Best Plasma Cutter Guide for 2019 & Plasma Cutter Reviews

by John Ward 2 Comments

Plasma cutters are an extremely popular tool for cutting metals and automotive work. They cut with speed, precision and can cut any conductive metal. Below is our buyer’s guide, comparison table and our top picks for plasma cutters for a variety of cutting thicknesses and including the best with built in air compressors.

Click any of the links below to find which welder is best suited for your needs.

Best Plasma Cutters Comparison Table

NameSpecsMore
Sungoldpower 50A
BEST CHEAP PLASMA CUTTER
SUNGOLDPOWER 50A
Ideal Cutting: 1/4 in
Severance Thickness: 3/8 in
Duty Cycle: 60% @ 50A
Input Voltage: 110/220V
Max Amperage: 50A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Lotos LT5000D
Lotos LT5000D
Ideal Cutting: 1/2 in
Severance Thickness: 3/4 in
Duty Cycle: 60% @ 50A
Input Voltage: 110/220V
Max Amperage: 50A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Lotos LTP5000D
BEST FOR THE MONEY UNDER $500
Lotos LTP5000D
Ideal Cutting: 1/2 in
Severance Thickness: 3/4 in
Duty Cycle: 60% @ 50A
Input Voltage: 110/220V
Max Amperage: 50A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hobart Airforce 12ci
BEST UNDER $1000
Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci
Ideal Cutting: 1/8 in
Severance Thickness: 1/4 in
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 12V
Input Voltage: 110V
Max Amperage: 12A
Air Compressor: Yes
See Price
Hobart Airforce 27i
Hobart 500565 Airforce 27i
Ideal Cutting: 3/8 in
Severance Thickness: 5/8 in
Duty Cycle: 20% @ 27A 120V / 35% @ 27A 240V
Input Voltage: 120/240V
Max Amperage: 27A
Air Compressor: No
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Miller Spectrum 375
Miller Spectrum 375
Ideal Cutting: 3/8 in
Severance Thickness: 5/8 in
Duty Cycle: 35% @30A 240V/20%@27A 120A
Input Voltage: 120/240V
Max Amperage: 30A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hobart Airforce 40i
Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i
Ideal Cutting: 5/8 in
Severance Thickness: 7/8 in
Duty Cycle: 50% @ 40A
Input Voltage: 240V
Max Amperage: 40A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hypertherm Powermax 30
BEST UNDER $1500
hypertherm 30
Ideal Cutting: 1/2 in
Severance Thickness: 5/8 in
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 30A
Input Voltage: 120/240V
Max Amperage: 30A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hypertherm Powermax 30 Air
BEST WITH AIR COMPRESSOR
Hypertherm Powermax 30 air
Ideal Cutting: 3/8 in
Severance Thickness: 5/8 in
Duty Cycle: 35% @ 30A
Input Voltage: 120/240V
Max Amperage: 40A
Air Compressor: Yes
See Price
Miller Spectrum 625
Miller Spectrum 625
Ideal Cutting: 5/8 in
Severance Thickness: 7/8 in
Duty Cycle: 50% @ 40A 240V / 35% @ 20A 120V
Input Voltage: 120/240V
Max Amperage: 40A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hypertherm Powermax 45 XP
Hypertherm Powermax45
Ideal Cutting: 7/8 in
Severance Thickness: 1 1/8 in
Duty Cycle: 50% @ 45A
Input Voltage: 240V
Max Amperage: 45A
Air Compressor: No
See Price
Hypertherm Powermax 65
Hypertherm Powermax 65
Ideal Cutting: 1 in
Severance Thickness: 1 1/4 in
Duty Cycle: 50% @ 65A
Input Voltage: 240V
Max Amperage: 65A
Air Compressor: No
See Price

Best Cheap Plasma Cutter

Hobart Airforce 12ci

SUNGOLDPOWER 50A plasma cutter
1. Brand name:
SUNGOLD POWER
2. Model: 50A Air Plasma Cutter
3. Height: 15.7 in
4. Length: 19.3in
5. Width: 10.2 in
6. Duty Cycle: 60% @ 50A
7. Input Voltage: 110/220V
8. Product weight: 29lb
9. Ideal Cut: 1/4 in
10. Sever Cut: 3/8 in
11. Max Amps: 50A
12. Air Compressor: No

I wouldn’t usually recommend such as cheap machine, but it does a good job for the money. Don’t get me wrong, this is incomparable to a quality unit like a Hypertherm, but it’s my favorite of all the super cheap Chinese ones. If you’re planning on buying a plasma cutter only for very occasional use then I recommend this. It runs off 110V and 220V and packs a some decent power.

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Best Plasma Cutter for the Money Under $500

1. Lotos LTP5000D2. Lotos LT5000D

Lotos LTP5000D1. Brand name: Lotos
2. Model: 
LTP5000D
3. Height:
12 in
4. Length:
15 in
5. Width:
6 in
6. Duty Cycle: 
60% @ 50A
7. Input Voltage: 
110/220V
8. Product weight:
22.5 lb
9. Ideal Cut:
 1/2 in
10. Sever Cut:
3/4 in
11. Max Amps:
50A
12. Air Compressor:
No

The Lotos LTP5000D is another plasma cutter with a really low price point that performs well. This is a great choice to hobbyists that want something for casual use and don’t want to spent too much money. It has pilot arc so will cut cleanly through rusty or painted metal unlike other cheap machines. It does go through consumables quickly and won’t stand up to frequent use like the big brand plasma cutters, but it has a pretty smooth cut and is definitely good enough for home DIY jobs. Overall we think it’s the best bang for buck machine there is.

See Price

Lotos LT5000D1. Brand name: Lotos
2. Model: 
LT5000D
3. Height:
12 in
4. Length:
15 in
5. Width:
6 in
6. Duty Cycle: 
60% @ 50A
7. Input Voltage: 
110/220V
8. Product weight:
20.9 lb
9. Ideal Cut: 
1/2 in
10. Sever Cut:
3/4 in
11. Max Amps:
50A
12. Air Compressor:
No 

This model is pretty much exactly the same as the Lotos LTP5000D but without the pilot arc, so you won’t be able to cut through any rusted metal. Again it’s a great choice for DIY hobbyists and light workshop jobs where the quality of the cut isn’t that important but you want some pretty good results at a very reasonable price.

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Best Plasma Cutter Under $1000

Hobart Airforce 12ci

Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci1. Brand name: Hobart
2. Model:
Airforce 12ci
3. Height:
10 in
4. Length:
13 in 
5. Width:
8.25 in 
6. Duty Cycle: 
35% @ 12V
7. Input Voltage:
110V
8. Product weight:
25.1 lb
9. Ideal Cut: 
1/8 in
10. Sever Cut: 
1/4 in 
11. Max Amps:  
12A
12. Air Compressor:
Yes

Our favorite plasma cutter under $1000 is the Hobart Airforce 12ci. The best feature about this is that is has a built in air compressor. This means you’ll never have to worry about connected it up to an air compressor and will be able to use it whenever you like. It’s not as powerful as some of the other cutters because it only runs off 110V, but still gives good results on thinner metal. It’s a great little unit that is built with Hobart quality and is a great choice for people who don’t require that much power but want a quality plasma cutter.

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Best Plasma Cutter Under $1500

1. Hypertherm Powermax 30 XPHobart Airforce 40ci

hypertherm 301. Brand name: Hypertherm
2. Model: 
Powermax 30 XP
3. Height:
12 in
4. Length:
14 in
5. Width:
6.6 in 
6. Duty Cycle: 
35% @ 30A
7. Input Voltage: 
120/240V 
8. Product weight:
20 lb
9. Ideal Cut: 
1/2 in 
10. Sever Cut: 
5/8 in
11. Max Amps:
30A
12. Air Compressor:
No

The Hypertherm Powermax 30 XP is an exceptional plasma cutter. Hypertherm take immense care when designing their units and put them together with unrivaled care (right here in the US). You know you’re going to get great results with a Hypertherm and that it will stand the test of time. This comes with a really nice case where you can store all your equipment, including the spare consumables that they supply with the unit.

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Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i1. Brand name: Hobart 
2. Model:
Airforce 40i
3. Height:
11.25 in
4. Length:
14.25 in
5. Width:
8.25 in
6. Duty Cycle:
 50% @ 40A
7. Input Voltage:
240V
8. Product weight:
30.6 lb
9. Ideal Cut: 
5/8 in 
10. Sever Cut:
 7/8 in 
11. Max Amps:
40A
12. Air Compressor:
No

This is another great unit build by Hobart. It’s capable of cleanly cutting 5/8 inch steel and severs up to 7/8 inch so it has a lot of power. It only runs off 240V so you won’t be able to use this with your household power supply. It has a very good duty cycle with 50% @ 40A maximum power. This machine is build for long industrial projects and won’t let you down.

See Price

Best Plasma Cutter with Built in Air Compressor

1. Hypertherm Powermax 30 Air2. Hobart Airforce 12ci

Hypertherm Powermax 30 air1. Brand name: Hypertherm
2. Model:
Powermax 30 Air
3. Height:
13.1 in
4. Length:
16.5 in
5. Width:
7.7 in
6. Duty Cycle: 
35% @ 30A
7. Input Voltage: 
120/240V 
8. Product weight:
29.8 lb 
9. Ideal Cut:
3/8 in
10. Sever Cut: 
5/8 in
11. Max Amps:
30A
12. Air Compressor:
Yes

This is another excellent plasma cutter from Hypertherm and this time it includes a built in air compressor to make it more versatile. This is by far the best plasma cutter with a built in air compressor on the market. Hypertherm only build plasma cutters, and they focus a lot of energy into designing and building the best quality machines. This has the same excellent performance as the Powermax 30 XP and can cut 1/2 inch pretty comfortably with 3/8 inch being the ideal cut. Hypertherm also create the best consumables in the industry that are really long lasting so won’t cost you in the long term. Overall it’s light, portable, simple to use and produces great results – you can’t go wrong with this.

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Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci1. Brand name: Hobart
2. Model:
Airforce 12ci
3. Height:
10 in
4. Length:
13 in 
5. Width:
8.25 in 
6. Duty Cycle: 
35% @ 12V
7. Input Voltage:
110V
8. Product weight:
25.1 lb
9. Ideal Cut:
 1/8 in
10. Sever Cut: 
1/4 in 
11. Max Amps:  
12A
12. Air Compressor:
Yes

We’ve already highlighted the quality of this machine. It’s much less powerful than the Powermax 30 Air, but is a cheaper option for anyone who doesn’t need that much power but wants something that will stand the test of time and produce great results.

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What is a Plasma Cutter?

A plasma cutter is a machine that allows you to easily cut through any conductive metal including aluminum, stainless steel, copper, brass, steel and more. The plasma jet is formed by forcing gas through a nozzle in the torch and combining it with an electric arc generated from the power supply. This reaches temperatures of up to 40,000° F and can instantly melt and cut metal.

Why use a Plasma Cutter?

Plasma cutters are the best way to cut metal. They cut much faster than oxy-fuel and are more precise due to a smaller width of cut. This means the surrounding area is not affected by the heat and you can be more specific with the area of the cut. Plasma cutting can also cut any conductive metal, including stainless steel or aluminum so it’s a versatile option.

How to Set up your Plasma Cutter?

  1. Follow all the safety instructions issued in the handbook, including wearing a helmet to protect your eyes from radiation and welding gloves.
  2. Connect the air compressor to the plasma cutter (see instructions as the way to do this varies). If your plasma cutter has a built in air compressor you won’t need to do this.
  3. Connect your cutting torch to the plasma cutter
  4. Connect your ground clamp to the plasma cutter and securely attach it to the work piece. Ensure that there is no rust or paint where the clamp meets the work piece.
  5. Ensure all the connectors are firmly attached
  6. Set the correct settings for the metal thickness you’re cutting.
  7. Test the torch to see if there is air flow by briefly holding down the trigger on the torch.
  8. If there is air flow – move the torch head onto the metal work piece to cut the metal.

What to look for in a plasma cutter

Ideal Cut

The number one thing you should look at when you choose a plasma cutter is the thickness of metal that it cuts. You should consider what thickness of metal you’re going to be working on the most frequently and look for an ideal cut at that thickness. Consider the thickness of mild metal that the machine can cut at a rate of 10 inches per minute. The severance cut will not produce as good results and you’re better off only using this maximum thickness occasionally and where you don’t mind dross. If you require quality cuts then you should look at the ideal cut.

Severance Thickness

The severance thickness is the maximum thickness that the plasma cutter can cut through metal, however, this requires an edge start to effectively cut the metal. At the severance thickness, the cut will be very slow and the machine won’t produce sufficient heat for a clean cut and will be rough and dross filled. Cutting metal at the severance thickness is not recommended for regular cutting or achieving the best results.

Built in Air Compressor

Most plasma cutters will require you to use an additional air compress before you can cut with it. But there are some plasma cutters that have a build in air compressor. These are a more expensive but more convenient option as if you’re out in the field you won’t need a separate air compressor with you. You don’t need to hook up an air hose or anything, you can simply plug it in and start cutting. These are definitely something worth considering for not much extra money.

Pilot Arc

Better plasma cutters will have pilot arc as a cutting feature which means you can make a cut without the torch tip making contact with the metal. Pilot arc helps to cut through painted and rusty surfaces. Remember that if you are cutting rusty or painted surfaces you’ll need to clean the area where you connect the ground clamp. Also, if you’re going across metal with gaps between the metal such as mesh sheet, you won’t need to stop and start the torch because it stays lit with a continuous arc. Most welders except the cheap Chinese ones will have pilot arc.

Consumables

Once you’ve purchased your plasma cutter, an ongoing cost will be replacing consumables. The 5 parts that are considered consumables are the retaining cap, electrode, nozzle, shield cap and swirl ring. They all have different life expectancy depending on a number of variables but when you’re piercing metal and the molten metal blows back onto the torch they’re bound to take some damage. The hole in the nozzle will need to be perfectly round or the cut will be affected. Also if the put depth increases this will increase dross and affect the quality of the cut. The more expensive welders tend to have more long lasting consumables. Even though a Hypertherm machines are expensive, they have a low operating cost due to the excellent quality of their consumables.

Price

Price is a huge consideration when buying a plasma cutter. It’s easy to go for a cheap chinese made plasma cutter, but make sure you know the risks. The life span of a low cost machine will be much shorter than a welder that’s made in the US or is from a reliable manufacturer. Hypertherm, Hobart and Miller are dependable and excellent quality and could easily last 3 or 4 times as long as a cheap plasma cutter – which is one of the reasons they’re more expensive.

Voltage

Plasma cutters that run of 110/115/120V power input are compatible with your normal indoor power source. These are great for beginners or if you’re using them at home, but they’re limited in the power they produce. If you want a bit more power you’ll need one with a 220V input, which are only compatible with generators. If you get a plasma cutter with 110V and 220V power input then you’ll have the choice of power supplies to use, so these are my favorite types due to their versatility.

Amperage

The Amperage of a plasma cutter will indicate the thickness of metal that it’s able to cut. e.g. a 30A output power amperage should comfortably cut 3/8 inch metal. but a 12A output power may only cut approximately 1/8 inch. If you use a 220V power input you’ll be able to get a higher amperage and cut thicker metal.

Duty Cycle

Duty cycle refers to the length of time that the machine can continuously operate before needing to cool down. For example, a 35% duty cycle at a set amperage & voltage will mean that on those settings, the plasma cutter can remain on for 3.5 minutes out of a total of 10 minutes without overheating. Duty cycle will increase you lower the amperage. A longer duty cycle at a higher amperage is better for making long deep cuts into metal.

Weight

Weight is always something to consider when buying equipment as you don’t want to be carrying around too much heavy equipment. Luckily, most plasma cutters are relatively light these days thanks to inverter technology. If you’re buying a plasma cutter with a built in air compressor it might be slightly heavier, but this will still be a lot more portable as you only need the plasma cutter and you’re ready to go.

Safety

Last but not least you need to consider safety as your number one priority. Read all through all the safety instructions supplied in the instruction booklet by your chosen plasma cutter. Make sure you get a good pair of safety glasses to protect your eyes. Even though the arc isn’t as intense as a welding arc it can still damage your eyes so try a pair of shade 3 or 5 glasses. You should also wear gloves, I like to wear MIG or TIG gloves that aren’t too bulky and let you feel what you’re doing whilst protecting you. Don’t use any gloves made from synthetic material  because they can melt and stick to your skin, always go with leather. Cover your body, legs and arms with durable, cotton material to protect it from sparks and the arc. Finally, as you’ll be chopping up metal, wear some boots with steel protection to prevent injury from falling metal.

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide will help you choose the best plasma cutter for your needs. If there’s anything I’ve missed please feel free to leave questions in the comments below.

We hope you liked our article “The Best Plasma Cutters in 2019” if so, we’d really appreciate it if you could rate and share it.

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Author: John Ward

John is the founder and editor of Kings of Welding

Comments ( 2 )

  1. ReplyTom Mills
    A great guide thank you very much. I am inexperienced in plasma cutting - do you have any advice on the best market to use to see cut lines? Thanks, Tom
    • ReplyJohn Ward
      Cheers Tom. It can be tough to see the line if you're wearing your glasses so make sure there's good lighting. Try a markal reflective silver pencil which is my favorite. John

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