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Plasma Cutter, Expensive vs El Cheapo

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  • Plasma Cutter, Expensive vs El Cheapo

    My two welders are by Miller, and I'm very happy with them. I have a project coming up that requires a LOT of cutting. Oxygen is pricey right now, and the smoke axe uses a lot of it. I've been looking at plasma cutters. The price range is breathtaking, from $5,000 down to $250.

    Yes, there's Hypertherm (Yikes!) down to Lotos, Simadre, and other obviously Chinese brands. Miller, Lincoln, and Hobart are out. ($2,000 - $3,000)

    Have any of you had experience with cutters at the low end of the price range ($300 - $700)? Youtube is all over the place, and, after Amazon's "brushing" scandal, I now believe positive reviews on Amazon and Ebay are written by the sellers, not the buyers. Of course, the sellers' web sites will say they have the greatest thing since the wheel.

    I'm interested in
    Quality of tool and peripherals.
    Ease of use
    Tech support
    Repair support

  • #2
    I have a harbor freight plasma, they got good reviews by actual users and I am pretty pleased with mine. I use it a lot more than I ever expected. I bought it used, nearly new for $150 The older Harbor freight ones are better than the newer ones I believe.

    Then, a friend bought a "Cut 50" off ebay a year ago or so, he uses it a lot and not gently. He brought it to my shop when he first got it and we fired it up. I was VERY impressed. It cut much thicker material than my 40amp rated Harbor freight plasma would do and with ease. He has had it for over a year now and uses it a lot. At the time he paid about $250 new for it. If anyone could have blown it up, he would have.

    You didn't mention what kind of thickness material you anticipate using one on, that's a important consideration. My HF unit does 1/4 in pretty well but 3/8 seems about the max and it struggles, you have to go real slow. That Cut50 did 1/2" without breaking a sweat. My guess is that some of the imports (HF) amp ratings are not accurate.

    Knowing what I know now, I would much prefer the Cut50 over my Harbor Freight plasma, mostly for its ability to cut thicker metals.

    Somewhat related, clean dry air supply is of extreme importance. I got one of those filters that use a element similar to a roll of toilet paper. Any moisture in the air raises hell with a plasma.

    Not a lot of monetary risk
    Last edited by Sparky_NY; 01-19-2022, 08:38 AM.


    • #3
      I have the cut 50 I think under $200 and crank up the air to 90psi and leave the amps up all the way all the time dry air and it does a fine job for most things best under 3/8 like said by Sparky. The consumable are cheap. even cut these I beam with it for may skid steer. and the aluminum top from an airplane gas tank for my Kawi mule
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      • #4
        I had a Primeweld and it worked great, but after some medical issues I sold. Now 2 years later I wish I had it back, but purchased a Primeweld 180 welder, stick and MIG and it works great.
        Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician


        • #5
          Thanx. That's the kind of info I needed. 3/8 or 1/2 is very rare for me. Mostly 1/4" and under. I have the arms from a 30 hp tractor loader to cut up, to reduce in size for my 17 hp tractor. LOTS of cutting. They are 1/4" thick and have 3/16" gussets. Then, there's cutting around all the pin bushings so I can reuse them.

          (Grin) Thinking of calling my shop "Franke & Stein Fabrications" "We use 'repurposed' (junk) steel."


          • #6
            My herocut cut 55i has paid for itself by now, and aside from a minor issue with the torch when I got it, has been trouble free. I would buy one again if I needed to. The dual voltage has been handy a few times.

            There are a lot of options in the import world these days and I basically threw a dart at the wall when I bought mine. My amazon review for it, was actually the first. The dual voltage option is what sold me, but you might not need that.



            • #7
              I own a Primeweld combo with plasma, TIG, and stick. Very pleased with plasma since it successfully cut 1/2" plate reasonably well. Does lot better with 3/8" or smaller stuff. I was hard on consumables until I figured out using it efficiently, then I liked it even better.


              • #8
                One word, Hypertherm, that's all they do. Yes, they are pricey, but great support and the consumables are available at most welding stores and they last a pretty long time. One big item with plasma's are the consumables, are they available down the road and how long they last, cause it's a on going expense.


                • #9
                  Hypertherm is the best and what I used on my CNC PlasmaCAM but I was making money with it. Its just a hobby now but I would go IF I needed one with the Primeweld. Best support in the imported welding stuff in the business. Check out the Facebook group.
                  Retired - Journeyman Refrigeration Pipefitter - Master Electrician


                  • #10
                    Powermax 45XP 088112 2150.00, done.


                    • #11
                      Hypertherm Powermax 65 is what I have in my shop. I have a machine torch for the plasma table and a hand torch. Its a dream to run.
                      Central Ohio, USA


                      • #12
                        Ran a Hypertherm on a Plasmacam table back around 2009. Old boss still has that thing and with minor modifications to fix Y axis carriage flop, he's been pleased with it. He had a spare refrigerated air dryer, so it is a dedicated unit for that machine.

                        Have two Langmuir tables at work (well used Pro and an XR still mostly in the crate that just arrived) and an Everlast 45A plasma with their CNC torch head. The plasma has been OK but not as nice as the 15+ year older hypertherm aside from consumables costs. I chuck the tips and electrodes at the first sign of misbehavior. Solenoid went out and we replaced it with an equivalent but better Norgren I had laying around.

                        Not a fan of the old Langmuir. Drive design is unreliable and the ways jam up with dust. Many scrapped parts from lost motion. Have medium-low expectations for the XR.

                        Regardless of make, go spend the money on air preparation. Wet or oily air makes for crap cuts.


                        • #13
                          While i too, recommend Hypertherm, i also know that unless your pockets are deep or you are wanting the best, there are good machines for entry level.
                          I have a Lotos 55 that i have used this last year cranking out product almost every day. Got it through Amazon. I have it on a Langmuir systems 24x24 cnc table. Any glitches can be traced to the operator. I replace the tips and electrodes everyday i use the machine. Saves a lot of grief by paying attention to your run clock on the cnc controller. I get about 3 hours of burn time on 1/4 inch plate, before i get a blowout. Also added a z axis, THE BEST $500 i have spent when i bought the Langmuir cnc table.
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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Ironbearmarine View Post
                            .... Also added a z axis, THE BEST $500 i have spent when i bought the Langmuir cnc table.
                            What function does the z-axis serve on a cnc plasma machine? Is it adjusted dynamically as the cut is made or it is simply to dial in the best height for a particular material or whatever? If it is adjusted dynamically, what is used to determine the optimum height?

                            I have used a hand held plasma cutter, I have never worked with one on a cnc table. A plasma cutter is on my wish list though. It is far more of a "want" than a "need" so there is not a lot of priority at the moment. I am still waffling on what I want to get.


                            • #15
                              There is really only one feature between excellent plasma cutters and so-so plasma cutters:- Maintained arc.

                              If the torch needs contact with the work to strike an arc, it's a pain on anything exept long runs of flat meterial, If the arc is maintained whether in contact with the work or not, then it's much nicer.
                              Location- Rugby, Warwickshire. UK