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What Are the Pros and Cons of Plasma Cutters?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
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Plasma cutters are hailed as the best cutters on the market for the automotive and industrial markets, as well as other markets in which workers commonly cut thick metal. While there are more pros to using a plasma cutter, there are a few cons associated with its usage. Most lists of the pros and cons name price as a primary con, but there also are some serious functional problems with plasma cutters, especially when workers cannot handle the cutters properly. If workers know how to mitigate the weaknesses, then plasma cutters can be efficient cutters for most industries.

Cutting speed and the depth of plasma cutter units are higher than most other contemporary cutters. In terms of speed, plasma cutters work about four to five times faster than other cutters. This allows workers to cut metal much faster than with other cutting units. Along with high speed, the plasma cutter also can pierce metal without any extra tools. Depth-wise, a plasma cutter can cut 6 inches (15.24 centimeters) or more into any conductive metal, depending on the model of the cutter.

Another factor that makes plasma cutters faster is that no preheating is needed. Most cutters need from a few minutes up to an hour to heat up before the cutter can begin working on metal. With a plasma cutter, the worker can cut into metal the second the cutter is turned on, allowing workers to be more efficient.

Inefficient workers and employees who just started using plasma cutters may use the cutter incorrectly. This includes pushing the cutter too hard or not allowing it to cool down after use. When used improperly, plasma cutter parts can break easily. This drives up operating costs but can be easily mitigated if the cutter is in the proper hands.

When the cutter is used often, dross accumulates on and around the parts. Dross is a useless material that can interfere with the cutter’s efficiency and usage and, if not cleaned off, can lead to parts breaking or shorting out. Higher-end cutters tend to have less dross, but they should still be cleaned regularly for the cutter to perform at its best.

Plasma cutters normally produce accurate cuts, but edges affected by heat can be hardened. These hardened edges may reduce the efficiency of the part being created or, when the edge cools, it may look sloppy. If workers are able to take this into account when creating parts, this weakness can usually be mitigated or worked around.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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