What To Consider When Buying A Plasma Cutter

Jul 19, 2022

If your business requires a plasma cutter for its daily metalwork and fabrication operations, selecting the right product for your industrial machine operators is vital.

The right plasma cutters should be aligned with your functional needs to help your machine operators work in the most effective way. In turn, this should result in faster production speeds, reduced material waste, and a better bottom line.

Ultimately, it all begins with choosing the right plasma cutter. Focus on the following issues when buying yours and you won’t go far wrong.

Your Budget

Before looking at the desired features, you need to know that the plasma cutter you want to purchase is actually affordable. Plasma cutters can vary greatly in price, which is why determining your intended budget is a pivotal first step.

Affordability isn’t the only key issue. You also need to know that the CNC plasma cutter will deliver value for money. Knowing the best USA-made plasma cutters are manufactured, such as AKS Cutting Systems, Dynatorch, and ezPlasma will put you on the right path. After all, you don’t want to spend thousands on an unreliable product.

If the right machine is out of your price range, buying a used plasma cutting gas machine may be the better solution. However, a new machine will guarantee efficiency and help you avoid maintenance costs.

You should also keep one eye on the long-term future by checking the pilot arc. This allows you to complete plasma cutting steel projects without causing the tip of the torch to touch the metal sheet. In turn, this can feed into your maintenance costs and durability, ensuring greater value for money in the long run.

Intended Cutting Thickness

When buying a CNC plasma cutter, you will naturally need to ask “what are its material cutting capabilities?”. Plasma cutters can be used on steel, stainless steel, carbon steel, aluminum, brass, cast iron, copper, and other conductive metals. However, it’s important to know how thick the metal sheet can be too.

A plasma cutter’s capabilities will be influenced by the supply of power and air pressure. The figures can be split into the pierce thickness and severance thickness, which is the maximum cutting depth that can be achieved, albeit at a slower speed and without creating a clean cut. This is another reason why you must consider the needs of your operators and the intended function of the machinery.

The exact figures can vary depending on the brand. However, you can expect a 45A machine to pierce 8mm and severance 29mm. A 65A will deliver 10mm and 32mm, an 85A will yield 12mm and 38mm, or a 125A cutter can hit 25mm and 57mm.

Many handheld plasma cutters will work with around 1” (25mm). Finding a plasma cutter that will work with the sheet thickness levels that you will work with is essential. Otherwise, the machine simply won’t cut all the way through, thus making it a redundant product.

The Power Source

As already stated, plasma cutters require a lot of power. This is because they heat materials until they transform beyond solid, liquid, and gas matter states into a plasma state. For this to happen, plasma cutter jets reach a heat of 40,000° F.

Plasma cutters can operate with a 110V power supply, a 220V power supply, or a dual power supply that allows you to switch between the two. Naturally, the latter option gives you greater versatility when workers will use the plasma cutter for multiple endeavors. Generally speaking, though, a 110V model will be better suited to personal use and DIY projects. A 220V will provide better performance for increased speeds and frequent use.

A power generator will be required when using the larger power output. In addition to the power it produces, you will need to consider the weight of the unit. A heavier item will usually find it easier to cut through thicker metal at greater speeds. However, a lighter item offers portability.

Smaller and less powerful units can also offer cheaper operational costs. This can be an important feature when operating several cutters in an industrial setting. Many manufacturing teams find that having several models with different power output levels can work well too. This way, workers have access to the high-end plasma cutters when needed while they can operate less demanding works in the most cost-effective way.

The Plasma Cutter Features

Whether you’re plasma cutting steel or any other metal type, it’s vital that it can complete the intended function. While power is crucial, you must not overlook the importance of the extra features. The length of the cutting torch may carry particular significance, especially if working on a large workspace and want to avoid moving the cutter every few minutes.

Every second wasted on moving the plasma cutter rather than actively cutting the metal is costing the company time and money. Of course, you will also need to consider the cut quality rating, which ultimately determines how clean the finished cut will be. In most industrial applications, a smooth outcome is the desired outcome.

Some plasma cutter machines additionally feature built-in air compressor technology. This has changed the landscape forever, especially for small workshops or industrial workers who need portable machinery. They can also include additional features like built-in water separators and drag-cut technologies that allow you to achieve arcs with ease.

When your workers will be using the plasma cutter for long periods, it’s also important to consider how comfortable it feels to touch. An ergonomic design is highly desired while the best industrial items also include high duty cycle ratings, which is a direct link to how long it can run for longer without causing a disruption to the voltage levels.

The Final Word

Plasma cutters are essential additions to any workshop or industrial setting where sheet metal cutting is required. Finding the right balance between cost and performance isn’t always an easy task, but it does ensure the best results for employees and employers alike. Keep convenience, cost-efficiency, and reliability in mind to ensure that the right decision is made.