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Entry-level plasma cutters for up to 1/2" thick mild & stainless flat & tube?

Just a Sparky

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 2, 2020
Location
Minnesota
Entry-level plasma cutters for up to 1/2" thick mild & stainless flat & tube?

Not sure if this is verboten or whether it will instantly devolve into a bashing session, pissing match or political debate, but going to try nonetheless...

Would you guys be able to recommend a solid, relatively trouble-free plasma cutter that is available at what one might consider an entry-level price point? I'm mostly looking for the ability to get nice clean cuts in flat & tubular material between 16 gauge and 1/4", but also have "overload" capacity for the odd stock up to 1/2" on occasion.

The choices out there are seemingly endless and I'm not sure where to begin looking. Could you guys give me some pointers, advice or recommendations to help start my search?

...Preferably without getting hostile or off-topic? Thanks.
 

memphisjed

Stainless
Joined
Jan 21, 2019
Location
Memphis
#1 hypertherm powermax 45 - used.
#2 powermax 45 xp - new.

#4 miller 45
#4 1/2 Lincoln

#9 hobart airmax
#10 esab or vulcan (harbor freight)

In order, top 10.
45 amp area is a sweet spot, unless you get better price with 65 stay with 45 amp area. Better torch, less cost, better cuts.
 

kustomizer

Titanium
Joined
Aug 17, 2007
Location
North Fork Idaho
I would buy a Hypertherm, as with many tools an important thing down the road will be consumables and repair parts.

They all seem to tell lies about what they will cut, mine says it will cut 1/2 and will sever 3/4, I am not certain
what "sever" means to them but what it does to 3/4 is anything but usable and you get a shower in hot shit while it trys.
 

dana gear

Hot Rolled
Joined
Feb 27, 2013
Location
Northern califorina, usa
I understand your concern about price, good plasma generators are not cheap. a little incite. We have been in the business since 1919,I was on the ground floor of Plasma, back when we had to actually sharpen the plasma electrode and use mixed gases, long before hi-def plasma even existed. air plasma was in the works.
That said save up your money and get a Hypertherm you flat can't go wrong with Hypertherm.
I have been using there equipment since there beginning, hell we still have some old 900's around here that still work like new 18 years later, you would never bae able to say that about brand X.
In all fairness Miller, Lincoln and a couple of the other major power source manufacturers offer decent plasma generators as well. We have a couple of Miller 3080 here that have performed well. Hypertherm and Miller don't bullshit about their machines capability's
 

D Nelson

Stainless
Joined
Jan 7, 2015
Location
Missouri Ida
I had a power max 1000 and it would cut 1/2 pretty descent. It was rated for 1 inch but that was pure bullshit
Don


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
 

52 Ford

Stainless
Joined
May 20, 2021
Entry level. I have a 50 amp Amico. Very affordable. I was cutting 1/2" and 9/16" spring steel with it yesterday evening. Works great. The thickest severance cut I've made was a little over an inch. Does an awesome job on thinner stock. The torch and ground clamp nice, too.

It's dual voltage, internal regulator/filter, 4T/2T, pilot arc, and it goes from 10A up go 50A

I recommend you try it. If ya don't like it, send it back.
Amazon.com : amico plasma cutter pilot arc
 

52 Ford

Stainless
Joined
May 20, 2021
I would buy a Hypertherm, as with many tools an important thing down the road will be consumables and repair parts.

They all seem to tell lies about what they will cut, mine says it will cut 1/2 and will sever 3/4, I am not certain
what "sever" means to them but what it does to 3/4 is anything but usable and you get a shower in hot shit while it trys.

What size machine do you have?

For me, "severing" is pretty nice. I use plasma to cut pieces of 3/4" hardened bar stock. Less mess and way quieter than using a grinder. I'd say the cut quality is "decent".takes maybe 30 seconds with a coarse grit (36 grit, I think) ceramic belt on the belt grinder to clean up a cut. Would be much faster if I raised the SFM (not enough HP)
 

kustomizer

Titanium
Joined
Aug 17, 2007
Location
North Fork Idaho
I want to say it is an 850?, Could be 1000, It is in the back of an overseas container for most of 2 years now though I may have it out in a couple weeks at the rate my building is getting finished up.
 

Just a Sparky

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 2, 2020
Location
Minnesota
My next question is how much air these cutters require for operation.

Problem being, I have one 240V, 50A line and one 120V, 15A line in my garage. My 10 horse pump demands 39A at 240V and my 1/2 horse pump demands 9A at 120V. I've got a 35 gallon central receiver that they both share.

My options therefore consist of either running the plasma machine off of a 120V line and using my big "work-horse" pump to supply air (35 CFM @ 100 PSI), or running the plasma machine on 240V and relying on my 35 gallon reserve to handle the difference between the plasma cutter and my little 2-3 CFM "show-horse"/maintenance pump.

I figure the longest continuous cut I ought to need will be around two feet in any material. Figure a 35 gallon reserve plus half a horsepower will handle that?
 

clubairth

Plastic
Joined
Feb 22, 2016
Up to you but I have found the 120V Plasma cutters to be like the 120V welders. They work but if at all possible get a 240V model. It's just has more balls when you need it!

I run a Lotos 50A. Pilot Arc plasma cutter. It's only a cheap chinese machine but no problems and it just flat works. Consider the cost of consumables too as I went with a machine that used standard stuff so it's cheap and easy to find.

Redirecting to https://redirect.viglink.com?u=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fs%3Fk%3Dlotos%2Bplasma%2Bcutter%2Bpilot%2Barc%26s%3Dprice-desc-rank%26crid%3D1VWLEA66NXM4T%26qid%3D1647960375%26sprefix%3Dlotos%2Bplasma%2Bcutter%2Bpilot%2Barc%252Caps%252C102%26ref%3Dsr_st_price-desc-rank&key=a7e37b5f6ff1de9cb410158b1013e54a&prodOvrd=RAC&opt=false

Many other similar brands to choose from but really get the pilot arc version of whatever brand you decide on. The scratch start are cheaper for a reason and if you are a home hobby guy like me you want the pilot arc so you can start a cut on rusty and/or painted surfaces easily. Which is just about 100% describes what I am usually cutting!
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DDoug

Diamond
Joined
Oct 18, 2005
Location
NW Pa
I went the old route.
1. Rehabbed a Max 40 with new torch
2. Rehabbed a solar 40 amp with new (same model) torch
3. Rehabbed a Snap on 55 amp snap start (picked up for $150) with new clone torch
4. Picked up a Pak-5 from HGR very reasonable, single phase, like new.

The first (3) I bought cheap from craigslist as "non-working" for little money, found complete new torches with cables/hoses on E-bay.

Yes, the Hypertherm Powermax 45Xp is better than any of mine, I've driven one a few times.
But mine do real good up to 3/8", I use oxy over that if I need a clean cut.
1/2" is listed for both 55 amp machines, but I get some wander in the cut.

So I have maybe $750 in all of these machines & torches, the consumables don't last nearly as long, but I don't use them that much.
 
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Strostkovy

Stainless
Joined
Oct 29, 2017
We used our hypertherm powermax85 at 65 amps for 1/2" plate at 30 ipm. The plates stand up on edge.

Never done thick stainless on plasma but stainless is just sucky for plasma cutting.

We also ran our hypertherm from a nitrogen dewar for clean aluminum cuts.
 

dkmc

Diamond
I went and bought a small sand blasting pressure pot at a body shop that was on Craigslist. While I was there, I asked "what else ya got for sale"? The owner showed me a 25 amp Italian plasma cutter, and when I asked how much he said $100. It was on a nicely built DIY stand with casters. So I bought that too. Tinkered around with it, got it working and cutting, found out consumables were scarce and very pricey. And 25 amps is pretty limiting. Put it back on CL for $250. A guy bought it 2 days later for $225. Then I went on EBAY and bought a 50 amp Sunco China unit for $218 free shipping. The Sunco has been working very well for 3 years now. My 2hp 8 CFM compressor keeps up with it at 80psi.
 

52 Ford

Stainless
Joined
May 20, 2021
My next question is how much air these cutters require for operation.

Problem being, I have one 240V, 50A line and one 120V, 15A line in my garage. My 10 horse pump demands 39A at 240V and my 1/2 horse pump demands 9A at 120V. I've got a 35 gallon central receiver that they both share.

My options therefore consist of either running the plasma machine off of a 120V line and using my big "work-horse" pump to supply air (35 CFM @ 100 PSI), or running the plasma machine on 240V and relying on my 35 gallon reserve to handle the difference between the plasma cutter and my little 2-3 CFM "show-horse"/maintenance pump.

I figure the longest continuous cut I ought to need will be around two feet in any material. Figure a 35 gallon reserve plus half a horsepower will handle that?

LOL Sparky's got electrical problems. :D

For thinner material, like 1/8" or maybe 1/4", that 35 gallon reciever and the 1/2HP pump aught to be enough.

Being completely honest, almost all of the cuts I make with my plasma are with a 6 gallon Porter Cable pancake compressor, just for convenience. It doesn't haven't had a problem with it. If I was cutting really thick steel and making long cuts, I'd start one of the bigger compressors.

Ideally, you'd get a bigger 120V compressor. Maybe a 1-1/2HP or 2HP oil lube or one of those "ultra quiet" compressors. Check Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You can get some good deals on them if they've been sitting a long time. Not much to go wrong on an oil lube pump (within reason). As long as the pump is new-ish (50 years or younger?) you can probably get parts pretty easily.
 

52 Ford

Stainless
Joined
May 20, 2021
I just checked Craigslist and there are a couple of 30ish gallon oil-less Craftsman compressors for sale for under $300. 120V, they claim over over 6SCFM at 90PSI. Sounds about right.
 

Just a Sparky

Hot Rolled
Joined
May 2, 2020
Location
Minnesota
I've got some nice old reciprocating pumps that I'm trying to get rid of. Just tore down my old unit with a healthy horse and a half pump because I don't want three air compressors taking up space in my shop. Especially not when I've got a big 10 horse now.

What I may do if 35 gallons isn't enough for what I'm doing is just fudge it with a splitter and run the cutter & compressor together off of the same 50A line. With the pump in start/stop mode I should be fine even if I'm pulling a good 20 amps through the cutter. That circuit ought to handle a mild overload like that for the 30 seconds it takes for the big pump to build 20 pounds and cycle back off again. 10-20% overload for up to five minutes ain't gonna hurt anything as long as the breaker holds.
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
Not sure if this is verboten or whether it will instantly devolve into a bashing session, pissing match or political debate, but going to try nonetheless...

Would you guys be able to recommend a solid, relatively trouble-free plasma cutter that is available at what one might consider an entry-level price point? I'm mostly looking for the ability to get nice clean cuts in flat & tubular material between 16 gauge and 1/4", but also have "overload" capacity for the odd stock up to 1/2" on occasion.

The choices out there are seemingly endless and I'm not sure where to begin looking. Could you guys give me some pointers, advice or recommendations to help start my search?

...Preferably without getting hostile or off-topic? Thanks.

#1 hypertherm
#2 hypertherm
#3 Hypertherm only.
a 30A might do 1/2" but will struggle, a 45A will do thick and thin but will be slow on 1/2" 65A is a good size for thick stuff like that.
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
I would buy a Hypertherm, as with many tools an important thing down the road will be consumables and repair parts.

They all seem to tell lies about what they will cut, mine says it will cut 1/2 and will sever 3/4, I am not certain
what "sever" means to them but what it does to 3/4 is anything but usable and you get a shower in hot shit while it trys.

sever means it will cut only from an open edge and wont pop a hole through the middle of the material.
 

BT Fabrication

Stainless
Joined
Nov 3, 2019
My next question is how much air these cutters require for operation.

Problem being, I have one 240V, 50A line and one 120V, 15A line in my garage. My 10 horse pump demands 39A at 240V and my 1/2 horse pump demands 9A at 120V. I've got a 35 gallon central receiver that they both share.

My options therefore consist of either running the plasma machine off of a 120V line and using my big "work-horse" pump to supply air (35 CFM @ 100 PSI), or running the plasma machine on 240V and relying on my 35 gallon reserve to handle the difference between the plasma cutter and my little 2-3 CFM "show-horse"/maintenance pump.

I figure the longest continuous cut I ought to need will be around two feet in any material. Figure a 35 gallon reserve plus half a horsepower will handle that?

as for air volume, the bigger you go, the more air it needs. my 30 uses enough to keep my 3hp compressor going fairly consistant, probably still 80% duty. it needs more like a 5HP. I have a plasma table guy with a 65 and he needs 7.5hp. thicker the cut, the more HP needed. you also need an air dryer to go with it, without it the $15 consumeables wear out quickly.
 








 
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