Plasma cutters are a very handy tool to have around your garage or shop. But if you’re not using them all the time the investment can be a bit steep.
But there’s good news. In the last couple years a few manufacturers have brought some high-quality and cheap plasma cutters to the market. Let’s take a look at the top three that all fall under the “budget” category.
Best Budget Plasma Cutters
1" @ 5IPM
Ramsond Cut 50DX
#1. Lotos LTPDC2000D 50A
The Lotos LTPDC2000D is a dual voltage unit that operates at both 110 and 220v. However, if you’re going to be maxing out the cutting thickness on this unit you most definitely want to use 220v.
It has a similar duty cycle to the other two units in the comparison. And it comes in at just a couple pounds heavier than the Ramsond. (22lb)
The cutting torch comes with a 10 foot hose and the unit has a 6 foot grounding cable. As with the other units it requires an external air compressor. Even maxing out it’s cutting limits at 1/2″ the unit still cuts very clean.
At this thickness it draws about 50 amps so be sure that you are aware of the duty cycle.
The unit can be stretched to cut 3/4″ material but just be aware that the cuts won’t be as clean as those within it max ratings.
The third place finisher in our inexpensive plasma cutter challenge is another Lotos product. Unlike it’s bigger brother, the LT5000D is strictly for cutting. And while it doesn’t have all of the features of the CT520D, it does what it’s designed to do remarkably well, and for significantly less money. For more information you can check out our full review of the Lotos LTP5000D.
Weight: 22.5lb Dimensions: 15 x 6 x 12 inches Amperage: 50A Max Air Pressure: 150 PSI Hose Length: 10ft
Duty Cycle: 60%Max Cut Thickness: 1/2″Compressor: external air compressor requiredWarranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor
#2. Lotos Technology CT520D 50
The Lotos CT520D has a lot going for it. It is a 3 in 1 unit that is capable of cutting, tig welding, and stick welding. The unit is substantially larger than the Ramsond weighing in at almost 32 pounds. But with the extra capability this unit provides it can pretty much eliminate 2 tools from your shop.
The maximum cut thickness of 1/2″ isn’t quite as impressive as that of the Ramsond either. But the unit is dual voltage so it can be used with both 110v or 220v.
The CT520D does require an external air compressor. There is also an available foot petal that can be purchased separately.
While the performance doesn’t match the Ramsond, the fact that it is such a flexible tool definitely justifies the higher price tag. When you take into consideration the fact that it eliminates the need for a tig and stick welder (if you need those) then it is VERY reasonably priced.
Duty Cycle: 60%Max Cut Thickness: 1/2″Compressor: external air compressor requiredWarranty: 1 Year Parts and LaborManufacturers Website
#3. The Ramsond CUT 50DY 50Amp
The Ramsond gets high marks because of a few important factors. One is it’s size. At only 19 pounds this guy is very portable. It has a max cut limit of 3/4″ which is seriously impressive for a unit this size.
It will perform a sever cut on material up to 1″. That is a rough cut though and shouldn’t be considered for a regular working load.
The CUT 50 operates on either 110 or 220v. Because of this, the unit doesn’t ship with a plug so you’ll need to install your own based on your power. This comes in handy when you need to travel with your unit since where you’re going may not have the same outlets as your shop.
It does require an external air compressor. As with any cutter you’ll want one with enough force to keep the tip cool and free of molten metal.
CUT 50DY Specs:
Weight: 19lb Dimensions: 14.2 x 6 x 9 inches Amperage: 50A Max Air Pressure: 150 PSI Hose Length: 10ft Duty Cycle: 60% Max Cut Thickness: 3/4″ Compressor: external air compressor required Warranty: 1 Year Parts and LaborManufacturers website
Important Plasma Cutter Features
As with any power tool there are several features that you should look for in whichever unit you decide to purchase.
This helps to ensure that it will fulfill the purpose you have in mind. The reason some of these models are cheaper is because they aren’t as powerful or feature rich as some of the professional grade plasma cutters.
One of the most important factors to take into consideration when making your selection is the duty cycle. Some cutters are designed to be used for shorter durations.
They maximize the amount of power available during that time, but they shouldn’t be expected to perform the same under significant or heavy usage. Typically the higher the amperage rating, the higher the duty cycle.
If you’re looking for a unit that can go all day long under heavy load you’ll be better off making your buying decision based on the average thickness the unit is capable of cutting. Don’t overlook this component in your decision. While many units can make a 1/4″ cut, if you’re pushing the maximum of your unit, the cuts will not be as precise or clean.
Input Voltage and Amperage
Another important feature to consider is the input voltage of the unit. Most cutters are either 120 or 22o volts. Some units are capable of working with either. If you have a 220v outlet available in your shop then your best bet is to go that route.
Think of voltage as a garden hose. The bigger the hose, the more water can go through it. The same principle applies with electricity, so if you’re got a 220v outlet, go with a cutter that can handle higher voltages.
If you’re limited to just 120v, you’ll most likely want to have a 20A circuit installed in your shop. Most residential breakers are 15A only and are often shared by multiple outlets. This can be an issue if you’re cutter pulls too much amperage for the outlet. Here are the typical outlets for each type of circuit.
Cutting Speed and Thickness
The speed at which the unit cuts becomes more important depending on the length of the cuts you need to make. The closer you get to the maximum thickness rating of a unit the slower you have to go. And even if you slow down you’ll often have to go back and clean up the cut. For this reason you need to have a good understanding of what types of materials you will be cutting on a regular basis and make sure the unit you choose can comfortably and quickly handle it. Nothing is more frustrating than having to go back over every cut because you’re bumping up against your cutters limitations.
Another important variable to consider is the start method of your cutting device. There two types: high frequency and contact. If you will be using your cutter near analytical equipment, computers or other sensitive electronic devices you’ll be better off with a contact start. This will ensure that it causes no interference with your other devices.
Type of Air Supply
Forced air is a requirement in plasma cutting. There are different methods available depending on what you are cutting whether or not portability is important. Many units come with a built in air compressor, but most lower priced units will require a separate air compressor. If you need a unit that is more compact, then check out my list of the best portable plasma cutters with built-in compressors.
Thank you for checking out our list of inexpensive plasma cutters. Please leave comments with any questions or with products you would like to see reviewed.
As always wear proper safety equipment when using cutting and welding equipment. For more information click here.