Are you an auto mechanic? If yes you will agree that vehicle repair requires you to cut metal every so often. Of all the tools available, a plasma cutter is by far the best for that job.
But how do you choose the best plasma cutter? Well, there are so many things to consider. And the truth is it’s not exactly an easy process.
That’s why we have prepared this review of the three best plasma cutters on the market today. Each unit is suitable for use in an auto garage. At the same time, they all have varying requirements and capabilities.
Read on and learn which one suits you best. Don’t have time to read the whole review? I’ve prepared this summary table to compare all the three and save you some time.
|Max cut thickness (steel)||Max severance (steel)||Voltage/ amperage||Amazon Rating|
|Hobart Airforce 40i||5/8 inches||7/8 inches||230V/30A||4.8 stars|
|Lotos Supreme CUT60D||4/5 inches||1¼ inches||120&240V/20-30A||5 stars|
|Hypertherm Powermax 65||1 inch||1¼ inches||208V/52A||5 stars|
REVIEW: THE THREE BEST PLASMA CUTTERS FOR AUTO MECHANICS
#1. Hobart Airforce 40i Plasma Cutter
Built with an inverter design, the Hobart Airforce 40i plasma cutter boasts up to 40 amps of power. While the inverter design accounts for its compact and portable size, the amperage gives it a powerful performance. Compared to its predecessor, the Hobart AF 625, this unit weighs almost half but performs way better.
It features the new XT40R torch that is known for its ergonomic construction and high performance. The torch not only cools faster (thus increasing the life of consumables) but also feels comfortable to handle.
The Airforce 40i comes with a drag shield that makes it possible to drag the tip. That too helps conserve consumables while at the same time increasing the precision of a cut.
You can use this plasma cutter with an air compressor. The recommended specifications for the compressor are 4.8 cfm at 90 psi.
In terms of voltage, the Airforce 40i requires a 240V input. It actually uses 30 amps at 230V to deliver full output. With that power you can do clean cuts of up to 5/8 inches and sever 7/8 inches of steel. Clean cut ratings for aluminum, galvanized, brass and copper are 3/8, 3/8, ¼ and 3/16 respectively.
The best plasma cutter for auto mechanics is built with auto-refire technology that makes it possible to cut expanded/perforated and painted/coated metals without having to continuously retrigger the torch.
Other topnotch technologies used in the construction of this plasma cutter include wind tunnel, fan-on-demand, post-flow air cooling and thermal overload protection. Collectively, they provide a very efficient cooling system.
As a matter of fact, if you happen to exceed the duty cycle to the point of overheating the machine will turn off automatically. The feature protects internal parts from damage and ultimately ensures durability of the whole unit.
Who is it built for?
The Hobart Airforce 40i can cut virtually every metallic material used to make a vehicle. It is a lightweight yet powerful plasma cutter. That combination is what makes it ideal for professional auto mechanics.
It is particularly perfect for you if you are very mobile. The 31-pound weight makes it extremely portable.
- Comes with a 200-amp work clamp
- Built with inverter design for portability
- Features a very efficient cooling system
- Cuts almost all conductive metals
- Easy to use
- Post-air flow technology cools the tip and consumables faster
- Package doesn’t include a machine torch
- Cuts through rust and paint are not very clean
It might have its drawbacks but the Airforce 40i is undoubtedly the best professional-grade plasma cutter on this list. Its ability to cut through metals makes it a must-have for any auto mechanic who deals with cutting and welding metals.
#2. Lotos Supreme CUT60D Plasma Cutter
With dimensions of 26.7 x 7.9 x 14.6 inches and a weight of 31.3 pounds, the Lotos Supreme CUT60D is one of the most compact plasma cutters out there.
The machine has an automatic dual voltage of 110/120V and 220/240V with 50/60Hz. That means it can either use the 110/120V power or the 220/240V input. It actually senses the power input automatically.
When you use 110/120V the plasma cutter produces 20-30A of output. That’s enough for 1/3-inch clean cut and ½-inch severance cut. On the other hand, the 220/240V option offers a whopping 20-60A of output. With that the cutter can do a 4/5-inch clean cut and 1¼ severance cut.
The Supreme CUT60D is capable of cutting steel (mild, stainless and alloy), aluminum, copper and a number of other conductive metals. That’s just one of the many reasons why it makes a good pick for any professional auto mechanic.
The second reason is the fact that it supports three different plasma functions. You can switch between plasma air gouging, non-continuous pilot arc and continuous pilot arc.
Thirdly, it also supports both 2T and 4T functions. 2T is where you pull the trigger and then hold it continuously as you cut. In the case of 4T you pull the trigger to start cutting and then you pull it again to stop.
The diverse functionality is what makes the Lotos Supreme CUT60D plasma cutter a handy addition to any auto garage. With it you’ll be able to cut through all the metals used in a vehicle with utmost precision. That boils down to all the customizable settings.
As far as construction, the cutter comes pre-installed with an NPT 14-inch type D plug. It also has an air filter regulator. The two make it possible to quickly connect the machine to an air compressor. It only takes 2 minutes at most to finish the setup.
The package also includes a machine torch. You won’t have to buy it separately.
Who is it built for?
This plasma cutter is perfect for general metal cutting work. It’s a non-high frequency start unit, and that makes it ideal for DIYers and mechanics. You will definitely love it if you work or own an auto repair shop.
- Supports both 110V and 220V (or 120 and 240V) power inputs
- Comes pre-installed with almost all components
- Built sturdily to ensure the most rugged of jobs
- Can cut through all common metals used in the auto industry
- Uses safe and non-hazardous compressed air
- Uses consumables relatively faster than some high-end units
- Fairly expensive compared to other intermediate plasma cutters
The two drawbacks don’t make this unit any less than perfect for beginner or intermediate auto repair work. In fact, most plasma cutters of its range blow through consumables as fast as it does. The only difference is that the CUT60D does so and still offers outstanding performance.
#3. Hypertherm Powermax 65 Hand System
As its name suggests, the Powermax 65 delivers a maximum output of 65 amps. That’s a massive 44% increase compared to the Powermax 45, its immediate predecessor.
The increased power also comes with some additional weight. This plasma cutter tilts the scale at 65 pounds and measures 19.7 x 9.2 x 17.9 inches.
It’s not exactly the smallest unit on the market but its outstanding performance more than makes up for that. The unit delivers high-quality cuts at a faster speed. It also conserves consumables longer than most of its closest competitors.
The plasma cutter doesn’t come with a power plug. But you can wire it to either a single phase or three phase power source.
If you’re using a single phase of power the Powermax 65 plasma cutter will draw 52 amps at 200-208 volts. That’s way more than most domestic homes or garages can supply. But you can decrease the amperage to 44A by using a 240V outlet.
Better yet you can plug the unit to a 3-phase power supply with 200V. It will draw just 32 amps and perform optimally while on the recommended 50% duty cycle.
For the best performance, you may want to connect the plasma cutter to an air compressor that supplies a lot of clean, dry air. The manufacturer recommends 6.7 cfm at 85 psi. But if you’re planning to do some heavy work you may want to consider a 9 or 10 cfm unit.
Although the recommended cut thickness is ¾ inches, at its best, the Powermax 65 can cut through 1 inch of steel. It has a maximum severance of 1¼ inches.
That alone makes this unit a perfect addition to any auto garage or repair shop. It will cut through any conductive material used to make a vehicle.
But it’s not the only reason why the Powermax 65 is one of the best at the job. Another reason is the fact that it offers up to 4 different torch styles. The 4 are continuous pilot arc, non-continuous pilot arc, gouging and torch lock.
Built with Smart Sense technology, the cutter automatically senses the torch style you have selected and adjusts gas pressure accordingly. That flexibility is precisely why this plasma cutter is one of the most versatile.
Who is it built for?
The Powermax 65 is truly a powerful plasma cutter that might not be suitable for just anyone. If you’re a hobbyist or DIYer who only does small scale auto-repair works you may find it too powerful for your liking. But if you own or work at a professional repair shop you will love it.
In addition to a powerful performance, the plasma cutter is flexible and comes at a fairly affordable price. That’s almost everything you need in a professional plasma cutter.
At 65 pounds, this unit is definitely not one of the most portable. Luckily it is fitted with two handles at the top to make it easier to carry.
- Adjusts air pressure automatically
- Uses consumables in a very efficient manner
- Can cut up to 1 inch of steel
- Comes with an easy-to-use CNC interface
- Fitted with a self-explanatory control panel with an LCD screen
- Smooth drag cutting
- Too powerful for beginners and hobbyists
- Price is on the higher side
The Powermax 65 is undoubtedly a machine meant for professionals. If you frequently have to cut vehicle metals in your routine repair works then you should consider purchasing this unit.
All the three plasma cutters are great. But each one is suitable for a particular audience. So which unit fits you best? Here’s my recommendation:
Hypertherm Powermax 65 – best for professionals
The sheer power of the Powermax 65 makes it a professional-grade unit. It is fairly heavy, versatile, cuts through one inch of steel and draws a whopping amps of power. With those features it not only offers outstanding performance but also ranks as a high-end model.
Hobart Airforce 40i – best for intermediates
The Airforce 40i needs some background knowledge on plasma cutting. If you’re looking to upgrade from an entry-level machine you may want to consider this particular unit. Besides being portable, it offers a variety of flexible features.
For instance, you can use 2T or 4T cutting technique. You also get to choose between plasma air gouging, non-continuous pilot arc and continuous pilot arc. That versatility makes it a generally reliable machine.
Lotos Supreme CUT60D – best for beginners
This plasma cutter is ideal for you if you’re looking for an entry level unit. It is very affordable (just under $750) and is easy to use. Plus it uses both 120V and 240V, which means you can plug it to a home garage socket or at the repair shop.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I deliberately selected an entry-level, intermediate and professional plasma cutter to review. That said, each of these units is the best in its category. With one of them in your auto repair garage you’ll be more than glad that you purchased it.
While the Lotos Supreme CUT60D offers all the basic functions in a portable and adequately powerful unit, the Hobart Airforce 40i takes functionality a notch higher. You don’t need to be a pro per se to use it, but some experience will help you a great deal.
The Hypertherm Powermax 65 on its part is a super powerful machine. It is definitely one for large scale professional auto shops.