Plasma cutting is an efficient procedure to cut steel, metal, and aluminum. But, this process requires compressed air to work smoothly and effectively. Nobody can deny the importance of a high-quality air compressor to get compressed air for your projects.
The main problem is, how do you determine what size air compressor for a plasma cutter to choose? It is always an issue to know if it will work with the cutter. You can ditch this issue if you’re well aware of the important factors (Plasma system requirement, Plasma cutter’s size, CFM, and PSI) to consider.
Without further ado, we’ll dive into this article to help you understand air compressor sizing for a plasma cutter.
- 1 What Is Plasma Cutting?
- 2 What Size Air Compressor for a Plasma Cutter? (Important Factors)
- 3 Do you need air compressors for a plasma cutter?
- 4 Does Every Plasma Cutter Require an Air Compressor?
- 5 Air Compressor Setup for Plasma Cutter
- 6 How to Regulate Air Pressure from the Air Compressor?
- 7 What About Air Quality? Will it Affect the Cutting Process?
- 8 Conclusion
- 9 FAQ
What Is Plasma Cutting?
Plasma cutting is a material melting process in which a gas of temperature 20,000C or above (25k to 28k) is used to melt and cut the material. Heat melts, and the gas helps in cutting. The plasma cutter uses argon, hydrogen, and nitrogen gas generally.
The electric rod is forcibly hit on the electrode and the workpiece in this process. When it hits the workpiece, the gas reverts to its normal state and emits heat. The emitted heat helps melt the metal, and the gas ends up in steel cutting (Or any other metal). The use of inert gasses is ideal for high-quality cuts.
Plasma cutters are capable of cutting steel, metal, and aluminum. Using special equipment, you can also do plasma cutting underwater.
What Size Air Compressor for a Plasma Cutter? (Important Factors)
1. CFM Ratings (Cubic Feet Per Minute)
CFM is the volume of airflow that the compressor is capable of supplying. There are different CFM for both compressor and plasma cutter:
CFM Rating of Air Compressor
Selecting the correct air compressor entirely depends on your plasma cutter requirements. It is always suggested to buy an air compressor 1.5-2 times bigger than a plasma cutter. If your cutter can cut 4CFM at 90 PSI, always go for a 6 CFM with a 100 PSI compressor. The tools have 5CFM production and 4 CFM.
CFM Requirement of Plasma Cutter
Depending on your working requirements, decide on a plasma cutter. You need to look for the specification a plasma cutter offers. Check the maximum thickness of the metal for which you need a plasma cutter, and then consider a plasma cutter capable of it.
2. The Bigger, the Better
Getting a large compressor is always a good idea. A small compressor with 5 CFM at 30 Gallon can work but not for a long time and heavy-duty cutting. Always buy a bigger compressor than your needs, and at least 2-times bigger with plasma cutter requirements.
3. Pressure Requirements
The large plasma cutter will require a high PSI compressor.
- A cutter with 30 amps, 80 PSI having 4 SCFM will require at least 6 SCFM at 80-100 PSI.
- The cutter with 45 amp, running at 90 PSI and having 6.7 SCFM, will require double the PSI and CFM.
- A cutter with 65 amp, at 85 PSI, having 6.7 SCFM will require a more front eh compressor.
The compressor requires 4-8 SCFM at 90-120 PSI to run a plasma cutter efficiently.
Plasma Cutter Air Pressure Chart
4. It Also Depends on the Nature of the Cutting
It is essential to know the nature of cutting, which means how much cutting you will do with a plasma cutter. You need to cut a ⅜-inch steel plate, then at least 6 SCFM at a 90-100 PSI compressor.
Heavy-duty compressors are used to cut around ¾-inch to 1 ½-inch at 9-10 SCFM at 90-120 PSI.
Do you need air compressors for a plasma cutter?
Yes! You obviously need an air compressor for a plasma cutter if you want a perfect outcome of your job. Compressors compressed air is ideal for giving neat and satisfying cuts to different metals, steel, and aluminum, depending on the thickness. Heat turns the workpiece semi-gaseous, and forced air allows an accurate cut.
Does Every Plasma Cutter Require an Air Compressor?
You cannot use your plasma cutter without a compressor. Compressors provide plasma cutter compressed air which helps in cutting workpieces with neat cuts. The salient question is: how big of An Air Compressor Do I Need For A Plasma Cutter?
Your air compressor must be 1.5 times bigger than your plasma cutter requirements, and it will help provide satisfying results.
Air Compressor Setup for Plasma Cutter
Now that you have decided your location of work, and your air compressor is off. Plug the plasma cutter in it. While connecting the compressor to the plasma cutter, remove the female connector’s outer flange and insert the male connector.
Turn on the air and attach your clamp to the area you need to do cutting. Turn on the cutter, set your amps, and turn on the safety valve. Press the trigger on the gun to use the plasma cutter.
How to Regulate Air Pressure from the Air Compressor?
Some of the new plasma cutters have air regulators, which help in choking the air to the correct pressure level. You can buy an air pressure regulator for the compressor or plasma cutter.
You need to switch on the compressor, connect the plasma cutter with a hose to the compressor, adjust regulators, unlock the knob of the regulator, and adjust it up or down.
What About Air Quality? Will it Affect the Cutting Process?
Yes, the quality of air affects cutting. If air has moisture in it will affect quality. Your plasma cutter can burn or will not last long if you use unfiltered air. While using compressed air, make sure it is clean and dry. Drain your compressor more often, and clean filters.
A plasma cutter’s air compressor size can easily be determined. You need to consider the requirements of your plasma cutter.
We’ve mentioned 4 major factors you need to consider while getting an air compressor for plasma cutting.
Follow the general rule of choosing a compressor for the cutter, which is selecting a 1.5 times bigger compressor according to the needs of the plasma cutter.
How much air pressure does it take to run a plasma cutter?
Plasma cutters required at least 80-120 PSI at 4-8 SCFM. This plasma cutter can cut steel with 3/8 -inch and 7/8 -inches thickness.
How many amps does it take to run a plasma cutter?
Generally, plasma cutter amps depend on the specification of the brands. A plasma cutter with 40 amps is capable of cutting ⅜inch cut, and a 50 amp can cut ½-inch. A machine with ¼inch at least needs 25 amp, a ½-inch machine 60 amp, and a 1-inch needs at least 80 amp.
Why do plasma cutters need an air compressor?
The plasma cutter needs compressed air for a two-stage process. The first stage is when the heat compressed makes the metal semi gaseous. The second stage is when another plasma gives a force to cut metal. So plasma needs an air compressor to generate compressed air for the plasma cutter.
How thick of metal can a plasma cutter cut?
A plasma cutter can cut maximum metal with a thickness of about 1-inch. But cutting requires compressed air with high pressure and electric power. A typical compressor with a plasma cutter can easily cut 1-inch metal.
Hamza is a founder of Compressors Insights. He is an Electrical Engineer having strong experience in Technical and Power tools. He has been helping electricians, and HVAC technicians regarding tool selection, and how to use power tools (Compressors, Pressure Washers, Multimeters, etc)