The Expert Guide to the Best Plasma Cutter in the Market Today

While plasma cutters offer a range of benefits regardless of build, the best plasma cutter offers an optimal combination of speed, efficiency, fuel frugality and safety that the user needs to achieve maximum productivity. The means to getting this perfect cutter are discussed in our guide.

Futuristic as the name may sound, plasma cutters have been around since the 1960s, and are today used to achieve the finest, least erroneous and fastest metal cuts. Indeed, such is their fame that they have almost completely swamped older metal-against-metal and oxy-torch cutting methods in most commercial establishments.

That said, it would be wrong to suggest that they make cutting metal – or any other hard and thick material – completely risk-free or extremely cheap. While risks and costs are reduced, making a mistake while choosing the best plasma cutter can lead to waste of money, metal and time even as unnecessary threats to your health arise on a regular basis.

The key then is to skip the endless advertorials and educate oneself so one has a great idea about what a plasma cutter truly is, what benefits it offers and finally how to choose a cutter that fits one’s needs.

However, we realize that even when armed with such information, going through endless product lists and user reviews can be a grueling task.

Hence, we decided to use our expertise (which we’ll of course share with you) and a careful study of the market to come up with the best products available in the market today.

5 Best Plasma Cutter Review Of 2019 Under 1,000

Here is a list of the best plasma cutter you should buy in 2019. While many of this cutters have too many good features to be covered here, it has been our endeavour to cover all of the features that would be useful to the average user who expects quality without emptying out his/her pocket:

Hobart Airforce 500i

Hobart 500548 Airforce 500i
 Airforce 500i Plasma Cutter reviewThis contender from Hobart comes with a simple but efficient cutter that is capable of working with both 110V and 220V outlets using two different wires. In addition, the unit comes with complete compatibility with engine-driven welders, turning the device into a 2-in-1 offering

When in cutter mode, however, the product uses a special post-flow air cooling technology that cools the electrode and tip rapidly after the cutting has been done in order to prolong their lifespan. Complementing this are the fan which runs “on demand” to remove and keep out abrasive dust particles that may damage internal components, and the wind tunnel technology, which prevents those particles that still get through from causing any damage later on.

While the cooling technology ensures that the unit never suffers a meltdown, Hobart has covered all bases by providing the unit with a thermal overload mechanism that shuts down the unit when temperatures rise to 104 degrees Fahrenheit at the 35% duty cycle stage.

Lastly, a cable management cord allows users to wrap up the cables quickly when transporting the unit from one place to another.

Lotos LTP5000D Pilot Arc

2. Lotos LTP5000D Pilot Arc

Another Lotos product that provides inverter DC power, the LTP5000D comes with a 50A inverter that feeds a cutting system that replaces the HF system of the previous product with a pilot arc unit. This pilot arc, along with the IGBT Power Drive Matrix, allows the unit to start cutting within a very short time, thereby reducing the waste of consumables substantially

Such reduction is equally in evidence when the product is dealing with rusted, painted or otherwise difficult to access metal surfaces. These are coupled with a MOSFET transistor that ensures a steady flow of current regardless of the voltage with which the user is working.

This feature enables users across the world to use the unit without making extensive changes to the wiring system. Coupled with the easy to grip and easier to carry portable design, this feature makes the unit powerful and versatile in equal measure.

Ramsond CUT 50DY

3. Ramsond CUT 50DY
Perhaps the epitome of an easy to use unit, this Ramsond contender comes with a pilot cut mechanism that not only provides a great cut but ensures that the user is fully cognizant of its status through a pressure and amp display that have been integrated at the back of the unit.

Further, Ramsond realizes that such a powerful system cannot function without adequate cooling, and to this end, a German cooling system has been integrated for improved performance.Complementing these is an improved V-MOSFET transistor system that has been made especially for Ramsond by Toshiba. This transistor system, along with PWM mechanism, allows for a more precise current to flow into the machine.

With a versatile foldable handle completing the impressive list of features, this unit is indeed ideal for anyone who seeks an easily portable and controllable yet powerful unit.

LT5000D Lotos 50A Air Inverter

4. LT5000D Lotos 50A Air Inverter
One of the few inverter plasma cutters, this product benefits from the fact that the inverter’s DC current, produced using pulse width modulation (PWM) method, is ideal for smooth, fast and accurate cuts. Speed in particular is further accentuated by the presence of a HF system that replaces standard plasma with HF plasma. Such HF plasma interacts with the metal to produce faster cuts.

All of this, interestingly, does not cause any shorting or overloading since the unit has been provided with state-of-the-art transistors that are capable of supplying a steady stream of powerful current.

Indeed, such is their capability that this unit is capable of cutting much thicker pieces of metal than the average cutter, without forcing the user to start wondering how to maintain a plasma cutter before the scheduled maintenance date.

Last but not least the unit comes with a movable trigger that allows each user to custom fit his/her finger into the groove.

Hobart Airforce 500564

5. Hobart Airforce 500564

The last of our short plasma cutter reviews focuses upon another Hobart unit, this one being an inverter unit with a built-in air compressor. This ensures that the unit has an unlimited supply of compressed air without the user having to shell out anything extra.

Further, the compressed air allows the unit to handle a wide range of conductive metals very quickly and efficiently. Despite these, it is interesting to note that the unit works on ordinary input current and not any specialized circuitry. Equally interestingly, the unit comes with a total body weight of just 27lbs, making it one of the most portable units in the market.

With the unit also having the cooling and strap mechanisms of the previous best plasma cutter contender, these features make it clear that the product is capable of addressing virtually any metal cutting needs that may arise in the average workshop with ease.

Key Features of the Best Plasma Cutter Under 1000

In many cases, only when people learn how to use a plasma cutter, do they realize that minor differences in the structure and/or the requirements of the machine can mean the difference between a good and fast cut and one that comes at the cost of significant effort and/or physical risk.

The latter may be acceptable for those who are professionals and need certain specific features (for which they are willing to sacrifice others) but if you’re a beginner and want a good cut at all times without experimenting with your finances and safety, it is better to keep a certain list of key features of the best plasma cutter in mind when making your choices.

Key Structural Features

The best plasma cutters may not look very different from mediocre ones, but there are huge differences when it comes to the internal pieces and circuitry.

While it is not always possible to take a unit apart, but you can always rely on plasma cutter reviews and the product’s specification sheet to know if the necessary features are available:

1. Good Amperage and Cutting Speed:

While it is impossible to outline a chart specifying the ideal relationship between metal thickness, amperage and cutting speed, one should keep in mind the following simplified table:

When you have found the correct amperage for the metal, you should expect a good cutting speed for your choice of metal.

If the speed mentioned by the company appears to be lower than this expected level or you find that the users have complained about a lower than average speed, you should realize that one of the key features of the best plasma cutter – the ability to achieve fast cuts – is missing from the unit you are considering.

2. HF and LA Starter Methods:

HF stands for high frequency starters and this is currently the standard for the industryUnless the unit comes with a contact-start mechanism, you should be able to find a HF system.

However, as we mentioned while discussing the best plasma cutters, the HF system can interfere with digital equipment and for this reason,some companies have started offering Lift Arc (LA) starter mechanisms.

While the LA system is somewhat more complex that the HF one, you should always consider the LA-enabled ones if you are going in for a higher priced unit as these tend to be more durable and dependable.

3. Cooling Systems:

One of the key features of the best plasma cutter is surely a good cooling system, as this enables the unit to work more efficiently when internal temperature begins to rise.

4. Air filters:

Air filters perform the vital task of keeping the compressed air free of oil. While good compressors will minimize oil presence anyhow, it is always ideal to have good air filters inside the machine so that even if one needs to use a poor compressor, the quality of the cut is not compromised.

We say so because the presence of oil leads to arcing (different from the pilot/cutting arc) during cutting and this reduces the ability of the arc to stay on the target.

Consumables

  1. Number of consumable/disposable parts: Many of the manufacturers argue that multiple disposable parts should be included among the benefits of using a plasma cutter since each of the parts can be changed when they wear out. In reality, one needs to keep spare parts of each and every consumable or removable part, and this means thatlarger the number of removable parts, larger the number of spare parts you will have to keep. Further, many of the parts are made only by the manufacturer and shortage may make the entire unit useless. While the number of removable varies, ideally they should not include anything other than the pipes and wiring, nozzle and electrodes.
  2. Durability of Consumables: A nozzle’s durability should easily range between 6 months to a year, and for electrodes, the lifespan should be about 3-6 months. Wiring and pipes do not have a fixed durability, but going by industry standards, they should not require changing more than once a year.
  3. Interchangeability of consumables: While only a few companies offer consumables that can be replaced by non-company units, some do provide generic sockets that accept non-manufacturer units as well. Look out for such generic options as they may significantly reduce the costs associated with the question – “how to maintain a plasma cutter” in the long-run.

Safety Features

  1. Trigger guard: One of the most neglected yet key features of the plasma cutter, the trigger guard prevents the triggerfrom being accidentally depressed and thus ensures that the machine starts working only when the user is truly ready.
  2. Nozzle-in-place sensor: Many standard sensors can be tricked into thinking that the unit is ready for work. This may cause the nozzle to start the pilot arc without there being any metal to cut. Even with other safety mechanisms, this can lead to very dangerous situations. A nozzle-in-place sensor detects whether the nozzle is in correct position and because the nozzle is vital to the proper functioning of the unit, it can be safely assumed that this sensor will allow the unit to function only when the user is actually preparing to work.
  3. Nozzle Shield: nozzle shield keeps the nozzle enclosed when the unit is not in operation, and keeps the arc focused while the unit is being operated.
  4. Adequate Grips: The cutter should come with adequate grips and handles so as to beeasy to carry around and further, easily manoeuvred when cutting difficult pieces. These grips and handles should not be made of a combustive material.

Conclusion On Features of the Best Plasma Cutter

As the above list shows, the key features of the best plasma cutter are not set in stone – they vary according to the person’s budget and specific needs.

That said, some features such as number of consumable parts or those relating to safety, should be necessary considerations regardless of the price bracket and the conditions under which the user will work.

It is hoped that by combining one’s preferences with this list of ideal features, one will be able to obtain the best combination of performance, speed, cost-effectiveness and safety, both for himself and his family.

 

How to find the Best Plasma Cutter Under 1000

While readers are often forced to glean the ideal features from plasma cutter under 1000 reviews, we have decided to make life easier for you by sharing our expertise in this field through a short list of the points to keep in mind when going in for any of the above, or for that matter, any plasma cutter.

1. Duty Cycle:

The number of hours a plasma cutter is used at a stretch is called the product’s duty cycle. Generally, the higher the amperage, the higher will be the duty cycle of the unit, though this rule does not always hold true in the higher amperages. Such units would prove to be the best plasma cutter for the money for users who have marathon work sessions without pause.

For others, however, it is not always necessary to go in for the unit with the greatest duty cycle – if one is using a product infrequently, it is better to try out a product with an average duty cycle and a good set of features.

Must Read: Plasma Cutters Without A Compressor

2. Provision for an inverter:

An inverter generally takes the current from 10kHz to 200kHz. This high frequency switching allows the product to function with a smaller housing, thus improving the overall portability of the unit. Further, an inverter, as we saw in the above plasma cutter reviews, produces current more conducive to faster and precise cuts as well.

3. Cutting Speed and Cut Quality:

Unlike many other products, cutting speed and cut quality are not inversely proportional, instead following a complex graph that requires an advanced understanding of physics to comprehend.

The good news though is that manufacturers usually list the cutting speed (in parts per hour) on the machine, and by keeping this in the middling range (neither too low nor too high), it is possible to achieve sufficient quality as well.

Of course, those working with handicrafts and fine products would require still slower speeds and higher quality, but one should also ensure that the speed does not become a bottleneck when production has to be ramped up.

4. Input Power and Phase:

Most products these days support both 110-115V and 220-230V input and thus this is more of a checklist point than a choice. More importantly, while some units are only compatible with single phase current, others support three phase power.

While it is hard to say whether a single phase current is better or worse than the latter, support for three-phase current is always desirable since this would cover all bases.

5. Air/Fuel Supply:

In most cases involving factories and workshops, the fuel would be the surrounding air, and in these cases,special fuel containers and attachments are not needed. In case of mobile units that can be operated anywhere, the choice is generally between bottled air and bottled nitrogen.

Many prefer the latter because it is more cost effective and tends to be drier, causing less oxidation while cutting stainless steel. Some units, however, come with an air compressor that compresses ambient air and thus removes the need for special containers.

These apart, only occasionally would special “assist gases” be required in everyday cutting. These – ranging from oxygen to inert gases and even hydrogen – reduce mobility however, and should only be used where absolutely necessary.

6. Rollers:

Rollers attach to either side of the nozzle and provide uniform cuts by preventing the user from straying in line. Popular options include rollers from bevelled cuts, straight cuts and circular cuts.

7. Contact vs HF start:

A contact start will, as mentioned above, require the cutter to physically touch the metal. This process is a bit difficult to master but ensures that the entire process is free of electromagnetic fields. A HF start is contactless but might interfere with nearby communication devices.

 Hence, if one is using the unit near TVs, radios, etc. one should opt for a contact start unit. Further, it is generally found that the cheap plasma cutters come with contact start, while slightly costlier models offer HF start.

Must Read; MIG Welder For Home Use

8. Dirty Areas:

If the user has to work in dirty areas, it is always advisable to ensure that the unit comes with special features such as Fan on Demand and Wind Tunnel Technology that keep the dirt out and prevent dirt that has already entered from causing any damage.

9. Cooling System:

It is difficult to grade cooling systems, but it is universally agreed that the unit should come with a cooling system that allows the product to maintain a steady temperature at peak performance. Temperature in this case implies body and nozzle temperature, with the latter obviously being higher.

Conclusion On Finding the Best Plasma Cutter Under 1000

The goal of every person buying a plasma cutter is to obtain the best value for money proposition that does not force him/her to wonder how to maintain a plasma cutter too often. Value for money, as indicated above, contains several parts, and each of these has a different level of importance for each user.

Depending on such vitality gradients and one’s peculiar needs, one can make a choice from among the candidates upon whom we have carried out our plasma cutter reviews, in order to obtain a product that is efficient, cost-effective and also safe.

If these products are not available in one’s area for whatever reason, we sincerely hope that our guide has enough information for one to make a wise choice in the open market. Either way, we hope each and every person seeking to make use of the myriad benefits of this cutting tool can obtain a unit that enhances his/her productivity to the maximum.

What is a Plasma Cutter?

The name plasma cutter betrays the nature and primary function of the product. Plasma, in scientific parlance, while cutter simply means that the task of this product is cut through products that cannot be tackled using ordinary carpentry tools.

From a consumer’s perspective, they refer to a metal cutter that uses plasma to melt the metal at the point of contact, thereby achieving a cut that is smoother than the flaky process used by saws and drill-cutters and cleaner and less costly than that of an oxy-cutter. But how does it manage this?

If we look a little more closely at the parts and functioning of the product, we find that the cutter includes a nozzle through which air or some gas is passed, an electrode and a handle with which to guide the unit (unless the unit is mounted on a train or is guided using some other mechanism).

When the unit is supplied with electricity, the electrode forms an electric arc that moves towards the metal surface. Since the electrode wraps around the nozzle, air coming out of the nozzle is exposed to the high temperature of the arc.

This heat transforms the air/gas into plasma. When the plasma comes into contact with the metal, it melts the metal, causing the area meant to be cut to be weakened. Thereafter, depending on whether it is a high-end or a cheap plasma cutter, the nozzle will blow more or less air.

This excess air is used to blow away the metal form the cut, rendering it clean and removing possibility of liquid metal dripping onto the work area. As the user pushes the plasma cutter further, the plasma shifts and the already cut edges solidify again, making the cut permanent.

While this is the procedure at its simplest, commercial cutting often requires a number of additional components. While it is not possible to discuss all of these, mention may be made of the assist gas.

Some types of metal are especially hard to cut, and require an assist gas to work as a catalyst to ensure that the primary gas is successfully transformed into plasma. While not considered key features of plasma cutter, the assist gas nozzle and supply mechanism are potentially useful features that should not be ignored either.

Types of Plasma Cutters

Broadly speaking, the best plasma cutters are divided into a number of categories based on their start type and whether they are manual or mechanized in operation. While each of these impart different benefits of using a plasma cutter, it should be remembered that choosing a plasma cutter does not boil down simply to deciding how one can get the maximum number of benefits. The ways to choose one will be discussed in a later section.

1. Manual and Automatic Cutters

a. Manual Cutters

Probably the most common category of plasma cutters sold over the counter to customers, manual cutters are exactly what their name suggests – they require the user to guide the cutter by hand. Such cutters typically involve only the parts mentioned above, along with a power supply and on occasion, a separate nozzle and supply for the assist gas. These cutters will form the bulk of our plasma cutter reviews.

Advantages
  • Light and often the only type of cutter that can be transported.
  • Good for scenarios where uneven or artistic cuts have to be made.
  • Require no specialized training to operate.
  • Achieves high speeds when thin metal is used.
  • Does not require installation of a special circuit system or multiple personnel to operate.
  • Much more affordable compare to mechanized cutters.
Disadvantages
  • Smoothness of cut dependent on user’s steadiness of hand.
  • Cannot be operated for very long periods.
  • Speeds fall when cutting thick pieces of metal.

b. Mechanized cutters

Mechanized cutters typically have pre-set cutting tables, water tables and a pre-programmed circuit system that drives the motor. They are usually required for industrial operations involving large and very thick pieces of metal. Since the unit has a complex circuit system, it is usually necessary for a trained operator to run the machine. However, with the rise of robotics, the operators are increasingly being replaced by robots programmed to make very specific cuts.

Advantages
  • Extremely fast when covering large pieces of metal.
  • Cut is extremely uniform regardless of the skills of the operator.
  • Works even with thick metals that manual units cannot handle.
  • Can work as long as the power supply is constant.
Disadvantages
  • Much more costly compared to the average manual cutter.
  • Operator requires special training.
  • Takes up a large amount of space.
  • Only professional companies know how to maintain a plasma cutter that is mechanized.

In general, manual cutters are ideal for small workshops, fabrication units and hobbyists, while mechanized units are necessary for large-scale operations. That said, it is always possible to install a small mechanized unit.

2. Start Type

  • Touch start: Among the simplest if one wishes to learn how to use a plasma cutter, touch start cutters require the user to actually touch the cutter to the surface and then press the trigger to initiate the arc. The benefit of this mechanism is that it does not require consumables upfront and hence allows users to achieve better value for money.
  • HF cutter: HF or high frequency cutters possess a special HF unit that starts the arc. The nozzle the blows out the arc. Since the arc stays in the air initially, it requires consumables to sustain itself. HF units typically eat a lot of upfront consumables like gas, starting rod, etc because they need such consumables to stay alight in the absence of a metal.
  • Pilot Arc cutter: Instead of using a HF unit, a pilot arc creates a preliminary arc that travels to the surface that is waiting to be cut. In the best plasma cutters, the pilot arc is immediately followed by the coming out of the cutting arc from the nozzle due to the pressure of air from the nozzle. Since the pilot arc requires consumables, this procedure also depletes consumables.
  • HF Pilot Arc Cutter: A hybrid of the two types, this product is capable of producing a pilot arc using a HF system, thus making the unit produce a pilot arc but with less use of consumables.