Plasma Cutter Buying Guide: How to Choose the Right Cutter
If you’re new to plasma cutting, or just want to upgrade your plasma cutter, this guide will walk you through everything you’ll need to make an informed decision on buying a new plasma cutter.
If you’re coming from an oxy-fuel torch, you’ll be a bit ahead of the game. If you’re new to cutting metal, that’s ok too. We’ll walk you through it.
1. Choose Your Plasma Cutter Based on What Material You Need to Cut
Will you be cutting mild steel, stainless steel, aluminum, or other materials? How thick? Most plasma cutting machines will be rated by material type and thickness, with mild steel being the most common material cut and therefore the most common rating.
2. Figure Out What Power you Have Available for Plasma Cutting
You’ll need to know what the voltage, amperage, and phase ratings of your outlets are. Small plasma cutters typically run on 120 or 240 volt single phase power and require 10-30 amps of current. Some systems can automatically detect what voltage you have connected them to. There is also a wide array of NEMA plug styles and you’ll need to have one that matches the outlet you plan to use.
3. Make Sure you Have an Appropriate Air Supply for Your Plasma Cutter
Unless you’re going to invest in a plasma cutter that boasts an onboard air supply, you’ll need a compressor and some method of drying and regulating the air once it is compressed. If you don’t have a compressor or are not sure if yours is up to the task, take a minute to read up on the list of air supply requirements for plasma cutting systems.
4. Read The Reviews
Check-in on some forums, blogs, and social media groups to see what other users are saying about particular models you’re interested in. Be cautious of reviews from marketplace sites as they are sometimes forged to boost the product’s position within the marketplace. Pay special attention to how the manufacturer handles complaints from customers. If a company displays prompt customer service and offers a viable remedy when problems are encountered, you may rest assured that you can get support when you need it.ƒ
5. Set your budget
In a perfect world, we would all have unlimited funds available to purchase tools with. In reality, we must balance our needs and wants against the resources we have available to purchase our new tools. It is generally recommended to follow the “buy once, cry once” mantra and purchase the best quality system that your budget allows, rather than settling for an alternative of lesser quality with a more attractive price point.
6. Purchase from a reputable source
Just as important as the brand and model of the plasma cutting system you choose is where you choose to purchase it. Many manufacturers will not honor warranties for items purchased outside of authorized distribution networks. If you purchase online, do some due diligence and make sure that the seller is legitimate and will be there to assist you should a problem arise. If you are considering purchasing a second-hand machine, familiarize yourself with how to test it to ensure proper functionality and check to make sure that repair parts and consumables are still available. American Torch Tip provides a wealth of information on it’s products if you are looking for a reputable source for plasma cutting products.
If you follow these steps, you will likely find that you make an educated purchase and your plasma cutter will serve you faithfully (or at least you’ll have purchased it from a seller that will help you get it back to work).