A plasma cutter buying guide should consider cutting capacity and power source. In addition, one should consider portability, budget, and safety features to ensure a proper purchase.
Plasma cutters are versatile tools used for a wide range of applications, from metal fabrication to automotive repair. They are powered by a plasma arc, which ionizes gas to create a high-temperature stream of plasma capable of cutting through a variety of materials. However, with many options available in the market, it can be challenging to choose the right one.
This guide will discuss the essential factors to consider when purchasing a plasma cutter, including cutting capacity, power source, portability, budget, and safety features. By reading this article, you will learn the best practices to help you make a wise choice for your plasma cutter needs.
Factors To Consider When Buying A Plasma Cutter
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If you are in the market for a plasma cutter, there are several factors to consider when making your decision. Understanding these factors and how they affect your purchase will help you choose the best plasma cutter for your needs.
In this article, we will delve into the most important factors to consider when buying a plasma cutter.
Power Output And Amperage Requirements
One of the essential factors to consider when buying a plasma cutter is the power output and amperage requirements. Plasma cutters typically have a power output of 40 amps to 100 amps. The thickness of the material you plan to cut will determine the power output required.
For instance, thicker materials will require a higher power output. Knowing the amperage requirements of your chosen plasma cutter will help you better understand if it can handle the type of cutting you plan to do.
The duty cycle of a plasma cutter is how long it can work continuously before it needs to cool down. A high-duty cycle is essential for commercial or industrial purposes, whereas a low-duty cycle is ideal for home use. Most plasma cutters offer a duty cycle of 60% or 80%, but some high-end models may offer a 100% duty cycle.
Knowing your duty cycle needs will help you select the best plasma cutter for your requirements.
Another critical factor to consider is the cutting speed of the plasma cutter. The cutting speed directly affects productivity, and selecting a suitable cutting speed is essential to achieve the best results in the shortest time possible. Look for a plasma cutter that can handle thick materials and still maintain high cutting speeds.
Portability And Maneuverability
When buying a plasma cutter, the size and weight of the tool are critical considerations. Choose a tool that is portable and easy to maneuver around your workspace. If you need to move the tool from one place to another frequently, look for a lightweight option.
On the other hand, if portability is not a priority, you may want to consider a larger tool with more features.
Finally, the price of the plasma cutter is a vital factor to consider. Set a budget and look for a device that fits within that budget while still meeting all your requirements. Keep in mind that higher-priced models often come with additional features or higher power output, but you may be able to find a budget-friendly option that fits your needs just as well.
When selecting a plasma cutter, consider the power output, duty cycle, cutting speed, portability, and price. By understanding these factors, you can make an informed purchase that best fits your needs and budget.
Types Of Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutting is an excellent way to slice through metal with precision and ease. However, choosing a plasma cutter can be overwhelming given the array of options available. In this plasma cutter buying guide, we will walk you through the different types of plasma cutters available to help you make a more informed decision.
Handheld Plasma Cutters
Handheld plasma cutters are compact and portable tools ideal for small-scale projects. They use compressed air, nitrogen, or oxygen to ionize the gas and expel plasma, melting through the metal.
- Power output: typically measured in amps, a higher amp power output results in faster cutting speeds.
- Cutting thickness: consider the thickness of the material you will most frequently cut. Handheld plasma cutters can typically handle material up to 1 inch thick, but require more passes for thicker metal.
- Duty cycle: the amount of time the machine can operate continuously without overheating. A higher duty cycle means less downtime and more productivity.
Cnc Plasma Cutting Machines
Cnc (computer numerical control) plasma cutting machines are automated cutting systems that can cut complex shapes and patterns. They use a computer-controlled system to direct the cutting head along the material and are ideal for large industrial applications.
- Cutting speed: cnc plasma cutters are faster than handheld cutters due to their automation.
- Cutting thickness: cnc machines can typically handle thicker material than handheld cutters, up to 2-3 inches thick.
- Price: cnc plasma cutting machines are more expensive than handheld cutters but are more cost-effective for high volume production.
Three-Phase Plasma Cutters
Three-phase plasma cutters are heavy-duty machines that require three-phase power, making them more suitable for industrial workshops or manufacturing. They offer high power output and fast cutting speeds, making them ideal for larger, thicker material.
- Cutting thickness: three-phase machines can typically cut thicker material than handheld or cnc machines, up to 6 inches thick.
- Power output: three-phase machines have higher power output than handheld or cnc machines, resulting in faster cutting speeds.
- Price: three-phase machines are the most expensive type of plasma cutter. They are best suited for businesses that require high volume, heavy-duty cutting on a regular basis.
When selecting a plasma cutter, consider factors such as the thickness of the material you will be cutting, the frequency of use, and your budget. No matter what type of plasma cutter you choose, it’s essential to follow all safety guidelines and wear appropriate protective equipment when using the tool.
Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
Different Power Sources For Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutters are versatile devices that can be powered by different sources, each with its own benefits and downsides. As a buyer, it’s essential to understand the different power sources available before making your purchase.
Input Power Requirements
Before purchasing any plasma cutter, you must determine the input power requirements. This means understanding the amount of power the cutter needs to run, typically measured in amps and volts.
- 110-120v/ 50-60 hz: this is the standard household power outlet and is suitable for low to medium-duty cuts in thin materials of up to 1/4″ thickness.
- 220-240v/ 50-60 hz: this higher voltage is essential for commercial and industrial cuts that are thicker than 1/4″. It’s the best option for heavy-duty cutting jobs in fabrication shops or industrial applications.
Types Of Power Sources
Here are the various types of power sources :
- Inverter-based: these are highly portable plasma cutters ideal for diy tasks and small workshops. They’re lightweight and can run on either 120v or 240v power supplies.
- High-frequency contact: these plasma cutters feature high-frequency contact (hfc) starting systems that offer excellent cutting precision and control. They are the most common power source for commercial-grade plasma cutters.
- Pilot arc: these cutters use pilot arc technology, which provides a consistent arc light to produce high-quality cuts with minimal molten debris. They are perfect for metal art, automotive repair, and hvac repairs.
Voltage is a crucial consideration when it comes to plasma cutters because it determines the thickness, consistency, and quality of your cuts. Underpowered plasma cutters may have trouble cutting through thick metal, while overpowered ones can lead to excessive heat buildup and poor-quality cuts.
- For lighter job applications such as art projects and diy tasks, 110v-120v plasma cutters are sufficient. A typical 110v plasma cutter provides up to 30 amps of power.
- For more commercial and industrial-scale jobs, 220v-240v plasma cutters provide more substantial power levels of 40-60 amps.
By considering the input power requirements, types of power sources, and voltage considerations, you’ll be well-equipped to choose the best plasma cutter for your needs.
Additional Features To Look For In A Plasma Cutter
Plasma cutters are great tools for precise and efficient cutting, but with so many models available on the market, it can be challenging to know which one to choose. In addition to considering the power output and size of the device, there are several additional features to consider.
The following are features to look for in a plasma cutter and what they offer.
Pilot Arc Technology
Pilot arc technology is a must-have feature for plasma cutters. It is engineered to solve a long-standing challenge in plasma cutting, which involves many machines’ penchant for starting arcs with difficulty, making it impossible to cut metals that are painted or rusted.
With pilot arc technology, the cutter’s tip is briefly engaged to ramp up a low voltage circuit that creates a brief spark. This spark ionizes the air, which starts the pilot arc that stays on until the unit is turned off.
As such, when it is time to cut metal, the pilot-arc technology makes it possible to maintain a stable arc during idle or low-power voltage modes, ensuring that the tool cuts through the metal, not merely the paint or rust on its surface.
Another significant factor you should look for in a plasma cutter is the cost of consumables. These typically include the nozzle, electrode, and other components that eventually wear out over extended use. Some plasma cutters’ consumables, such as the more affordable models, are slightly cheaper, but this cost can add up over time, offsetting any savings from purchasing a cheaper unit.
In contrast, high-end models may be a more significant initial investment, but their lower consumable costs can make them more cost-effective in the long run.
Post-Flow Cooling Technology
Post-flow cooling technology is another essential characteristic to consider. It involves an adjustable timer that releases a cooling gas, usually air, after the cutter’s arc has stopped. When metal is cut using a plasma cutter, the high temperatures generated during the process affect the entire cut’s integrity and strength.
Post-flow technology cools the metal where cutting has occurred, reduces oxidation, and ensures a clean cut. This technology also prevents the formation of dross — an alloy that forms on the laser’s edges and needs to be further removed, resulting in additional finishing expenses.
Display And Control Panel Features
The display and control panel of your cutter are essential as they offer a variety of benefits, including precision cuts and ease of use. Typically, the more expensive models offer greater control and more comprehensive features that allow a user to adjust the tool’s settings to their specific needs.
Besides, the display menus are more user-friendly, and they show a concise display of the cutter’s settings, making it easier to navigate. With this, you can enjoy extra features like pre-set cutting modes, material thickness selection, and amperage control.
Finally, you should consider the noise levels of your plasma cutter. Plasma cutters produce noise levels that go over 100 db, which is louder than a chainsaw. This can cause hearing loss and other medical conditions due to prolonged exposure.
Therefore, a model that produces minimal noise levels is desirable. Some manufacturers have tackled the noise challenge by introducing additional sound reduction mechanisms in their models to ensure quieter operation.
Choosing the right plasma cutter that caters to your needs, use, and budget can be overwhelming. However, using the features mentioned above, you can narrow down your options and invest in the perfect cutter for your specific project requirements.
Plasma Cutter Safety Precautions
When working with a plasma cutter, it is essential to take safety precautions seriously. This powerful tool can produce high levels of heat and light that can cause serious injuries if not handled properly.
Plasma cutting creates a bright light, which can cause severe damage to your eyes if you fail to wear the proper eye protection. Before using a plasma cutter, make sure to wear protective eyewear such as goggles or a welding helmet with a shade lens.
Protective Clothing And Accessories
Apart from eye protection, make sure to wear the appropriate protective clothing and accessories. Wear flame-resistant clothing (preferably made of leather) to prevent any burns. You should also wear gloves, and boots made of non-conductive materials.
Plasma cutting creates fumes and debris. As such, it is crucial to work in a well-ventilated area. Set up your work area near an open door or window. Alternatively, use a ventilation system or a fan to help dissipate the fumes.
Proper Maintenance And Storage
Before and after using the plasma cutter, make sure to clean it thoroughly. Wipe the electrode, nozzle, and other parts with a clean, dry cloth. Proper storage is equally crucial. Store your plasma cutter in a dry and secure location away from moisture.
Use a protective covering to keep it in good working condition.
By following these plasma cutter safety precautions, you can minimize the risk of injuries and accidents. Stay safe and keep cutting!
Frequently Asked Questions Of Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
What Is A Plasma Cutter And How Does It Work?
A plasma cutter is a tool that cuts metal using a high-velocity, ionized gas stream. The plasma stream is created by passing compressed air through a small nozzle and adding an electrical arc to ionize the gas. The ionized gas cuts through metal by melting it and forming a narrow kerf.
What Factors Should I Consider When Buying A Plasma Cutter?
When buying a plasma cutter, you should consider its power rating, cutting capacity, duty cycle, portability, and ease of use. The power rating should be appropriate for the thickness and type of metal you want to cut. The cutting capacity should be large enough to handle your projects.
The duty cycle should be sufficient for the duration of your work. A portable plasma cutter is ideal for welders who move around frequently.
How Do You Maintain A Plasma Cutter?
To maintain your plasma cutter, you should follow the manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning, oiling, and replacing consumable parts such as the nozzle and electrode. You should also inspect the cutter for loose or damaged components. You should use clean, dry compressed air, and avoid using unclean or humid air for the longevity of the plasma cutter.
What Kind Of Safety Measures Should I Take When Using A Plasma Cutter?
When using a plasma cutter, you should wear safety glasses, earplugs, welding gloves, and protective clothing. Make sure you work in a well-ventilated area with a proper extinguisher nearby. Ensure the workpiece is properly grounded and never touch the workpiece until the plasma has completely stopped.
Ultimately, purchasing a plasma cutter can be a wise investment for diy enthusiasts and professionals alike. With the aid of our buying guide, you can select the feature-packed model that meets your specific requirements. Be sure to consider the factors that truly matter in a plasma cutter, such as the power source, amperage, cutting capacity, portability, and budget.
Remember that while purchasing a higher-priced plasma cutter may seem like a significant expense at first, it can pay off in the long run by providing reliable, precise, and efficient performance. By utilizing this buying guide, you will undoubtedly find the best plasma cutter for your needs and experience the convenience and satisfaction that comes with owning an excellent machine.
Thank you for reading, and we hope our guide has been helpful for your future plasma cutter shopping.