The plasma cutter has improved so much in terms of speed, power, and efficiency since its invention in the 1950s. One such improvement that welding equipment manufacturers introduced is the built-in air compressor, and they have managed to keep the plasma cutter’s size, quality, and price despite the innovation.
This article reviews our five top picks among plasma cutters you can find online. We've tried our hardest to give you an unbiased assessment of their highlights and lowlights to help you find what’s best for your needs.
Is a Built-In Compressor Function Necessarily Better?
As long as the output amps remain the same, the cuts of a plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor are similar to those of a regular one. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference between, say, a Powermax 30 AIR and a Powermax 30 XP if you cut a 1/4-inch piece of steel. In addition, both machines have a 30-amp output rating.
When buying a machine with a built-in compressor, the output power (amps) is the most important factor to consider. Because the machine must power itself and an internal compressor, machines with built-in compressors often have less output.
Why Do Plasma Cutters with Built-In Plasma Cutters Cost More?
Despite the similar cutting capabilities, plasma cutters with built-in air compressors are more costly compared to those that don't. The reason is that the equipment combines a plasma cutter and an air compressor in a single unit.
If you will only use this machine in the shop, purchasing a normal plasma cutter and a stand-alone compressor is wiser since you can utilize the compressor with many other tools for just a few hundred bucks. However, if you choose to purchase separate machines, you can't enjoy the portability and convenience provided by a self-sufficient machine.
The Finest Plasma Cutters with Built-in Air Compressor
Hobart Airforce 12ci Plasma Cutter with an Air Compressor
The Hobart 500564 Airforce plasma cutter is ideal for novices or those who only use a plasma cutter, say, once or twice a week. It won't keep up with a full day's labor, but it will make tasks around the farm or homestead much simpler and faster, especially since it's a 110-volt plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor.
The torch on this plasma cutter and the strength of its air compressor will give you beautiful, clean cuts. However, you'll have to clean it often.
This little plasma cutter is ideal for a variety of projects. It takes patience, but you can cut a 3/8-inch material with this. However, if you need a professional plasma cutter with a compressor, the other machines on our list are far more superior.
If you've just started to weld or are only an occasional welder, this plasma cutter is a great choice. Make sure to use it properly, follow the guidelines, and don't push it too hard.
- Lightweight and portable
- Comfortable handle on the torch
- 120-volt input voltage
- Convenient pilot arc start
- Post-flow cooling
- Some users complain the air pressure is sometimes inadequate.
- Limited output range
Lincoln Electric K2806-1 Tomahawk 375 Air Plasma Cutter with an Air Compressor
The Lincoln Electric K2806-1 Tomahawk 375 Air plasma cutter has a cutting power of up to 25 amps. Built to industrial standards, this machine is intended for DIY fabricators rather than professionals who regularly perform high-volume work.
Its compressor has a 70-psi average work pressure rating, which implies it runs between 50 and 80 psi in real life. For cuts approaching the 1/4-inch limit, some owners advocate using an external air source, which might need up to 100 psi.
According to Lincoln, the K2806-1 Tomahawk 375 Air plasma cutter is ready to use, which means you can start cutting right away without the hassle. You can cut sheet metal with the bottom end at 10 amps, but you'll need to work quickly to prevent blowing the corners off when cutting thin materials. Cutting trailer frames and pipe fences with 25 amps lets you cut 1/4-inch steel in one pass.
The Tomahawk 375 Air plasma cutter controls are on the front panel, making work convenient and efficient. With it, you can check and change the airflow rate on the front instead of leaning around behind like some other designs.
- Cuts steel up to 3/8 inch thick
- Compressor with 70 psi
- Air supply from within or outside
- Includes a regulator
- Needs external air for heavier cuts
Hypertherm Powermax 30 AIR Plasma Cutter
If you want the best plasma cutter with a built-in compressor and have a big budget, you should definitely get this cutter. It has a spectacular degree of strength without the drawbacks that come with other strong tools.
A higher-power machine is usually heavier and much more difficult to operate. However, this isn't the case here since it's a lightweight model with a pleasant grip. It also manages to weigh in at slightly under 30 pounds.
It's one of our top picks because it can handle up to 30 amps with a 120- or 240-volt input power. It has plug adapters, making it very adaptable and versatile.
This cutter can cut a maximum of 5/8 inch, which is significantly greater than that of its competitors. For added convenience and portability, it includes a carrying strap. It is a fantastic addition to the package, torch, nozzle, and electrode you'll receive.
- Drag-cutting capabilities
- Pilot arc available for grating and mesh applications
- Heavy-duty and durable build
- With a built-in water separator
- It has no CNC connection.
- It is expensive.
Forney 250 P Plus Plasma Cutter with an Air Compressor
A more affordable option for DIY projects is the Forney 317 250 P+ with a built-in air compressor. It is also lightweight, so it's easy to carry around. Because the 120-volt input uses household electricity, it's ideal for DIY appliance repairs or HVAC maintenance.
The drag-torch starter is simple to use, although there are several seconds of delay before the arc begins and until it’s hot enough to cut. For one-time usage, this isn't an issue. When making a succession of cuts over a lengthy time, however, it becomes a problem. Its saving grace is that you can plug it in almost anywhere, which is very helpful in distant places.
The air dryer and pressure regulator make operating easier, but it's the heaviest plasma welder on the list, so mobility is a nonstarter. Still, It's convenient as it has a 15-foot torch lead and an extended power wire. Its 12- to 15-amp output is a little erratic, and its cutting capability is restricted to 1/8-inch steel plates.
The 317 is covered by a 5-year, 3-month, or 1-year warranty from Forney.
- Budget price range
- Some may consider the output range (12–15 amps) too slim.
- It is not intended for professional use.
Mophorn CUT-40Z Plasma Cutter
The Mophorn CUT-40Z plasma cutter is an affordable yet powerful machine. Even if it's a lower-quality machine with a shorter warranty than the other cutters, it's still worth considering because of its low price and capability to cut 0.47-inch steel without a separate compressor.
The 15-foot torch lead is great to use, but the cutting quality does not compare to the Hobart Airforce 27i plasma cutter or the Powermax 30 by Hypertherm. It also features touch-start technology, which doesn't always leave a clean finish, and 110/120-volt power outlets can't power it. It is, however, straightforward to set up and operate, and the torch handle is ergonomic and of good quality for the price.
This machine might not be the best, but it's an excellent option if you're looking for the cheapest plasma cutter with a built-in air compressor.
- Low to medium price range
- Warranty of 1 year
- 20- to 40-amp output range
- 32.1-pound weight
- Budget price comes with some compromises (e.g., warranty and build material)
The Hypertherm Powermax 30 is our pick for the best plasma cutter with a built-in compressor. We chose it for its dual voltage, portability, long-lasting flame, and rapid cutting speed.
The Hobart Airforce 12ci is our second choice. It is quicker than oxy-fuel and produces a precise cut with a small kerf and little slag.
If you're on a budget, the Mophorn CUT-40Z is the best option. It includes a safety feature that protects it from excessive heat and pressure. It is also equipped with an inverter.