Best Plasma Cutter Reviews | 2020 Plasma Cutting Guide

Last updated on January 27th, 2020 at 10:47 pm

A plasma cutter makes an essential tool in most industries. Used in virtually all repair shops, automotive, car refurbishing, and industries that require metal fabrication. Plasma cutting machines are handy equipment that a seasoned or hobby cutter cannot do without. Getting the best plasma cutter that matches your applications and delivers a good job can be a tough job. This article seeks to answer all questions about plasma cutters and their essential features. Our unbiased plasma cutter reviews, in-depth guide, and comparison tables feature only the top rated plasma cutters from the best brands on the market.

Best Plasma Cutter Reviews

  • Hypertherm Powermax30
  • 4.8 Customer Rating
  • Input: 120/240V, 1PH, 50/60Hz
  • Output: 15~30A
  • Duty-Cycle: 30A @ 35%
  • Start-Type: Pilot Arc
  • Clean Cut: 1/2"
  • Severance Cut: 5/8"
  • Weight: 21.4 lb.
  • Warranty: 3-Year
  • Price: $$$$

  • Hobart Airforce 40i
  • 4.9 Customer Rating
  • Input: 240V, 1PH, 60Hz
  • Output: 20~40A
  • Duty-Cycle: 40A @ 50%
  • Start-Type: Pilot Arc
  • Clean Cut: 5/8"
  • Severance Cut: 7/8"
  • Weight: 31.4 lb.
  • Warranty: 5-Year
  • Price: $$$$

  • Forney 20 P
  • 4.7 Customer Rating
  • Input: 120V, 1PH, 50/60Hz
  • Output: 10~20A
  • Duty-Cycle: 20A @ 35%
  • Start-Type: Drag Arc
  • Clean Cut: 1/4"
  • Severance Cut: 3/8"
  • Weight: 22.4 lb.
  • Warranty: 1-Year
  • Price: $$

  • PrimeWeld CUT50
  • 4.6 Customer Rating
  • Input: 110/220V, 1PH, 50/60Hz
  • Output: 10~50A
  • Duty-Cycle: 50A @ 60%
  • Start-Type: HF Arc
  • Clean Cut: 1/2"
  • Severance Cut: 3/4"
  • Weight: 22.5 lb.
  • Warranty: 3-Year
  • Price: $

  • Lotos LTP5000D
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • Input: 110/220V, 1PH, 50/60Hz
  • Output: 10~50A
  • Duty-Cycle: 50A @ 60%
  • Start-Type: Pilot Arc
  • Clean Cut: 1/2"
  • Severance Cut: 3/4"
  • Weight: 26 lb.
  • Warranty: 1-Year
  • Price: $$

  • Amico CUT-50
  • 4.3 Customer Rating
  • Input: 115/230V, 1PH, 60Hz
  • Output: 15~50A
  • Duty-Cycle: 50A @ 60%
  • Start-Type: HF Arc
  • Clean Cut: 1/2"
  • Severance Cut: 1"
  • Weight: 21.5 lb.
  • Warranty: 1-Year
  • Price: $

1. Hypertherm Powermax30 XP Plasma System

Best Plasma Cutter

The Hypertherm Powermax 30 features an inverter IGBT design with an auto-voltage ability to automatically switch between 120V or 240V input power, as required. With its 2 in 1 design, the effective system gives you the high-power capability to cut thick metals and using the fine-cut consumables cut thin metals with a narrow kerf and clean edge.

Has a maximum clean cut of 1/2 inch and up to 5/8 inch severance cut. A 15 to 30 amps output current range for a 35% duty cycle when at 30 amps. It’s a pilot arc plasma system that is able to cut through any kind of metal even painted or rusted.

It comes with a Duramax LT torch that has a sure, comfy grip made from impact and heat resistant material. You will enjoy cutting through materials faster, easier, and more reliably. Guaranteeing a much long consumables life.

It only uses compressed air and no extra expense for explosive gases. Easy to use one knob interface and built to withstand heavy-duty working environments. The small plasma cutter, Powermax30 XP, delivers high performance in a compact, portable design. Weighing 21 pounds, capable of working off of an engine-driven welding generator. An all-inclusive plasma cutter that comes with all the consumables needed to operate the cutter. It also comes with protective equipment to keep the users protected and comfortable.

2. Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter

Plasma Cutter Reviews

The Hobart Airforce 40i makes it to our list of the best plasma cutters on the market for its efficiency and high-quality cuts. It’s a 240V plasma cutter, inverter-based with an IGBT transistor system that is perfect for the home shop.

It has a pilot arc start and features an auto-refire technology. This portable plasma cutter allows the operator to cut perforated or expanded metals as well as coated or painted surfaces. It has a cutting thickness of 5/8 inch for a clean cut and a maximum severance cut of 7/8 inch. Employing an output current range of 20 to 40 amps, which is quite commendable with a 50% duty cycle at 40 amps.

In addition, it features a trigger safety that protects the user while at work with an efficient air consumption and XT40R torch consumables. The cutter can work for both light and heavy-duty jobs with more precise cut and thinner kerf for less post clean up.

Also, the max open circuit voltage is 400V, which is quite high when compared to other plasma cutters. It weighs 31 pounds and can be powered through a generator for convenience and portability. The set-up is easy, and you can use the single knob to quickly adjust the amperage. Not to mention, cooling fans, wind tunnel design, and overload protection.

Only take note that the Airforce40i does not produce a clean cut when used or dusty or dirty metal. You must have a clean ground to work on. Other than that, the cutter will work perfectly with immediate penetration. With up to 40 Amps of power, this powerful plasma cutter will provide a clean cut on various materials.

3. Forney Easy Weld 20-P Plasma Cutting Machine

Best Plasma Cutter for the Money

Ideal for hobby and home use, the Forney 251 20 P is a 110V plasma cutter that can run off household power outlets or any place with a portable power generator. It weighs less than 22 pounds, lightweight with portable inverter technology.

It features the drag touch arc, which allows the cutting tip to stay in direct contact with the material as you are cutting. You simply drag the cutting torch along the surface. This gives an opportunity for the less skilled to create smooth, consistent cuts.

It has a high cutting capacity with a good duty cycle. Capable of cutting mild steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, and more, up to a quarter inch. It can also cut aluminum up to 3/16 inch. It comfortably works on 20 amps at 35% duty cycle.

The Forney Easy Weld 20 P comes in a full-metal, rugged case. And just as the name suggests, it is easy to use. Designed with one dial and 3 LED light indicators, green, yellow, and red. Equipped with thermal overload protection, internal cooling fans, internal regulator and air dryer, and post-flow cooling for longer consumable life.

It also comes with some useful accessories including a 13 feel cutting torch, an 8 feet ground clamp, an adapter, and one electrode and nozzle to get you started. The Forney 20 P is suitable for metal artwork, auto body repair, cutting pipes and fences. It’s the best plasma cutter for hobbyist and light industrial uses; it makes cutting on the go efficient and clean.

4. PRIMEWELD 50A Air Inverter Plasma Cutter

Best Plasma Cutter for Home Use and Hobbyist

Designed for both home and industrial use, the Primeweld CUT50 is reliable and efficient. It’s a dual-voltage plasma cutter that works with 120 or 240 volts; it offers diversity and user-friendly features.

It can comfortably handle cuts up to 1/2 inch with a max severance thickness of 3/4 inch. Touch contact arc start and can cut a range of materials, including steel, stainless steel, copper, aluminum, and other materials without running into problems.

Air inverter ergonomic design that is based on the popular MOSFET transistors. It has a duty cycle of 60% at 50 amps with a cutting range of 10 to 50 output amperage. Additionally, it features a LED display and analog meters on the front control panel; they are accurate and easy to use.

Moving from one area to another is also not a problem, this handheld plasma cutter is lightweight and compact to allow easy transportation to site areas, weighs only a bit over 22 pounds.

However, the plasma cutter comes with insufficient instructions that do not relate to the product at all. This is the most frustrating part, especially for beginners who would have to go through failed trials to be able to operate properly. That said, it’s the best plasma cutter for the money, and as long as you know your way around plasma cutters, then you should not face any problems and execute clean, precise cuts.

5. Lotos LTP5000D 50 Amp Plasma Cutter

Best Portable Plasma Cutter

The Lotos LTP5000D is a highly efficient plasma cutter that delivers a strong cutting performance in a small and compact package. It delivers an efficient continuous cutting ability on dirty, rusty, and painted metals.

It has a non-touch pilot arc that does not require you to touch the tip to the metal leading to a better cutting quality and safer experience. Has a current range of 10 to 50 amps, along with a good duty cycle of 60% at 50 amps. It also offers dual-voltage and dual-frequency capabilities, which renders it even more effective and versatile.

Inverter-based design with MOSFET transistors, providing high power output for cutting thick metal while delivering a steady output for thinner metals. With an ideal clean cut of up to 1/2 inch and a max severance cut of 3/4 inch. A highly rated plasma cutter that is both lightweight and small, it weighs only 26 pounds.

That said, there are a few problems with the Lotos LTP5000D. First, you might need an extra standoff for the torch. You might also want to stock up on consumables as the machine tends to eat these up. That said, despite its flaws, it’s the best plasma cutter for home use, a great performer incorporating an advanced cooling system that is ideal for DIY jobs and light duty small business projects.

6. Amico Power CUT-50 Plasma Cutter

Best Budget Plasma Cutter

Multi-voltage that automatically adapts to the available power, it can run off 115 and 230 volts. The Amico Power CUT-50 is the best budget plasma cutter; it delivers excellent quality at a reasonable price tag. An inverter plasma cutter system with IGBT transistor allowing for efficient control over the voltage and current.

The CUT-50 comes with an updated meter to the front control panel, an internal filter, and a new digitally controlled amperage. It has a current range of 15 to 50 amps with a duty cycle of 60% when working at 50 amps. Equipped with a digital LED display that allows you to precisely adjust the cutter to any amperage setting required.

Additionally, it has internal high-velocity cooling fans with a wind tunnel design to properly cool off the internal components and prevent any dust or debris from reaching the sensitive inner parts.

It features a high-frequency arc start with an upgraded torch that is more ergonomic and flexible, and it also offers an improved consumables life. Boasts a max cutting thickness of up to 1/2 inch clean cut and a 1 inch thickness severance cut. It works great for small projects and is equally up to the task when it comes to professional use.

The Amico Power CUT-50 handheld plasma cutter weighs only 21 pounds. It’s suitable for outdoor projects and works perfectly with mild steel, stainless steel, steel alloy, copper, and aluminum. Readily available to suit a wide range of uses, including sheet metal fabrication, automotive repair, ducting work, maintenance services, and light industrial use.

Feature/ProductHypertherm Powermax30Hobart Airforce 40iForney 20 PPrimeWeld CUT50Lotos LTP5000DAmico CUT-50
Input Voltage120/240V, 1PH, 50/60Hz240V, 1PH, 60Hz120V, 1PH, 50/60Hz110/220V, 1PH, 50/60Hz110/220V, 1PH, 50/60Hz115/230V, 1PH, 60Hz
Duty Cycle 110V20% @ 30AN/A35% @ 20A60% @ 50A60% @ 35A60% @ 35A
Duty Cycle 220V35% @ 30A50% @ 40AN/A60% @ 50A60% @ 50A60% @ 50A
Inverter TypeIGBTIGBTN/AMOSFETMOSFETIGBT
Gas Flow Rate4.0 scfm4.8 scfm1.5 scfm3.6 scfm3.6 scfm4.5 scfm
Air Pressure68-135 psi90-120 psi60-100 psi55-65 psi60-70 psi45-70 psi
features and options

Select the Best Plasma Cutter in 8 Steps

The biggest hurdle is getting the best plasma cutter that perfectly matches your application. The plasma cutter that you pick will play a basic part in deciding the scope of materials you will have the capacity to cut. And will likewise determine the greatest thickness of the material you will want to cut through. Knowing these parameters before your purchase will be instrumental in getting the perfect one. In short, match your plasma cutter to your work.

  1. Input & Output Power

Similarly, as with obtaining a welder, the sort of plasma cutter you select will determine the sort of work you do. The power output of a plasma cutter will ultimately determine what it can cut. Standard plasma cutters range from 10 to 80 amps and even higher in CNC machines. Higher amperage allows you to cut thicker materials. Consecutively, the power input of the unit is altered to control the cutting capabilities as well.

For instance, 12 amps from a 110V machine will have the capacity to cut most 1/8 inch metal, while 60 amps from a 220V machine will have the capacity to cut most metals that are 7/8 of an inch thick. Also, it’s important to note that a plasma cutter which offers higher amperage will be able to cut through a 1/2 inch metal much faster than one rated at a lower amperage. Both will actually accomplish the job, but it all depends on production time. While speed may not be so important for a hobbyist. But, for production cutting, time may be of the essence.

Higher amperage plasma cutters use both 110V and 220V input. Depending on your working environment and options, you ought to consider what’s more suitable for you. Some plasma cutters also offer dual-voltage capability allowing you to operate using 120/240 volts. For this reason, it’s important to know your needs beforehand, and it will save you time and money down the road.

  1. Cutting Thickness

A plasma cutting machine is known for its speed and precision, which is why it’s overtaking older methods such as oxy-fuel. One of the first things you need to determine is the thickness of the materials you will most frequently cut. The cutting thickness of a plasma cutter refers to the maximum metal thickness that you can comfortably cut while achieving smooth lines. Below are some average amp ratings and their cutting thickness capabilities.

  • 1/4-inch cuts: 25 amps
  • 1/2-inch cuts: 50 amps
  • 3/4-inch cuts: 75 amps

In general, for each extra 1/4 inch of metal thickness, you will need an additional 25 amps of power for your plasma cutter for an optimal cut. Not to be confused with the maximum severance thickness of plasma cutters. The severance thickness implies to the uttermost thickness a plasma cutter can cut through. Cutting metal at the severance thickness extend the chances of leaving slag, dross, or ragged edges. As a result, consider the exact thickness of the metals you plan to cut beforehand.

  1. Duty Cycle

The duty cycle of a plasma cutter measures the time it can work continuously in a 10-minute frame before expecting to relax to avoid overheating the unit. For instance, a plasma cutter with a duty cycle of 40% at 60A, means that you can work for 4 minutes at 60 amps power before having to rest the unit for another 6 minutes. Alternately, using lower amperage extends the duty cycle up to 100%.

A long duty cycle will be perfect for making long cuts or profound cuts on extensive bits of metal, while a shorter duty cycle is perfect for a home shop where a progression of little cuts is made routinely.

  1. Arc Starting Method

There is two main arc starting methods for plasma cutters; high-frequency contact arc and non-touch pilot arc. Contact arc is the most common method. It has the benefits of being able to start on rusty or heavily painted surfaces. However, it’s the most dangerous in terms of hazards. It can also interfere with electrical equipment causing damage to nearby computers. As a result, this method is not preferred. On the other hand, pilot or lift arc is the more convenient method. Due to being safer, this is the preferred method and is found mainly on high-end plasma cutters. Note that the best rated plasma cutter will have both starting options.

  1. Compressed Air Supply

Plasma cutters require a clean air supply to protect the metal cut from contamination as well as to keep the components cool. Standard plasma cutters work by an external air compressor. While some plasma cutters have built-in air compressors. The best plasma cutter with built in compressor will allow for absolute mobility, especially if your job requires you to move to different locations frequently.

  1. Portability

If your work requires portability, then the weight will play a part in your choice. Designing advances in the best portable plasma cutters achieved a lightweight framework without output power restrictions. Certain plasma cutters accommodate various voltages, which is great if you intend to work outdoors and obtain power from a generator. When working in the field, sometimes the only source of power comes from an engine-driven welding generator. In this case, a lightweight plasma cutter with carrying handles would be a perfect choice. The actual process of operating a hand-held plasma cutter is also straightforward.

Additionally, there are inverter-based plasma cutters that give high cutting output power, yet are more light-weight than conventional cutting machines while also offering similar cutting capabilities.

  1. Consumables Costs

You also ought to think about the working expenses. Plasma cutting torches have a variety of items that wear out from use and require replacement. These are generally called consumables. Plasma consumables life can change altogether from one brand to another. Longer consumable life is vital as it lessens downtime for change-outs and brings down the cost you pay for new consumables. Numerous brands utilize protected innovation to expand plasma consumables life, while additionally conveying top-notch cuts.

Look at the brand’s specifications for how long a consumable will last. Some brands will measure consumables life by the number of starts, while others will measure it by the number of cuts.

  1. Additional Features

Some plasma cutting machines are less demanding to use than others. You ought to likewise think about unwavering quality. All in all, the most solid plasma cutters are built with fewer parts, utilize a programming system, are fabricated to ISO measures, and are sufficiently tested with good warranties.

user-friendly features
  • User-friendly control: A big and easy to read control panel is very convenient to have, especially for beginners. It practically allows a person with zero experience to operate and get great outcomes. Despite experience level, it will enable you to finish jobs quickly and with great quality, keeping time-delicate tasks on the plan.
  • Cooling fans: Consider a unified fan arrangement to acquire cool air through the focal point of the framework, where the most thermally delicate segments are found. It also restricts grinding dust and debris from entering the internal sensitive components of the unit. In addition to extended consumables life due to less heat exposure and overall longevity of the machine.
  • A nozzle in place sensor: With this feature, the plasma cutter will not initiate an arc unless the nozzle is in place. This is a safety option that prevents the operator from being exposed to unsafe conditions.
  • Pre-flow sequence: This feature gives the operator an early warning before the arc starts to safely make sure all body parts are away from the torch before the arc initiates.

In a perfect world, you need a clean, smooth edge cut, so you don’t invest a lot of energy in post-job cleaning. Cut quality in better plasma cutters makes a much smaller kerf (cut width), which implies more exact cuts and less jagged edges.

What is a Plasma Cutter?

To fully comprehend what a plasma cutter is, we must first understand the process of plasma cutting. Plasma cutting is the process of cutting through electrically conductive matter by the use of an accelerated stream of hot plasma. Matter changes from one state to another by adding energy; in this case, it’s heat. We commonly know the three states of matter, which are gas, liquid, and solid. Then what is plasma? Plasma is regarded as the fourth state of matter.

For example, ice (solid) will change into water (liquid) when exposed to a certain amount of heat. Then water will turn to steam (gas) when exposed to higher amounts of heat. Now, if the heat levels increase again, the steam becomes an ionized gas consisting of free electrons and positive ions proportionally, resulting in no overall electric charge. By increasing the heat steadily, the gases develop into steam that is electrically conductive, resulting in this state known as plasma.

Plasma is more like a gas, but it behaves differently from one. It is what scientists refer to as collective behavior. It also looks and emulates high-temperature gas but is different because it conducts electricity and cuts through any electrically conductive metal.

How does a Plasma Cutter Work?

pilot arc and high frequency arc for plasma cutters

Plasma cutting machines work by sending an electric arc into the gas that is passing through the constricted opening nozzle inside the torch. The gas can be air, nitrogen, argon, oxygen, just to name a few. Introducing heat elevates the temperature and pressure of the gas to the point that it enters the 4th state of matter.

The gas passing through the restricted nozzle opening causes it to squeeze and accelerate at high speed (20,000 ft./s) and a very high temperature (up to 40,000° F) piercing towards the workpiece. This high-speed gas cuts through the molten metal. This will mechanically blow off the molten metal from the workpiece, thus severing the material. Additionally, the gas is also directed around the perimeter of the cutting area to shield the cut.

Plasma cutters are the go-to tool for cutting metal. The plasma cutter consists of three main parts which are; the power source, arc starting console, and the plasma torch. You may also be interested to learn more about MIG welders and TIG welders.

What is a Plasma Cutter Used For?

A plasma cutter is the best machine for cutting metal. The usual materials cut with a plasma cutting machine include brass, copper, steel, aluminum, and stainless steel. Although this list is not inconclusive. Plasma cutting is often used in automotive repair, restoration shops, fabrication shops, industrial construction, scrapping, plumping, and salvage operations. Due to the precision cuts, low costs, and high speed, plasma cutting is commonly used in large-scale industrial with CNC applications. Not to mention, it is also used by artists for creating metal art works, small hobbyist shops, and home enthusiasts.

Plasma cutting is a highly efficient way of cutting thick and thin materials. The hand-held torches can separate up to 1.5 inches thick steel plate. While even stronger, computer-controlled torches can cut 6 inches of steel. Plasma cutters typically produce a super-hot and highly localized cone to cut, which makes them very useful for cutting sheet metal in angled or curved shapes.

To use a plasma cutter, you must have a clean surface that ensures you get a clean cut. In addition, a decent ground is critical for a plasma cutter. In the first place, the circular segment won’t maintain itself if there isn’t a strong ground. Practice safe plasma to avoid this from happening. And never forget to wear a suitable safety gear, including an auto-darkening welding helmet during operation, you can also check our cool welding helmets comparison.

Bottom Line

Purchasing a plasma cutter can be quite stressful if you are unsure of what to look for. You are making a long-term investment and desire to make the best decision. This article focused on what a plasma cutter is and what are the factors to consider to get the best plasma cutter. Focus on what you want to work with and check our plasma cutter reviews from the best plasma cutting machine brands on the market and in-depth guides and comparison charts for more help. We hope this has been beneficial to you. Have any question where we can help! Then get in contact with us through the comments section.

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