There are two categories of plasma cutters – The cheap ones and the expensive ones. Prospective buyers want to know the real differences between cheap and expensive ones so that they can make a more informed buying choice. This article is meant to get them informed about the differences between cheap and expensive plasma cutters.
Before we go further, we want you to know that there’s no clear demarcation between cheap and expensive plasma cutters. To some metal fabricators, plasma cutters whose prices are above $300 are expensive while the ones whose prices are below $300 are the cheap ones.
For the sake of this article, we want to choose $500 as the cut-off point. This means that Any plasma cutters that cost $500 or above are expensive plasma cutters, while the ones whose prices are below $500 are the cheap ones.
As you would expect, expensive plasma cutters have better and more superior features than cheap ones. Here, we’ll tell you the differences. Let’s get to it.
7 Differences Between Cheap And Expensive Plasma Cutters:
As explained above, an expensive plasma cutter costs $500 or above, while cheap ones cost below $500.
Generally, all plasma cutters are durable if you take proper care of them, but more expensive ones seem to be stronger, more rugged, tougher, and more durable. That means if you put a cheap and an expensive plasma cutter through the same usage, the latter is likely to outlast the former.
3. Quality of cuts:
The quality of cuts depends on the cutting skills and ability to follow instructions, but the quality of the plasma cutter also plays a role in this. Generally, expensive plasma cutters provide better cutting quality than cheap ones.
4. Duty cycle:
Let’s quickly explain what this term means. The duty cycle of a machine determines the working duration against the resting duration of the machine. The duty cycles of expensive plasma cutters are about 60% or above. For every 10 minutes working period, the machine will work for at least 6 minutes (60% of 10 minutes) and rest for 4 minutes.
On the other hand, the duty cycles of cheap plasma cutters are below 60%. You may be wondering why this quality is important. To understand the importance of a higher duty cycle, check the analysis below.
In a 600-minute (10 hours) working period, a plasma cutter with a 60% duty cycle will work for 360 minutes (60% x 600) and rest for 240 minutes. Within the same duration, a plasma cutter with a 50% duty cycle will work for 300 minutes and rest for 300 minutes.
This means that the machine with a 60% duty cycle will work 60 minutes (360 – 300) longer than the cutter with a 50% duty cycle. It is needless to remind you that 60 minutes is one whole hour. To cut the long story short, higher duty cycles lead to higher productivity and a faster work rate.
At this juncture, it is important to remind you not to overwork your plasma cutter. We understand how tempting it can be. If the manual says the duty cycle of your plasma cutter is 60%, let it work for 6 minutes and rest for 4 minutes. If you overwork it, you will shorten its lifespan gradually.
5. Pilot arc:
This is the feature that allows your plasma cutter to cut through metals without touching the metal. The major advantage of this feature is that it will make your consumables last longer. Most of the expensive plasma cutters have this feature, while only very few of the cheap ones offer it. If you love the feature, aim at buying one of the expensive plasma cutters.
Cheap plasma cutters support either 110V outlets or 240V outlets, while the expensive ones support both voltages.
7. Air compressor:
Every plasma cutter needs an air compressor to work. While most of the expensive plasma cutters come with built-in air compressors, cheap ones require an external gas supply.
What Is The Cheapest Plasma Cutter In The Market?
After combing the market of plasma cutters, we found out that the cheapest plasma cutter is the Herocut plasma cutter. At the same time, we can assure you that despite being cheap, it gets the job done. The current price of the plasma cutter is $179, and you can get in on Amazon.
Its amperage is 35 amps and it only supports a 110V power outlet. The device weighs 12.12 pounds, so it can be carried around easily. Having an Amazon rating of 4.5 stars means its cutting quality is high. It can easily cut through stainless steel, alloy steel, mild steel, and copper.
The machine has a maximum thickness capacity of 6mm or 0.24 inches. In addition, we found its cutting speed to be 140 mm per minute. If you purchase it on Amazon, you’ll enjoy a 3-year warranty on it.
We found the following items in its package – 2 nozzle tips, 2 electrodes, a plasma cutter, a user manual, an earth clamp with 1.5 meters long cable, 1 air filter with air gauge, 1 cutting torch, and an air hose. Although this plasma cutter is the cheapest in the market, it is one of the best in its category. So, we can safely say it offers more than its cost. We recommend it.
What Should I Look For In A Cheap Plasma Cutter?
Here are some of the features to look for in a cheap plasma cutter.
Input power – Some cheap plasma cutters take 110V while others take 240V. The question is, what voltage do your power outlets supply? If they supply 110V, get a plasma cutter that supports 110V, and if your power outlets supply 240V, get a suitable plasma cutter.
Weight – If you’re going to be moving the machine around, then you need to consider the weight of the plasma cutter. You need a light, small, and compact cutter that will be easy to move around.
Duty cycle – We have already explained what a duty cycle means. So, you need to go for the cheap plasma cutter with the highest duty cycle. Remember, higher duty cycles lead to higher productivity.
Cutting speed – Another feature that determines the productivity of a plasma cutter is the cutting speed. So, you might want to consider the one with the highest cutting speed.
Durability – You don’t want to buy a plasma cutter that will pack up in a few months. So, you need to buy a plasma cutter that is durable. Of course, you can’t tell the durability of a product by merely looking at it. We understand that, but here’s a workaround. Check as many user reviews as you can. If it is not a durable product, some of its users will mention it in their reviews. If you don’t see any complaints about lack of durability, it’s good to assume the unit is durable.
Purchase it from Amazon – Whichever cheap plasma cutter you decide to buy, it’s better to pick it from Amazon for a couple of reasons. Amazon offers the lowest prices. Also, whatever product you purchase from the platform comes with a 30-day return window.
Prioritize the features – In reality, it is not possible that a single model of plasma cutter will surpass others in all the qualities. For instance, the one with the highest cutting speed may not be the lightest. So, you may have to prioritize the features.
What Is The Average Cost Of A Plasma Cutter?
As explained above, some plasma cutters cost less than $500, while others cost $500 or above. Also, the cheapest plasma cutter in the market costs $179 currently. One good thing about plasma cutters is that they are available in various brands and models, and these models come at varying prices. So, due to the wide range of models, you’ll always get something that fits your budget. Currently, the average cost of plasma cutters stands between $475 and $800.
Why Are Plasma Cutters So Expensive?
One reason why plasma cutters are expensive is that each of them is made of several components working together. You’ll find tons of accessories in the package of your plasma cutter. In addition, it costs a lot to manufacture a single unit of plasma cutter. And the machine generates heat that is several thousand degrees hot.
How Much Does A Plasma Table Cost?
A CNC plasma table is a sophisticated masterpiece with a lot of additional features. A table makes a CNC plasma cutter as effective as it is. In most cases, the table comes with a CNC plasma cutter. Also, it might interest you that there are several models of CNC plasma tables and they vary widely in price. So, you can go for what you can afford. At the moment, the prices of CNC plasma tables are about $12,000 – $300,000.
Generally, expensive plasma cutters have better features than cheap ones, but the latter can still get the job done. If you’re just a hobbyist, a cheap plasma cutter should be okay for you. On the other hand, if you’re a professional metal fabricator, you need to get one of the expensive plasma cutters because they produce better and cleaner cuts.