What to Look for in a Plasma Cutter

There are many different shapes and sizes of plasma cutters and if you have not spent much time working with them it may be confusing when trying to figure out which model to buy. The most important question to ask yourself, in my opinion, is what will you be using the plasma cutter for most of the time? The answer to that question will determine the size and output of the equipment that you need.

If you know that you will be cutting quarter inch metal nearly all the time then you will want a plasma cutter that can cleanly, quickly and efficiently cut quarter inch metal. You want the cuts to be clean because you do not want to spend too much time cleaning up the edges after you have cut. The “sever cut” standard will indicate the thickest metal that plasma cutter can cut, so make sure that it is greater than your desired thickness. This way, you have some flexibility and you are not maxing out your machines potential all the time.

As well as figuring out the thickness you will cut most often you have to know what type of metal you will cut most often. Plasma cutters can cut anything that conducts electricity including aluminum, copper, stainless steel and other steels.

When you know the thickness of the metal and the type of the metal, decide how fast you want to be able to cut the metal. Faster cutting requires a bigger machine. Make sure you take your time on this step and seek out advice from multiple sources to make an educated decision. You want the machine that is the best for your required task.

The size of the plasma cutting equipment will also determine how high the required voltage will be. The more power you require the higher the required voltage. Find out how much voltage you will need and make sure that you have access that kind of voltage in your work environment.

If you need a portable plasma cutter then size and weight also play key role in deciding what you need. You can find plasma cutters than fit into the box of your truck and run off of you running engine for onsite projects.

Plasma cutters require an inert gas to operate (often compressed air). You can use an air compressor or get bottled compressed air from a supplier. There are two things you need to know about this:

  1. Know the cubic foot per minute (CFM) of the compressor or bottled air. CFM has to be at the correct level for the plasma cutter work properly (again, this is dependent on the size and type of plasma cutter)
  2. Know the pounds per square inch (PSI) that the plasma cutter requires to run. With that information you can find the proper gas supply.

Another good purchase is dry air. The dry air travels through the lines with the compressed air and takes some of the moisture out so that your machine operates more cleanly and more efficiently.

So, in summary, here is a list of questions you should consider before buying a plasma cutter.

  1. What is the thickness of the metal I will be cutting most often?
  2. What is the type of metal I will cutting most often?
  3. What is the rate at which I want to cut the metal?
  4. What is the CFM of the compressor and the PSI required for the plasma cutter?
  5. Do I need a portable or non-portable plasma cutter?
  6. How much voltage will I need to run the plasma cutter I want?

If you can answer those questions then you’re ready to pick the plasma cutter that best matches what you need.

When finally have your machine and you’re ready to work, make sure that you follow the plasma cutter safety guidelines. Working with a plasma cutter is different than regular welding, so make sure you know how to protect yourself from serious injury.