The Ultimate Guide: What Size Air Compressor for Plasma Cutter.

For a plasma cutter, a minimum of a 60-gallon air compressor with a working pressure of 90 psi is needed. A plasma cutter is an essential tool used to cut through a variety of metals and materials, making it a versatile and useful addition to any workshop.

However, to ensure that it works properly, you must pair it with the right air compressor. While choosing the correct air compressor for your plasma cutter, you should consider the minimum cfm (cubic feet per minute) required and the size of the tank.

Having the right size compressor will guarantee that your plasma cutter has all the air it requires to cut through and clean the metal. This article outlines the essential aspects of selecting an air compressor for your plasma cutter to ensure the highest performance.

The Ultimate Guide: What Size Air Compressor for Plasma Cutter.


Understanding The Working Of A Plasma Cutter

A plasma cutter uses a high-velocity jet of ionized gas known as plasma to cut through various metals. Plasma cutting is a process that requires both precision and power. The plasma cutting process is a complex one, but understanding it is essential if you want to determine the right size of air compressor for your plasma cutter.

Explanation Of Plasma Cutting Process

Plasma cutting is a process that involves the use of a concentrated jet of superheated plasma to cut through metal. The process is similar to that of welding, only that instead of fusing the metal together, the plasma melts through the metal, creating a clean and precise cut.

Here’s how the process works:

  • A power source sends an electrical current through a nozzle.
  • Compressed gas, usually air, is forced through the nozzle.
  • When the gas reaches the metal, it creates a plasma arc by ionizing the gas particles.
  • The plasma arc melts through the metal, cutting it in the process.

Role Of Compressed Air In Plasma Cutting

Compressed air plays a crucial role in plasma cutting as it is the gas that is used to create the plasma arc. The compressed air is forced through the plasma cutter torch at high pressure and creates a concentrated, high-velocity stream of plasma that melts through the metal like a hot knife through butter.

Effect Of Compressed Air On Plasma Cutter

The quality of the compressed air that you use in your plasma cutter can have a significant impact on the cutter’s performance, efficiency, and lifespan. Poor-quality compressed air can cause several issues, including:

  • Reduced cutting speed and power output
  • Shorter consumable life
  • Poor cutting quality
  • Damage to the plasma cutting machine

Discussion Of Consumables, Power Sources, And Cutting Speeds

When it comes to plasma cutting, choosing the right consumables, power sources, and cutting speeds is critical. Consumables are the components of the plasma cutter that will need to be replaced over time. It is essential to choose high-quality consumables that fit your specific plasma cutter model.

Power sources, on the other hand, come in various types, including single-phase, three-phase, and dc. The choice of power source will depend on your plasma cutter’s power requirements.

Lastly, cutting speed is determined based on the type of metal you’re cutting and its thickness. It is essential to set the cutting speed based on the material being cut to ensure quality and precision.

Understanding the working of a plasma cutter is crucial in determining the size of air compressor required. The size of the air compressor will also depend on the expected thickness of the metal you plan to cut. By choosing the right compressed air, consumables, power source, and cutting speed, you can ensure that your plasma cutter operates at optimal performance, delivering high-quality cuts consistently.

Determining The Right Size Air Compressor For Plasma Cutter

Are you planning to buy a plasma cutter and wondering what size air compressor you need for it? Look no further! In this guide, we’ll explain how to determine the right size air compressor for your plasma cutter.

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Air Compressor

When buying an air compressor for your plasma cutter, consider the following factors:

  • Cfm (cubic feet per minute) requirement of your plasma cutter
  • Psi (pounds per square inch) requirement of your plasma cutter
  • Air compressor’s cfm and psi ratings
  • Tank size of the air compressor
  • Duty cycle of the air compressor

Cfm (Cubic Feet Per Minute) And Psi (Pounds Per Square Inch) Explained

  • Cfm: It is the volume of air flow that an air compressor can deliver in a minute.
  • Psi: It is the amount of pressure generated by an air compressor.

Calculation Of Cfm And Psi Requirements For Different Types Of Plasma Cutters

Different types of plasma cutters have different cfm and psi requirements. Below are the cfm and psi requirements for different types of plasma cutters:

  • Light-duty plasma cutters (up to 20 amps): 1.5 cfm at 60 psi
  • Medium-duty plasma cutters (20 to 40 amps): 3 cfm at 90 psi
  • Heavy-duty plasma cutters (40 amps or more): 6 cfm at 90 psi

Comparison Of Psi And Cfm Requirements Of Different Plasma Cutter Types

Here’s a quick comparison between the psi and cfm requirements of different plasma cutter types:

  • Light-duty plasma cutters: 60 psi and 1.5 cfm
  • Medium-duty plasma cutters: 90 psi and 3 cfm
  • Heavy-duty plasma cutters: 90 psi and 6 cfm

Keep in mind that the above figures are minimum requirements. If you have an air compressor with higher psi and cfm ratings than your plasma cutter’s requirements, you’ll have better performance and less risk of damaging your plasma cutter.

So, there you have it! By considering the above factors and calculations, you should be able to determine the right size air compressor for your plasma cutter. Happy cutting!

Types Of Air Compressors Suitable For Plasma Cutting

Explanation Of Different Types Of Air Compressors

Before choosing an air compressor for your plasma cutter, it’s essential to know about the different types of air compressors suitable for plasma cutting.

Here are the types of air compressors widely used for plasma cutting:

  • Reciprocating air compressor: This type of compressor is commonly used for light-duty plasma cutting tasks. It compresses air by using a piston in a cylinder, which is suitable for tasks requiring a low volume of air and intermittent use.
  • Rotary screw air compressor: This type of compressor is ideal for professional-grade plasma cutting tasks. Unlike the reciprocating compressor, rotary screw compressors have a continuous duty cycle and can deliver a high volume of air.

Discussion Of Oil-Free And Oil-Lubricated Compressors

Another factor to consider when choosing an air compressor for plasma cutting is whether to use oil-free or oil-lubricated compressors.

  • Oil-free compressors: As the name suggests, these compressors do not require oil to lubricate their moving parts. They are suitable for locations where oil contamination is a problem, such as hospitals or food and beverage production facilities.
  • Oil-lubricated compressors: These compressors use oil to lubricate their moving parts, ensuring they run smoothly and last longer. They are suitable for industrial settings where high volume and continuous use are required.

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Each Type Of Compressor

Each type of compressor has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are the pros and cons of oil-free and oil-lubricated compressors:

Oil-free compressor:

  • Advantages:
  • Reduce oil contamination risks.
  • Low maintenance needs.
  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Disadvantages:
  • Shorter lifespan.
  • Louder than oil-lubricated compressors.
  • Not suitable for high-volume or continuous use.

Oil-lubricated compressor:

  • Advantages:
  • Longer lifespan.
  • Quieter operation.
  • More suitable for high-volume or continuous use.
  • Disadvantages:
  • High maintenance needed.
  • The risk of oil contamination.
  • Heavier and less portable.

Comparison Of Single-Stage And Two-Stage Compressors

Before purchasing an air compressor, it’s also vital to know about single-stage and two-stage compressors.

  • Single-stage compressor: This type of compressor pumps air to its final pressure in one stroke. They’re best suited for low-volume tasks and intermittent use.
  • Two-stage compressor: This compressor pumps air to an intermediate stage before compressing it further. They move more air through the pump in two steps, which makes them more energy-efficient and suitable for industrial-level tasks.

Selecting an air compressor suitable for plasma cutting depends on the type of task and frequency of use. Understanding the factors and differences between air compressors mentioned above will make it easier to choose the right one for your needs.

Maintenance And Safety Tips For Air Compressors And Plasma Cutters

Importance Of Regular Maintenance Of Air Compressor

Regular maintenance of air compressor is crucial to ensure that your equipment performs to the best of its ability and lasts for longer. Here are some key reasons why air compressor maintenance is essential:

  • Regular maintenance ensures optimal performance of the air compressor, which results in efficient and high-quality cuts with the plasma cutter.
  • It helps prevent sudden breakdowns or malfunctions that can be costly to repair or replace.
  • Proper maintenance can also lower energy consumption and save money on utility bills.

Some routine maintenance tasks for air compressors include:

  • Checking for oil and coolant levels and changing or refilling them as needed
  • Inspecting and cleaning air filters
  • Ensuring proper belt tension
  • Lubricating parts such as bearings

Explanation Of Air Compressor Maintenance Procedures

Air compressor maintenance procedures are necessary to keep the equipment functioning at optimum levels. Here are some explanations of typical maintenance tasks:

  • Checking oil and coolant levels: This is done by inspecting the dipstick or sight glass and making sure that the levels are within the recommended range. Should the levels be low, they need to be refilled or replaced immediately.
  • Checking air filters: Filters should be regularly checked for damage and cleaned or replaced accordingly. Dirty filters impair air flow and reduce the efficiency of the compressor.
  • Ensuring proper belt tension: The belt should be examined for wear and cut marks, tension, and alignment. If it’s loose or worn out, replace it.
  • Lubricating parts: Proper lubrication is critical to the lifespan of the compressor parts, and it also helps prevent issues such as overheating and corrosion. Only use the recommended lubricant for each part.

Importance Of Safety Precautions When Working With Air Compressors And Plasma Cutters

Working with air compressors and plasma cutters can be dangerous without the appropriate precautions taken. The following are the important safety measures to take with air compressors and plasma cutters:

  • Always wear protective gear that entirely covers your face, skin, and eyes. Plasma cutters generate high temperatures that can cause severe burns.
  • Ensure that the air compressor is placed on flat and level surfaces that can handle its weight, and secure it to prevent accidental movement.
  • Read the instruction manual or receive proper training before operating the equipment to familiarize yourself with its use and safety protocols.
  • Perform maintenance only when the equipment is shut off and adequately cooled down to avoid accidental engagement.
  • Use only recommended accessories and replacement parts, never compromise on the quality of parts or equipment.

Working with air compressors and plasma cutters can be dangerous and pose a safety risk if not handled properly. Each piece of equipment should be used with caution and only by trained professionals with proper knowledge of equipment operation and maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions Of What Size Air Compressor For Plasma Cutter

What Is The Right Size Of Air Compressor For A Plasma Cutter?

The appropriate size of the air compressor for your plasma cutter depends on the amperage of your plasma cutter. For low amperage plasma cutters, a 1. 5 cfm compressor is suitable, while for high amperage plasma cutters, you need an air compressor with a higher cfm of at least 6.


Will A Small Air Compressor Work For A Plasma Cutter?

Yes, a small air compressor can work for low amperage plasma cutters, but for high amperage plasma cutters, you need an air compressor with a higher cfm of at least 6. 0. Also, consider the size of the air compressor tank because a small air compressor may not have sufficient air storage capacity.

What Happens If My Air Compressor Is Too Small For My Plasma Cutter?

If your air compressor is too small for your plasma cutter, you may experience several problems, including poor and uneven cuts, slower cutting speeds, and damage to the consumables. Additionally, smaller air compressors may overheat, reducing the lifespan of the compressor.

Can I Use A Larger Air Compressor Than Recommended For My Plasma Cutter?

Yes, you can use a larger air compressor than recommended for your plasma cutter. However, you have to be careful not to exceed the maximum pressure rating for your plasma cutter as this may damage the unit. Using a larger air compressor can also lead to significant energy wastage.

Do I Need An Air Compressor With An Oil-Free Pump For My Plasma Cutter?

It is recommended to use an oil-free air compressor pump for a plasma cutter to avoid any contaminants in the compressed air. Oil-free air compressors also require less maintenance and are lighter in weight. However, if you cannot find an oil-free air compressor with the right cfm, you can use an oiled air compressor and fit a filter to remove the oil mist.


In a nutshell, investing in a right-sized air compressor is vital for running your plasma cutter efficiently. Through this guide, you have understood the connection between a plasma cutter and an air compressor, the factors that impact the decision of selecting the appropriate size, and the recommended sizes for different plasma cutters.

When you do not use the right size of an air compressor, it can lead to issues such as reduced cutting quality, decreased lifespan of the plasma cutter, and much more. Thus, always keep in mind that a well-matched air compressor is the heart of your welding shop, and it helps to produce impeccable cuts.

Now, equip yourself with all the knowledge and make an informed decision to choose an air compressor of the right size for your plasma cutter, and enjoy precision and efficiency in your welding project.


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