Advantages Offered by Plasma Cutting

June 07, 2023 · Leave a comment · Red-D-Arc
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worker using plasma cutter to cut a piece of metal

Plasma cutting offers many advantages over oxy-fuel, waterjet, laser, and mechanical metal cutting processes. The hot electric arc of a plasma cutter heats the compressed air/gas and ionizes it. The ionized air becomes the 4th state of matter — plasma. When constricted in the plasma torch and released under pressure at extremely high heat, the plasma arc slices electrically conductive metals quickly and produces clean cuts. 

Advantages of Plasma Cutting

Red-D-Arc offers plasma cutter rentals suitable for almost any industry and application. Plasma cutting advantages are utilized in industries of every type. So, let’s see how your business may benefit from this simplified, fast, and precise metal-cutting method.

High Precision Cutting

Plasma cutting systems can cut with a tolerance as low as 0.2 mm, which beats most other metal cutting methods. Even manual plasma cutting offers a 1.6 mm tolerance with a skilled technician. You can manually cut straight or curved shapes or use a CNC plasma system. The precision of plasma cutting reduces material waste and reworking. So, if you own a fabrication shop, adding a plasma cutting system can help you meet customer-specified shapes with a higher degree of accuracy.

Versatility in Materials

If it conducts electricity, plasma can cut it. Unlike oxy-fuel, plasma is not limited to mild steel. Plasma cutting equipment can cut carbon steel, stainless steel, aluminum, nickel alloys, copper, and other conductive metals. 

High Cutting Speed

An extremely hot plasma arc operating under pressure cuts metal fast and blows away the molten material from under the cut line. High cutting speed can directly improve your bottom line. But the cut quality also benefits from high speed as the workpiece won’t be stressed by high temperatures for a long time.


Plasma cutting requires little to no prep work. You don’t need to clean the surface perfectly or preheat the material. No preheating means no wasted fuel or time. Unlike oxy-fuel cutting, plasma cutters don’t require pressurized gas tanks. All you need is a suitable air compressor or a plasma cutter with an integrated air compressor. The high cutting speed and no prep work make the plasma cutting process highly cost-efficient.

Reduced Risk of Distortion

Since plasma cutters cut fast, you can move the torch quickly along the cut line. The short duration of heat exposure is unlikely to cause significant distortion, which is helpful when cutting sheet metal.

Cleaner Cuts

You can make a very clean cut with the plasma arc if you use adequate power output. Some dross may accumulate on the lower edge of the cut plate, but this dross is easily removed with a file. If you use high-quality plasma cutting systems and consumables, you will enjoy clean cuts as long as you stay within the clean-cut thickness rating limit of the machine. For example, the Hypertherm Viper 65 SYNC plasma cutter can make a clean cut on up to 3/4-inch thick steel at a speed of 20 IPM. But, if you cut thicker than that, you will likely need a more powerful unit to achieve a clean cut. Follow these plasma cutting tips and best practices to get the cleanest cuts on your material.

Reduced Heat Affected Zone

Fast cutting speed reduces the HAZ because the heat will not propagate deep into the metal next to the cut edge. As a result, sensitive metals are less likely to lose mechanical properties or corrosion resistance. For example, if you cut stainless steel, the chromium carbide is unlikely to have the time to precipitate along the grain boundaries. So the part won’t lose corrosion resistance (WS Welding Handbook, Volume 2 – Welding Processes)


Many powerful plasma cutting systems are lightweight and can easily fit in your truck. Small plasma cutters like the Hypertherm Viper 30  XP support 120V and 220V inputs, so you can work even if 220V outlets are unavailable. More powerful systems like the Hypertherm Python 105 SYNC are also portable, making it easy to cut very thick materials on-site or to have a flexible shop environment.

Applications of Plasma Cutting

Plasma arc cutting has become the go-to choice for many industries thanks to its versatility, speed, portability, and cut quality. Both manual and mechanized plasma cutting is involved in numerous industries to shape the world as we know it. 

Industrial Applications

Large-scale fabrication usually uses massive CNC tables with powerful plasma cutting power sources that can cut thick metal for extended periods of time. Industrial plasma cutting is paramount for efficient, accurate, and repeatable cutting in large metal fabrication shops or manufacturing facilities. Our plasma cutter rentals fleet includes the Hypertherm MAX200, designed for heavy-duty fabrication with a cutting capacity of 2 inches (50 mm) at 100% duty cycle, allowing you to cut all day in manual or mechanized applications.

Automotive Industry

Besides mechanized plasma cutting employed to manufacture car bodies and engine castings, manual plasma cutting plays a significant role in auto shops. Portable plasma cutters allow hobbyists and professional car technicians to cut out rusted body parts and fabricate new ones. Plasma cutting can quickly slice the auto body, prepare the cracked parts for welding, and remove rusted nuts and bolts.

HVAC Industry

One of the characteristics of the HVAC industry is that every HVAC project has unique elements that require custom manufacturing. Plasma arc cutting is perfect for HVAC custom needs. You can produce high-quality fittings, ducts, brackets, and flanges of any size and shape using advanced CNC tables with custom HVAC software and a plasma cutting power source.

Art and Design Industry

When cutting intricate details on metals, plasma cutting is the go-to choice. It’s simple to use, inexpensive, and highly precise for fine details. Metal artists and design studios rely on plasma cutting to create custom, nuanced details on exotic alloys for maximum visual appeal.

DIY and Hobbyists

DIY weekend warriors and hobbyists often prefer plasma cutting over oxy-fuel or mechanical cutting methods. A lightweight plasma cutter like the Hypertherm Viper 45 can cut up to 3/4-inch thick steel with excellent cut quality, meeting the demands of most DIY projects. Cutting metal with an angle grinder or an oxy-fuel torch is challenging and won’t produce the plasma-like cut quality, especially for less experienced people. So, it’s no wonder that plasma cutting became popular in the DIY sphere.

How to Choose the Right Plasma Cutting System

Plasma cutting equipment selection comes down to your job requirements, like material thickness, available power, and required cutting speed.

Power Requirements

Powerful plasma cutters require input voltage between 200V and 600V with a three-phase current, while highly portable machines can even use your home 120V outlet. So, it’s vital to ensure your workspace has adequate power installation for the plasma cutter you wish to get.

Cutting Capacity

Every plasma cutting system is rated for clean and severance cuts. The severance cut requires post-cut edge refining with an angle grinder or other mechanical means. So, it’s recommended to choose a plasma cutter with a clean-cut rating that satisfies most of your cutting needs. For example, if you mostly cut metal thicknesses between 1-inch and 1 and 1/2-inch, and only occasionally cut 2-inch thick parts, the Hypertherm Powermax 105 might be your choice. 

You should also consider the cutting speed. A more powerful plasma cutter can cut the same thickness faster than a weaker plasma machine. For example, the Hypertherm Powermax 125 can cut 1 and 1/2-inch thick steel at 18 IPM, while the Hypertherm Powermax 105 is capped at about 10 IPM for identical thickness.

Duty Cycle

Don’t ignore the duty cycle when evaluating the plasma cutter’s specifications. A great plasma cutter may underperform if used in applications where its duty cycle is insufficient. This metric specifies the percentage of a 10-minute interval for how long the plasma cutter can run at a specific amperage output before it needs to rest for the rest of the 10-minute interval.

For example, a plasma cutter with a 60% duty cycle at 45A output can cut for 6 minutes before it needs to cool for the remaining 4 minutes of that 10-minute cycle.

So, if you select the plasma cutter based on its maximum cut thickness, it can become the bottleneck of your production if its duty cycle can’t meet the cutting demand. The overheated machine will shut down, and your operators will need to wait for it to restart. 

Some powerful cutters, like the Hypertherm Powermax 125, have a 100% duty cycle at maximum power output. But less advanced systems may provide a 100% duty cycle only at lower amperage output, so you won’t be able to utilize their maximum cutting thickness at a 100% duty cycle. For example, the Hypertherm Powermax 85 has a maximum output of 85A, but it can only run at 100% duty cycle at 66A.


While most plasma cutting systems are portable, consider the weight, size, and required input voltage. Contractors can complete most of their cutting with a lightweight and powerful system like the Hypertherm Viper 65 SYNC. But its duty cycle is limited at 40% at 65A when using a 200-208V power input. So, if your on-the-go jobs require more power or a higher duty cycle, consider the Hypertherm Python 85 or 105. On the other hand, handheld plasma cutters like the Hypertherm Viper 45 provide a perfect mix of a low weight and cutting range.

Plasma Cutting Consumables

Consumables can make or break your plasma cutting quality. Poor quality plasma cutting consumables or deteriorated consumable torch parts can negatively impact the cut precision and edge quality. 

Hypertherm’s single-piece cartridge for Viper and Python SYNC plasma systems made a significant jump in plasma torch consumable technology. SYNC consumables function as a platform that integrates all consumable parts into a cartridge, with each cartridge having its purpose and function. As a result, guesswork is out of the equation, and it’s impossible to mix old consumable parts with new ones in your torch. 

Our plasma cutter rentals include many SYNC-capable plasma cutters with varying power output levels, weights, and power input needs, to meet your business requirements and offer maximum efficiency. Contact us today, and our experts will help you find suitable plasma cutting systems for your industry and production size.

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