Hobart Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor

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The Hobart 500564 Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter with Air Compressor is for anyone looking for a compact and portable plasma cutter. Replacing the 250ci, the Airforce 12ci looks to be the more reliable option as long as you use it for light cutting work. If you’re cutting 1/8-inch or 3/16-inch thick mild steel, this machine is good. Nonetheless, it’s made to cut any conductive metal. 

This is relatively cheaper than other models with the same specs. The other plus point is the built-in compressor. In fact, it combines compressed air and an electrical arc for fast results. The Airforce 12ci should be an efficient plasma cutter, at least more efficient than its predecessor, the 250ci.

Many users claim Hobart Airforce 12ci cuts cleanly, but a few users report some slag on top of the sluggishness of the machine. Well, it’s unlikely to not get trade offs when you’re buying portable plasma cutters. But for its features (e.g. XT12R plasma torch, air cooling system, fan on demand, and diagnostic LED light), you can’t go wrong, especially at this price point. 

Hobart Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter & Specifications

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AirForce 12ci Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor



First of all, it’s worth mentioning how portable this system is. It’s compact. It’s lightweight. And yet it has all the features you need for a reliable plasma cutter. Weighing only 31 pounds, it’s one of the lightest metal cutters on the market.


One thing a lot of people want to talk about when buying plasma cutters is the cut thickness. Some machines boast 1-inch severance thickness, while others can barely cut through a quarter of an inch of steel. 

The Airforce 12ci is versatile as it can cut through brass, copper, mild steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel, or aluminum. It can cut about 1/8″ mild steel at 10 ipm, but try cutting 1/4″ and your speed slows down to 3 ipm. Some may consider this powerful enough, but others think it’s too slow or, at least, mediocre. Then again, keep in mind this is around half the weight of typical plasma cutters on the market. 

Cooling Mechanisms

The built-in post-flow air cooling system works really well in cooling down the torch tip after use. This feature lengthens the usable life of the torch, as well as that of the electrode. 

Another cooling mechanism in this machine is the fan-on-demand technology. Cooling fans dissipate heat that will otherwise accumulate inside the plasma cutter. However, fans also blow dust into the internal parts, and dust causes the equipment to build up heat as well. This problem is minimized when the fans only run when needed. 

Safety Features

Airforce 12ci comes with two notable safety features that make it a great tool for many technicians. The more important one is the automatic shut-off mechanism, which provides thermal protection. You can think of it as an overheating protection that works by shutting or slowing down the machine automatically. 

Another safety feature is the diagnostic LED light alerts, which tell you the status of the machine, its internal temperature, or the torch readiness. 

Built-in Compressor

You can’t call it a compact plasma cutter if it doesn’t have its own air compressor, which is probably the essential part of this machine. Without an air compressor, your plasma cutter, no matter how good it is on paper, is useless. 

The advantage of having a built-in compressor is convenience and portability. It’s easier to move one machine than two discrete machines from one place to another. Moreover, you don’t need to buy a compressor. Airforce 12ci is good to go the moment you purchase it. No need to hook it up to a separate air compressor. That being said, you’re getting a good bang for the buck with a lightweight device that has its own compressor. 

Pilot Arc

It seems as though a pilot arc is becoming more of a necessity for metal cutters out there. It’s a feature so useful that you don’t go back once you get to use it. The Airforce 12ci creates a mini ac in the nozzle, and that’s great because it allows you to start without the tip of the torch touching the workpiece. That’s beneficial in two ways. One, it doesn’t wear out the tip of your torch. Two, you can work on rusty or painted metal surfaces without pre-work cleanup.

XT12R Torch

We have to talk about this torch, because it’s one of the most ergonomically designed plasma torches out there. There seems nothing too special about it,ironically speaking, except the finger contours that provide firm, snug grip. You work better without hand fatigue.

Single Voltage Operation

You’re probably thinking, well, this isn’t a versatile plasma cutter because it runs only on 120V. But the beauty of that is that you can just plug this device into the standard household outlet. That seems counter-intuitive until you realize that you don’t have to worry about hooking it to 240V.


The Hobart Airforce 12ci isn’t the most spectacular plasma cutter, but it holds its own in terms of convenience, ease-of-operation, and user-friendly features. If you are looking for a portable device that does the job, you can’t go wrong with it. If you’re a DIY cutter, this can be your best friend. For more alternative plasma cutters please visit our homepage.

AirForce 12ci Plasma Cutter with Built-In Air Compressor

Sam Cobb

Sam Cobb

Chief Editor

Hi everyone, my name is Samuel but all of my friends call me Sam. I have been a very hands on person ever since I was a kid. Back in those days I was more interested in wood work and have always been a very keen gardener. I find physical projects very rewarding and love having something practical that I can use that I have made with my own hands.

As I have progressed with my DIY skill set I have focused more and more on working with metal. Now my favorite projects are combining my metal working skills with my wood working skills.

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