Plasma tools have been used in heavy industry for years, and if you're a DIY enthusiast, then you will know the value of a plasma cutter. They can cut through materials that conduct electricity (notably metals) by sending a focused electrical arc through gas. This creates a concentrated, high-temperature plasma, which can then be used to cut accurately.

While you can buy very high-end plasma cutters, it’s unlikely you’ll need anything that expensive. If you know where to go, then you can find a wide range of good quality products which will work even with a tight budget. In this guide, we'll take you through everything you need to know about plasma cutters and introduce some of the best and most affordable cutters.


How Plasma Cutters Work & Their Benefits?

Metal is primarily used in construction because of its durability and strength. However, this can make it more difficult to use, and without the right equipment, you won't be able to cut or shape it to meet your needs. This is where plasma cutters come in.

Plasma cutters heat gas and turn it into plasma. This releases a high volume of energy and creates a plasma arc of intense heat. The cutter directs this arc of thermal energy onto a fixed point, slicing through the metal as needed.

Plasma cutters have revolutionized how we handle metal industrially, and now more people are starting to see the benefits at home too. They offer a range of benefits. They're more economical, offer faster cutting, and despite operating at very high temperatures, it's so focused that the area around it is still cool. Ultimately, they just make the job easier.


Features to Look for in a Plasma Cutter

Power Specifications

Before purchasing a plasma cutter, you need to make sure it's compatible. You'll need a 110v or 220v outlet in your workshop to operate it. This is what will create and maintain the plasma arc, and the 220v will give you more power for tougher metals.

  • Duty Cycle 
    The Duty Cycle of a plasma cutter is about the length of time it can continue to perform. This is generally measured by the thickness of metal that it will be able to cut, with the average being around ¼ inches. If you have a lower duty cycle, then the cutter won’t be able to perform optimally for as long, meaning less precision. Consider how you’re going to use the device and what you need from it.
  • Amperage
    Amperage is key to getting a good quality cut, but you also have to consider how economical you want to be as higher amperage will cost more in power. Speed will drop as you have lower amperage, but the quality may well increase. Your amperage should be based on the thickness of metal you'll be cutting, and generally, 30-50 will suffice.
  • Input Voltage
    Input voltage is a critical factor if you're travelling with your plasma cutter or buying from abroad. This will dictate the voltage your device will be able to take and, therefore, where you can plug it in safely. Make sure you check this out before purchasing to avoid an annoying surprise.
  • Output Current
    The output current for a plasma cutter refers to the level of energy being used. The higher the output current, the cleaner the cut, and the faster the device will be able to slice through metal.

Metal Type & Thickness vs. Plasma Cutter Tier Type

Before considering which type of plasma cutter to buy, you need to consider what you will be using it for. Your lower-tier plasma cutters will be the most inexpensive but may struggle with anything over ⅛ inch thickness. Your mid-tier can handle anything up to about ½ an inch, and then your top tier can handle up to 1-inch thick metal. You can also get some heavier-duty models, but you'll be wasting your money for most DIY projects.

Cut Quality & Cutting Speed

Plasma cutters are developing and getting more efficient year on year. You've now got some insane cutting speeds of over 200 inches a minute, which produce some accurate and high-quality cuts. You'll want to find the right balance of power and quality to get the best from your plasma cutter.

Build Quality & Portability

The build quality of your device is crucial for getting good value for money. Typically you’ll want to go for your reliable brands like Lotos and PRIMEWELD so you can be confident in the product. If you know you'll need to move the device, then you also need to consider the weight. Take stock of what you can carry and look for plasma cutters with straps or handles to make life easier.

Other Features

As with any piece of equipment, you can find some additional features which aren’t essential but do make life easier. A plasma cutter with automated functions can make it much simpler to use, taking all the effort away.

You’ll need a steady air supply for your plasma cutter to run, but you can find some models with a compressor built-in, so it's completely ready to go. You might also want to consider different start methods, as some plasma cutters will only start once they come into contact with the metal, making them safer.

These are all features to look out for when you’re browsing the market, but bear in mind they will also add to the overall price so you’ll need to find that balance based on your budget.

Consumables

Given the nature of a plasma cutter, several parts get worn quickly. These are called consumables. This includes the electrode which channels the electric current, the swirl ring which controls the gas around the plasma arc, the nozzle which provides a clean cut, the retaining cap which keeps all the parts together and the shield which protects the torch. Finding a good quality plasma cutter with reliable consumables will save you money in the long run by limiting replacement parts.

Price & Warranty

Price is always important when considering any purchase, but doubly so with DIY tools and other home equipment. High-end plasma cutters can set you back over $10,000, but realistically the majority of us won't need anything that powerful. An effective mid-tier model should cost less than $1,000, and you can find a lot of good plasma cutters for a few hundred dollars. Always look for a solid warranty to back up your product. 


5 Best Cheap Plasma Cutters Reviewed

1. Lotos LT5000D

Our Top Pick!

Duty Cycle

60% @ 50A

Input Voltage

220/240 Volts

Output Amperage

10-50A

Ideal Cut Thickness

12.7mm

Severance Cut Thickness

19mm

Pilot Arc

No

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

Our top pick is the Lotos plasma cutter, which is one of the best value models on the market. Despite being affordable, it's got all the power needed for any hobbyist who wants to engrave or cut metal at home. 

The Lotos plasma cutter has dual voltage input and is high performing, offering a ½ inch clean cut. A Papst cooling system ensures that the cutter gives a consistently high performance while using it. On top of that, this model works with a range of consumables, letting you adjust and adapt based on your preferences or needs.

Lotos haven't just focused on performance. They've also put some effort into the practicalities. The plasma cutter features a handle and is relatively lightweight, making it easy to transport as needed. It's designed to be basic enough to set up in minutes, allowing you to get down to business quickly.

This is an all-around impressive plasma cutter that offers powerful precision cutting at a fraction of the price you might expect to pay. It's suitable for practically all metals, including stainless steel, alloy steel, mild steel, copper, and aluminum. Adaptable and practical, this is an excellent asset for anyone.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Powerful
  • Quick to set up and easy to use

Cons

  • Not suitable for thicker materials

2. SUNCOO

Runner Up

Duty Cycle

60% @ 50A

Input Voltage

110/220 Volts

Output Amperage

20-50A

Ideal Cut Thickness

12.7mm

Severance Cut Thickness

19mm

Pilot Arc

Yes

Warranty

Yes, 1 year

A close second on our list of the best cheap plasma cutters is the SUNCOO model. This is another cutter that offers a great deal of value and versatility, able to be used on carbon steel, copper, iron, and other mild metals. 

SUNCOO has introduced some unique features into this cutter to help it work more efficiently. Firstly they have built-in steady heat dissipation, which helps reduce the temperature of components and protects the whole unit, making it last longer. It's also more energy-efficient than any other cutters on the market, giving long term savings for users.

This plasma cutter is powerful as well as efficient. Thick metal plates can be cut easily and quickly, up to 2 times faster than a flame cutter. This cutter is best suited for home use but is also suitable for industrial environments. It's also portable with a built-in strap to make it more transportable. Despite the quality of this product, it's still extremely affordable. It offers a great balance of intelligent design and raw power, making it a useful asset for your home.

Pros

  • Energy efficient
  • Easy to use
  • Fast cutting

Cons

  • Noisy

3. PRIMEWELD

Best Rated Budget Plasma Cutter

Duty Cycle

60% @ 50A

Input Voltage

110/220 Volts

Output Amperage

20-50A

Ideal Cut Thickness

12.7mm

Severance Cut Thickness

19mm

Pilot Arc

Yes

Warranty

Yes, 3 years

PRIMEWELD is a well-known brand in the plasma cutting world, and they've developed a reputation by creating reliable and durable products. This plasma cutter is one of the highest-rated on the market because of the overall build quality and the precision it offers.

The plasma cutter can be used on stainless steel, alloy steel, copper, aluminum, and other metals. It offers a precision cut, which is quick and will do exactly what you want it to. The cutter features the latest technology, including Mosfet Transistors, which make the whole unit more efficient.

While this plasma cutter is slightly heavier than others in this price range, it is still light enough to be carried between jobs easily. It's more expensive than some others on the market, but it's designed with the long term in mind. Every model is built in the USA and protected by a generous warranty.

This is a cleverly designed piece of equipment that's perfect for jobs of all sizes and on a range of metals. It's no surprise that it's incredibly highly rated as this plasma cutter is more of an investment that gives you long term reliability. This is definitely one to consider if you need a new tool.

Pros

  • Durable and reliable
  • Precise
  • Powerful

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not as simple to use

4. Hyperikon

Best Budget Model For Clean Cuts

Duty Cycle

60% @ 45A

Input Voltage

120/240 Volts

Output Amperage

10-45A

Ideal Cut Thickness

12.7mm

Severance Cut Thickness

19mm

Pilot Arc

No

Warranty

Yes, 3 years

The Hyperikon plasma cutter is another advantageous model that offers a lot for the price. It's not as powerful as some of the other cutters on the list but still more than enough for most DIYers or hobbyists, and well suited for home or workshop use.

The cutter is designed with insulated gate bipolar transistor technology (IGBT). This protects the whole plasma cutter allowing it to deliver a higher voltage capacity and heat tolerance, increasing the longevity of the tool. This model is also well suited to those who are new to plasma cutting with built-in overheat and surge protection capability.

The Hyperikon plasma cutter comes with the P31 torch, which is one of the easiest to handle. It features a lead cable that is 13 feet long, giving you maximum flexibility to move around your whole workshop. Finally, the Hyperikon also features a built-in air compressor, which allows you to regulate the air flowing through the device. This will help you keep a consistent plasma arc and therefore give you a cleaner cut.

The plasma cutter is well suited for anyone with or without experience, and if it's used well, it can give a very consistent, clean cut. That being said, any tool is only as good as its user, but with practice, this is one of the most precise for this price range.

Pros

  • Precision cutting
  • Effectively insulated
  • Safe

Cons

  • Not suitable for larger jobs

5. VIVOHOME

Best Cheap Pilot Arc Plasma Cutter

Duty Cycle

60% @ 50A

Input Voltage

120/240 Volts

Output Amperage

10-50A

Ideal Cut Thickness

12mm

Severance Cut Thickness

19mm

Pilot Arc

Yes

Warranty

Yes, 3 years

VIVOHOME has made a plasma cutter, which is no-nonsense and made to last. It offers a clean and smooth cut in a range of metals and has a frequency of over 100Hz. This makes it effective on practically any metal, with a powerful DC welding current.

This plasma cutter features a technical inverter switch. This increases efficiency by over 30%, allowing you to use less power but achieve the same results. It features Mosfet technology, which you might typically see in more industrial machines. This gives you more power and, ultimately, more control of the device. 

The VIVOHOME plasma cutter generates a non-touch arc, which means it is present even if the cutter isn't touching the conductive material. This means that the consumable parts do not need to touch the surface, allowing heat to be dissipated much more effectively. Ultimately this means the tool will last a lot longer than alternatives.

Pilot arc plasma cutters offer a whole range of advantages, and for this price point, you won't many tools designed more effectively than this. Safe and precise, this is a plasma cutter to consider.

Pros

  • Fast cutting
  • Efficient
  • Advanced technology (pilot arc)

Cons

  • Shorter lifespan than alternatives
  • Not suitable for larger jobs

Other Equipment You’ll Need

Pressurized Air/Air Compressor

Plasma cutters need access to ready amounts of air to work well. Air compressors help provide a steady flow as needed.

Desiccant Air Dryer & Filtration System

Air dryers help keep your plasma cutter working for longer by removing moisture and impurities that will impact your consumables.

Consumables (nozzles, electrodes, swirl ring, retaining cap, shield)

Certain consumables will need to be replaced regularly, and therefore it's worth having spares, or you won't be able to use the cutter.

Safety equipment

Plasma cutters will create a lot of heat and sparks. Safety equipment like goggles and face masks will help protect your eyes and head.


Types of Torch Technology

Lead

Plasma cutter lead technology has improved vastly, and they are now lightweight and longer, allowing you to move freely around your workshop and start your cutter anywhere. Many plasma cutter leads are now included in the warranty of the product.

High-Frequency Non-Touch

High frequency non-touch torches create a plasma arc without any connection to the conductive material. The electrode and nozzle are in fixed positions, and the heated plasma arc jumps the gap in the middle.

Drag Technology

These devices let you drag the torch through the metal with ease. This gives a cleaner cut but also means your consumables run out much more quickly.

Touch Start

Touch start plasma cutters only start working when the electrode on the device touches conductive material. This is safer as there is no plasma arc when it is taken away from the metal.


Pilot Arc Technology

Pilot arc technology allows the plasma arc to form freely, and not just when the cutter is touching the metal or conductive material. This occurs as gas and air are forced through the device, and the plasma arc jumps over the electrode. Pilot arcs generally used in handheld plasma cutters and are common in the cheaper models. They offer a precise and easy to control cut, giving you greater control.


Plasma Cutter Set-Up & Maintenance

Setting up a plasma cutter isn't too tricky, but there are a few steps to follow to make sure it's installed and working correctly. Firstly you need to pick the right location. You will likely have a workshop or workstation setup, but make sure you select somewhere that gives you adequate room to move around for easy use.

You should then attach the power source, but make sure the unit it all switched off before plugging it in. You should then connect the air compressor to provide a steady flow of clean air. This is essential for getting a high-pressure stream of plasma.

Finally, you should attach the ground clamp near the machine. Then you should switch on the machine and set the current (which will be influenced by what you are cutting). You can then test the machine to make sure it’s working.

The guide below video gives a full guide to setting up your plasma cutter:

To get the best from your plasma cutter, in the long run, you need to carry out regular maintenance. Regularly check your air compressor to make sure clean air is flowing, this will help protect your consumables for longer. Regular cleaning of the torch, body, and components will help it to function well long term.


Cutting Tips to Improve Cut Quality

Using a plasma cutter isn't easy, and ultimately only practice makes perfect. There are, however, a couple of tips that will make you better at cutting instantly. You first need to make sure you have the right set up. Ensure you have room around the plasma cutter to use it freely and adequate access to the appropriate power supply.

You should always consult the manual and play around with the settings to see what happens. You should also test the cutter on a small area first before starting any long cuts. You should try and make all long cuts in one movement as it's hazardous to stop and start.

Practice the movement while the plasma cutter is turned off and make sure you have enough space. On thicker material, you should also begin with your cutter at 45 degrees to avoid splashback ruining your consumables. Remember, the faster your cut is then the smoother it’s going to be. Practice your cutting regularly, and you'll be surprised by how quickly you see a noticeable improvement in your work.


People Also Ask (FAQs)

What metals can a plasma cutter cut? Can a plasma cutter cut wood or plastic?

Plasma cutters can be used on any materials that conduct electricity, typically metals. Wood and plastic cannot be cut as they aren’t conductive.

Where is the best place to buy plasma cutting machines?

There is a range of places to buy plasma cutters, but Amazon offers the greatest variety and the best prices generally on products.

Do plasma cutters come with air compressors?

Some plasma cutters have built-in air compressors, but the majority will require you to purchase this separately.

How reliable are cheap plasma cutters vs. expensive alternatives?

Cheap plasma cutters may not be as heavy-duty, but they are reliable. The main difference is the materials they can handle, but the majority of DIY users won't need anything expensive.

What type of PPE should I wear when cutting metals using a plasma machine?

At a minimum, you should be wearing protective glasses and gloves when handling a plasma machine, but full protective headgear is recommended.


Conclusion

Plasma cutters can be intimidating to casual hobbyists, but they are powerful and useful tools. If you're looking for an affordable plasma cutter, then you need to consider the whole package and focus on what exactly you're planning to use it for. This will help you narrow down the options.

The Lotos LT5000D offers a high-quality cutter at a reasonable price. It has all the features and power you might see in an industrial tool, but the flexibility and versatility that make it well suited for home use. Whether you’re new to plasma cutting, or just looking for a new model, the LT5000D is our top choice that you can’t go wrong with.

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