Buyers’ Guide: How to Choose the Best Plasma Cutter With Built in Compressor
A plasma cutter is an incredibly useful device that plasma in order to cut through a range of materials – including steel, aluminium and more conductive metals. This is an invaluable tool in manufacturing that offers impressive levels of accuracy and it’s also a great addition to the serious home workshop.
In this plasma cutter buyers’ guide, we’ll look into some of the best plasma cutters with built in compressors on the market and describe how to ensure you’re getting a good instrument to add to your tool box.
Last update on 2017-10-19 PST - Details
What is a Plasma Cutter?
First, let’s look in a little more detail at precisely what a plasma cutter is and how it works.
Essentially, plasma is the fourth form of matter (with solid, liquid and gas being the other three) and can be created by applying electricity to a gas.
This is precisely what happens in a plasma cutter where an electric arc is applied to the gas in order to excite the gas particles and make them electrically conductive.
Depending on the unit you use, your plasma cutter will use oxygen, nitrogen or even environmental air as the gas and force this inside the torch.
Meanwhile, electricity is generated from an external power supply and applied to the high pressure flow of gas.
This creates a ‘plasma jet’ which has an incredibly high temperature up to 40,000 degrees F! This makes short work of most materials and allows for a very clean cut.
Things to Look for When Choosing a Plasma Cutter
When choosing your plasma cutters to use at home or in shop, there are a few important things to consider that will help you choose the best model.
For starters, you should narrow your search to the best plasma cutters with built in compressor. What this means is that the air/gas compressor will be built into the unit itself, making it a self-contained and fully functional tool rather than something that requires an additional, external gas supply. If you’re not running a manufacturing factory yourself, then this is the type of plasma cutter you should look for.
There are then a few other factors to consider and we will be rating different plasma cutters based on some of these points. They are:
Electrical outlets: Plasma cutters create temperatures that are extremely high and as you might imagine, this requires a fair amount of power to operate well. Plasma cutters with build in compressors can be designed for 110 volt outlets or 220 volt outlets and will come with their own amperage rating. Consider as well that plugging other tools into the same circuit will force them to share power.
Portability: The portability is only a factor depending on how you intend on using your device. Getting a plasma cutters with built in compressors though will make this less of an issue for starters but just make sure your cutter comes with a handle and is light enough if that’s how you intend on using it.
The most portable plasma cutters will have built-in inverters. That means that they can take DC power and then use a high frequency transistor inverter to take it from 10kHz to 200kHz. Don’t worry if that’s all jargon – just know that it allows for an even smaller housing for the plasma cutter which is ideal fi you intend on taking your device on the road with you.
Duty cycle: Finally, make sure to look into the ‘duty cycle’ and average thickness. This tells you how long the plasma cutter can be used and its maximum cutting ability and what thickness of material its capable of cutting through. As a general rule, cutters with high amperages will be able to cut through thicker materials and will also have greater duty cycles when at lower amperages.
Price: Of course all these things also affect the price. If you have plasma cutter with built in compressor and inverter and it has an impressive duty cycle, then you can bet it will cost more than something will less impressive specs. Here you need to make the choice between a device that does only what you need it to as cheaply as possible, versus a device that will last a long time and offer the best performance – possibly being the better investment if you do a lot of cutting.
With all that in mind, we’ve narrowed down the best plasma cutters that will provide a good bang (or buzz) for your buck.
Remember as well to pick up some extras along with your purchase. Good accessories and supplies include:
- Spare electrodes – These require occasional replacing
- Consumables – The housing which can eventually wear out over time due to the heats being used
- Shield cup
- Silicone grease
- Air dryer/regulator – Useful for reducing slag
These extras will help your device to last longer and will ensure that it doesn’t give out just when you need to use it!
To conclude, any one of these plasma cutters with built in air compressor will be more than up to the task for most uses around the home. They each run off a regular mains supply and can cut through a similar thickness of material.
The main differences lie in the performance and the design. Take a look at the Amazon reviews and images and decide for yourself. Either way, you’ll be able to start cutting straight out of the box and should have a very positive experience.