There are several factors you need to consider when you’re planning to buy a plasma cutter. The factors include cut capacity, cut quality, reliability, ease of use, duty cycle and operating cost. The first step you need to take is to find out what kind of plasma cutting you plan to do. Are you planning to cut on a table? Or to cut by hand? Some of the plasma cutters of doing both. That is, going from handheld to mechanized cutting and back again.
The rule of thumb is to choose a system with a recommended cut capacity that matches the thickness of the material you plan to cut 80% of the time. If you plan to cut 1/2 inch thick metal and occasionally cut metal that is a bit thicker, let’s say 3/4 of an inch, then you should go for a 1/2 inch system.
Cut quality is very important. Not only it will impact the quality of the finished piece, it will also save time in later stages of production.
Generally, the most reliable plasma cutting systems are engineered with fewer parts, are manufactured to ISO standards, are adequately tested and use software instead of hardware where possible.
Ease of use
Some tools are easier to use than others. For an experienced user, ease of use will allow a job to be done more efficiently and faster. It also means that people with little to no experience can get good results too.
If you plan to work away from your shop and or plan to move around a lot, then you need to consider the size and weight of the cutter. Fortunately, you can lightweight system without sacrificing power and performance nowadays, thanks to advanced engineering. Some plasma cutters come with technology that adjusts for different voltages and voltage variations automatically. This is good if you are planning to work off a generator.
The plasma consumable life varies significantly from one brand to another. Longer plasma consumable life does matter as it reduces the downtime for change-outs. Lots of brands use patented technology to extend the plasma consumable life.
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