Plasma Cutter Buyers’ Guide

plasma-cutter

Plasma cutter is a tool that is used in cutting steel and other metals. This tool uses an inert gas which is blown out of the nozzle of the device at high speed, and at the same time an electrical arc is applied to the blown out gas, which turns the gas into plasma and it forms a super-hot torch that can cut through the metal easily in a flow.

From small workshops to large industrial sites, the plasma cutter is a very helpful device as it makes the cutting of metals and also other thick materials easier, accurate and less time consuming. With a good plasma cutter, the hobbyists or professionals who daily deal with metal cutting can get the work done very quickly and accurately without requiring much labor. Nowadays with new technologies coming up, the plasma cutters are also being enhanced and improved by new designs and technologies. There are different types of plasma cutters available at the market; the inexperienced buyers can easily get confused on which will be the best one. So this guide will basically help the buyers in selecting a good plasma cutter. Here are some of the basic considerations that one should look for while purchasing a plasma cutter;

Duty cycle

The duty cycle of the plasma cutter is one of the most important factors that one should consider. If the plasma cutter is to be used frequently but not continuously for long period, then one can purchase a plasma cutter depending on the maximum amperage output. The plasma cutter with more amperage output will have more duty cycle than that of the lesser amperage output or rating. In case the user is going to use the plasma cutter continuously for longer shifts, then one must buy the plasma cutter depending on the average thickness of the materials that one usually deals with; the buyer can look for the maximum thickness that the particular plasma cutter is compatible to work with.

Input power

This is a very important factor and it must not be overlooked while purchasing a plasma cutter. Almost all the plasma cutters require high power of electricity in order to work efficiently. A plasma cutter is usually designed either for 110 volts power outlet or 220 volts power outlet. All plasma cutters have amperage ratings. One must go for a plasma cutter whose minimum amperage requirement can be met by the electrical outlet to be used, for providing power to the plasma cutter. Also one must make sure about other appliances that will be plugged into the same circuit of the outlet, which can reduce the input power to the plasma cutter, so it is best to have a different circuit for the plasma cutter.

Cutting speed

Cutting speed of the plasma cutter is also a necessary factor. Before purchasing the plasma cutter one must determine the thickness of the metal as well as the desired cutting speed. Later one must compare the quality of the cut and the cutting speed. Some plasma cutters provide three cutting quality, rated cut, quality cut and severe cut;

  • Rated cut provides the best and high quality cut. Here the plasma cutter is used for cutting mild and less thick steel at the maximum cutting speed. As the metal is not much thick, the cut is smooth and clean.
  • Quality cut rated plasma cutter gives good quality cutting of thicker materials in a little longer time.
  • Sever cut rated plasma cutter can cut very thick materials or up to the maximum thickness very slowly. The cut made in this type are not that good quality and requires post-cutting clean up. The speed might be slow but the speed increases with the decreasing thickness of the material being cut.

One must always make sure about the thickness of the materials to be cut and also the desired speed and try to fulfill the desired condition.

Start

Plasma cutters usually use two kinds of starts, contact start and high frequency start, in order to initiate pilot arc. If the user is likely to use the plasma cutter near any electronic device like computer, telephone, television, or any other electrical appliances, the plasma cutter with high frequency start technology can create a lot of interferences with the controls of those appliances and it is a little risky to use a plasma cutter with high frequency start. The plasma cutter with contact start technology doesn’t create any kind of interference. The contact start also provides a visible pilot arc, which allows the user to see the arc and also position the torch more accurately. One can select the type according to one’s need.

Air supply

Most of the hand-held plasma cutters use normal air for the cutting process. Some users use bottled nitrogen instead of bottled air for portable plasma cutters, as bottled nitrogen is less expensive than that of air and also most users believe that nitrogen produces lesser oxidation and it is drier than the compressed air for the stainless steel cutting tasks. Sometimes it might be difficult and time consuming to carry around bottled gas along with the plasma cutter, so for cutting thinner materials and easy portability, one can get a plasma cutter with built-in air compressor as this will not only save money, but it will also make the plasma cutter light weight and portable.

Environment

Environment is one important factor that one must keep in mind while purchasing a plasma cutter, as a dirty environment is obvious to provide dirty air supply to the plasma cutter, which will not only affect the cutting accuracy but it might also affect the durability of the device.  For the environments with heavy dust or metal shavings, there are plasma cutters with built-in fan or wind tunnel technology that are specially designed to provide better accuracy and reliability. In the wind tunnel design, the cooling air is flown through the device in such a way that the air doesn’t blow over any electrical component and the dirt and dusts cannot get settled down on the PC board or other vulnerable electrical components. With the fan-on-demand design, the cooling fan runs whenever necessary, preventing any dirt or dust components from entering the device. Those users, who work at dirty and dusty environments, can go for the plasma cutter with these technologies.

Control panel

Control panel of the device is very an important factor as it is the main part of the plasma cutter that allows the user to run the device. One should always look for the plasma cutter with easy-to-read and easy-to-understand controls along with all the possible indicators. For the inexperienced users, it is very important to understand the controls in order to use the device. If the controls are specific and easy then even a beginner can use the plasma cutter with a flow. For more convince one can look for the plasma cutter that has a built-in consumable compartment, which is mounted on the control panel of the device.

Built-in inverter

The users who work frequently at the remote sites where there is no power outlet or those with mobile services might face some difficulties in using the standard plasma cutter, so for these purposes there are some plasma cutters available with built-in inverters. These plasma cutters can take DC power and can feed the power through a high frequency transistor-inverter from around 10 KHz to approximately 200 KHz. The plasma cutter with a built-in inverter might be quite expensive but it offers extra portability. It is the best choice for those users with mobile services, as due to high frequency switching production, the housing of the plasma cutter is manufactured much smaller.

Portability

Thought the portability factor is not important for every user, but for some users it matters a lot. The size and the weight of the plasma cutter are very important for those who require a portable plasma cutter. If the device is not needed to be moved at all, and the materials to be cut are to be brought to the plasma cutter, then it won’t matter even if the machine is hardly movable. In case the plasma cutter is required to be moved frequently to the materials that are needed to be cut, then the device must be portable and easy to transport without much difficulties. These days, one can easily get a plasma cutter that is design more compactly for more portability.

Conclusion

While purchasing a plasma cutter, there are many factors that one needs to consider. However, the high quality performance and the easy-to-use features of the device are always superior to other factors. One must do a good research about the best brands and the top products available at the market. New users can even look for reviews by the other experienced users and they can also take tips from their experienced friends. No matter what one’s budget might be, it is very important to seek for all the possible considerations and finally purchase the best plasma cutter that is affordable at one’s estimated budget.

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