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A DIYer’s Guide To Buying Plasma Cutters

man cut metal plate with laser cutter

Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

If you’re working on metal and would love to get highly efficient cuts on materials you’re working on, it might be time to invest in a plasma cutter.

A plasma cutter can cut through sheet metal such as stainless steel, brass, copper, iron, and aluminum by utilizing an electronically ionized conductive gas. The combination of precision and speed while cutting through metal with plasma will ensure the best results.

A plasma cutter has several vital elements that allow you to easily cut metals with great precision. Operating one will require the right skills and the appropriate gear such as an inverter, a torch with cables and pipes, an earthing cable, and cutting guides. If you’re unfamiliar with popular brands of plasma cutters, you might want to visit this blog post to know which models to watch out for.

But before checking out the selection of plasma cutters available on the market, here are essential factors to consider when buying one:

1. Intended Use Of The Plasma Cutter 

One of the considerations when looking for the ideal plasma cutter is the thickness of the materials you’ll be working on. Doing so will serve as a basis when selecting the size of the plasma cutter. It’s best to choose one that’s capable of cutting through materials with more substantial thickness so you can use it for a wide variety of projects.

2. Construction

A plasma cutter should be made with high-quality materials that can endure an extended period of use. In most cases, a good-quality model comes in iron, steel, or metal construction to ensure a long life span. Always remember that a solid build will ensure durability and versatility.

3. Power Source

A plasma cutter generally works with an AC input power source. Depending on the model you’ll invest in, it’d be capable of operating at 110V/120V or 110V/220V. You might also encounter models with an automatic dual voltage power source, which is a convenient option since it allows you to switch the input power depending on your power needs.

You should also check if your work area has 110V or 220V outlets. Additionally, the breakers should have adequate amps to endure the amperage of the unit you’ll be using along with the air compressors.

 man uses a laser cutter on a metal plate

4. Duty Cycle

You should know about the duty cycle when buying a plasma cutter since it’ll affect your work process. Generally, a plasma cutter can perform under specific loads for a particular duration. If one has a low-duty cycle, it can function optimally for a short period. If you’re going to use one for heavy-duty projects, you should go for a model with a 50-60% duty cycle. Most models in the market have a duty cycle of 60%.

If a model has a five-minute duty cycle, it can operate for five minutes before it requires cooling down for five minutes. Using the machine beyond its duty cycle will result in overheating.

5. Consumables

If you’re planning to buy a plasma cutter, you should be aware that it’d come with several consumables. A standard model includes consumables such as the shield, electrode, retaining cap, nozzle, and swirls ring.

The shield protects the other consumables from sparks and molten metal, while the electrode conducts the current from the torch to the plate. The nozzle helps focus the arc, and the swirls ring steers the gas in various directions from the plasma cutter and takes it down to the torch in order to prevent the combustion of the nozzle.

6. Cutting Torch

During the selection, another consideration is the cutting torch, particularly its length. If you’re doing heavy-duty work, a longer torch may be preferable, so you can work on different areas without the hassle of moving the plasma cutter around.

If most of your work takes long hours, look for a torch that comfortably fits the shape of your hand.

7. Cutting Speed

If efficiency is one of your priorities, you need to think about the cutting speed. Generally, the cutting speed is usually in inches per minute (IPM).

The project you’re working on would determine the cutting speed you require. Selecting a model with the right cutting speed can significantly improve your productivity and make your investment truly worth it.

8. Pilot Arc

The pilot arc is a cutting feature that ensures a more stabilized arc that can lengthen the life span of your consumables since you can slice through metal without the tip of the torch in direct contact with the material. It’ll come in handy if you’re going to slice through rusty material since you no longer need to clean the metal and strike it.

Final Thoughts 

When choosing a plasma cutter, you have to take into account the projects you’ll be doing and the materials you’re going to cut. And like with any other type of machine, it’s crucial for you to test it out first or make sure your provider has a good return policy if the cutter doesn’t live up to its expectations. If it’s your first time investing in one, the considerations above will guide you along the way in finding the most suitable option for your needs.