If you’re planning on operating your own welding shop, then you need to know about plasma cutters. These specialized appliances utilize high levels of electricity to turn an inert gas into a plasma, which is a particularly conductive form of matter. As a result, this produced plasma can be channeled by the cutter to heat and slice through multiple widths of metal rapidly.
That being said, no two plasma cutters are built precisely alike. While some come with varying operational capacities, others come with differentiated price tags geared towards DIYers and professionals alike. This guide will help you focus on this latter factor, thus allowing you to remain on budget while finding the best plasma cutter under $1,000 on today's market.
At a basic level, plasma cutters operate by drawing in an inert gas (such as nitrogen) and "supercharging" it with high levels of electricity. This causes the gas to rapidly heat and turn into plasma, the fourth stage of matter that retains an unmatched level of heat.
Once plasma begins production internally, a plasma cutter seamlessly channels the heated matter outward through a specialized nozzle. These tips allow the column of plasma to be directed with a higher level of precision, which can come in handy when it comes time to weld or cut through valuable slabs of metal.
Advantages of High-Quality Plasma Cutters
As you may already know, plasma cutters, in general, are prized in welding shops for their ability to cut through most types of thick gauge metal in a single pass. However, only a high-quality plasma cutter is capable of accomplishing that task without heating up rapidly. This, in turn, allows a high-end unit to be used continuously for more extended time periods.
Also, most plasma cutters on the upper end of the price range are built with an enhanced level of durability, so you can count on them to remain a cornerstone of your welding operation for years to come.
Choosing a High-Quality Plasma Cutter For under $1000
Plasma cutters come with a variety of power specifications that you’ll need to attend to while comparing prospective models. Naturally, you'll need to find a unit, whether 220/240 volt or 110 volts, that matches the outlet type in your workshop. At the same time, though, you'll definitely need to choose a model with a reliable duty cycle that matches the amount you intend to utilize your new plasma cutter continuously.
Metal Type & Thickness
Some plasma cutters will come with specifications regarding which metals they are most compatible with, as well what gauge or thickness they are capable of slicing through. While most models are able to work through most metal types and thicknesses with some effort, you’ll achieve the best results if you choose a purpose-built model.
Many plasma cutters will include a measurement of their overall cutting speed. Usually, you’ll see this metric measured in inches per minute. Users who are looking to maximize their duty cycle should also look for a high-end cutting speed simply because their combined efforts will allow you to work more efficiently overall.
Durability & Portability
Durability is absolutely essential if you want to make your purchase of a plasma cutter a wise investment. To that end, your chosen model should have a certifiably efficient internal cooling system that prevents internal degradation. Also, if you anticipate the need to take your plasma cutter on the road, a portable unit with a handle will be a must-have.
Plasma cutters rely heavily on several consumables that are “eaten up” through regular use. While you can certainly find replacement materials if you search far and wide, your best bet for affordable plasma cutter use will involve picking a model that pairs with readily available consumables. Many brand name models provide this level of convivence.
Price & Warranty
Be on the lookout for the best priced plasma cutter you can find, even if you are willing to spend up to $1,000. Recent competition in the market has driven down the price of some well-equipped models, so you should be able to find a competitively priced option without sacrificing any necessary features. That includes a warranty, which may add a bit to the price tag in exchange for providing reliable replacement parts down the line.
5 Best Plasma Cutters Under $1000 Reviewed
1. PRIMEWELD CUT60
60% at 60 amps
First up, the PRIMEWELD CUT60 remains a popular pick among amateur and professional welders alike, not least because of its great duty cycle of 60% at 60 amps. The PRIMEWELD CUT60 doesn’t fall down when it comes to power specifications, either, based upon its 110/220 volt input compatibility. But in a more practical sense, this widely-used plasma cutter can utilize its pilot arc technology to make quick work of steel and stainless materials, even if they are coated in rust.
The PRIMEWELD CUT60 is undoubtedly one of the only models under $1,000 to include blow-back start technology, which itself allows for safer and more efficient ignitions time after time. Current users are also very appreciative of its 3-year warranty, which is noticeably longer than most models priced at around $650. Some have expressed annoyance with the sparse availability of its consumables, though.
2. Lotos LTPDC2000D
I’ll be frank – I was a little confused as to why the Lotos LTPDC2000D lacks a listed duty cycle. But I didn’t let this omission get me down for long, especially after seeing its non-touch pilot arc cut through both paint and rust without expending a lot of consumables or leaving behind almost any slag. This model was also clearly designed with versatility in mind because it includes fully-fledged TIG and stick welding modes to complement its core plasma cutting capabilities.
The Lotos LTPDC2000D takes durability and reliability seriously, which is why this model was built with a Papst advanced cooling system not seen in other competing units. This system alone ensures that no matter how thick a cut you need to make, this plasma welder won’t give up the ghost halfway through the pass.
3. Mophorn LGK-65
60% at 65 amps
60- 65 amps
The Mophorn LGK-65 is another popular pick, so long as you are willing to pay outright near the top of your $1,000 budget. In exchange for that price, though, this model provides some fairly beefy specifications, including a 60% at 65 amps duty cycle and a specialize 380-volt input voltage. Paired together with this model's IGBT inverter soft switch, you can count on this plasma cutter to remain a reliable part of your workshop for years to come (even though it does seem to lack a warranty).
Also, the Mophorn LGK-65 is ready to roll out of the package – literally. Not only does this model feature a built-in air compressor, but also, its top-mounted handles and bottom-mount wheels allow it to scoot around your shop without any back-breaking lifting. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this model’s pilot arc system as well because it is fully capable of completing 1” severance cuts and ¾” severance cuts without hesitation.
4. Hobart 500564
35% @ 12 amps
Yes, 5-3-1 years over different parts
When you look over the Hobart 500564’s spec sheet, you might initially be confused by some of its seemingly meager offerings. But as it turns out, this model’s 35% @ 12 amps duty cycle and 12 amp maximum output are both clear indicators of its overall energy efficiency. This increased energy efficiency leads to a smaller heat-affected internals space, which in turn decreases the likelihood that continuous use of this plasma cutter will lead to any internal damage.
In fact, Hobart 500564 actually takes the cake for self-preservation. Its combination of an on-demand fan and post flow cooling circuit ensures that this model is maximizing its duty cycle after every pass. Each of those passes won’t leave you with hand cramps, either, due to the ergonomic shape of this model’s new XT12R torch.
5. Chicago 240
60% @ 40 amps
Finally, let's round out with the Chicago 240. Even though its handle is relatively simple, this model excels in the portability category due to its compact form factor and modest overall weight. This sizing certainly didn't come at a compromise for core specifications, though, as can be seen in this model’s 60% @ 40 amps duty cycle and 148 maximum output amperage. When utilized optimally, those specs are enough to make ½” severance cuts in more uncommon metals such as cast iron, titanium, and magnesium look like simple work.
I must say, I'm also a fan of this model's digital display. That's because it is fairly streamlined, allowing you to notice indicator lights (such as for the overheat protection module) without needing a double-take. When it comes to actually using the Chicago 240, though, I found one of its most useful features to be the extended 10-foot torch cable that comes standard with this model's PT-40 torch.
Types of Plasma Cutters
Plasma cutters are usually placed into one of three primary categories. First, heavy-duty plasma cutters are the most capable overall when it comes to cutting through up ½ inch thick metal. In exchange, they are the bulkiest and heaviest.
In the middle ground, semi-portable plasma cutters are lighter and easier to carry while only losing a small bit of cutting power. Finally, inverter type plasma cutters are the absolute lightest on the market, though they are known to be slightly less efficient.
Plasma Cutter Pricing Range Expectations
Plasma cutters that come up just under $2,000 are the top of the range, no question about it. As such, these fully-fledged units are favored by professionals who are willing to invest in the best tools to tackle their large-scale jobs. These high-end models also tend to come with most features, thus allowing a user to weld more efficiently without wasting as many consumables.
Plasma cutters priced at under $1,000 are considered mid-range by most, with a good balance of value and capability. Both DIYers and professionals alike will purchase these units when they are looking to upgrade from a bare-bones or outdated model. Some units in this price range will also come with some special features that give them a leg up on the competition.
Finally, you’ll find all of the budget-conscious plasma cutters priced at under $300. These models can get the job done without burning a hole in your wallet, which can be a big issue for hobbies welders. These models do tend to be a bit less durable, however, so expect them to provide the shortest lifespan overall.
People also Ask (FAQs)
What are the uses for plasma cutting?
Even today, plasma cutters see the majority of their use in the heavy labor and fabrication industry, particularly in automotive and industrial settings. However, smaller plasma cutters can accomplish DIY welding with ease. Also, plasma cutters have recently begun to see more use among artists due to their enhanced ability to slice through thick gauge metal with artistic precision.
What can plasma cut through?
Due to their unique ability to directly apply a super-heated plasma material, plasma cutters are theoretically able to slice through any metal after a couple passes. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that they cannot cut through wood or plastic at all because neither material is electrically conductive, which is necessary to complete the plasma-to-material transfer.
What is pilot arc technology and its significance with plasma cutting machines?
Some modern plasma cutters come with pilot arc technology that enhances the user’s control while the unit is engaged. In simple terms, pilot arcing allows the user to successfully heat (and consequently cut through) a piece of metal without making direct contact with it. This, in turn, increases efficiency and allows the user to adjust their cutter's movements while working more flexibly.
What other equipment will I need?
Safety is absolutely essential to plasma cutter use, so any productive plasma cutting set up should include eye and skin protection equipment without question. Also, you’ll need to make sure you have enough consumables on hand to finish the job. As such, be sure to check your cutter’s gas levels before starting while also keeping a few spare nozzles and cathodes close at hand.
What are some tips for using plasma cutters?
Many experienced welders will vouch for the capabilities of a drag shield to increase a plasma cut's overall quality. Also, wearing adequately fitted safety attire is the best way to prevent dangerous snags while working through a particularly technical cut. You can also find more helpful tips on this front here.
When it comes to shopping for a new plasma cutter on a $1,000 budget, you might usually feel lost among all of the seemingly capable options offered on today’s market. But as you’ve now seen after reading the reviews and buyer’s guides above, only a few models can claim to be the very best in this mid-range class.
Even among these fully-fledged units, the Lotos LTPDC2000D still remains a standout worthy of recognition as the best plasma cutter under $1,000. No other model in this class offers TIG and stick welding capabilities, which makes this model a real bargain fit for even the most versatile DIY or professional welder among us.