10 Best Plasma Cutters Reviewed & Tested

For years, metalworkers have had to use saws and drills to shape metal, and they had to contend with the slow speeds and inaccuracies of the tools. As a result metal work was tedious and expensive as the saws and drills quickly wore out. However, with the progression of plasma cutter technology, it is now easier to make clean, smooth cuts, unlike before when one had to up with a jagged mess that needed clean up time.

Our Top 3 Picks

Lotosimg
  • Lotos
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Versatile
  • Price: See Here
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Hypertherm
  • Hypertherm
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Compact
  • Price: See Here
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Hobartimg
  • Hobart
  • 4.3 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Comfortable
  • Price: See Here
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A plasma cutter uses a jet of hot plasma to cut through electrically conductive material and sit results in better cuts as there is no physical contact. Other than higher quality cuts below are some more advantages of a plasma cutter.

Versatility – First, you can cut through many metals using a plasma cutter, and you can also get through material of varying thickness with ease. The power of the device will determine how fast you can get through a metal, but it shouldn’t be an issue.

Portability and ease of use – Gone are the days when you had to deal with a large plasma cutter. Now, these units are smaller and lighter but with the power and performance of larger units. Moreover, they are ergonomically designed with handles, and you can also purchase wheel kits for transportability. As for ease of use, they have a simple learning curve, and no complicated adjustments are required to make intricate

Accuracy – Precision is indispensable when cutting through any metal. Plasma cutters are incredibly precise, especially where cutting measurements are made in advance. We suggest you invest in a cutting guide for better results.

Speed – Finally, plasma cutters are fast and get through any metal with ease; like a hot knife through butter. The power of the unit determines the speed, but there are potent cutters available today.

Given the many tools available today, making a decision can be daunting. Our mission at Contractor Culture is to ensure that you get the best units at the most affordable prices. We have provided our top picks, but first a buying guide.

10 Best Plasma Cutters

 

1. Lotos LTP5000D

1. Lotos LTP5000D
At 1/3rd of the price of brand cutters, the Lotos LTP5000D is the best unit for DIYers and weekend warriors. It is an affordable unit but one that can compete with the expensive brands. First, it uses non-hazardous compressed air but the air compressor isn’t included, and it is a pilot arc unit allowing you to cut through rough, painted, or rusty metals. The results are higher quality cuts and longer life of consumables.

The input amperage of the LTP5000D is 20 amperes, but the output is between 10 and 50A. This output is enough for ¼” and ½” metals. However, the max severance thickness of the unit is ¾” but do not expect a clean cut at this width. You will also appreciate the 60% duty cycle at 50A as you can work for extended periods without the unit overheating. The advanced PAPST German cooling system also helps towards this effect.

Another fascinating feature of this tool is the ergonomics as it weighs only 26 pounds thus portable and includes a handle for carrying. The easy to read air regulator is also a plus, as is the 9ft 5in. hose. Our top features though were the MOSFET transmitter and dual voltage.

Dual Voltage – Thanks to a pigtail the LTP5000D works well with 240V and 110V and thus ideal for home and industrial use.

MOSFET transmitter – This component produces a uniform output for better cuts when dealing with thin metal and can reach higher output levels for thicker metal.
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Product Features

Voltage: 220V and 110V
Output: 10 to 50A
Weight: 26 pounds
PSI: 0 to 150
60% duty cycle

Who is it for?

The LTP5000D is designed for weekend warriors as it lacks the robustness required in production. However, professionals can use it as a backup tool. Finally, if you are on a budget, we recommend you buy this.
Pros

The machine is easy to set up, and often one doesn’t need the manual

It is versatile thanks to the dual voltage capability

Quite portable for minor projects around the house

The gauges are easy to read and understand

Affordable

Cons

The ground way is too short, and the ground clamp is too weak

2. Hypertherm 088079 Powermax 30 XP

2. Hypertherm 088079 Powermax 30 XP
If you are okay spending a fortune on a plasma cutter, we recommend you invest in the Hypertherm Powermax 30XP. Other than the price, this is a small yet powerful unit that can cut through stainless steel and aluminum metal up to 5/8” thick. Such cutting capabilities are a wonder given the size of this unit. At 21 pounds it is astonishingly light and portable. Moreover, it includes a handle and a carrying case for ease during transport.

You will also appreciate the Duramax LT torch design as it increases the comfort and the sure grip mode that is made from heat and impact resistant material. It is also a plus given that the unit uses non-hazardous compressed air.

Another fascinating feature is the continuous pilot arc that allows you to work on expanded, rusted and painted metals. Moreover, this is a dual voltage unit and works with both 120 and 240V, and the auto voltage tech ensures you don’t have to fumble with adapters. Our best features though were the precision and the ease of use.

Ease of use – First the Powermax 30 employs drag-cutting technology consequently reducing the learning curve required. Moreover, it is easy to set up and control.

Precision – This tool is designed solely for cutting, and includes a FineCut feature that helps in this effect. It is also notably faster at 20IPM that other comparable options.
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Product Features

Voltage: 120V and 240V
Cutting speed: 20IPM
Duty cycle: 35% 240V, and 20% 120V
Weight: 21 pounds
Output: 15 to 30A
3-year power supply warranty and 1-year torch warranty

Who is it for?

We recommend the Powermax 30 for people who are getting into the industry and plan to do this long term. Also, it is ideal for workers handling thick metal but also want a precise cut.
Pros

It cuts almost as fast as you can move the torch over the material

Extremely compact and packs away easily, and lightweight

Includes accessories such as dust cover, and cutting guides

Cons

Well, it happens to be quite pricey

3. Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i

3. Hobart 500566 Airforce 40i
Following on our list is the Hobart AirForce 40i. Hobart is a renowned brand for the quality of their items (welding machines and plasma cutters), and the 40i is no exception and their customer support. It is the bulkiest of our top 3 picks weighing 34.3 pounds but still portable. It features a plastic carrying handle that eases transportability. It also features a 50% duty cycle that allows you to work continuously for 5 minutes in 10 minutes. The performance is stellar with the ability to cut through 7/8” metal. Though it is pricey, it is affordable given that other brands are rated to cut 3/8” metals for the same price.

You will also appreciate the wind tunnel technology. By drawing internal air flow, it keeps the components safe from dust, dirt, and debris. Furthermore, the ergonomic XTR torch is comfortable to use for long periods. Another fascinating feature is the thermal overload protection as it keeps the unit safe in demanding working conditions by shutting down preventing damage. Finally, the post-flow cooling system cools the device quickly immediately after the cut. Our best features though were the auto-refire tech and the fan on demand technology.

Auto-refire technology – This allows you to cut expanded metals and other painted surfaces.

Fan-on demand – The fan only runs when needed reducing the energy the unit consumes. Moreover, it reduces the debris that is getting into the device reducing the possibility of breakdown.
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Product Features

50% at 40A duty cycle
Weight: 34.3 pounds
Input:240V
Sever cut: 7/8”
Clean cut: 5/8”

Who is it for?

We recommend the Hobart 40i for anyone both light and heavy duty tasks. Dedicated DIYers will appreciate the unit’s stellar performance.
Pros

It makes quick work of thin metals

It is simple to use, and ready to use out of the box (szero learning curve)

Includes indicator lights that are self-explanatory

Comfortable cutting torch for long working hours

Cons

The only shortcoming is that it still happens to be pricier than our top pick; otherwise, it would be our best pick

4. 2016 AHP AlphaCut 60

4. 2016 AHP AlphaCut 60
If you are looking for an affordable option without the unnecessary flair, we suggest you invest in the AHP Alphacut60. This is a dual voltage 60 amp unit that weighs about 47 pounds. It happens to be relatively portable, and great for people who are ever on the go.

One exciting feature of this tool is the ease of use. First, the power switch is on the front of the gadget rather than the back. Moreover, it has indicators, and the substantial analog dials are easy to handle and read. We loved the post-flow dial as it extends the life of the torch and any consumables.

The Alphacut60 is rated for 3/8” metal though the severance cut can be up to 1”. Our top features though were the duty cycle and the torch.

Torch – The AHP Alphacut60 features a blow-back torch, and thus you can cut painted and expanded metals without the need to scrape off the paint. Moreover, it is easy to handle, and the safety on the trigger prevents you from accidentally lighting it. You will also appreciate the consumables as they are easy to come by.

Duty-cycle – The Alphacut60 duty cycle is 60% at 60 amps which is exceptional. It allows you to work for more extended periods without the need to rest the unit. That is 6 minutes in 10 minutes.
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Product Features

Weight: 47 pounds
Power: Dual voltage (110V and 220V)
Duty cycle: 40% at
Three years parts warranty and 6-month accessory warranty

Who is it for?

If you are in the hunt for a backup plasma cutter for production, we recommend the AHP Alphacut60. We also suggest it for weekend warriors and beginners.
Pros

The duty cycle is exceptional and rivals pricier unit

It is simple to use as it is ready to use out of the box, and has a smooth learning curve

It is safe to use

Cons

The performance on 110V is dire and is bulky compared to other units on this list

5. Hypertherm Powermax45 XP

5. Hypertherm Powermax45 XP
The Powermax 45XP is an upgrade from the previous Powermax 45 and is one tool that is great for the simplicity, the performance, and for being a multi-tool. You can use it for gouging, cutting and marking applications.

First, you will appreciate how compact the unit is as it weighs 33 pounds and is the size of a briefcase. Therefore, if you are seeking a manageable cutter, you might want to try this out. It also happens to be quite easy to use, and ready out of the box. Plug in your ground lead, your air compressor, your torch, and you are all set.

The Hypertherm Powermax 45XP is a 45A unit and thus excellent for shops that deal with ½” metal. However, it is rated 5/8” and you can step it up to 7/8” with a 480V outlet if you have that in your shop. You will also appreciate the ease of use thanks to the patented drag-cutting technology. Moreover, no grinding or surface preparation is needed, and you can cut over paint or rust. Our top features though were the torch and the smart sense technology.

Duramax torch – Other than the ergonomics, the torch is improved in that you can change consumables without shutting down the machine thanks to the lock. It also incorporates a safety to prevent accidental lighting.

Smart sense technology – This enables you to automatically set the air pressure depending on the activity whether cutting or gouging and marking.
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Product Features

Power requirements: 240V
Power: 45A
Weight: 33 pounds
Duty cycle: 50% at 45A but goes to 100% at 32A

Who is it for?

We recommend this unit for shops that often deal with ½” metal. However, it is also ideal for education purposes.
Pros

The unit is durable and is built to last

It is accurate

It is easy to use, with a simple set up and zero learning curve

Retails with long leads that aren’t available in other units

Cons

It is pricey

6. Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme

6. Miller Spectrum 625 X-treme
If you are in search of a lightweight but robust unit, consider the Miller Spectrum 625. It is a pricey unit, but the cost is a worthy tradeoff given the efficiency of the tool. First, it is a 40 amp unit and rated for 5/8-inch metal. We recommend it for shops that often work with ½” metals for better results. However, the max severance cut is set to 7/8”.

You will also be grateful that this is a dual voltage unit with auto-line circuitry system (more on this later). The ergonomics too ensure you can use the item longer with little to no fatigue. The Torch has an ergonomic grip that allows you to work for extensive periods and the reach to is remarkable thanks to the 12ft. hose.

Moreover, it incorporates an X-Case which serves the purpose of storage and transportation, especially with the shoulder straps.

Another fascinating aspect was the auto-refire that enables you to go through expanded, painted, or rusted surfaces without having to prepare the surface. The wind tunnel technology prevents debris and dust from getting into the tool, and the fan increases the reliability of the unit. Our best features were the LED indicators and the auto-line circuitry system.

Auto-line circuitry – Most dual voltage units need adapter plugs to shift from one voltage to another. The Miller 625 has a built-in multi-voltage plug adapter that eases the process.

LED indicators – LED indicators on their own aren’t much but they help reduce downtime on the 625.
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Product Features

Duty cycle: 50% at 40amps, 20% at 27amp
Voltage requirements: 120-240V
Weight: 38.6 pounds
Rated 5/8”

Who is it for?

We recommend the Miller 625 for DIY enthusiasts, for learners, and for artisans who are often on the move.
Pros

The performance on 240V is remarkable

It is simple to store and transport thanks to the X-case

Has convenience features that make it easy to use

It is powerful

Cons

It is pricey, and the performance on 120V is dire

7. PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A

7. PRIMEWELD Premium & Rugged 50A
If you are looking for an affordable option, we recommend you consider the Primeweld 50A. It is no Miller or Hypertherm unit, but it will get the job done. The Primeweld 50A is a dual voltage tool, and you can use both currents albeit with the help of some adapters. As a 50 amps unit, it is suitable for ½” cutting applications although it has a severance of about ¾ inches. The quality of cuts is lower on thicker metal, but it still gets the job done.

Furthermore, you will appreciate that all the items are handled in the USA as there is better quality control. And the 3-year warranty means the company stands by their product. Should you purchase this unit, you can expect a 12’ ground clamp, an air regulator, two couplers, four clamps, and two plasma cutter tips. Our top features though were the affordability and inverter technology.

Inverter tech – The inverter tech on the Primeweld 50A converts DC into AC increasing the resourcefulness as you can use it on any outlet. Moreover, it is pleasant to use as it is less noisy.

Affordable – The Primeweld is a fraction of the cost of most plasma cutters on this guide, and you will be satisfied with the performance seeing as it has a 4.2-star rating on Amazon.
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Product Features

12’ ground clamp
3-year warranty
50A unit
Max severance: ¾”
½” rated

Who is it for?

We can only recommend this unit for beginners and DIYers handling simple tasks.
Pros

It is affordable

For the price, you are getting more than you pay for

It makes top quality cuts

The customer support is stellar

Cons

You get what you pay for; the unit is not sturdy, and you have to invest in some accessories to complete the setup Setup is a bit demanding, and the manual is terrible

8. Hypertherm Powermax 65 Hand System

8. Hypertherm Powermax 65 Hand System
Hypertherm products are a substantial investment, but a worthwhile investment as their products are of superior quality, better customer support, and more patents than other companies in the industry. First, these products are durable, and you can expect them to last. The Powermax 65 is the 45’s big brother, and max’s out at 65A.

The higher power on this unit enables one to work with thicker metal as it is rated ¾” to 1”. However, it makes severance cuts on metal as thick as 1-1/4”. It weighs a considerable 64 pounds and thus isn’t the most portable plasma cutters. However, it does include some plastic handles that ease the process. You will also appreciate the ease of setup and the nearly non-existent learning curve.

Another remarkable feature is the cutting speed. When working on ¾ thick metal, you can expect a cutting speed of about 20IPM; this falls to 10IPM when cutting 1” metal and further to 5IPM when dealing with 1-1/4” metals.

As for the pressure, Hypertherm recommends 6.7 CFM at 85psi, but it is best you have something closer to 9 CFM to ensure the cutter never shuts down. The continuous pilot arc guarantees that you can cut any perforated, rusty, or coated surfaces. Our top features though were the smart sense tech and the torch.

Duramax Torch – First, you can use either 15 or 75 degrees torches, and they are ergonomically designed to reduce fatigue. Moreover, the torches have a torch lock that allows you to change consumables without powering off the unit. Finally, there is a safety pin that prevents accidental lighting.

Smart Sense Technology – This enables the gadget to automatically alter the air pressure depending on the activity (cutting, gouging or marking).
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Product Features

Weight: 64 pounds
Cutting speed: 20IPM
Amperage: 60Amp
50% duty cycle at 65A

Who is it for?

The Powermax 65 is a professional tool. First, it is pricey, and the voltage required is not available in most residential garages.
Pros

With the Powermax 65, you are getting superior quality, and you can expect it to serve you longer

Has unrivaled performance

Easy to setup and use

The unit is American made

Cons

It is pricey, and the bulky; the latter limits the portability of the tool

9. Thermal Dynamics 1-5631-1 Cutmaster 60i

9. Thermal Dynamics 1-5631-1 Cutmaster 60i
As you have probably gathered this is a 60amp option designed for demanding jobs. As you can expect, it is pricey seeing as it is a production unit. First, it is powerful and is rated for 5/8” metal. However, it can sever up to 1-1/4” metals without compromising the quality of the cut. You would expect such a powerful unit to be bulky, but it weighs 37 pounds and thus is portable for working on different job sites. It also incorporates a multi-handle design for when you are carrying it.

We would recommend this unit due to the leading 4-year warranty. Moreover, it has some improvements in that the ground is now detachable and not internal compared to the 52i. Draining water trap is also a breeze as you don’t have to take off the whole panel. Finally, you will appreciate the automatic multi-voltage detection, as it allows you to work with any voltage between 208V and 480V.

The 50% duty cycle at 60A is also incredible, and it gets to 100% at 40A. Our top features though were the display and LED indicators.

Display – The Thermal Dynamics 62i features an improved display unlike the 52i in that it displays an error code of what is not working. No more trial and error for what isn’t working.

LED indicator
– The consumables indicator will light up when consumables are no longer effectual. One might think that this is a scam to sell more consumables, but you will use 75% less.
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Product Features

Pierces: 5/8 inch
Rated cut: 5/8 inch
Power: 60A
Duty cycle: 50% @ 60A and 100% at 40A

Who is it for?

We recommend this unit for professionals and shops that deal with ¾” metals.
Pros

It is lightweight and thus highly portable

You are getting value for your money as the cutter is robust and durable

It is appealing thanks to the new display

Thermal dynamic 60i features a high-visibility display with all the required information

Cons

The error codes can get a bit confusing, especially for first-time users; moreover, it is a pricey plasma cutter

10. Hobart 500565 Airforce 27i

10. Hobart 500565 Airforce 27i
If you desire quick and precise cuts and you are on a substantial budget, we recommend you invest in the 27i. This unit is rated 3/8” but can make max severance cuts at 5/8”. With the air force, you will ease your way through aluminum, steel, and any other conductive materials.

First, you will be grateful for the ergonomic design. This unit weighs 32.1 pounds and thus is easy to transport from one job site to the next. Moreover, it includes an ergonomic handle, and the XTR30 torch is ergonomically designed with comfort in mind.

Another intriguing feature is the built-in multi-voltage plug as it allows you to work with 120V to 240V and is easy to adjust. The unit also features a post-flow air cooling system that cools the torch and tip almost instantly after any operation. The wind tunnel tech, on the other hand, prevents any destructive particles from getting into the system by using internal air flow. Our top features though were the fan on demand and the inverter technology.

Fan-on-demandThe fan works only when the unit is about to overheat and thus reduces the dust and debris it pulls into the cutter. It also reduces the power consumption, and number of damaging particles getting into the machine and consequently increases the life.

Inverter technology – If you are in the hunt for a power efficient plasma cutter, we recommend you try the 27i. It has a cutting capacity comparable to larger machines but consumes about half the power.
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Product Features

3/8” rated
35% duty cycle at 240V
Power: 27A
12 ft. torch
Weight: 32.1 pounds

Who is it for?

The Hobart Air Force 27i is for 3/8” metals. However, if you work with stainless steel, ensure it is only ¼” thick, and 1/8” if it’s brass.
Pros

It is dead accurate and super easy to use; very little set up required attaching the compressor, and you are ready to go

Dual voltage and inverter-based technology

Lightweight and portable

Cons

It happens to be a pricey unit

Selection Criteria

What is the thickness of the metal you will most frequently cut?

Every metalworker has this one metal thickness that they frequently work with, and one should invest in a plasma cutter that is best suited for that width. ¼” metals require low amperage about 25 amps, unlike ½” metals that need between 50 and 60 amps. ¾” to 1” thick metals will need a plasma cutter that can get to 80 amps.

Though you can use a smaller machine to cut through thicker metal, the results will not be as pleasant, and you will need to clean up. There is even a possibility of it not making it through the plate.

Cutting speed

The work environment often influences the tempo. If you are in production, you want a unit that can get through most materials with ease. It is best practice you invest in a tool that can accommodate twice your normal cutting speed. However, if you are a DIYer, and speed isn’t a concern, buy a plasma cutter for your standard thickness.

Always consider the IPM (inches per minute) and the amperage.

Duty Cycle

Duty cycle is measured as a percentage of 10 minutes, and is the number of minutes you can cut at a particular amperage without overheating. If a plasma cutter has a 50% duty cycle at 60 amps, it means you can use it continuously cut for 5 minutes without at 60 amps without needing a break.

If you desire to work for extended periods, uninterrupted, we recommend a tool with higher duty cycle.

Alternatives to High-Frequency Starting

A pilot arc, which features on most plasma cutters utilizes high frequency to conduct electricity. However, this frequency often interrupts equipment that may be in use in the area, and thus you want a unit that eliminates the problem especially in sensitive areas.

We recommend a lift arc which uses a DC- electrode, and a DC+ nozzle. The two initially touch, so that current flows through the two, but the electrode eventually pulls away establishing a pilot arc.

FAQS

What is plasma?

One common question among plasma cutter enthusiast is what plasma is? Well, this is the fourth state of matter that exists when gas is ionized and thus capable of conducting electricity.

A plasma beam is capable of producing heat up to 22,000 degrees Celsius and therefore excellent at cutting materials that conduct electricity.

Can one cut underwater?

Yes. However, expect reduced cutting speed and quality owing to water’s cooling effects. However, ensure you keep water levels at about 1-inch for the smoke absorption properties of water, and you maintain the cut quality at this depth.

What are consumables?

Consumables are the parts of the pcutter that wear out due to use. Often, these are the nozzle and the electrode. A plasma cutter can reach temperatures up to 22,000 degrees Celsius, enough to melt any metal. However, the nozzle is copper thanks to its superior heat transfer but melts at 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Compressed air creates a barrier between the plasma and the nozzle to reduce wear and tear, but it is inevitable, and they eventually need replacing.

The electrode, on the other hand, is hafnium as it is efficient at emitting electrodes but they will eventually evaporate. Consumables need to be replaced otherwise the torch will misfire and ruin the quality of your cuts.

Consider consumables when purchasing plasma cutter as they might influence the cost in the long run. A low-cost unit but requires constant consumable replacement will be expensive than a pricey piece of equipment with efficient use of consumables.

Conclusion

Most plasma cutters are ready to use but often need pressurized air. Ensure you check the manufacturer’s recommendations and exceed them if you want cleaner cuts. Most of the units on this list are great for DIY aficionados and professionals. Remember to stay within your budget though we would recommend the pricier units owing to their quality and use of consumables.

You can get most of these plasma cutters from local dealers, but we recommend Amazon as you can view reviews and get discounts. Thanks for coming this far, and please leave your thoughts in the comments below.