These Are The Best Plasma Cutters for Metal Art

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Plasma Cutters for Metal Art

Reviews of the five best plasma cutters for the sculptor who loves to work with metal. Plasma cutters are the best way to cut through steel and other metals.

The best device for cutting metals such as steel with precision is a plasma cutter. It is particularly useful if you are a sculptor who works with steel.

It is common nowadays for sculptors to use steel as their sculpting material. The advantages of steel for sculpting include its durability, malleability, and relatively low cost. As a result, many sculptors have made it their primary sculpting material.

If you are an artist who enjoys working with metals like steel, the following reviews will help you find the best plasma cutter for metal art.

Comparison Table

The following comparison table represents the five plasma cutters to be reviewed.

Plasma cutterCheck on Amazon
Hobart Airforce 500534 250 Cicheck price here
Everlast PowerPlasma 50Scheck price here
Hypertherm PowerMax45 XPcheck price here
Miller Spectrum 625 X-Tremecheck price here
Lotos LTP5000Dcheck price here

Best Plasma Cutter for Metal Art Reviews

1. Hobart Airforce 500534 250ci Plasma Cutter – Powered by Household Current

Hobart Airforce 500534 250ci Plasma CutterThe Hobart 250ci is a lightweight plasma cutter, perfect for an artist cutting metal for sculpting. It is equipped with a built-in air compressor and is powered by standard household current (115 VAC). That means it won’t cause any electricity problems in your house/studio/work space.

One of the problems with plasma cutting is that the strong heat causes dross to form as the molten metal solidifies around the cut. Using oxy-fuel torch will cause a similar problem. An advantage of this Hobart plasma cutter, however, is that it creates a more precise cut than oxy-fuel. It also creates less dross than oxy-fuel cutting, so not as much cleaning up to do.

The machine will cut as much as a ¼ inch of mild steel. It operates using an electrical arc and compressed air. You can use it to cut different electrically conductive metals like aluminum and steel.

It features a lightweight inverter power supply, so it is quite convenient as a portable cutting system.

Compared to an oxy-fuel torch, this plasma cutter will help you finish your metal cutting tasks faster.

Since it has a built-in air compressor, you do not have to purchase additional compressor.

Pros

-Faster than oxy-fuel cutting

-Less slag/dross to clean up than oxy-fuel cutting

-Lightweight for easy handling

-Powered by household current

-More precise cut than oxy-fuel cutting

-Built-in air compressor

View price on Amazon

 

2. Everlast PowerPlasma 50S Plasma Cutter – Portable and Saves Space

Everlast PowerPlasma 50S Plasma Cutter The Everlast PowerPlasma 50S can make a bigger cut than the Hobart 250ci. While the Hobart can only cut a ¼ inch of mild steel, this Everlast PowerPlasma can regularly cut over a ½ inch. It can also severe almost a full inch of thick steel. In this regard, it provides great capability for a metal sculpting artist or hobbyist working in a small studio or shop.

It has a small size, so it will be easy to find a place for it in your small studio. This eases the stress of finding storage space. Moreover, the small size makes it highly portable.

The PowerPlasma 50S comes with the Italian-designed iPT 60 torch, which is an improvement on older series of torches. Though it looks similar to previous torches, note that it provides a broader range of consumables and improved consumable life.

The adjustable post flow timer of up to 60 seconds extends the life of consumables and the torch.

Other features include 50 amps of professional cutting power, blow-back start technology, and a CNC port that enables light gauge CNC use.

Pros

-Space saver due to small size

-Extended torch and consumables life

-CNC port for light-gauge CNC use

-highly portable

View price on Amazon

 

3. Hypertherm PowerMax45 XP Plasma Cutter – Superior and Fast Cutting

Hypertherm PowerMax45 XP Plasma CutterAs an artist working in a studio, you need something light, that you can handle with relative ease, that you can take with you back and forth or from place to place if need be You need something small enough that it won’t take up too much space, particularly if you have little working room. This is exactly what you get in the Hypertherm PowerMax45 XP.

This is the XP version of the Hypertherm PowerMax 45. It is an improvement on that previous cutter because it has an improved cut capacity of up to 16 mm (5/8 inches). Moreover, it provides faster cut speeds than that previous version.

The cutting speed of the Hypertherm PowerMax45 is 1.5 times greater than that of oxy-fuel on 6 mm (1/4 inch) mild steel.  As a result, you will be able to finish your projects faster.

If you are using it for gouging, note that it provides superior cut and gouge quality which helps reduce time spent in grinding and edge preparation. Gouging is used in metal welding as well as removing welded parts.

Smart Sense technology makes sure the cutter always has correctly set air pressure.

Drag-cutting technology ensures this machine can be used even by newbie operators.

Pros

-Easy to operate

-Faster cutting speed than using oxy-fuel

-Portable

-Space saving

-Superior cut and gouge quality

Cons

-Pricier than others

 

View price on Amazon

 

4. Miller Spectrum 625 X-Treme Plasma Cutter – Big Cutting Power in Small Package

Miller Spectrum 625 X-Treme Plasma CutterMiller is a trusted brand when it comes to plasma cutters.  The Spectrum 625 X-Treme is made for DIY and light construction plasma cutting. That makes it an ideal machine for working on metal art.

If you are a sculptor or artist that enjoys working for extended periods on a project, this Miller is conducive for you. Designed for durability, this cutter can handle long hours of work.

If you are looking for a small cutter that packs a big cutting power, the Spectrum 625 X-Treme is a worthy choice. Since it’s small, it will not take up much space in your work area. Furthermore, it is portable.

It features a 5/8-inch cut.

It features Auto-Line technology and MVP adapters that enable easy connection to 120V or 240V input.

Pros

-Space saving

-Portable

-Durable

-Can handle long hours of use

Cons

-Use only in light or moderate cutting tasks

View price on Amazon

 

5. Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Power Cutter – Dual Frequency Capability

Lotos LTP5000D Plasma Power CutterThe Lotos LTP5000D features a non-touch pilot arc. You can operate the device without touching the tip to the metal.

It does a 1/2-inch cut and ¾-inch severance cut under 220/240V. Under 110/120V it can do a clean cut of 1/3 inches and a 2/5-inch maximum severance cut. The machine can cut mild steel, alloy steel, aluminum, and copper.

The LTP5000D has a dual voltage, dual frequency capability. It can operate on 220V 50/60 HZ power or 110V 50/60 Hz. To access this capability, you have to purchase a pigtail – it’s sold separately.

Pros

-Minimal slag

-Good cutting quality

-Portable

-Uses non-hazardous compressed air

-Dual frequency capability

Cons

-Ground clamp is weak – replaceable

 

View price on Amazon

 

Using Steel in Sculpting

The advantages of steel for sculpture include malleability, durability, and relative cheapness. Many metal sculptors have made it their main sculpting material. The beauty of steel is that it easily lends itself to large-scale work while at the same time rewarding detailed handcraft.

With steel, you can contract out parts of the process to industrial fabrication companies. You can also do everything yourself in your artist’s studio.

Furthermore, steel is one of the most important materials in industrialization. It makes supports, armatures, frames, reinforcements, fixtures, jigs, machines, and various devices. It is therefore important for ambitious sculptors to develop at least a basic familiarity with the techniques of steel-working.

Types of Steel

You can get sculpting steel in a variety of cross-sectional shapes. These include:

-The U-shaped channel

-The L-shaped

-Angle Iron

-“I” beams

-Flat strap

-Rod

-Rebar

-Pipe

-Tube (round, square, and rectangular)

-Wire

-Sheet

When steel is thicker than 3/16 inches, it is called “plate”. Plate steel is often used for metal art.

Bar stock is round, square, hex, or flat, having various thicknesses of 1/8 inches and above.

There are other considerations as well other than the shape of the steel. For instance, one of the commonly used types of steel is mild steel. Mild steel contains more carbon, which makes it prone to hardening and tempering.

Another common type is stainless steel. It is rust-resistant and also harder and tougher than most unhardened steels. You can easily purchase it as sheet materials in gauges (that is thicknesses) starting from thin (28 gauges) to heavy (12 gauges and above).

Steel is typically galvanized – that is zinc-coated. Galvanized steel is impervious to rust. However, it interferes with the welding process, generating toxic zinc smoke when subjected to heat.

Steel is many times obtained as scrap metal containing unknown properties. To tell if what you have is tool steel or mild steel, grind on it. When ground on, tool steel produces a “rooster tail” of sparks. That is because tool steel has high carbon content. Mild steel will produce relatively few sparks.

 

How Plasma Cutter Works

Plasma cutting is a process of cutting through electrically conductive materials using a plasma torch. The torch produces an accelerated jet of hot plasma. Plasma cutting works on materials such as steel, aluminum, copper, and brass.

Plasma cutters are used in automotive repair & restoration, fab shops, salvage & scrapping operations, and in industrial construction. Thanks to its low cost and the high speed and precision cuts, plasma cutting is also widely used in small hobbyist shops as well as large-scale industrial CNC applications.

The Science

Plasma is one of the 4 fundamental states of matter. It is generated by either heating or subjecting a neutral gas to a strong electromagnetic field. The energy causes the gas molecules to break apart and the atoms to split.

You see, atoms consist of a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons. The nucleus contains protons and neutrons. During the plasma generation process, the electrons separate from the nucleus. The energy of the heat also releases the electrons from the atoms, and they move around rapidly.

Electrons are negatively charged particles and they leave behind the positively charged nuclei. The positively charged nuclei are called ions. The collision of rapidly moving electrons with other electrons and ions releases immense amounts of energy. It is this energy that gives plasma its unbelievable phenomenal cutting power.

Practical Application

The plasma cutter generates its cutting power using an electrical arc that is passed through a torch lead. The arc may come from a transformer or an inverter power source. Flowing through the torch’s tip, the electrical arc meets with compressed gas (oxygen or nitrogen or argon or compressed air) being pushed through a constricted orifice in the swirl ring.

The electrical arc causes the high-pressure gas to superheat and turn to plasma. The plasma is then transferred to the electrically conductive work piece conducted the machine via the ground clamp. The superheated gas (plasma) then cuts the metal. The cut’s size depends on torch tip size and angle or distance torch is held at.

The ability to cut thicker metal is controlled by adjusting the amperage settings of the plasma cutter. Higher amps make the cut hotter and therefore allow you to cut thicker metals.

Key consumables that you will have to replace often are the nozzle and electrode tip. Replacement frequency depends on the extremeness of your cuts, your skill level, and the temperature range you are cutting at. Now and then you may have to replace the swirl rings too. Other consumables include shield and retaining cap.

Conclusion

After reviewing the five plasma cutters, we chose the Hypotherm Powermax 45 XP as the best of the bunch. It is small, lightweight, and portable. It features patented drag-cutting technology which makes cutting easier even for beginners.

For the runner’s up, we picked the Miller Spectrum 625 X-Treme, another cutter which packs big cutting power in a small package.

The best plasma cutter for the money is Lotos LTP5000D. The only reason we are not nominating it as the best is because it is in a much lower price range than the other too. It has many attractive qualities such as dual voltage, quick setup and Papst advanced cooling system.

Which one did you like though?

 

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Brian is a part time educator at a local community college, where he specializes in teaching Molecular Biology and Chemistry. He has 12 years of experience in this capacity, but has been doing home based crafts and science experiments out of his garage since he was in high school. When he is not spending time at school or in the research lab, he likes to take up DIY crafts, which he picked off YouTube five years ago. He has become a carpentry and ironwork guru, with many of his crafts donated to the school to help attract the interest of students, who spend one weekend a month at school working on their own crafts. Brian strongly believes that every DIY hotspot needs a strong, durable plasma cutter.

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