Okay, I took the plunge and tried this cheap plasma cutter. It was $195. I read all the reviews on Amazon, and found that about one in seven people thought that the unit was a POS, and the rest loved it. Before you buy this thing, you should think hard about what you are...
Okay, I took the plunge and tried this cheap plasma cutter. It was $195. I read all the reviews on Amazon, and found that about one in seven people thought that the unit was a POS, and the rest loved it. Before you buy this thing, you should think hard about what you are getting into. Here is the calculus that I used:
Yes, it’s cheap, so have a strategy if you choose to take a chance. My strategy was this: if I consistently use this, day after day, during the 30 day period that Amazon allows, and the machine screws up, Amazon’s wonderful return policy will make you whole again. If the machine stands up to frequent uses and restarts, it will probably last a very long time before anything breaks. If you buy this, use it right away and repeatedly, and if you get past the 30 days, you will probably be cool for a long time. If it breaks, send it back within Amazon’s return period.
All that being said, I love this thing at this point. I love working with metal, except for the cutting it part. This thing makes cutting metal fun! My wife complains about the smell of burning steel, but what can you do?
The directions are crap, but that is not unusual for something made out of pure Chinesium. I take those complaints and throw them in the trash, because I have dealt with this kind of import before.
Important points of information: I am using an old HF compressor with a 10 gallon tank and a 2 ½ hp motor, and it is fine, no problems at all. I have tried using it with a much smaller compressor for short cuts, and that works fine as well.
Some have complained about missing parts, specifically, the air hose between the regulator and the cutter, and the male plug for the outlet. Let’s be clear, this thing cost less than $200. I ordered the 220 V plug from Amazon when I bought the machine because I knew that it was required. I somehow missed that the short air hose was not included, but used a short piece of vinyl tubing I had lying around as a hold me over. This actually led to a funny situation: I knew that hose was rated for 55 PSI, and also knew that the rated pressure was actually less than one half of the test pressure for failure. I wanted to be able to run this thing up to 80 psi, so when I hooked it up at pressure and hit the switch, I was wearing full welding leathers and a face shield in case the hose exploded. It did not, and I have not exceeded 80 psi, but it is bad practice to run something so near its theoretical breaking point. When I got to a hardware store for other reasons, I bought 1 foot of vinyl tubing the next size up, WD 40’d the original hose, and slid over another layer, doubling the wall thickness. I think it is unlikely that this tube will ever explode, even if I crank the pressure over 100 psi. Seriously, a functional piece of tubing will cost less than $2, even if you start out with off a reel fiber-reinforced plastic tube.
Another common complaint is the gauge not reading in PSI. I don’t know what to tell you here, except that this is a really silly complaint. Because I have been a chemistry teacher, converting units does not faze me, but it really should not faze anyone else, either. I have attached a conversion chart that I made that you can print and tape to the side of your cutter, but it’s really not necessary. This is an analog gauge/regulator (and a cheap one, at that); forget the numbers, and set the thing between 12 and 1 o’clock (70-80 PSI), and don’t lose sleep because you are forced to use the filthy metric system!
I am mostly cutting sheet metal. 12 gauge (about 1/8 inch) cuts easily at a travel rate of about 1 in./s with the machine set at 40 A. The real delight is cutting 20 gauge (1 mm) at the same amperage, where you can easily do 1 ft./s, and should not go slow at that power with that thickness. An improvised rip fence is an absolute must!
So far, so good!
Update: I fabricated a guide that holds the cutting tip about one sixteenth of an inch from the workpiece, and has a flat surface to guide along the rip fence. Photos are enclosed of this, and cuts that I made to 20 gauge sheet metal, with each cut coverings 16 inches in the time it took me to think “one thousand and one” (1 second). Essentially a slow slashing action that left the sheet metal strips clanging to the floor. I had cranked the amps to maximum, and was running a pressure of about .60 MPa (~85 PSI). I did not clean, file, or in any way modifiy the cut surface, other than to give it a quick buzz with a drillbit wire brush. Pretty freaking cool!