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The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Plasma Cutter

Do you ever find yourself with a list of things to cut (steel, aluminum, etc.), only to not know what tool is right for the job?

There’s one simple tool that can be used for a variety of cutting jobs. One cut and it hooks the user.​

It’s the true, tried, and often neglected … plasma cutter.

A plasma cutter serves to a variety of tasks – from molding structures to cutting metal sheets to different sizes and shapes – with minimal distortion. Contractors, fabricators, DIYers, etc. can choose from several different types of plasma cutters. However, before we get into the fine details of different varieties of plasma cutters, let’s talk about what they are and their function.

A plasma cutter is a precision device that cuts through a range of metals and materials. The best plasma cutter offers an impressive level of accuracy and is a great addition to a homeowner’s toolbox.​

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Last update on 2017-09-25 at 06:04 PST - Details

 

How Does a Plasma Cutter Work?​

plasma cutter sends an electric arc through a high-speed inert gas stream (nitrogen, oxygen, compressed air, etc.) that passes through a narrow opening. During the process, the temperature of the gas is elevated to an extent that it goes into a 4th state of matter, known as “plasma”. The plasma’s hot state enables the user to cut metal. The plasma’s electrical activity makes the arc transfer the work while the metal is being cut.

The nozzle causes the gas to pass by at high speed to facilitate the cut. The gas also occupies the cutting area’s perimeter, enabling the plasma cutter to shield the cut. A pilot arc between the nozzle and the electrode is integrated in best plasma cutter models for gas ionization and plasma generation before the arc transfer.

Compared to saws, which tend to leave fragments and bits of metals after the cut, the best plasma cutter goes through the cutting process cleanly with few debris. What’s left can be removed easily. Also, plasma cutters allow for great detail because they enable users to cut through fine lines along thin metal without releasing excess heat.​

The task of selecting the right plasma cutter for your needs can be bewildering, particularly for first-time buyers. The unfamiliar device has several makers to choose from. As a result, you should approach the purchase in a logical manner. The selection of the best plasma cutter requires these considerations.

1. Input Voltage& Duty Cycle​

Depending on which plasma cutter you select, the wiring needs to be configured. Most plasma cutters can be wired at 110, 120 or 220 volts. However, your garage or home might not have a 220 voltage outlet, so keep this in mind. If you have a high voltage outlet, then choose a plasma cutter that can handle high voltages.​

Most plasma cutters will offer 30 amp, 110 volts or 50 amp, 220 volts. Also, the user may have to screw the wires into the cutter’s body. For convenience, the manufacturer might screw in the machine. Some plasma cutters also have a dual meter at the front that enables users to adjust the amps depending on their needs.​

Then duty cycle is another important consideration. A plasma cutter with more amperage output will have a longer duty cycle than a plasma cutter with less amperage output. A longer duty cycle is preferred for longer shifts.​

LOTOS LTP5000D 50AMP NON-TOUCH PILOT ARC PLASMA CUTTER
plasma cutter offers dual voltage capability that enables the machine to run on 110V 50/60 Hz via a pigtail, or on 220V 50/60 Hz power directly. That means the user can connect it in a variety of places.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter
This plasma cutter has an automatic dual frequency/ dual voltage option (50/60Hz 110/220V). It’s almost the same as the previous model, but doesn’t require the additional purchase of a pigtail.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
This plasma cutter works with a 220 voltage outlet 50/60Hz. Therefore, it might not be suitable to use in your home or garage.

 

Lotos LTP5000DLotos LT5000DLotos LT3200
Voltage: 110/220V (50/60 Hz) (pigtail)Voltage: 110/220V (50/60 Hz)Voltage: 220V (50/60 Hz)
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Winner: Lotos LT5000D
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2. Cutting Thickness

Never neglect this aspect when you’re reading reviews of the best plasma cutter. The majority of plasma cutters perform a 1” or 5/8 severance cut and a clean cut of ½”. The former requires a steady hand, along with patience. The latter can be done quickly without any issues. The best plasma cutter performs better than oxyfuel when it comes to less than 2” metal thickness. They produce faster, cleaner cuts.​

The greater the thickness a plasma cutter is capable of going through, the higher will be its price. Therefore, it’s viable to know what you’ll cut before you start your plasma cutter buying hunt. In addition to its capability of going through a certain thickness, a plasma cutter may also have additional features to support the cut.​

LOTOS LTP5000D 50AMP NON-TOUCH PILOT ARC PLASMA CUTTER
This plasma cutter has a ½” maximum cut thickness and a ¾” maximum severance thickness. That’s the standard, but it comes with a MOSFET transistor that can create a high output power to cut thick metal.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter
This plasma cutter has a ½” maximum cut thickness and a ¾” maximum severance thickness. It accommodates the standard demands of buyers.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
This plasma cutter has a ½” severance cut thickness and a 5/16” metal cut thickness. It’s an ideal investment for conscious DIYers.

Lotos LTP5000DLotos LT5000DLotos LT3200
Max severance thickness: ¾”
Max cut thickness: ½”​
Max severance thickness: ¾”
Max cut thickness: ½”​
Max severance thickness: ½”
Max cut thickness: 5/16”​
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Winner: Lotos LTP5000D
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3. Arc & Torch

Modern plasma cutters have a pilot arc which prevents direct contact between the material that the device will cut and the torch. This prolongs the life of the nozzle. Some plasma cutting devices also come with starter sets, which allow users to position the torch and see the arc accurately.​

The best plasma cutter is also equipped with a new torch. The torches are customized in some branded models, and their trigger can be moved according to the user’s liking. The head of the torch may be low profile to go through tight spaces. The user can use the trigger in both finger and thumb positions in most offerings.​

LOTOS LTP5000D 50AMP NON-TOUCH PILOT ARC PLASMA CUTTER
This plasma cutter comes with a non-touch pilot arc torch that cuts through painted, rough and rusty surfacesefficiently while creating minimal slag. The pilot arc’s function is integrated into Robust Infineon IGBT Power Drive Matrix for continuous cutting on dirty metal or a rough surface. Apart from the plasma torch, there’s an air hose, connections, and ground clamp and cable. It’s ideal for professional operators.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter
Doesn’t include a pilot arc, but has a torch trigger that the user can move to do a custom fit. It can be used in thumb or finger positions, and is low profile for narrow spaces. It also has air hose, connections, ground clamp and cable, and air filter and regulator.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
This plasma cutter includes a non-pilot arc as well as a cutting torch. It also has consumables, air filter and regulator, ground clamp, connections. The whole starter package gives a lot of flexibility to the user.

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4. Portability & Cooling

The best plasma cutter is used for a variety of cutting purposes and users often have to move the device around a location, from site to site or even around a plant. Acknowledging this, owning a portable brand and having additional features for transportation – such as a handle – would work in your favor. Some models also come with built-in storage for consumables and other essentials.​

In addition to portability, the best plasma cutter will also have some technology or feature that gives cool air flow to prevent the unit from heating up. The machine’s center is the area where heat can get trapped, so having a top-notch cooling mechanism will prolong the duty cycle of your plasma cutter. The cooling system also prevents any dust or dirt from damaging the components of the device.​

LOTOS LTP5000D 50AMP NON-TOUCH PILOT ARC PLASMA CUTTER
The weight of this plasma cutter is 19.4 pounds and it comes with a handle for portability. It also uses compressed air (non-hazardous) to cut copper, aluminum, alloy steel, mild steel, and stainless steel. The device is equipped with PAPST Advanced German Cooling System to prevent the unit from heating up.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter
The weight of this plasma cutter is 22.5 pounds. The manufacturer has reduced the weight and dimensions of the main transformer by applying switch inverter technology, making the unit portable. PASPT Advanced German Cooling System ensures the heat doesn’t get trapped in the device’s center.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
This compact plasma cutter weighs only 17.6 pounds, and therefore offers ultimate portability to the buyer. It’s also equipped with an efficient cooling fan system to prevent heat up.

Lotos LTP5000DLotos LT5000DLotos LT3200
Weight: 19.2 pounds
Cooling: PASPT German tech
Weight: 22.5 pounds
Cooling: PASPT German tech
Weight: 17.6 pounds
Cooling: efficient fan
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Winner: Lotos LT3200
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5. Inverter

The best plasma cutter has a built-in inverter to facilitate users at remote sites, where there’s no power outlet. They rely on DC power to feed the power via a transistor-inverter of high frequency from 10 KHz to 200 KHz approximately. The inverter adds to the cost, but offers additional functionality and portability.​

Digital inverter technology saves space, meaning manufacturers house modern units in compact designs with semiconductor units. Also, the inverter technology facilities high cutting frequency. In simple words, the built-in inverter enables the plasma cutter to be efficient and fast.​

LOTOS LTP5000D 50AMP NON-TOUCH PILOT ARC PLASMA CUTTER
This plasma cutter comes with high frequency inverter technology that uses IGBT to enable precise, concentrated and constant current to the surface of the material being cut. Users benefit from clean, smooth cuts of a wide range of materials and surfaces without metal distortion.
Lotos LT5000D Plasma Cutter 50Amps Dual Voltage Compact Metal Cutter
This plasma cutter’s inverter power supply creates powerful DC welding currents, courtesy of PWM (Pulse-Width-Modulation) technology. With the leverage of this technology, the efficiency of the main transformer increases by 30%.
Lotos LT3200 32-Amp Non-Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter
This plasma cutter also houses a digital inverter for creating DC currents, which helps in high frequency cutting without any distortion. The inverter, however, is not as powerful as the ones in the previous two models.

Lotos LTP5000DLotos LT5000DLotos LT3200
Inverter: Digital inverter (IGBT tech)Inverter: Digital inverter (IGBT tech)Inverter: Digital Inverter
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Winner: Lotos LTP5000D
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Conclusion

It’s not easy to decide as to which one is the best plasma cutter for your needs. The plethora of options leave buyers overwhelmed, but don’t use this as an excuse to buy a plasma cutter in haste. A smart buyer will look at the above mentioned features and review the feedback given by existing customers before making a decision.​

 Lotos LTP5000DLotos LT5000D
Lotos LT3200
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Max severance thickness
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Arc
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Cutting Torch
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Editor Rating*

From the table above and the analysis done earlier, there is no doubt that Lotos LTP5000D is the best plasma cutter from the three options. Yes, the price is on the higher end, but the functionality it offers should fulfil all your needs. If you consider the cutting dimensions it supports, the digital inverter technology, and other features, you’ll realize that it can offer the best value for money.

Happy Shopping!​

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