10 Things to Consider when Choosing a Plasma Cutter
Plasma cutters are one of the best ways to cut through sheet metal such as steel, stainless steel, brass and aluminum. You can cut through metal with speed and precision as it burns through the metal with plasma. We’ve written a guide to the top 10 things to consider when choosing the right plasma cutter for you. If you’re interested in buying sheet metal to cut, check out the Online Metals Store. If you’d like more information about plasma cutters take a look at the plasma cutters buyers guide.
1. Air compressor
Plasma cutters need compressed air to create the plasma, this can either be provided by a built-in air compressor or an external compressed air supply. Both of these types produce great results, but when choosing a plasma cutter you’ll need to decide which one is most convenient for you. A built-in air compressor will be more expensive, but it means you’ll be able to manage small jobs more quickly.
When choosing a plasma cutter, you want a machine that is top quality and will stand the test of time. Plasma cutters aren’t cheap, so you want to make sure your purchase lasts and doesn’t break down when you’re working on something important. Choose a trusted brand from a trusted retailer. Brands such as Hypertherm, Miller, Lincoln, and ESAB are all available in the Bakers Gas store.
3. Pilot Arc
A pilot arc is a cutting feature that provides a more stable arc with longer consumable life because you can cut metal without the tip of the torch striking the metal. This is useful if you’re cutting rusty services because you don’t have to clean the metal and strike it. This is a relatively new innovation, however, most plasma cutters will have this feature except the cheapest models.
There are three different voltage options that plasma cutters can be purchased with. You can either buy 115V, 230V or a dual voltage cutter with both options available. Plasma cutters with 115V are useful for beginners that don’t need much power and are cutting at home. These can be plugged into your standard household power outlet, but don’t give you that much power. If you have one with 230V input then you’ll need a generator to run it. If you have one with both options you can easily switch the plug over depending on how much power you need and your environment.
5. Cut Rating
One of the most important things to consider is the thickness of metal that a plasma cutter can cut. Consider the maximum thickness of metal you might be cutting and choose a machine that’s capable of it. If you’re insured, it’s best to go for a high cut rating just in case.
There are three different cut ratings to consider:
Rated Cut: The metal thickness that can be cut at a rate of 10 inches per minute (IPM).
Quality Cut: The thickness at a lower speed – this will be a thicker metal.
Sever Cut: The maximum cut that can be achieved. This will be very slow and may not be a very clean cut.
6. Duty Cycle
The duty cycle refers to the amount of use that a plasma cutter can endure continuously. Plasma cutters with a higher duty cycle can be used for a longer period of time and the duty cycle of any given machine will decrease as you increase the voltage. Look for the highest percentage number at any given amperage for the best duty cycle.7.
Plasma cutters can weigh from as little as 20lb right up to 100lbs for the tough industrial machines. If you need to carry your plasma cutter around from job to job, you’ll want something you can carry without putting your back out! Bear in mind though that the lighter machines won’t be able to cut as thick metal as a bigger, heavier plasma cutter.
8. Cut Quality
The cut quality is how clean and smooth the finished cut is. The best plasma cutters have a high cut quality, so cuts will appear sharp and clean and won’t require you to spend time cleaning it up to have a smooth appearance.
9. Operating Cost
The consumption rate of a plasma cutter varies a lot between different machines and consumables. Research the consumption rate of your equipment to help save money over time. Hypertherm plasma cutters are expensive, but they have a lower operating cost due to their excellent consumables so may save you money in the long run.
10. Cutting torch
The length of the torch is an important consideration. If you’re working in a large workshop and with a heavy machine you’ll need a longer torch so you can work in different areas of your workspace without having to move the heavy plasma cutter about. If you’re going to be cutting for long periods of time, then look at torches that fit the shape of your hand to help prevent soreness.
How much is a Plasma Cutter?
Plasma cutters can range from $475 – $5,000, however, price isn’t always an indication of quality. That is why it is extremely important to understand the 10 aspects of a plasma cutter above. KingsofWelding.com has a fantastic buyers guide “Best Plasma Cutter Guide for 2020 & Plasma Cutter Reviews” and we recommend you give that a read if you are in the market.
DIY Plasma Cutter
If purchasing a plasma cutter seems too mundane, there are other ways to go about getting one. The extremely adventurous can even consider making their own! Plasonator has uploaded his 20 Step Process for creating his own DIY Plasma Cutter to Instructables for you to try yourself. Be safe out there and let us know how it turns out!
About The Author
This article was brought to you today by John Ward from Kings of Welding. They’ve got a wealth of information on their site ranging from informative articles to reviews on specific welding machines. Check them out for your welding questions. You can also find them on their Facebook page.