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One of the common compromises made by manufacturers who provide compact units with integrated air compressors is to offer motors with weaker cutting power or lower amperage range.
While it is accepted that the overall power of an integrated air compressor would be lower than that of a large discrete industrial unit, this does not mean that integrated units cannot be made for cutting thicker and tougher metal sheets.
So believes Hobart, which had come up with the Hobart Airforce 500548 500ci. However, one needs a slightly different balance of cutting capability and portability and to this end, the Hobart Airforce 500534 250ci has been created.
Whether this product will simply prove to be a compromise or can truly achieve the standards set by the 500ci and other top Hobart offerings, needs to be studied in a detailed review.
Technical Specifications Of Hobart Airforce 250ci
- Type: Inverter Plasma Cutter (with integrated Air Compressor)
- Voltage Capacity: 120V (works with 110V)
- Cutting Thickness: 1/8” (rated cut, mild steel) , ¼” (maximum cut, steel)
- Weight: 27 pounds
- Warranty: Limited Hobart warranty
Build Quality and Design
As befits a contender to the throne of the best plasma cutter, this product has a compact and no-frills design. While it weighs more than the more common compressor-less designs, it is still quite manageable at 27 pounds, especially since the unit possesses a thick, insulated and ergonomic handle for easy transportability.
Moving towards specifics, we find that the product comes with two rows of specialized vents on each side. These vents (as we shall see below) are specially designed to complement the trademark cooling operations of the unit.
Similar rows of vents can be found on the back as well, positioned in a manner that does not compromise the easy maneuverability of the wiring connected to the ports above it.
The construction quality, as can be expected of a Hobart product, is top notch with high-quality steel being used for all exterior applications.
Coupled with the well-designed ergonomic torch, these make an ideal combination of portability and durability.
Ease of Use
Hobart prides itself in providing the user with settings that do not require excessive twiddling of knobs and switches. To this end, we find a surprising but well thought-out lack of knobs on the Hobart Airforce 250ci and in their stead, there are a large number of LED indicators that indicate the temperature, power, torch readiness, air pressure, amperage, etc.
While the veteran professional might find himself a little restricted by this, the settings chosen by Hobart are ideal for most operations.
The unit runs on a 120V 20A circuit, similar to what is available in most households by default. This ensures that one does not have to purchase plugs and pigtails before starting to learn how to use a plasma cutter.
With other parts also being included, using the cutter is as simple as plugging in the correct cords, attaching the ground clamp and hitting the trigger.
Finally, post-cutting cleanup is made simple and quick since all the wiring can be wrapped up quickly in the sturdy cable management strap provided with the product.
The Hobart Airforce 500534 250ci comes with an inverter-based cutting technology that translates into optimal cutting speed regardless of the material being cut.
Further, given that the air compressor has been integrated into the unit, the compressor always runs at the optimal pressure point, preventing flares and shut-downs commonly associated with external compressors.
Combined together, these allow the unit to produce a steady stream of plasma regardless of the nature or the thickness of the material. These in turn, achieve a more precise cut with less slag and thinner kerfs.
Along with quality and speed comes wide compatibility since the unit is capable of cutting aluminium, steel and other conductive metals with equal efficiency. Cutting thickness is a part of efficiency, and hence we find Hobart providing a motor powerful enough to achieve rated cuts of 1/8” mild steel.
With a maximum cutting thickness of ¼” as far as steel is concerned, this unit is capable of handling most day-to-day cutting tasks without giving up on any of the benefits of a plasma cutter.
Maintenance and Safety Features
While removing the outer covers is a not difficult, chances of having to do so are reduced by self-maintenance features like the post-flow air cooling, which ensures that the torch and its consumable parts are cooled quickly after operation, thus lengthening the lifespan of the torch as a whole.
The fan-on-demand, on the other hand, provides cooling and dust removal only when the operation of the unit requires it, thus saving energy while doing a stellar job of protecting the internal components. Indeed, the vents noted above have been designed to cater to these functions in particular, and hence, together ensure cooling that is superior to most competitors.
Like other Hobart products, the Hobart Airforce 500534 250ci also comes with a thermal overload protection switch. This switch turns off power when the temperature exceeds 104 degrees Fahrenheit at 35% duty cycle.
Since this temperature point is considered the threshold for safe functioning by many experts, Hobart has ensured that one never runs the risk of suffering electrical or fire damage.
The product is backed by Hobart limited warranty.
- Versatile and light design that incorporates air compressor.
- Multiple vents that do not interfere in the attachment or functioning of cables/wiring.
- 120V 20A circuitry for working on normal household current.
- Multiple diagnostic LEDs for quick reference of machine status.
- Simple cable management strap makes wrapping up after work a quick affair.
- Optimized cutting settings and inverter technology for efficient cuts of a wide range of metals.
- Multiple cooling mechanisms combine with the presence of optimized vents for excellent cooling.
- Overheat protection switch defends the user against electrical and fire threats.
- Lack of customizations may feel restrictive for advanced users.
- No stand-alone manual offered with the product.
Despite appearing compact and being extremely easy to operate, the Hobart Airforce 250ci offers cutting speed, compatibility and a huge number of maintenance and safety features.
These features together would have made this unit a good buy, but coupled with price considerations and the fact that the unit comes with an integrated air compressor, these make this unit one of the best plasma cutters in the market today.