Metal cutting can be one of the most tedious and expensive tasks in fabrication.
Plasma cutters work more efficiently, making clean cuts with less heat and more precision, using a plasma torch.
Inverter technology has lowered the costs of plasma cutters. However, serious plasma cutters are still expensive.
You need a high quality air plasma cutter best suited to cutting thick metal precisely. It has to be energy efficient without costing way too much.
We’ve found 5 of the best models on the market to help you make sure you find the best plasma cutter.
In a Rush?
Here's 3 products we picked out that thought you would be interested in depending on your budget...
Best Plasma Cutter Reviews with Picks
Here's a list of the some of the best plasma cutters we found on the market:
1. Hypertherm Powermax 45 Plasma Cutter
- Lightweight and small size
- Max cut 5/8-inch stainless steel plate
- 10 to 45 amps output
- 110v 220v dual voltage
- 3-year power supply warranty
- FastConnect torch connection
- Drag-cut makes plasma cutting easy
- Torch disable switch for changing parts
- Smart Sense auto pressure setting
- Wide range of torch styles
- No CPC port for computer control
Hypertherm is unique because cutting technology is all it sells. This is not a welding machine maker that’s branching out into plasma cutting. Laser cutting, water jets and plasma cutters are what Hypertherm is all about. This singular focus on high quality plasma cutters puts Hypertherm at the top of the industry.
Our top pick, the Hypertherm Powermax 45 produces 10 to 45 amps, enough cutting capacity to precision cut ⅝-inch thick steel plate. It’s designed for industrial use to cut metals in factory environments. This machine has dual 240/480 volt power input. Smart Sensor is Hypertherm’s system for automatic compressed air settings.
It has a torch disable switch for changing torch components. Quick change technology provides rapid reconfiguration of the torch style and tip sizes for clean cuts. Owners rave about quality work from the Hypertherm Powermax 45, praising the precise cutting, high inches per minute rating and smooth edges. This has a lot to do with why we chose it as the best plasma cutter.
The only downside to this model is the lack of a CPC port to control it with a computer. Fortunately, the port can be retrofitted with a kit from Hypertherm. The Powermax 45 has a 3-year warranty on the power system and a 1-year warranty on the torch.
2. Hobart Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter
- 12 amp output
- Max cut 3/16-inch mild steel plate
- 12 foot torch lead
- 5-year power supply warranty
- Built-in compressor
- 120 volt power
- Easy arc start
- Postflow air cooling after cuts
- Ergonomic torch design
- Some complaints of low pressure
The Hobart Airforce 12ci is a lightweight and portable, light-duty machine offering professional features and quality with a 5-year warranty. It’s aimed at serious home workshop crafters and professionals that need a portable plasma cutting machine to take into household repair jobs.
Our best value in this guide, the Hobart Airforce 12ci operates on 120 volt input, meaning you can plug it in just about anyplace. An onboard air compressor means less complexity because there are no external air lines connected to a separate compressor. Postflow air control flows cooling air over the cut after you stop cutting. Some users have complained of insufficient pressure during the cut, but these complaints aren’t prevalent and may be due to torch handling technique interfering with a clean cut.
Hobart designed in a Fan-On-Demand feature that only runs the fan as needed to minimize the amount of dust and debris drawn into the cabinet. The pilot arc starting technology makes the torch easy to use even for beginners. The 12ci plasma cutter features an ergonomic torch design that makes it easy to keep it properly aligned with the cut angle and minimizes operator fatigue.
3. Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Cutter
- Dual 110v 220v input voltage
- PAPST cooling system
- 1-year warranty
- 220v 50 amp output
- Weighs only 26 pounds
- Non-touch pilot arc
- Cuts 5/8-inch mild steel plate
- Includes a pressure regulator
- 13-foot torch hose
- Duty cycle 60 percent at 50 amps
- Doesn't include the connector for 120 input voltage
Lotos has been driving down the price range for entry into the world of plasma cutting. The Lotos LTP5000D continues that tradition with 50 amps of power and a 60 percent duty cycle at an attractive price point. This cutter has no-touch pilot arc starting, capable of cutting up to ⅝-inch stainless steel plate.
The Lotos LTP5000D only weighs 26 pounds and comes with a 1-year warranty. It features 120 and 240 dual voltage input and a PAPST cooling system based on German technology. This machine uses an external compressor for its high-pressure cutting air. Some owners feel that the ground clamp and ground cable are made a little too cheaply.
Lotos includes a pressure regulator and air filter with the machine, already mounted inside. Using a compressed air quick connector for the air compressor, Lotos says the LTP5000D can be set up and ready to run in less than one minute.
Users give the LTP5000D high marks for its cutting performance, but have reported inconsistent quality, with quite a few reports of early failures of this model. However, most also praise the Lotos warranty service for quick replacement of their plasma cutters and free shipping for the return process.
4. Miller Spectrum 625 Plasma Cutter
- Dual 110v or 220v power source
- 90 PSI pressure
- Comes with a shoulder strap
- Duty cycle 60 percent at 40 amps on 240
- 12-foot torch cable
- Miller XT-40 torch is comfortable
- Comes with a storage case
- Auto re-triggering for cutting expanded metal
- Only weighs 21 pounds
- Cuts 5/8-inch steel plate
- Storage box is hard to use
The Miller Spectrum 625 is a professional-quality machine with dual 120 and 240 volt input power, providing up to 40 amps output with a 60 percent duty cycle. The Spectrum 625 can clean cut stainless steel plate up to 5/8-inch thick. This plasma cutter is very lightweight at 21 pounds, making it easy to move around with either its carrying case or the included shoulder strap.
Miller provides the Spectrum 625 with automatic air pressure compensation that dynamically adjusts the pressure according to height and current settings to optimize cutting performance while cutting and gouging. The torch has an ergonomic no-slip design with a thumb guide and contours for finger grip to minimize hand fatigue.
Miller’s patented Auto-Refire system controls the pilot arc when cutting things like multiple pieces of metal side by side, mesh or expanded metal. This system alternately fires, turns off and refires the torch, making more efficient use of consumables and reducing operator fatigue. The Auto Consumable Detect technology will adjust the settings based on the torch configuration.
Miller includes a nice storage case and backs the Spectrum 625 plasma cutter with a 3-year warranty.
5. Everlast PowerPlasma 62i Plasma Cutter
- Digital arc control
- Super bright control display
- Automatic pressure setting
- 3 second tip saver timer
- IPT 60 torch
- Blow Back pilot arc for easy starts on rust
- Includes a gouging function
- 60 percent duty cycle at 60 amps
- CNC ready with computer connect socket
- Adjustable postflow timer
- Requires "clean power" generator
The Everlast PowerPlasma 62i is the replacement machine for the popular PowerPlasma 60S. Featuring Blow Back pilot arc starting for easier starts on rust and paint, the PowerPlasma 62i has super bright control displays for easy reading in bright light while wearing safety gear.
The 60 percent duty cycle at 60 amps is impressive on a plasma cutter in this price range. Everlast designed in automatic pressure setting that changes the pressure under varying inches per minute for a clean cut. There’s a 3-second tip timer that turns off the torch if there’s no cutting underway after three seconds of arc time.
The gouging capability is an unusual function for machines in this price range and this cutter features digital arc control to maintain optimum cutting temperature to produce clean cuts. If you want to run with a generator, you need to have at least 11,000 watts of “clean power,” (rectified without signal fluctuation) or the warranty is voided.
The adjustable post-flow timer sets the time for air flow after cutting. Everlast includes a 5-year warranty for parts and labor on its plasma cutters.
6. Primeweld Cut50DP Plasma Cutter
- Dual voltage 120/240 input
- Cut steel 1/2-inch plate
- 5-year warranty
- PAPST advanced cooling system
- 10-foot ground clamp
- High frequency no-touch arc start
- Includes pressure regulator
- Front panel air gauge
- Includes height management spacer
- Good customer service
- Very poor documentation
The Primeweld Cut50DP is a powerful, inexpensive plasma cutter with a no-touch arc start system. The dual voltage input lets you plug in at home on 120 volt power or use 240 power at a shop or construction site. This machine doesn’t have an onboard compressor. It does include the connections, regulator and hoses for an external compressor.
The compressor needs to produce 5 cubic feet per minute (CFM) at 75 PSI. The Cut50DP incorporates a no-touch pilot arc start system that works great on painted or rusty metal, making the entire process much easier.
50 amps is powerful enough to cut 1/2-inch steel plate with ease. The 10 amp bottom end rating is low enough to cut auto body sheet steel, but you’ll have to move fairly fast to keep from blowing off the edges of the cut. Primeweld features a PAPST German-style cooling system on the Cut50D.
Users love this machine, but universally complain about the manual, which is so badly written as to be nearly unintelligible. The company website is also extremely difficult to read. Primeweld offers a set of spare consumables with the cutter.
7. Lincoln Electric Tomahawk K2807-1 Plasma Cutter
- Front panel air purge control
- Includes a shoulder strap
- 10 to 40 amp output current
- 3-year warranty
- Includes a shoulder strap
- Continuous Output Control variable arc
- Touch arc starting
- Auto-refire technology for cutting grates
- 20-foot torch cable
- Comes with the air regulator and gauge
- 240 input voltage only
Lincoln Electric designed the Tomahawk series of plasma cutters with top quality internal components, contained in a box on the electronics board and encased in epoxy. The case is ruggedly constructed to take impacts and vibration. These are only a few reasons why Lincoln is an industry leader and why these machines cost more than some others in their class.
The K2807-1 Tomahawk 625 provides a wide range of power, from 10 to 40 amps for cutting as thin as auto body sheet metal up to a max cut of ⅜-inch steel plate for trailer frames and structural work. Lincoln’s Continuous Output Control monitors material thickness and changing conditions like rust and paint, adjusting the arc focus for optimum cutting performance.
This machine uses a touch start system instead of high frequency no-touch arc starting to avoid problems with high frequency starts interfering with digital equipment like computers and phones. Rapid Arc Restrike is an automatic auto-refire technology that shuts off the torch when crossing gaps.
The K2807-1 includes the Tomahawk 625 with 3-year warranty, regulator, water separator and a pressure gauge.
8. Canaweld Cut 45D Plasma Cutter
- 45 amps power output
- 100 percent duty cycle at 30 amps
- 3-year warranty
- Cutting thickness up to 5/8-inch plate
- Dual input voltage 110v or 220v
- Auto arc re-strike for mesh and grate
- Built-in dirt and moisture filter
- Pilot arc starting for paint and rust
- Automatic pressure setting
- European TRAFIMIT cutting Torch Included
- 240 input voltage only
Canaweld isn’t as well known as American market leaders like Lincoln, Miller, Forney and Hobart, but its products are used throughout Canadian manufacturing and the US market is growing for its Canada-built plasma cutters.
The Canaweld Cut 45D is highly portable and includes a shoulder strap. With 45 amps of power on tap, it’s capable of cutting 5/8-inch mild steel plate. It comes with a top-quality European TRAFIMET torch, one of the favorites both in the USA and abroad. Canaweld backs the Cut 45D with a 3-year warranty.
Canaweld designed the Cut 45D for a touch-style arc start, avoiding the complications with digital equipment interference that comes with high frequency no-touch arc starting. It also has automatic arc restrike to skip gaps for cutting mesh or grate.
This is a powerful machine with great performance, offering a 100 percent duty cycle at 30 amps, giving the Cut 45D the ability to perform continuous cuts on ⅜-inch steel plate. It also includes a built-in air filter and water separator as well as automatic air pressure setting that varies according to the height of the torch from the material.
Plasma Cutter Buying Guide
A plasma cutter greatly improves your fabrication ability, but a cheap plasma cutter may not get the job done. Even if you don’t need one for industrial use, here are the primary factors you should consider when looking for the best plasma cutter.
What Type of Cutting Are You Doing?
The work you plan to do is your main deciding factor. If you’re only cutting sheet metal, you don’t need a big 200 amp plasma cutter intended for 3/4-inch steel plate. For auto bodies and other light-duty chores, a smaller machine costs less to purchase and probably runs on 120 volt power for additional savings.
What Power Levels Are Required?
When considering power needs, first is output power and duty cycle. This decides the upper limit you can cut, and it’s also going to determine whether you need 240 volt input or if you can get by on 120 volts. You may decide it’s more versatile to have 120/240 dual voltage input power.
Do You Need an Air Pressure Source?
Some machines come with a built-in air compressor. Others require external air from a separate air compressor. Depending on the size of the plasma cutter, an onboard compressor can add significant cost. Although you may need to buy a separate air compressor, it can probably double as a power source for spray guns and air tools.
Do You Need Advanced Features?
There are a few options that add a lot of convenience to the process and make the machine easy to use.
- Different Arc Starting Types: Some machines start the arc without touching, some you drag the torch to get going and others scratch start like a welder. One drawback to the high frequency no-touch type of arc starting is that it causes interference with digital equipment like digital gauges, mobile devices like phones and tablets, and interferes with computers and CNC control units.
- Do You Need Computer Numerical Control? CNC allows a computer control the process. This requires a special rack-type table that moves the torch on a grid system.
- Does It Have Air Flow Adjustment? Some machines will allow you to set the amount of time to continue flowing air to cool the metal after you stop cutting. Others include a similar function as an automatic setting.
- Specialized Automatic Settings: Some machines change air pressure or electrical current settings to match how you’ve equipped your torch or to adjust for changing conditions. Some have factory presets and you select material and thickness to start cutting.
- Automatic Torch Re-Strike: This function allows the machine to cut across gaps in the metal surface. This can be obstructions such as bolt holes, component cutouts and materials like expanded metal, mesh or grating. An electromagnetic sensor can detect gaps in the metal surface being cut. The torch shuts off automatically as it crosses the gap, then re-strikes the arc when it’s over a metal surface again.
Warranty periods vary widely, from a few months to several years. The company behind the warranty needs to honor its commitment and provide quick service. Some brands have nationwide dealership networks, making for a quick turnaround. Others might only have one service center in the country or require shipping overseas. Make sure whether you cover the cost of shipping a machine back to the manufacturer or if the maker will bear the cost.
Now You Choose
We’ve selected the Hypertherm Powermax 45 as the best plasma cutter for this guide. Hypertherm is the undisputed leader of the plasma cutter industry. Advanced features, excellent reputation and substantial warranty all contribute to our top pick. The Hobart AirForce 12ci represents the best value for your money with a built in compressor. While the Everlast PowerPlasma 62i is also tempting considering its price range, advanced features and 5-year warranty, but Everlast doesn’t have a dealership network.