For anyone who routinely works with metal, a plasma cutter is an essential tool.
It can help you cut intricate patterns quickly and accurately.
It is the fastest and most effective way to get your metal stock sized appropriately prior to welding. It reduces the risk of electric shock and makes it possible to improve the speed and efficiency of your metal work, whether professionally or as a hobby.
The machines are simple to use and there are many of them on the market.
Here, we have compiled five top rated plasma cutters covering the different uses and setups generally found.
- Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter ( Check Price >> )
- 2016 AHP AlphaCut 60 60 Amp Plasma Cutter ( Check Price >> )
- 2015 Everlast PowerPro 164 160a Tig Stick Pulse 40a Plasma Cutter ( Check Price >> )
- Plasma Cutter, Inverter, Spectrum 375 ( Check Price >> )
- Lotos LTP8000 80Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Air Plasma Cutter ( Check Price >> )
All five of these machines will help you make straight precision cuts no matter the length of the metal you are cutting, and some offer the same accuracy for metals over ½ inch thick. Several different gasses can be used with a plasma butter but the most common, by a long shot, is compressed air.
Plasma cutting does not rely on oxidation.
A strong unit, such as those describe here, will allow maximum airflow to the workpiece, ensuring the best accuracy when cutting.
Plasma cutting is increasingly popular because it is easy for beginners to learn and get good at and has a lower risk of both cutting inaccuracy and injury than other forms of metal cutting.
Generally, these devices will help you get through your projects quicker than more traditional methods- a great way to impress clients or get a bunch of work done at home.
- Brief Review of 3 Best Plasma Cutters 2016
- 1. Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, Dual Voltage 110V/220V, 1/2 Inch Clean Cut
- 2. 2016 AHP AlphaCut 60 60 Amp plasma cutter 110v / 220v DUAL VOLTAGE
- 3. 2015 Everlast PowerPro 164 160a Tig Stick Pulse 40a Plasma Cutter 110v/220v Multi Process Welder
- 4. Plasma Cutter, Inverter, Spectrum 375
- 5. Plasma Cutter Pilot Arc 220V IGBT 80Amp Lotos LTP8000 Cuts Thicker Metals
- Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
- Head to Head Comparison
- Final Conclusion
Brief Review of 3 Best Plasma Cutters 2016
Let’s take a closer look at five of the most popular plasma cutters on the market today. We have narrowed down the dozens of plasma cutter options to just five for you, since we believe they are the best ones available. Here are brief details about each one:
1. Lotos LTP5000D 50Amp Non-Touch Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter, Dual Voltage 110V/220V, 1/2 Inch Clean Cut
Simplicity is the name of the game with this plasma cutter.
It is ideal for home situations – if you have projects that require the cutting of stainless steel, carbon steel, or aluminum that is less than 1/8 inch thick, this product will be all you need.
Set up is easy and there is no gas required.
Also not required are external pieces of equipment or extraneous setup. Set yours up to 220V or somewhere in that ballpark. If you have a 5HP air compressor than cutting up to ¼ inch steel should not be a problem. Set the controller on the front of the unit to 35 amps.
You get what you pay for here.
Like I said before, this unit is ideal for home projects- you will not want to use it in the field or in client or business type situations. The real market here is homeowners that do not want to spend a ridiculous amount of money on a plasma cutter. The cutter comes with a 220v twist lock cord (this may vary- it is possible that you will need to buy an adapter to fit your plug if you do not have one already). As far as air pressure, it utilizes 3.6 cfm at approximately 60 psi, gives or take.
The downside of this cutter is that it can get overwhelmed. Thicker materials tend to take a while and make it easier to slip off course or become fatigued.
2. 2016 AHP AlphaCut 60 60 Amp plasma cutter 110v / 220v DUAL VOLTAGE
With 60 amps of professional cutting power and Continuous Pilot Arc, this unit is a step up for hobbyists and allows the cutting of rusted and tainted or painted metals.
While it is a commercial class unit, it is on the bottom end of that spectrum. It operates on 110 volt and 220-volt outlets, but for optimal performance, it is necessary to use the 220-volt option. Get a 220 v receptacle if necessary- it makes using this plasma cutter much easier and more effective. The only flimsy part of this cutter is the circuit board, which may become overwhelmed and stop working. It can be repaired within a month by contacting the manufacturer.
A nice thing about the AlphaCut 60 60 is its size.
Users get a commercial grade product with easy maneuverability and all features necessary to run it. The user interface and dashboard are straight forward and simple, requiring little learning and easy mastering. At 60 amps, it runs 60% duty cycle and has blow back start technology. It is possible to drag cut with this unit- the tip is kept slightly above the work surface by a collar that prevents it from dropping. This collar can be taken off and replaced with a circle cutter or roller guide that are bought separately.
All in all, the AlphaCut 60 60 is dependable and the brand’s customer service ensures that even if a problem happens, it can be fixed quickly and the cutter will work like new.
3. 2015 Everlast PowerPro 164 160a Tig Stick Pulse 40a Plasma Cutter 110v/220v Multi Process Welder
Here with the Everlast PowerPro, we are starting to get into the more heavy duty plasma cutters.
This unit is a 110 volt/220 volt adaptable cutter that also serves as a welder that can do 3/16 inch weld on an AC TIG single pass. The stick works very well and can be effective in a shop. The duty cycle may get overwhelmed if used too much in a heavy duty setting, but other than that you will find it to be consistent and effective for both hobbyists and professionals. The instructions that come with the unit are a bit sloppy but help can be found on the Everlast website.
The cutter has a pulse feature that allows users to dial the pulse at any point during operation. Standard parts and predictable torch are easily recognizable to anyone with experience in the field. It comes with a 120v power adapter and will TIG weld direct current (DC) for steel and Alternating Current (AC) for aluminum. Very simple to learn and easy to master once you get past the poor directions. The problem is that this unit offers no clear advantage outside of the pulse feature.
4. Plasma Cutter, Inverter, Spectrum 375
Miller Electric brings users into the world of heavy duty metal cutting with the Spectrum 375.
The device has a rated output of 30A, an input voltage of 208/240 volt and runs strong at both 110v and 220v more consistently than some of the smaller units.
It is recommended to read the manual that comes in the package before using- but also in that package is a heavy duty work clamp, MVP plugs, shoulder strap, case, and extra consumables. The torch is an XT30 and will not have any problem cutting through solids up to 3/8 inch.
One downside to units this heavy duty is that they require an external air supply.
This unit does not work well with extension cords, as it has a tendency to trip breakers. For its size, this machine packs a big power punch and performance wise is the most consistent product on the market. The cuts are clean, smooth, and overall this cutter has a low impact on work sites and remains small enough to be portable- making it the ideal plasma cutter for those who split their time between a home shop or regular base and visiting off-site jobs. It also works as an inverter.
There is a reason it is hard to find anyone saying bad things about the Spectrum 375- it is the top rated plasma cutter. It is worth the cost because of its longevity and ability to easily cut through thicker materials than its cheaper counterparts.
5. Plasma Cutter Pilot Arc 220V IGBT 80Amp Lotos LTP8000 Cuts Thicker Metals
For cutting thick metals, this is the unit you want to your shop.
The price point is attractive and the user interface and control board are very straight forward.
It will cut through ¾ inch steel and metals and thin gauge sheets while giving the impression that it could go further- don’t test it too much or you risk causing the arc not to strike, but know that the machine can handle itself with the big boys. It is a bit bigger than others, 12x19x8 and weighing 45 pounds, so while moveable it is not the most easily transportable unit. It is best as a shop unit that stays put. It draws amps well- an 80 amp cut draws 41 amps and a 40 amp cut draws 20.5- very good. It also comes it with plug in to be controlled by a CNC table.
This product is built for thicker steels and materials and handles as such.
Be careful when using it on thinner metals because it will cut through very easily and you’ll want to maintain a sturdy grip.
On the downside, the consumables are of poor quality. Users will want to buy better triggers and such separately. The torch is another thing that can be replaced if it causes problems.
Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
Plasma cutters are used to cut through steel, aluminum, copper, and other electrically conductive materials.
The process shoots an accelerated jet of hot plasma, also known as ionized gas, through the object. Plasma cutters are effective because they are high speed, low risk, and there are units that are affordable depending on what your intended use is. It is recommended to watch some videos to get an idea of how they work if you have not used one before.
For many heavier units, you will need to have an external supply of compressed air to operate the cutter.
The best plasma cutters to buy are newer models – within the last decade, manufacturers have engineered models with smaller nozzles and a thinner plasma arc. Modern units also swirl, divide, and recombine the air with the flame. This increases accuracy and precision while reducing danger and inconvenience.
Higher end plasma cutters have combined improved CNC control in order to minimize or eliminate finishing.
To minimize the impact on workspaces, set up a designated area for your plasma cutting to take place. Keep it clean and free of other objects.
Always have safety goggles and gloves on hand and dress appropriately- this is not light work and as such safety is to be taken seriously.
Here are some things to consider when in the marked for a plasma cutter:
- What amount of space is available- i.e. a garage, a shed, a shop, etc.
- The thickness of the material you intend to cut.
- How often and to what degree you intend to use the cutter. Long periods of continuous use or short periods? Will you be using it for work related purposes or only at home? If only for home, stick with a smaller, cheaper unit and don’t buy one of the commercial or industrial cutters as they are too expensive and unnecessary.
- Be sure you have protective eyewear. Typically, a darkness shade of #7 to #9 is adequate, as you will not need the full protection necessary with welding. Obviously, you will need to wear protective gloves as well.
- Do you need the unit to be portable? Look for one with a built-in air compressor.
Highlight features to consider when buying a plasma cutter:
- Control panel: Obviously, users want a good user interface. The control panel is how you will be running the device so take a look at it before buying to see if there is anything confusing or not straight forward in how the machine operates. Plasma cutters are typically pretty easy to use, but this all depends on the control panel. Be sure to have the instruction manual or watch videos online if there is anything you don’t understand.
- Start: Plasma cutters typically will have two types of starters- a contact start, and a high frequency start to initiate pilot arc. If you will be using the cutter near electronic devices or other metals that transit electricity, look for a strong contact start because the high frequency start can create a lot of interference with the electronics. Additionally, more manual control is possible with the contact start and that increases arc visibility and positioning.
- Duty cycle: If you will be using the plasma cutter for short periods at a time, look for maximum amperage output. This means the plasma cutter will have more duty cycle than if the amperage output were lower. If you will be using it continuously for long periods of time, buy according to the average thickness of the metals, and you will likely need a lower average amperage output to sustain the arc through the cutting cycle.
- Cutting Speed:
- In higher use and more professional situations, look for a rated cut speed. This cuts thinner metals at maximum speed with a clean cut.
- For thicker materials, look into a Quality cut rated plasma cutter. This maximizes accuracy on thicker metals with a slower cut.
- Sever cut is a slow cut for maximum precision on thick materials. These cuts are sloppier than the other two ratings and require more clean up. It takes a while to cut through thick materials with these machines but it will get the job done.
- Input power: Typically, plasma cutters are designed for either 110 volt outlets or 220 volt outlets. Sometimes they will have an adapter for both. It is imperative that the amperage rating of the plasma cutter you are looking to buy can be met by the outlet you are looking to use. If other appliances are plugged into the outlet, the amount of power delivered to the plasma cutter will be reduced, so it is recommended to not have anything else plugged in at the time of use. If you will be using the plasma cutter frequently, dedicate an outlet specifically for your cutter.
- Air supply: Normal air works for most handheld plasma cutters. Bottled nitrogen is another delivery method that some cutters use. Nitrogen is typically cheaper than bottled air and is drier for cutting stainless steel. Many of the machines that cut only thinner materials will have a built-in air compressor, but the heavy duty plasma cutters will not. If you will be transporting the cutter frequently, a built-in air compressor makes the process much easier.
- Built-in inverter: For remote work sites, plasma cutters with built-in converters can take DC power and convert it to power the unit. It feeds the power through a high-frequency transistor-invertor increasing to 200KHz. These cutters are typically more expensive but save the cost of buying additional materials for portability.
Head to Head Comparison
On the opposite end of that, the Spectrum 375 is the strongest unit right out of the box and requires the least amount of maintenance after some use. While the AlphaCut 60 is not the best overall product on the market, it advertises itself as the best for cutting tainted metals and it holds true there.
The most versatile unit is the Spectrum 375 because of its wide range of cutting abilities and portability, making it the most dependable unit here.
Looking back at the Buying Guide, making a decision on which top rated plasma cutter is right for you comes down to the thickness of materials to be cut, the frequency of use, and whether or not you will be mobile.
The Spectrum 375 is the plasma cutter that satisfies these categories the best. It is for the serious worker or hobbyist looking to have a unit long term.
If this is you, go with the Spectrum 375.
For beginners or those who will not use the unit all that much and don’t need to cut materials over ¼ inch thick, the Lotos LTP5000D is your best bet because of the low-risk factor. Rest assured knowing this – all five of these products are top rated partially because of the quality customer service you will receive if there are problems with the unit.