A plasma cutter can be used for a variety of cutting tasks that include roll cages, body panels and a range of automotive repairs. They are able to cut through mild or stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, copper, bronze, brass and much more.
The best plasma cutter is the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP, which is a dual voltage high performance unit that deliver clean cutting.
Plasma cutters are capable of generating up to 30,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is then used to cut through materials of various thicknesses. They are available as 110V units or for more demanding tasks, there are 220V alternatives.
Table of Contents
Best Plasma Cutter
|Hypertherm Powermax30 XP
|35% @ 30A
|110V - 240V
|60% @ 50A
|110V - 220V
|Hobart Airforce 40i
|50% @ 40A
|60% @ 45A
|120V - 240V
|60% @ 50A
|110V - 220V
The majority of custom car fabrication projects will involve a MIG welder and powerful plasma cutter for cutting through metal. Trying to manually cut metal is hard work and you will never be able to achieve a quality finish.
As with most welders, plasma cutters can be powered by a range of voltage inputs and have a duty cycle rating. The amperage of the unit will reflect the cutting power with the high powered cutters being more desirable.
Below is a list of the best plasma cutters that are easy to operate, portable and cut through thick materials fast.
Hypertherm Powermax30 XP Plasma Cutter
The Powermax30 XP by Hypertherm is a premium plasma cutter delivers high performance within a compact unit. It is suited towards professionals and enthusiasts that want the best possible cutting performance.
To ensure that it is versatile, it has an auto-voltage functionality that will automatically adapt to either 110V or 240V.
Other features of the Hypertherm Powermax30 XP include:
- Duramax LT torch with comfortable grip
- Includes plug adapter, carrying case, gloves and more
- 10 foot input cable
- 30 amp system
- 35% duty cycle @ 30A
- Cuts through any king of metal
- High quality cutting finish
- Cuts through 5/8 inch+
- Includes a 3 year warranty
If you can afford the premium price tag, the Powermax30 XP is the ultimate portable plasma cutter you can buy. They offer more powerful models but this unit is more than capable for the majority of cutting tasks.
Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter
Lotos are a reputable brand and the LTP5000D model is one of the most popular plasma cutters. As with the more expensive unit above, it features a dual voltage input and can cut stainless, alloy or mild steel as well as aluminum and other metals.
To ensure that it is capable of stable, reliable and durable performance, the unit features an advanced cooling system.
Other features of the Lotos LTP5000D include:
- 10-50A DC output
- Uses non-hazardous compressed air
- Maximum clean cut rated at 3/4 inch
- Easy to use front control panel
- 60% duty cycle @ 50A
- 6 foot input power cable
The Lotos LTP5000D model is a high performing plasma cutter that offers great value for the money. There are a range of other models that are cheaper or more expensive but the LTP5000D is an excellent all-round unit.
Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter
Another premium plasma cutter is the Hobart Airforce 40i, which operates from a 240V input. Although it is a compact unit, it is able to cut through mild steel that is 7/8 inch, which is fairly impressive.
The Auto-Refire technology integrated into this unit allows it to cut through perforated metals as well as painted surfaces.
Other features of the Hobart Airforce 40i include:
- 50% duty cycle @ 40A
- Ergonomic trigger
- Wind tunnel technology
- Weighs just 31 LBS
- Easy to use adjustable dials
- Pilot arc technology
- Includes a 3 year warranty
Overall, the Hobart Airforce 40i is a top rated plasma cutter that is suitable for heavy loads. Although Airforce 40i is an expensive unit, it is a worthwhile investment that is developed by a reputable brand for peace of mind.
Hyperikon Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
Hyperikon are known for their garage lighting but they produce a range of other garage equipment such as this plasma cutter. It is a dual voltage (120V/240V) unit that is able to deliver 10 to 45A, which can be adjusted from the control panel.
In terms of the performance, it is able to cleanly cut through 5/8 inch and you can adjust the amperage and speed for a smooth finish.
Other features of the Hyperikon Plasma Cutters include:
- Advanced IGBT inverter
- 60% duty cycle at 45A
- Over heat protection
- 13 feet input power cable
- Includes earth clamp, air hose, regulator and torch
- Includes a 3 year unlimited warranty
Overall, it is an excellent all-round plasma cutter that can be used for a range of applications. Whether you need to remove rusted lug nuts to cut sheet metal for body panels, the Hyperikon unit is ideal.
ZENY CUT-50 Plasma Cutter
For those that are on a budget and require a cheap plasma cutter, the ZENY unit is the best option. It is a dual voltage unit that uses an inverter to provide stable power and reduce energy consumption by up to 50%.
A standout feature of this unit is the fact that it is compact and one of the lightest at just 22 LBS for maximum portability.
Other features of the ZENY CUT-50 include:
- Amperage range between 20 to 50A
- 60% duty cycle @ 50A
- Complete 15 piece package
- Operates at 110V or 220V
- Supplies gas ahead or delayed
- Max cutting thickness between 1 to 12 mm
Overall, it is the best cheap plasma cutter that is suitable for a home garage or workshop. It may not be as powerful as the other premium alternatives but the small size and efficient energy consumption are very desirable.
Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
Plasma cutters is an essential piece of kit for anyone that is cutting metal sheet. It effortlessly cuts through a wide range of thicknesses due to the large amount of heat that is generated by the unit. It uses an inverter that transforms AC to DC, which produces the electric car.
Some units use an external air compressor whilst others have it integrated into the unit. Along with the input of air, other components required is a dedicated torch, cables and an earthing clamp.
To help you make an informed buying decision, we have produced the below guide regarding plasma cutters.
Built-in Air Compressor
Not every plasma cutter will use a built-in air compressor, which make an external air compressor an essential piece of additional equipment.
Those that have them integrated can be far more expensive but they are easier to use without the hassle of connected up any hoses.
If you need to purchase a separate air compressor, you will want to ensure that it exceeds the recommended PSI in order to operate correctly.
Voltage Input and Power Output
If you are a beginner or simply want maximum convenience, you will want a 110V plasma cutter. They will plug straight into a normal power outlet and are ready to use. However, they will lack power when compared to the more powerful 220V units. These will only be compatible with welder generators or adapters but there are many dual voltage units available.
The power output is measured in the amperage and the amount you require is determined by the thickness of the material. If you require more cutting power, you will require a higher amperage plasma cutter.
For example, a 30A unit should be more than enough to cut through 3/8 inch, which many of the recommendations above state. High powered examples that are 80A and above are more than capable of cutting through 1 inch material with ease.
Duty Cycle Rating
All plasma cutters will come with a duty cycle rating, which describes the amount of time it can operate before needing to cool. It is a rating that is expressed as a % of time at a certain amperage. For example, the best plasma cutter (Hypertherm Powermax30) has a rating of 35% @ 30A. This means the unit can run for 3.5 minutes at 30A before needing to cool down.
Depending upon the type of work that you will be carrying out with the plasma cutter will determine if this rating is an important factor.
If you intend to keep the plasma cutter inside the garage all the time, portable isn’t an issue. However, for those that take it from job to job, you will want to easily transport it on your own with limited hassle.
Key points to check include an ergonomic handle that you can easily grip and the weight of the unit. Anything that is too bulky may be difficult to move and may be an issue. Although having an air compressor integrated into the unit will make it more convenient, it will increase the weight.
Unless you purchase the plasma cutter with a range of consumables, there will be additional equipment that you require. These include an electrode, nozzle, shield cap, retaining cap and swirl ring. These are all components that will need to be replaced as you begin using the plasma cutter.
This is where the quality and clever technology comes into action because they help the consumables remain long lasting.
Due to the large amount of smoke that is produced from using a plasma cutter, it is advised that you wear a welding helmet. You will want to have the best visibility whilst using the cutter to avoid incorrect cutting or injury.
It is important that you also wear protective clothing that will protect you from sparks or droplets of metal. These include work shoes, aprons, welding gloves and more.
Many manufacturers have integrated various safety functionality into the units. The main feature being thermostatic protection, which cuts of the supply of electric if there is a surge or voltage error. Other safety features include voltage signalling, overheating protection and high frequency priming of the pilot arc.
Plasma cutters are a versatile tool that can be used for a range of applications. Whether you are cutting up sheet metal for auto panels or taking on a roll cage project, they are an essential tool.
All of our recommendations above are suited for professionals to those that are on a budget and want something easy to use. We highly recommend that you avoid cheap units unless they have long warranties or are developed by a reputable brand.