One of the most important factors to keep in mind when purchasing a plasma cutting machine is the thinkness of the workpiece metal to be cut. It is far better to have more cutting power available and not use it than to try to hack through thicker metal than the plasma cutting machine was designed to cut. For optimum performance replace tips and electrodes as required and keep quality replacement consumables available.
Plasma Cutting Machines – When planning to buy a plasma cutting machine, a primary factor to consider is the thickness of the metal to be cut. Plasma cutters are rated by output amperage. Less thickness means less amperage, and for thicker material require higher output amperage plasma cutting machines. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a light duty plasma cutter is going to cut thicker metal. A lower amperage plasma cutter might be capable of cutting thicker metal, the cut quality and cutting speed would suffer. It is far better to buy more plasma cutter than you think you need. A high amperage plasma cutter can easily cut thinner metal but a low amperage machine will not provide satisfactory cur quality or cut speed on thicker material.
Smaller plasma cutters with an output current of 12 amps can produce a quality cut on 1/8 inch metal. A quality cut on 1/4 inch steel will require 30 amps, and an output current of 40 amps will make a quality cut on 1/2 inch material. Output current is a very important factor to keep in mind when comparing Plasma Cutting Machines.
Plasma cutting machines are capable of cutting to very close tolerances. It is important to buy the major brands such as Hypertherm plasma cutter, Miller plasma cutter, Lincoln plasma cutters, Thermal Dynamics plasma cutters, and ESAB plasma cutters that produce well designed and quality built plasma cutting machines. The main manufactures spend money on research, engineering, and development to provide the best quality, durable plasma cutting equipment that will provide years of trouble free operation.
Another important point to consider is that plasma cutters need enough air volume. For instance the compressor for a small plasma cutter would need to provide 4 cu ft per min @ 60 PSI. For larger plasma cutters the air requirement could be 7 ft.³ per min at 90 PSI. The air supply needs to be clean, and dry.
Input power is another consideration. Some low amperage plasma cutters use 110 V AC. Although small plasma cutters can be portable which increases convenience, their low amperage and low duty cycle make them suitable for cutting thin material of 1/8 inch and thinner. If you require a portable plasma cutter and your cut thickness is thin metal up to 1/8 inch then investigate the feasibility of using a small plasma cutter. My recommendation is to buy 220 V AC Plasma Cutting Machines unless you need the portability of the smaller duty plasma cutter. The major brands of plasma cutting machines that I recommend are Hypertherm plasma cutter, Miller plasma cutter, and then any of the others. All the major manufacturers make good Plasma Cutting Machines, my first choice is Hypertherm plasma cutter. I own a Hypertherm 1000 plasma cutter and it is a monster. It is high quality, cuts anything you put in front of it. When looking to buy a Plasma Cutting Machine my suggestion is look at Hypertherm.
Take your time when shopping and compare all the major brands of Plasma Cutting Machines. You may save money by buying an off brand but in the long run when you buy a cheap product you will buy that product twice.