade. Also, this unit supports CNC applications, and it is ideal for general use. It is suitable for cutting stainless steel, mild steel, alloy steel, copper, among other color metals.
Other Key Features of Lotos LTP5500D
- Portable yet very powerful: The LTP5500D cuts 3/5″ as opposed to its small brother the LTP5000D, which cuts 1/2″. Although this may not sound as much, the difference is about 20% thicker, which is a significant amount. The unit offers ultimate portability, and it is a perfect choice for light-duty business projects and DIY jobs. It uses non-hazardous compressed air to cut stainless steel, mild steel, aluminum, copper, and more.
- Latest IGBT Inverter Technology: This compact plasma cutter uses IGBT technology instead of MOSFET for improved efficiency of commercial plasma cutting applications. The machine also offers higher voltage capacities and more heat tolerance than a MOSFETS’s machine. The design also guarantees the best power transmission and improved consumable life.
- Blowback pilot arc: The LTP5500D is a non-high frequency start machine with a patented back striking design i.e., blowback pilot arc. The blowback start system is generally safe, and it is perfect for general use. It also uses a Euro-type central connector that allows you to connect your torch to the plasma cutter easily and quickly, thus saving you time.
- 2T/4T Function enabled: The unit works as a 2T or 4T torch, depending on the nature of your projects. The function is excellent for different applications, especially when working with different materials. Besides, the unit is CNC enabled, and you’ll be impressed by how it cuts with ease. What’s more, the pre-installed NPT 1/4″ plug and the air regulator allow you to connect to your compressor within a few minutes.
- It offers a multi-voltage system.
- machine is the portability. It is lightweight, and it can be carried around.
- It is also very powerful and offers the best performance you can get on the market.
- This machine is CNC enabled.
- It supports both 2T and 4T operations.
- The ground cable is short, so you might need to get a longer one.
- Air control is a bit challenging in this series.
The Lotos LTP5500D is an excellent CNC cutter, and it will last a long time as long as well maintained, i.e., changing the consumables as needed and keeping the compressed air dry and clean. The blowback start is unbelievable, and it does a great job of cutting through rust and paint.
5. SUNGOLDPOWER 50A Plasma Cutter
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If you are a hobbyist looking for a machine for home use, then you may want to consider the SUNDGOLD 50A plasma cutter. It belongs to the CUT 50 ‘family’ machines, and it provides sufficient power required for cutting a variety of metal materials. In addition, the digital LCD display makes it easy for you to read air pressure gauge so you can make the most out of it.
Features of SUNGOLDPOWER 50A Plasma Cutter
- IGBT Technology: The SUNGOLDPOWER 50A plasma cutter is an IGBT technology which more stable than a MOSFET machine in terms of cutting speed, cutting quality, peak current capabilities, switching speed, and response time. This machine is capable of cutting through most metals up to 1/2 inch ideal cut and 3/4 inch maximum severance cut with ease.
- Digital LCD panel: The SUNGOLD POWER 50A plasma cutter has a front digital LCD panel that lets you access all information about the plasma cutting system, including air pressure gauge and voltage settings. With a push of one button, you can set up and use your machine, and the best part is that it uses non-hazardous compressed air to cut safely and at a low cost.
- Automatic dual voltage: This plasma cutter can adjust cutting current to suit your cutting demands depending on the thickness of your working plate and the type of material being cut. The machine can run on either 220 V or 110 V, and it produces very minimal slag. It is efficient for cutting through painted, rough, and rusty working plates, including aluminum, steel, carbon steel, etc.
- Built-in overheat protection: This plasma cutting machine’s superiority is further shown in its built-in overheat protection and effective heat dissipation. Also, the light indicators for air pressure and over current keeps you updated on your machine operating condition. Besides, the 60% duty cycle is more than enough for most DIY projects.
- It makes smooth and clean cuts.
- Dual voltage; plug adapters are included.
- Impressive digital LCD display.
- It provides a stable arc thanks to the IGBT inverter technology.
- It is fairly quiet.
- Low-quality parts.
- Not a pilot arc machine and needs a relatively clean surface to start, but it works great after.
SUNGOLDPOWER 50A plasma cutter is definitely not a heavy-duty machine, but it is an incredible tool for a hobbyist on a budget. It exceeds expectations, cuts clean, and it is a solid unit for a home shop.
6. SUPER DEAL CUT 50 PLASMA CUTTER
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The Super Deal Cut 50 plasma cutter is yet another multifunctional machine which comes as a cutter and a welder. The duty cycle of this machine is impressive, and it features a space-saving design. What’s more, this unit’s performance is also stable, and it can cut through materials of up to 1/2 inch (12.7 mm) thick accurately and precisely.
- Enhanced cutting performance: The multi-purpose machine lives up to its name thanks to the PRO technology, which delivers high cutting speed and more stable performance. It also has a high duty cycle, which results in less energy consumption making this unit more efficient and economical than traditional flame cutters. Besides, it is almost two times faster than a flame cutter, and it produces a clean cut without dross.
- Digital LCD Display: The Super Deal CUT 50 has a digital display screen and an easy to read front panel that enables the operator to view all data. Also, it comes in an excellent inverter design for top-notch performance and ease of use. It is not only one of the best plasma cutters for small businesses and DIY users but is also it accommodates the demand of professional operators fully.
- Reliable and steady construction: Besides its cutting speed and power, this machine is made of heavy-duty iron that makes it solid and last for a long time. What’s more, this machine has a pilot arc cutting system that allows for a clean cut on conductive materials including steel, copper, brass, and other materials up to 1/2 in. thick. In addition, it only requires standard household 110V hookup so you can plug in at your garage or workshop, and you’re ready to go.
- Safe design: The Super Deal CUT 50 plasma cutter features inbuilt safety features to make this unit extremely safe during use. These include over/under voltage protection and overheat protection that ensures improved performance and safety. There is also a cooling fan that helps in efficient heat dissipation and long service life.
- Less noise operation.
- Clean, smooth cutting; polishing is not necessary.
- Improved cutting speed.
- Enhanced heat dissipation for longer service life.
- Straightforward controls for stress-free operation.
- The user manual does not provide comprehensive information, but you can get additional information from YouTube.
- Not suited for high-grade materials or metals thicker than ½ inch.
This compact cutter is a workhorse, and it features a much better build quality at this price point. It is dependable for light to moderate use, and just like other Super Deal tools, it is engineered to deliver reliable performance at home or the workshop.
7. Forney Easy Weld 251
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The Forney Easy Weld 251 is a powerful yet easy to use plasma cutter. It may take a bit of time to get a clean cut, but once you get the hang of it, it does a great job. The unit weighs only 21.5 lbs. which means it is easily transportable for use around the house, in your workshop, or as a job site tool.
Features of Forney Easy Weld 251
- Drag torch technology: Unlike the pilot arc, the drag torch technology requires you to drag the cutting tip in direct contact with the surface you are cutting. This allows you to produce consistent, clean, and smooth cuts effortlessly, especially for novice operators. You can cut materials such as steel, brass, and copper up to 1/4″ and aluminum up to 3/16″ thick. If you are into metalwork, auto body, and general DIY projects, the Forney Easy Weld 251 is a perfect choice.
- Ease of use: Cutting with the Forney Easy Weld 251 is a breeze; all you need is a power source of 120 V. The machine requires 1.5 CFM of compressed air, so you should be ready to go even with a small pancake compressor. The inbuilt regulator and air filter make your operation hassle-free, and it is also generator friendly so you can work on the go and move to different job sites.
- The troubleshooting guide: The troubleshooting guide comes in handy for solving problems on the spot. For instance, when it shows solid yellow, it is signaling you to allow the machine to cool down. On the other hand, if you see it flashing yellow, there is low input air pressure, so you need to ensure that airflow requirements are met. A green flash means you should verify power input while a red one means the consumables are not in place, so you may need to fix a few things before you return to work.
- Sturdy all-metal case: The all-metal case is designed to ensure you get a sturdy and reliable unit that may be hard to get at this price range. Also, it is quite portable and practical around the household or as a jobsite tool in the modern industrial setting. That’s not all Forney has excellent customer service in case of any complaint, and on top of this, you get one year warranty on this plasma cutter.
- Lightweight and easily transportable.
- The inbuilt troubleshooting guide helps in on the spot problem-solving.
- The drag torch technology provides with an easy to use machine.
- Solid machine; the all-metal case is designed to take the day-to-day.
- It cuts the metals so clean, almost no cleanup is required.
- Designed for smaller jobs, so you may need to look for another machine for complex applications.
- The duty cycle is not the best; most users reported less duration.
- Comes in 120V only.
Forney Easy Weld 251 may not be the most powerful machine, but it is perfect for light shop work. It is engineered to perform day-to-day, and it is a time saver for contractors dealing with HVAC, plumbing, auto body, etc.
8. Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP
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The Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP is a highly portable and compact plasma cutting system, and it comes with everything you need to start cutting. It produces minimal slag, and you only need to do very little grinding sanding to clean the cut. Besides, it can handle a wide range of applications, and it is worth the extra cost than the less expensive models all over the place.
Key Features of Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP
- A Versatile 30 Amp System: The Powermax30 XP delivers high performance in its highly portable plasma cutting system. The 30 amp system can handle a range of applications in its unique 2-in 1 design. The design provides both high-power consumables for cutting thick metals up to 5/8″ and thin metal cutting capability for fine and detailed cuts. The system also features a 15″ torch lead strain on both sides for high demanding situations.
- Duramax LT torch design: The new Duramax LT torch is designed with heat and impact resistant material to ensure long-lasting performance. This torch design also provides a comfortable grip, especially when you need to move the machine from place to place. You’ll also get a rotating torch cap holder, an 11-inch arm, adjustable axles, two metal wheels, a center pin holder, and a plastic carry case.
- Hypertherm’s plasma circle cutting guide: The Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP comes with a unique kit that allows the operator to use circles up to 20 inches in diameter to set the plasma for a cutting session quickly. The patented drag tip technology makes it easy for you to use this powerful equipment, which is why it is popular with beginners, even with its complex specifications.
- Auto-voltage capability: When it comes to input power, the Powermax30 XP automatically adapts to 110 V- 240 V, so all you need is to plug into your standard household power using the plug adapters provided. The system uses compressed air, so no expensive gases are required to cut through conductive metals, including aluminum, stainless steel, mild steel, and more.
- High cutting power; designed for industrial and home use.
- Provides a comfortable grip.
- It includes a plastic carry case, protective gloves, and glasses.
- The torch is designed to withstand heat and impact.
- Also, the drag tip is amazing, and it cuts as fast as you can move the torch on the material.
- Costly investment, but worth it.
- ore practice is needed to make precision cuts.
Hypertherm plasma cutters are unrivaled when it comes to quality and reliability. The Hypertherm 088079 Powermax30 XP will enhance your cutting and gouging processes by performing reliably time and again.
How to Choose the Best Plasma Cutter
A plasma cutter greatly improves your metalworking skills, but getting a cheap one may not get the job done. Choosing a high-end model may cost higher up-front, but this often translates into a lower cost of operation and better operation in the long run. So, this buying guide will help you understand some crucial factors that will help find the most suitable plasma for your needs. These are;
i. Cut thickness
The maximum cut thickness is one of the very first specifications you’ll want to consider when buying a plasma cutter. Ideally, cut thickness is presented into two different ratings, i.e., the clean cut and maximum severance cut. Clean cut is the maximum thickness the machine can comfortably accommodate while achieving smooth lines. On the other hand, the max severance cut refers to the absolute thickness that a machine can achieve when pushed to the limit. The max severance cut, however, results in a rough finish, so it is not recommended if you want clean, smooth cuts.
ii. Compressed air or gas?
Most traditional plasma cutters use gases such as Argon, Nitrogen, or Oxygen to initiate the cutting process. However, technology has made it possible to use compressed air, which much safer and easier to use. A plasma cutter can either have an inbuilt air compressor or a separate compressor, so it depends on your needs as to choose. When using compressed air, you’ll need to check the airflow and air pressure requirements of your plasma cutter and find a compressor that meets requirements. The air compressor should be able to offer sufficient CFM, usually 1.5 times more than the needs of your plasma cutter.
iii. The type of torch
Plasma torches serve a general purpose of slicing through metals come, but they come in different forms, with each type featuring a different approach of striking the arc. They include;
- Non-touch pilot arc: This type of torch creates the jet of plasma from a small distance away from the surface you are cutting and cuts through the section without touching the surface. This feature is called a pilot arc, and you can either maintain a constant distance or adjust the height depending on the type of cut needed. Pilot arc machines produce neat cuts while ensuring your nozzle remains clean.
- Drag torch: A drag torch technique requires you to cut through metals smoothly while the tip of the torch touches the metal you’re cutting. Without using the drag technology, the tip of the nozzle can stick to your project resulting in inconsistent cuts or stop the process altogether. Drag technology is best suited for decorative and artistic projects, as it makes it easy for you to trace lines and patterns when cutting.
- Touch start: A touch start system is similar to a drag system, but it uses a free hand to slid the nozzle across the metal while lifting it off the surface to finish the cut. This is the least preferred system since it does not have the accuracy of the pilot arc or drag technology.
- Blowback: Blow-back is a form of non-touch start that involves the backward movement of the electrode when air pressure is applied to create the arc.
Consumables are parts of a plasma cutter that require replacement after wear due to regular use. They include the nozzle, electrode, retaining cap, shield, and swirl wheel. The main consumables that require frequent replacement are the nozzle and electrode. When buying a plasma cutter, you’ll need to consider the life and cost of replacement of these consumables so that you can be able to determine the cost of operation.
Important tips when using a plasma cutter
- Always wear a welding helmet to prevent slag or any other debris from getting into your eyes. Also, ensure to wear a thick pair of gloves to protect your hands from burns when operating the machine.
- Don’t get too close to the arc. Also, it might get too hot when operating a cutter, so you might need someplace to cool down.
- Ensure the power source can handle the plasma cutter to avoid tripping the breaker or shutting off the power.
- When you have finished using your plasma cutter, always ensure that it is turned off and that there is no metal beneath it. The arc (pilot arc) may take time to cool, which may warp any unattended metal.
Plasma cutting is a relatively straightforward process to learn, and it does not leave much debris compared to oxy-fuel cutters. That said, it is important to choose a plasma cutter that is compatible with your projects to ensure that you’ll not have a hard time performing your projects. Furthermore, it will pay off to compare portability and durability features of different models to ensure that you can use your machine on-demand and hassle-free.
Lotos is a known giant in the plasma cutter and welding industry, and that’s why we selected the Lotos LTP5000D as the overall best plasma cutter in our list. The LTP5000D has the capacity to do detailed work with its high-frequency non-touch pilot arc and an air filter for a cleaner and drier air. More so, this unit does not compromise on quality, and it represents great value with unrivaled cutting performance.