Plasma cutters and welders are two of the most important machines used in industrial operations, construction, and repair work. Many people think these tools are only for professionals, but DIY technicians and hobbyists do use them for small and minor projects. That’s why you’ll find these things in garages or small home workshops.
Every professional or hobbyist in the metal fabrication art or industry is always looking for that tool that makes clean, smooth cuts. A good plasma cutter precludes the need for extensive post-cutting polishing, among other things. Nonetheless, all plasma cutters operate in the same fashion: by streaming a jet of extremely hot ionized gas to melt and cut conductive metals.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for welders, you’re probably looking for multi-process machines. These machines can do MIG, stick, and TIG welding. But most, if not all, welders can do at least two tasks. For instance, a TIG welder can also do stick welding.
The best plasma cutters and welders usually have a combination of excellent performance, build quality, durability, and portability. With many models claiming to be high-performing and reliable, it’s sometimes hard to pick the truly good ones. Anyone who’s looking for the “perfect” machine may end up buying a hyped unit only to be disappointed later on. This is where we help both newbies and professionals sift through misleading marketing gimmicks and point them in the right direction.
The plasma and welding machines featured on this page are not necessarily perfect. Well, it’s hard to quantify and qualify what perfect is. Each of these machines has its own weaknesses. All devices do. However, a smart buyer will look at the features they think are the most important to the kind of work that they do.
Here Are The Best Plasma Cutters and Welders
Miller Spectrum 375
Miller Spectrum 375
- 3/8” Cutting Capacity
- Dual 120/240 Input Voltage
- +/-10% Line Voltage Compensation
- Ergonomic XT30 Torch
- 35% Duty Cycle on 240V
- Low-Frequency Start
- Auto-Controlled Pilot Arc
This is a compact plasma cutter for those looking for power. This isn’t one of those second-rate machines you’ll likely keep in storage or sell after a couple of uses. Miller is one of the renowned welding equipment manufacturers. Meaning, you’re not only getting a good-quality machine, but you’re also getting a reliable customer service and an amazing warranty.
First off, the cutting capacity of the Miller Spectrum 375 is 3/8 inch. That’s more than enough for many repair and fabrication projects.
This is a dual voltage plasma machine with a multi-voltage plug. Switching between 120V and 240V is a trouble-free affair. The Auto Line technology allows this machine to operate on different voltages. Fluctuations in input power are not a problem. The Line Voltage Compensation can deal with 10% surges and dips in voltage, thus stabilizing the cutting performance.
The Spectrum 375 has an auto-refire feature providing more control of the pilot arc. There’s no need to re-trigger the arc as you move the torch over the workpiece. It reduces tension in your hand and forearm, thereby making your task more convenient. On the other hand, the automatic air regulation stabilizes the torch pressure and, thus, enhances cutting performance.
The XT30 Torch deserves to be mentioned for its ergonomic design. The easy-grip handle with finger contours again reduces muscular strain and makes it easy for you to work with the torch.
Plasma cutters generate a lot of energy, including heat. It’s natural for the internal components to get extremely hot after several minutes of using the machine. This is why plasma cutters are designed with fans that help dissipate internal heat. However, fans also blow dust and debris into the interior of the machine, which then accumulates gunk after some time. The Spectrum 375 minimizes this effect with its fan-on-demand system. The fan only works when the machine reaches a certain temperature. So it’s not running and buzzing all the time. A fan-on-demand system also reduces the machine’s energy consumption.
The package includes a durable plastic carrying case with enough space for the machine, as well as accessories like plugs, protective glasses, and gloves. You can keep everything that you need in the carrying case except your helmet.
Many plasma cutters now are equipped with considerably long cords for convenience. The Miller Spectrum 375 has a 12-foot torch and ground cable. The length may not seem a big deal, but long cables come handy when you have to move around your work area. You don’t have to move the plasma machine with you. But if you have to, you can do it easily because it’s only 19 pounds, light enough for anyone to carry around.
This machine, however, has two potential downsides. It’s more expensive than your average plasma cutter. It also doesn’t have its air source.
Hypertherm Powermax 45
Hypertherm Powermax 45
- 5/8” Cutting Capacity
- Drag-Cutting Technology
- Smart Sense Technology
- CNC Interface
- FastConnect Torch Connection
- Duramax Lock Torches
- SpringStart Technology
Not all plasma cutters have the versatility that the Powermax45 XP offers. The impressive range of 10-45 amps allows you to do many things. You can use this machine for drag cutting, extended reach cutting, fine feature cutting, flush cutting, mechanized cutting, extended reach gouging, max control gouging, precision gouging, and marking. It’s compatible with a good range of consumables.
There’s no question that this is one of the most powerful plasma cutters out there. It can cut up to 5/8-inch of mild steel, stainless steel, and aluminum. If it can cut half an inch of Hardox 450 abrasion resistant steel like nothing, then it can do almost anything.
Turn the machine down to 10 amps, and you can use the unit to mark metals. You can mark workpieces with letters, numbers, names, or dates. This is handy when you’re doing metal art.
The Powermax45 XP is not just a plasma cutter. It’s also a gouging tool that generates less noise and fumes than your typical carbon arc gouging tool. The Powermax45 also results in a cleaner gouging process.
Ease of use is an important aspect of any device. Sometimes a machine that performs really well will earn the ire of its users if it takes too long to set it up. Fortunately, the Powermax45 isn’t one of those complicated plasma cutters that will give you a headache. The controls are easy to identify. It’s easy to set your machine even if you’re using it for the first time. The smart-sense technology controls the air pressure to keep the unit functioning properly.
In terms of durability, the Powermax45 XP is no slouch. It’s a well-built machine capable of withstanding years of use. Even the 25-foot long leads and the 10-foot long cord feel durable. The machine, together with its accessories, is designed for rigorous use, not for occasional operations. This is what separates high-quality plasma cutters from the cheap ones. Even the consumables are hardwearing.
Made in New Hampshire, the Hypertherm Powermax45 XP comes with a 3-year warranty for the power supply. If anything goes wrong, you can have the unit serviced for free or get a refund. Its torch has a 1-year warranty as well.
The duty cycle is impressive at 50%. There are only a few other plasma cutters with higher duty cycles, though. So although it’s not the best machine in this regard, it definitely is one of the most remarkable.
The exceptional attributes of this plasma cutter come at a price. This is one of the more expensive plasma cutters on this list. However, do note that you get the quality and power for the money you pay.
Hobart Airforce 12ci
Hobart Airforce 12ci
- 10 ipm cut rate
- 1/8” Cut Thickness
- Built-in Air Compressor
- 35% Duty Cycle
- Thermal Protection System
Plasma cutters seem all similar, but at closer inspection they differ in strengths and weaknesses. Some excel in performance but not in portability. Some boast power but lack precision. If precision and portability are paramount, then consider the Hobart Airforce 12ci. This plasma machine is quite capable, but it’s made for light-duty metal cutting. If you’re doing heavy-duty metal cutting operations, this isn’t the plasma cutter for that. Nonetheless, for light to moderate cutting tasks, this is an excellent choice.
The Airforce 12ci cuts 1/8-inch metals without major issues. It struggles to cut a quarter of an inch thick materials. And if you use this to cut 1/2-inch steel, you’ll be disappointed. Use this machine for cutting 1/8-inch or thinner metals, and you’ll be pleased with the results.
People who are looking for a plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor will be delighted by this model. Many plasma cutters with internal compressors are heavy, but the inverter technology that comes with the Airforce 12ci keeps the unit lightweight. Not only does this unit have a compressor, but also does it weigh only 31 pounds. In fact, it’s lighter than some plasma machines without air compressors.
The Hobart Airforce 12ci is one of those plasma cutters that have the pilot arc, which is becoming an important aspect of these machines. With the pilot arc, you don’t have to tap the workpiece with the tip of the torch to initiate the arc. Not only does this make your work convenient, but also does it minimize tip burnout.
It has a roughly average duty cycle, which is 35%. That means the cutting time per 10 minutes is 3 and a half minutes, after which the unit will have to cool down itself. This shouldn’t be much of an issue for an occasional hobbyist. If you’re a professional who does demanding metal cutting tasks, this duty cycle can be irksome.
What happens when you continue cutting past the duty cycle? This plasma cutter is equipped with a thermal protection system that cuts the cutting power to cool down the system. The thermal protection function also shuts the machine off in case a problematic overheating occurs. Blocked airflow and continuous cutting past the duty cycle may trigger this protective function, engaging the fan, which only runs when needed to reduce the buildup of dust inside the machine.
Besides the fan on demand, the post airflow cooling system also keeps the components, including the torch, protected from overheating. The post-flow cooling circuit prolongs the lifespan of the torch and the consumables, adding to the overall durability of the unit and its accessories.
The only things we don’t like about the Hobart 12ic are the lack of consumables and the incompatibility with the CNC plasma cutting table. That means this machine is significantly limiting for people who do metal art. Moreover, the lack of consumables means you have to purchase a shield cup, electrodes, O-ring, swirl ring, among other things.
Everlast PowerTIG 200DV
Everlast Powertig 200dv
- Dual 120/240 Input Voltage
- Digitally Controlled IGBT Transistor
- 60% Duty Cycle at 200 amps (TIG)
- 30-70% Cleaning Adjustment
- 5-Year Warranty
The first welder on this list is the PowerTIG 200DV, a recent addition in the Everlast’s analog inverter TIG line. It’s a versatile unit capable of operating on 120 and 240 input voltage. You can easily determine what each color-coded control is for. Hence, this machine is easy to operate. This welder has a lift start function as well as a high frequency start.
This is a notable machine for its power. It’s not the most powerful TIG welder on the market, but it’s still remarkable in its class. You can weld up to 5/16 inch of steel on 240V, and you can even do multi-pass welding for 1/2-inch steel. On 120V, you will be limited to welding 3/16 inch of steel (single-pass) or 3/8-inch steel (multi-pass). If you do aluminum welding, this machine is good enough. It can weld a quarter of an inch of aluminum on 240V (single-pass) and 1/8-inch on 120V (single-pass).
The control panel of this device is just commendable. Again, the color-coded knobs make your job so much easier. You can control many aspects of the task, including the pre- and post-flow of the shielding gas. You can set the gas pre-flow up to 10 seconds and the post-flow up to 25 seconds. These settings alone provide optimal protection and ensure your weld pool isn’t contaminated.
The Everlast PowerTIG 200DV is essentially an IGBT inverter welding machine. It doesn’t use the older MOSFET transistor, so it offers more stable and reliable performance than your older machines. This machine should work with a 3500-watt generator.
This welder has both AC and DC mode. It provides a 20-amp start in AC mode and a 5-amp start in DC. The pulse frequency range is 0.5-150Hz (both AC and DC mode). You get a good cleaning range adjustment of 30-70% in AC mode. That range offers you a good cleaning to penetration ratio.
This welding machine has an awesome warranty of 5 years. All Everlast machines have the same length of warranty for failure due to manufacturing issues. However, the accessories only have a 6-month warranty.
Speaking of accessories, you most likely will be happy to know that the package includes many accessories, including a stick electrode holder and a work clamp, both with DINSE style connectors. It also has a 12-foot TIG torch with 2T or 4T switch, as well as DINSE style connectors. On the rear of the machine is the 240V outlet for the WC300 water cooler unit. You also get a consumable kit, a 6-foot power cable, a foot pedal, a pigtail adapter, and a voltage regulator.
This welding machine is not so light, but it’s not so heavy either. At 60 pounds, you probably want to put it in a cart if you want to move it around. It’s compact, though, measuring only 24” x 9” x 17”.
Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, you can do production welding, pipeline repair, or fabrication with this machine.
- 50% Duty Cycle at 50A
- 110/220 Input Voltage
- 1/2” Cut Thickness/3/4” Severance Thickness
- 15 IPM Cut Speed
The Primeweld 50A looks really enticing right now because of its low price. It is less expensive than plasma cutters with the same specs and features. Is it a good plasma cutter? The reviews say so, at least. People don’t hesitate writing good reviews about products that work, and this tool works well. Being able to cut 1/2-inch mild steel, this is one of the most powerful plasma cutters available right now. In addition, the dual voltage capability of this machine allows you to use it anywhere.
Primeweld is one of several versions of the Cut50D platform. Because this version is made in China, it gets a share of skepticism among buyers who think Chinese-made equipment has mediocre, if not terrible, performance. However, that’s not the case with this plasma cutter. It’s actually one of the best Cut50D versions in terms of performance.
The catch with this machine is it’s designed for occasional hobbyists and DIYers. This is not your choice if you’re a professional doing metal cutting and fabrication every day. The Primeweld 50A withstands occasional use. If you’re using it for weekend projects, you’re good. This is one problem with many plasma cutters made in China. They can be beasts in terms of functionality and performance, but they suffer from poor durability.
You won’t find this plasma cutter in a major metal cutting and fabrication shop. People looking for professional-grade plasma cutters that can handle heavy-duty operations will be disappointed in it. However, if you’re an occasional technician, repair guy, or metal artist, this machine should suffice your casual hobby. Remember, this plasma machine only costs about $300. You can’t expect it to have the same build quality as the top of the line Hypertherm or Miller plasma cutters at around $1500.
The consumables for this plasma cutter are among the cheapest on the market. You can stock up on these items without spending too much. However, these consumables can be tricky to find, as the Chinese companies that sell these things have stopped operating. So if you’re buying the Primeweld 50A, consider stocking up on consumables.
When it comes to the warranty, Primeweld provides assurance to its customers with a 3-year warranty. Note that many manufacturers only offer a 1-year warranty on their units.
Lotos LT5000D 50A
- HF Inverter Technology
- Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Technology
- V-MOSFET Transistor
- PAPST Advanced Cooling System
- Dual 110/220 Input Voltage
- 1/2” Max Cut Thickness
There’s a reason the Lotos LT5000D 50A is part of our best plasma cutters list. When it comes to value for your money, this unit is hard to beat. Unlike many cheap plasma cutters, this one is made to withstand rough use and heavy-duty work. But if you’re using this for some minor projects, you’ll be pleased with it too. This is a compact plasma cutter that performs just like more expensive machines even though it uses the older MOSFET transistor. It’s capable of generating high power that allows for cutting thick metals. Despite using an older transistor, the LT5000D manages to keep itself small enough to be considered a portable machine.
The LT5000D isn’t exactly a plasma cutter designed for professionals. If you’re a hobbyist who does minor metal cutting jobs, this is a better option than an oxy-acetylene cutter. But just because it’s made for home or garage use, it doesn’t mean it’s void with smart features and innovations.
When it comes to plasma cutters, the ultimate test of their performance is their cut thickness, which is the maximum thickness they can cut without struggling. On 220/240V, it can cleanly cut up to 1/2-inch thick, and you can still cut a 3/4-inch steel (but it struggles at this point). On 110/120V, its ideal clean cut is at 1/3”, but you can push the machine to its limits with 2/5” thick materials.
Another important aspect of plasma cutters that most buyers are interested in knowing is the duty cycle. In every 10 minutes, the LT5000D can run for 6 minutes at 50 amps on both 110V and 220V. That’s one of the best duty cycles out there. It allows you to do more cutting or finish your tasks faster.
The advanced cooling system keeps this machine from overheating, which eventually leads to damage to the internal components. The cooling system includes an air regulator, air hose couplers, and an air hole.
So you’re getting a lot of advantages for the price you’ll pay for this plasma machine. It’s the right choice if the other models are out of your budget. It’s much like its more expensive brother, the LTP5000D, whose main advantage over the LT5000D is its pilot arc.
Lotos Plasma cutters are made to be eco-friendly. They don’t use toxic gases. The compressed air isn’t hazardous, and that’s another good thing about this brand.
Eastwood Elite 140
- 30-140 Amperage Range
- 3 Years Warranty
- 30% Duty Cycle
- 3/16” MIG Weld Thickness
- 120 Input Voltage
- Spot Weld Timer
Eastwood Elite MP140i comes from a company that manufactures tools, including welding machines. You’re probably wary of this machine because many review sites have skipped this one. The truth is, it’s a considerably good multi-process welder that doesn’t only meet quality standards but also performs just as well as the popular models.
There’s little to complain about this piece of equipment, save for its inability to TIG weld aluminum. But you can work around this minor issue by getting your spool gun to MIG weld aluminum. The spool gun designed for the MP140i and the MP200i is included in the package.
This is a single voltage machine. You only need your household outlet to plug this welder into, and you’re ready. If you’re working on projects in your garage, this should serve you just right. You don’t need to worry about 220V outlets.
Setting up this machine is easy. You shouldn’t have any trouble hooking up the cables and doing adjustments to the settings. This is a user-friendly and budget-friendly welder that gives the ESAB 141i a run for its money.
You might be surprised to know that the Eastwood MP140i has the latest IGBT inverter tech, which allows you to do professional-quality work without breaking the bank. Sure, it can weld steel only up to about 3/16 of an inch thick, but the quality of the weld is commendable. The new IGBT inverter produces some of the most stable arcs we’ve seen, and a stable arc helps you achieve those good-looking beads and strong joints.
The built-in Spot Weld Timer allows accurate welds, which are vital for a number of projects. If you’re doing automotive repairs, this feature is useful for precise welds.
The 30% duty cycle at 90 amps is mediocre. So you can weld continuously for 3 minutes and then wait for the machine to cool down for 7 minutes before you can start welding again. Short duty cycles can be annoying if you’re doing major projects. For minor welding tasks, which this machine is designed for, short duty cycles don’t matter that much. You can, however, increase the duty cycle by turning down the voltage output control. Doing so lowers the performance of the welder, though.
ESAB Rebel 205ic
ESAB Rebel EMP 205IC
- True All-Process Welder
- Smart MIG Technology
- Built-in Arc Control
- TFT Multilingual Display
- 5 Handle Roll Cage
Seasoned welders and beginners will find the ESAB Rebel 205ic a useful tool for their daily work. When you buy a machine from a trusted company, you will not regret your decision. ESAB makes good welding equipment. Since this unit was introduced to the market in 2018 along with the 215ic, it has been bought by different types of welders.
This multi-process welder is a high-frequency machine that can weld anything. You can take it anywhere because it’s portable. It weighs only 49 pounds and is only 16” by 23” by 9”. The unit has 5 handles to allow a few ways of carrying it. Despite its lightness and portability, it has a steel unibody construction, which makes it a durable tool.
Unlike the ESAB Rebel 215ic, which is also a multi-process welder, the 205ic can do AC TIG welding not only for aluminum but also for titanium. That’s on top of it being able to do MIG, DC TIG, DC pulse TIG, flux core, and stick welding. Another aspect that makes the 205ic unique is its smart MIG technology that generates great arc control. This is the machine you need for smooth and high-quality welds.
When it comes to usability, this welding machine can be switched between the basic mode and the advanced mode. If you’re a beginner, you will find the basic mode quite convenient, as you can set wire and material thickness easily. However, you may grow out of the basic mode and explore more control of your arc with the advanced mode. Another feature that is useful for both professionals and newbies is the built-in arc control, which automatically makes adjustments as you move along the joint.
The ESAB Rebel 205ic doesn’t disappoint when it comes to performance. For AC TIG, you get a frequency range of 25- 400hz and a wave balance of 60-90%. DC TIG starts down low at 5 amps. For stick welding, the recommended electrodes are the E7018 and E7018-1. Nonetheless, this machine can use 6013 and 6010 electrodes as well. One of the best things about this multi-process machine is its sMIG option, which allows anyone to weld right away.
This is one of the most expensive welders out there, but you’re getting a lot for what you pay. It offers a lot of flexibility in many ways. You can fine-tune the voltage and wire speed easily. This is a smart machine that knows what you want to accomplish.
- Non-touch pilot arc
- Automatic 110/220 dual output voltage
- V-MOSFET transistor
- Built-in dynamic 50-amp digital inverter
- Advanced PAPST cooling system
- Built-in air filter regulator
The Lotos LTP5000D is one of the most popular plasma cutters right now. Other models struggle to provide the same value for the price of this portable unit. It’s lightweight. It’s portable. It’s an impressive machine.
The non-touch pilot arc is its most important feature. With this capability, you can start cutting through your workpiece quickly and cut across easily. This easily cuts any conductive metal — alloy steel, mild steel, stainless steel, copper, and aluminum. The pilot arc is its major advantage over the cheaper LT5000D, but this one feature alone provides cutting ease and efficiency that you’ll definitely miss on a non-pilot arc plasma cutter. With the pilot arc, you can start the arc without hitting the tip of the torch onto the surface of the workpiece. It also allows you to cut through paint and rust without much slag. Pilot arc lengthens the life of your torch and its consumables.
This plasma cutter is equipped with a dual voltage mechanism that automatically chooses the output voltage. You don’t have to do anything or worry about where you’re plugging the machine into. You can configure it on 110V at 50Hz or on 220V at 60Hz.
At 19.4 pounds, it’s hard to find a robust plasma cutter that’s lighter than it. Yes, its military-grade metal shell is robust and is the reason this plasma machine is one of the most durable on the market. This metal casing is designed to protect the internal parts from outside elements.
Do note, however, that dust buildup in the internal components is the usual cause of failure. Dust causes the internal parts to heat up more quickly. The good news is the LTP5000D is designed to reduce dust and debris from reaching the internal components. Also, the advanced German PAPST cooling system helps regulate temperature and heat flow inside the machine. These innovations help prolong the lifespan of your welder or plasma cutter.
The V-MOSFET transistor provides cutting power like no other. There’s almost no hiccups in the cutting process. Also, the built-in inverter allows the machine to generate sufficient DC welding power. Of course, the pulse width modulation also comes handy, especially when you’re working with thick materials. Both technologies allow the Lotos LTP5000D to cut both thin and thick metals with precision.
Straight out of the box, this tool is quick to set up. Just make sure you ground the plasma cutter properly, and you’re good to go. If you’re running a small fabrication business, this is one of the metal cutters to consider.
What to look for in welders and plasma cutters?
Some of the factors to consider when choosing pieces of equipment for your workshop are build quality, durability, performance, and value for the money. The machines featured above include both inexpensive and fairly expensive models. That’s because price alone isn’t a reliable way to know whether a product is good. The most expensive welders and plasma cutters may have the state-of-the-art features, but then those machines fail to satisfy buyers when it comes to value to price ratio.
Some of the machines are not the best performers. Some aren’t the most durable on the market. However, the good ones — the ones that stick around — are those that are great in one or two aspects.
Any of these units are good in some respects. Not all of them are suitable for you, because what fits you depends on the kind of work that you do and what you’re willing to deal with. For instance, if you don’t mind doing some prep work before cutting a sheet of steel, you’d be happy with the Lotos LT5000D. If you’re doing light welding work at home or in the garage, you’d find the Eastwood Elite MP140i good enough. Then again, when performance matters a lot, you know the top brands that can deliver.
Plasma cutters and welders are a substantial investment whether you’re a hobbyist, a DIY repairman, or a professional metal fabricator. These machines will stay with you for years, so it’s vital that you make the right choice from the get go. You can only make the right choice and buy the equipment that suits your needs once you’ve done your homework (1).