Plasma Cutter Reviews
Plasma cutting technology has advanced to a point where portable plasma cutters are now well within the budgets of both professionals and hobbyists alike. Below you’ll be able to see side-by-side comparisons of the best plasma cutters, and then you’ll be able to find short plasma cutter reviews for the top 3 cutters. You can click through to see a more detailed review.
Lotos LTP5000D Pilot Arc
Hypertherm Powermax 45
Miller Spectrum 375
|Reviewer Comments||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review||Read Review|
|Value For Money||5||4.8||4.4||4||4.2|
|Severance thickness||3/4" (19mm)||3/4" (19mm)||1" (25.4mm)||1" (25.4mm)||5/8" (15.8mm)|
|Ideal cutting thickness||1/2" (12.7mm)||1/2" (12.7mm)||3/4" (19mm)||1/2" (12.7mm)||3/4" (19mm)|
|Duty cycle||60% @ 50A||60% @ 50A||60% @ 50A||60% @41A||50% @40A|
|Input Voltage||110/220V||110/220V||110/220v||200/240V 34/28A||110/115/120V, 220/230/240V|
|Amperage||50 Amp||50 Amp||50 Amp||45 Amp||14A – 30A|
|Cooling System||PAPST Advanced German Cooling System||PAPST Advanced German Cooling System||PAPST Advanced German Cooling System||Powercool™ technology||Fan-On-Demand cooling system|
|Portablility||Foldable Handle||Foldable Handle||Foldable Handle||Steel Handle||Shoulder Strap|
|Weight||26lbs (11.8kg)||22.5lbs (10.2kg)||19lbs (8.6kg)||37lbs (17kg) with 20' (6.1m) torch||19 lb (8.6 kg)|
|Value For Money|
|Warranty||1 Year||1 Year||1 Year Parts & Labor||1 Year (Power Supply 3 Years)||1 Year Parts & Labor|
Our Best Plasma Cutter Reviews
#1 Best Overall – Lotos LTP5000DThe Lotos LTP5000D surprised us with its combination of low price point (it’s probably one of the cheapest plasma cutters we’ve come across), ease of use and quality cuts. While we don’t recommended it for heavy industrial use, this cutter is perfect for DIY/hobbyists and light business needs due to its light-weight, small dimensions and portability. We tested the unit by attempting to cut alloy steel, stainless steel, copper, mild steel, and aluminum and were impressed that it managed to handle them all with ease. Since the Lotos LTP5000D comes with a pilot arc, we then attempted to cut some painted and rusted materials which cheaper cutters notoriously have difficulty with – but the LTP5000D cut right through them with no problems at all. We also noticed the smoothness of the cut when trying out both thin and thicker metals, highlighting the state-of-the-art MOSFET transistor inverter technology claimed by the unit.
Our main issue with the unit was the lack of a torch trigger guard (the trigger could be bumped by mistake), and the fact that the unit does not come included with a 110 volt pigtail, which must be bought seperately. Overall, the increased power and ease of use makes the LTP5000D one of the best plasma cutters for the money, and is our top pick for the best all round cutter on the market today. Overall we gave this cutter a solid 4.8/5 stars.
#2 Best Value – Lotos LT5000DThe Lotos brand brings so much value at such a low price point that our second pick goes to the Lotos LT5000D for best value. While not as feature-rich or powerful as its LTP5000D counterpart, the Lotos LT5000D is still an excellent plasma cutter suitable for DIY/hobbyists and light welding jobs. This handy dual-voltage unit is very easy to set up and use, and can cut through most metals with ease (but don’t attempt to use it on rusted/painted metals as the unit does not come with a pilot arc.) The unit is light-weight, small and portable as well as rugged enough to be used in even harsh environments. We also noticed the consumables lasted for a lot longer then we expected, so there’s a good cost saving with consumables as well.
Our main issue with the Lotos LT5000D was the lack of power plugs (must be bought separately), and the lack of a pilot arc. We also felt the smoothness of the cuts were lacking in comparison with the LTP5000D unit. Overall, as one of the most affordable plasma cutters on the market today, the LT5000D definitely has a place in every DIY/hobbyists toolbox – though if you’re looking for something more heavy-duty or the quality of the cut is very important, you might want to take a pass on this one.
#3 Top Contender – Ramsond CUT 50DYWhile the Ramsond CUT 50DY came in third on our list, quality-wise it is without a doubt the best plasma cutter in its price range. We challenged the cutter with stainless steel, carbon steel, alloy steel, copper, brass and aluminum plate and were impressed with the smooth cuts and the machine’s ease of use. While a good option for the DIY/hobbyist with a little more coin to spare, this plasma cutting machine is also a good fit for professional use and heavier/industrial needs. It contains a built-in air pressure gauge and digital display for added convenience. With a 1″(25.4mm) severance thickness and 3/4″(19mm) ideal cutting thickness, the Ramsond CUT 50DY can handle thick materials with no problem at all.
Our main gripe with the unit is the lifetime of the consumables (they’re made of ceramic), which means you’ll be swapping them out every so often. On the other hand, this advanced unit offers features and power that simply cannot be found on other plasma cutters within this price range, placing it head-and-shoulders above many of the more expensive cutters. For this reason we gave the unit a solid 4.6/5 stars.
How to Choose a Plasma Cutter
While plasma cutters come in all shapes and sizes, from massive CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines for industrial use to cheaper, portable plasma cutters, here we will be focusing on the portable variety most suited to hobbyists, DIYers, artists and light cutting business needs. Plasma cutting machines are used to cut through various types of metal through the use of super-heated ionized gas known as plasma. Their uses vary from cutting different shapes and designs in the creation of metal art, to cutting rough sheets of metal in industries such as auto repair shops, salvage yards, and construction sites. Nowadays plasma cutters are the de-facto method of cutting metal in professional and home environments as their prices have been drastically reduced in recent years, and their cut quality and ease of use are second to none.
What Should You Look For In a Plasma Cutter
There are several things to take into account before making a purchase. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:
Inverter: Yes or No
Not all plasma cutters come with a built-in inverter. Those that do are more expensive but the added price is often offset by the unit’s added portability. The inverter takes direct current (DC) and feeds it through a high-frequency transistor inverter, generally, from 10 kHz to about 200 kHz. This allows the unit to be much smaller in size and thus easier to transport by those who offer mobile services and need to transport the unit with them.
Pricing on plasma cutters can be effected by its power specs as this determines how thick a piece of metal it can cut and how fast it can do so. Power specs are based on two things: voltage and amperage.
Machines that only operate off regular 110/120V wall outlets are less expensive, but restricted in the level of work they can do. Plasma cutters that offer dual-voltage capabilities can also work off of 220/240V heavy-duty utility junctions, and are able to cut thicker materials. They cost a bit more.
The more you know about amperage and how it affects your plasma cutter the better you will be able to get the right cutter. Plasma cutters use electrical currents which are measured in amps (A) in order to generate the cutting arc. Cutters are available in a variety of rated amps, and consumers must match the amps with the thicknesses of metal they plan to cut and the available power source they will be using.
Most cutters for home use produce between 40 and 50 amps. This is fine for most cutting jobs. Units that double as welders often produce up to 200 amps and are more expensive.
For cutting metals that are 1/4-inch thick or less, a low-cost, low-amperage cutter can be used, as low as 25 amps will work. For cutting 1/2-inch-thick metals, 50 amps is acceptable. However, if the metal is more than 3/4 to 1 inch thick, 80-amp or more is best.
Amperage and cutting speed are related as well. A basic rule of thumb is: the higher the amperage, the faster you’ll be able to cut.
Indicators and Controls:
All cutters must have at least a power switch and some way to adjust for the proper current setting for the type of material being cut. Above that, many modern cutters now include LED indicators that are easy to read, located on the front panel of the unit and cost a bit more. Some units come with precise digital controls or very high-quality inverters, again, a bit more expensive.
Some cutters can only be used indoors, however, there are many cutters that now come in housings that allow them to be used in variety of conditions. The more secure housing units may cost a bit more than the less secured units, but for those who work outdoors, the added cost is well worth it.
Many of the most modern plasma cutters come with certain automated functions that, as you might imagine, add to the cost. One of the most popular automated functions are cooling fans that operate only when needed and shut off when not needed. There are many other types of auto-functions as well and units that do not include these are generally less expensive.
The duty cycle specification can also relate to cost. Duty cycle refers to the percentage of working (cutting) time to non-working (cooling off) time. For example, a 70 percent duty cycle means that in a period of 10 minutes, seven minutes can be used for cutting continuously, followed by three minutes of cooling off time.
Consumables include the nozzle and the electrode. Manufacturer specifications will include the expected lifetime of the consumables. Depending on how much you’ll be using your cutter, buying a more expensive plasma cutter that has a longer consumables life, may end up saving money in the long run.
Different plasma cutter models will offer different cut qualities. Those that offer a finer, more precise cut may cost more, but usually not by much. Even so, for those who will only be doing rough cutting, savings may be found here.
Before Buying Your New Plasma Cutter:
If you have not already decided which unit you’d like to buy, here are a couple of things to keep in mind in addition to the above.
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is the machine’s cut rating. This refers to the thickness of material that you will be able to cut cleanly while moving the tip at about 10 inches per minute (IPM). Remember that the cut rating is in direct relation and proportion to the machine’s output amperage which can be found on the spec sheet.
Second, select a plasma cutter that cuts the metal thickness you will be cutting most often. If you do not expect to cut through ¾ metal then there is no reason to buy such a heavy-duty machine. There is an exception to this rule, however, and it is important.
If you will begin many of your cuts by piercing the metal, as opposed to starting from an outside edge, then you should seriously consider selecting a cutter that is capable of cutting twice the thickness you will need. It is important that the cutter be able to pierce the material quickly, or molten material can splash back onto the tip of the torch and that will greatly shorten tip life. An affordable way to get around this problem is to check out the LTP5000D which is an excellent choice for home DIY jobs and light duty small business projects.
Important Note About Air Compressors:
Virtually all plasma cutters require the use of an external air compressor. There are a very few models, light-duty in nature, that do not, but for the vast majority of cutters, you will need to have an air compressor to create the pressurized air flow needed to operate the cutter.
Consumers should select the model of plasma cutter that they want before they buy the air compressor. Each plasma cutter has its own air pressure and air flow requirements which you can find on its “Specifications” sheet. The air compressor must be able to meet this requirement or performance will suffer a great deal. Match the air compressor to the cutter; not the other way around.